IMG_0245 copy‘Alfred’ demo’oing their app at the connected JLAB flat last night.

Alfred JLAB Event – a really connected evening!

I confess to having been a little bit sceptical about the IoT (Internet of Things).  So how connected do you really want your kettle to be?  Why would I want to know the energy consumption of each of my plugs?  IoT all felt a little bit like a solution in search of a problem…

That was until last night when I was invited by one of our JLAB finalists, Alfred, to an event they had organised to demo their solution in a flat in fashionable Shoreditch. They had fitted it with lots of smart devices that we sell in John Lewis including high end televisions, controllable lighting, smart thermostats, sound systems, smart plugs – to name a few.

When I came in I was greeted by the “Alfred” team – get the reference to Batman’s butler! Their app which they are developing as part of JLAB2015, with support from John Lewis, integrates all of these devices.  That’s pretty clever but not only have they joined up all these different platforms and presented them in an easy to use app.  They have thought about how to make sense of all this data, and turn it into programmes you can set.  So what happens when I leave home, at one touch I can reduce temperatures, turn lights off, turn on security etc.  When I go to sleep I can programme what I want to happen to all my appliances.  It can even optimise your temperature to exactly how you want it – save costs or keep snug. You’re in charge!

What really impressed me, and I was expecting to be a little bit cynical; was the focus on making life easier and cheaper for the consumer.  Not giving us information we don’t want or we don’t have time for.

So I very much enjoyed my visit to the Alfred event. There is nothing like bringing an idea to life!

Please do not take from this that Alfred are the leaders in the JLAB 2015 competition, I simply admire their ambition and drive.  There are four other fascinating and very different finalists; Qudini, Ikinen, Peeple and Space Lounges, all of which have very different things to offer. Qudini are currently trialling their queue management system in the children’s shoe department of one of our shops. Very timely given it’s the busy back to school period! I hope to look at how it’s going over the weekend, so watch this space.

Paul

The Digital Hunter Gatherer by Ade McCormack

My colleagues and I were privileged yesterday to hear from Ade McCormack, digital commentator and FT columnist.

Many of you may already know his anthro-economics.  I found his ideas extremely interesting and stimulating so I asked his permission to blog about them.  (Clearly, to find the real thing you should go to http://www.ademccormack.com and the http://www.the-digital-strategist.com.)

Ade puts forward an anthropological view of the digital world. 12,000 years ago, he suggests, we were roaming the savannah looking to catch lunch.  We were highly mobile and highly social – and our work and life were seamlessly integrated.  We had to make decisions in real time, based on the situation and our experience…

Yes, you have got it: the Industrial Revolution 250 years ago took all of this away.  In factories we stopped being mobile, people became labour and sold their time.  We were no longer allowed to be social and mobile, people hated their work and had to be managed and became cogs in the machine.  Process and efficiency mattered more than fulfilment and fun.

Ade’s theory is that we now need to become “digital hunter-gatherers” in a world transforming faster than ever before.  Both work and our attitude to work are changing.

I am not an anthropologist – and the historian in me wants to argue with him about human beings as farmers, and as elements in the classical and feudal modes of production – but I think this is a really interesting concept.

His insight certainly locks into something profound about how we interact with each other, and there are lessons for business too in how clicks and bricks enterprises need to evolve.

Ade said many other interesting things like the trend for BYOF (Bring Your Own Family!). And, after the Internet of Things, we get the Internet of Embedables: that is, we humans will have intelligence embedded in our bodies.  Not Google Glass but a new retina.  Plus his insight that a car is a rather primitive exo-skeleton.

We live in a time of rapid and exciting change and Ade is a fascinating commentator on what is happening to all of us.

Another Tech World

Some time ago I wrote a blog which analysed the top 100 in a ‘Wired’ Technology list, and concluded with surprise at how little the World’s of Corporate IT and Tech Innovation overlapped.

I have just spent an evening in the company of a group of start up entrepreneurs and investors discussing key trends in technology and retail. The subjects we discussed I cannot talk about under Chatham House rules, but I was again struck by how little hitherto the World’s of Corporate IT and Start Ups normally intersect.

This is of course why we started JLAB in John Lewis, when we asked whet would our Founder Spedan Lewis do. The answer we came up with is that he would open himself and his company up to the stimulation of new ideas from outside, and by running our own Tech Incubator this Summer JLAB, which is exactly what we tried to do in a structured way.

We learned a lot and I hope the 5 start-ups we worked with in JLAB similarly learned how to work with a large company. It struck me forcibly that we are lucky enough to live in London in one of the key hubs for tech start ups, and therefore learning how to work with innovators is an important skill for larger corporates. Maybe there should be more scope for interchange so these two “villages” can get to know each other better?

Tech startup Localz win John Lewis JLAB incubator award

John Lewis today announced Localz, a startup business specialising in micro-location technology, as the winner of JLAB, the retailer’s first ever technology business incubator. After 12 weeks of shaping and honing its solution within JLAB, Localz impressed the judging panel and takes home £100,000 in investment as well as the chance to trial its solution with John Lewis.

Innovation is at the heart of John Lewis and JLAB, our first tech incubator, has given us a new way to explore the technologies that will change how we all shop in the future. It’s been a hugely rewarding and educational experience, drawing on a diverse group of people from a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives, and we have a very worthy winner who we’re looking forward to working with in the months ahead. I do very much believe that this is what our Founder Spedan Lewis would be doing if he was around today.

The initial entry period for JLAB saw hundreds of startups apply to take part, pitching their ideas for innovations that could shape the future of the retail experience. In May, Localz was picked as a finalist alongside four other impressive startup businesses: Musaic, SpaceDesigned, Tap2Connect and Viewsy. Over a 12-week period, the five finalists developed their ideas with the assistance of mentors from John Lewis as well as high-profile entrepreneurial figures including Luke Johnson, Chairman of Risk Capital Partners, Sara Murray OBE, founder of confused.com and Buddi, and Bindi Karia, Vice President Entrepreneur banking at Silicon Valley Bank. The final pitch day on 23rd September 2014 saw Localz emerge as the overall winner.

Localz’s technology gives customers the opportunity to take advantage of some enhanced services using their smartphone based on their precise location. It’s all about choice, designed to make shopping easier for those who wish to use it.

For example, it could automatically offer to trigger a customer’s Click & Collect order to be picked as they enter the shop to speed up the collection or help customers to navigate their way around one of our shops based on their online wish list.

Stuart Marks, partner in JLAB, said: “The quality of entries was exceptionally high and picking a winner proved to be a very difficult process. I am sure all the companies will go on to become very successful but there has to be a winner and in this case we felt that Localz has the potential to become a long term partner to John Lewis and to provide continuous innovation for their customers. We were fortunate to have an exceptional mentoring team who allowed all the companies to achieve their true potential during the time they were at JLAB.”

Tim Andrew, Commercial Director and Co-Founder of Localz, said: “JLAB has been an amazing experience for Localz from start to finish. The fact that my father was a Partner with John Lewis for over 30 years gave me a very personal reason to want to be a part of it, in order to try and help the company that supported me and my family when I was growing up.  The support and guidance that John Lewis provided throughout the incubation period helped us refine our offering for the European market. They also gave us access to successful entrepreneurs and mentors from diverse backgrounds and industries which allowed us to accelerate our development.”

Localz’s plans for the £100k investment focus on its new UK operations. The company will be further developing its technology in conjunction with John Lewis to support the new generation of mobile and micro-location experiences, and preparing to launch live trials in store. To support these goals, Localz is also looking to hire new talent to work in its London-based team.

JLAB was part of John Lewis’s 150 year celebrations. For more information, visit www.jlab.co.uk.

 

The full list of external JLAB mentors is as follows:

  • Luke Johnson, Chairman of Risk Capital Partners
  • Sara Murray OBE, founder of confused.com
  • Graham Clempson, European Managing Partner at MidOcean Partners
  • Stephanie Hussels, Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship and Full-Time MBA Director Designate at Cranfield University
  • George Berkowski, Chairman of MIT Enterprise Forum UK
  • Bindi Karia, Vice President, Origination and Entrepreneur Commercial Banking at Silicon Valley Bank

John Lewis One Fifty for All!

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I have just come back from the John Lewis celebration for Partners of our 150th birthday at the LG Arena at the NEC in Birmingham.

It was entertaining, we were lucky to have 3 great stars performing their songs from our ads – Fyfe Dangerfield, Gaz Coombes and Paloma Faith – on the day she went to No 1, all hosted by Davina McCall.

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However the real stars were the Partners from the branches across the country, HQ and representing every part of John Lewis who paraded into the arena.  There must have been 7,000 at least in the Arena, and more on live links to Wembley and Edinburgh, with thousands more in branch parties around the country and streaming at home.  The singing and dancing was great, and the atmosphere was fantastic as you would hope for a 150th birthday party, but it was more than that.

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It was emotional, two retired Partners received a standing ovation and five Partners reflected on what working in the Partnership meant to them.

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It was inspiring, Andy Street’s speech at the end talked about what so many Partners feel: which is that our aim is to hand over the Partnership to the next generation in better shape than we inherited it.

Everyone left on a fantastic high – it was a fun, emotional, inspiring and unique  – like the Partnership.  So here’s to the next 150 years…

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Altruism, Humanity and the Digital Age

Just been listening to the marvellous Peter Gabriel being interviewed at WOMAD which he founded of course.

He was talking about the dilemma of performers on the Internet and YouTube who get many downloads for free and the Alternative of subscription for a much smaller number of paying fans. How do you make a living?

It was also now challenging running a recording studio like Realworld records in the digital age.

He said he was an optimist and that the new waves of technology first de-humanised and then hopefully super -humanised society.

A great point for all of us given our almost unlimited access to free music literature, art and so on. How much do we care about the producers of the art and indeed the values of the companies that we all use online today?

Made me think not just about music but also about eCommerce more generally.

I do hope the great Mr Gabriel turns out to be right and the digital age spreads humanity in the best altruistic sense. Up to us all really…..

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