We read a lot here at INFO, and we find it important to share articles within the organisation as inspiration for new ideas, as reminder of good practices, and sometimes just for some good old fun.We wanted to share the best articles we found this month with you.
Have a read, and let us know what you think! Enjoy. 📚
Google keeping us sharp on Cloud Security
Cybersecurity is a critical issue for every organization, especially in the era of cloud computing and digital transformation. But how can boards of directors effectively oversee and guide their organizations’ cybersecurity and risk decisions? In this article, Google shares insights from a new report by the Google Cybersecurity Action Team GCAT, the progress on open source software security, and the new capabilities for data protection and sovereignty.
And we noticed that Google released a second unscheduled update for its Chrome browser recently, fixing more zero-day vulnerabilities. You can also read more about the update here and make sure you keep your software up-to-date !
There three types of requirements on agile projects: known, overlooked, and emergent. This article argues that agile approaches are better suited for dealing with these types of requirements than traditional ones. Known requirements are those that are clear and agreed upon at the start of the project. Overlooked requirements are those that are missed or forgotten during the initial planning. Emergent requirements are those that arise during the development process due to changing needs or feedback. The article explains how agile teams can handle each type of requirement effectively and deliver value to their customers. It highlights the benefits and challenges we also face during agile product development.
How to Use an LLM to Produce Useful Self-Tested Code
This article is a demonstration of how to use an LLM (large language model) to produce useful self-tested code by using two techniques: chain of thought prompting and general knowledge prompting. Through chain of thought prompting, the LLM is primed with an implementation strategy. Then general knowledge prompting is used to get the LLM to fill in “common knowledge”, aka source code. The article shows how this approach can generate code for various tasks, such as sorting an array, finding the median of a list, or calculating the factorial of a number. We found this article fascinating because it shows the potential of LLMs to assist developers in writing code faster and more accurately.
As a product leader in a tech company, you may have heard your founder say something like “When I started the company we were going much faster”. This reflects their frustration with the loss of speed and agility as the company grows from startup to scaleup. But how can you, and we, deal with this situation and influence the founder to adopt a different mindset and approach? That’s what is explored in this article. It identifies the main causes of inertia in scale-ups, and offers some tips on how to communicate and collaborate with founders who are unhappy with the pace of development. There are some examples of successful scale-ups that have maintained their speed while scaling their business.
We also read this article about how to develop good software using some of the best practices in the industry, just what we like to do. It explains four categories that can be used to evaluate the quality of software: functionality, reliability, usability, and maintainability. With some examples it explores how these principles help evaluating products and services.
One of my colleagues, Martijn, has written an interesting whitepaper about how we can make actual use of ChatGPTs (or other LLMs) conversational nature. It explains how we can create context for it for our specific situation and business processes. This whitepaper explores how, by using the latest AI tools, we can create intelligent systems that can answer complex questions about our specific business context. It is a very interesting area where we see there is a huge potential for practical business situations, worth a read.
Digital Twin is finally getting the attention it deserves. Still, Digital Twin as a concept becoming part of the mainstream has been slow in most industries, especially beyond industrial manufacturing, like marine engineering and aviation. There are two reasons for this: first, the technologies that make up Digital Twins have not yet matured enough for mass adoption by mid-sized companies. The second was that people were still not able to grasp what Digital Twinning had to offer and what it really means to invest in this technology – ‘How does it differ from a 3D model?’ ‘Is it not relevant only for industries and big machinery?’ were the industry murmurings.
What is a Digital Twin? A Digital Twin is a virtual representation of a physical object, process, or service. The representation can range from jet engines or wind farms to large-scale representations of buildings or even whole cities.
However, Digital Twinning goes beyond the physical embodiment of an object. It can be used to encapsulate an object’s behaviors as well as its relationships and links to other objects in a dynamic system.
A digital twin, in essence, is a computer program that uses real world data by integrating the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, and data analytics to create a simulation that can depict how a product or process is performing and predict current and future scenarios and outputs by leveraging machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Signals of Digital Twin
A Digital Twin can position itself to be an enabler as systems become more and more complex. Digital Twinning bridges this nexus by replicating these processes anywhere in the world in a virtual environment so people can monitor them from anywhere in real-time.
Digital Twin also enables deploying automation at scale through a single platform that allows users to focus on the larger or more granular aspects of their choosing. A solar or wind farm, for example, located in the harsh seas near the Dutch island of Texel can be difficult to monitor in-person 24/7. A Digital Twin of these farms and their assets can help monitor their state and function without having to dispatch personnel under these harsh conditions. At a certain point, for some assets, self-initiating tests and cleaning mechanisms can be deployed via Digital Twin.
With the advancement of machine learning and a data-first approach, these virtual models have become a staple in modern engineering to drive innovation and improve performance as well.
The Opportunity Digital Twins provide
Digital Twins can allow the enhancement of strategic technology trends, prevent costly failures in physical objects, and, also, by using advanced analytical, monitoring, and predictive capabilities. It doesn’t only test the object, but the processes and services as well. For example: AMS Institute has used Digital Twin to launch gamified solutions that tests how to optimize energy consumption in a specific region of the Arena Poort area. By creating a socio-economic lens and capturing how different actors such as individual citizens and communities in this system respond to these proposed solutions, the approach creates scenarios that mirror real-world relationships that are otherwise hard to capture.
Finally, because humans are visually-oriented beings and since it revolves around visual representation, Digital Twinning is a much more intuitive way to collaborate. Essentially, as they enable transparency and collaboration, Digital Twins can serve as a constant source of truth as opposed to information being misrepresented and interpreted.
What we’ve seen
Let’s take a look at how our client, Growy started their journey with Digital Twinning. Growy started out as a vertical farm with a vision of becoming next-level healthy, sustainable, and affordable. To achieve this, they use robots to reduce labor costs, minimize human contact to keep plants healthy, and to tap into renewable energy and reduced water usage.
As a part of scaling up, Growy was expanding their vertical farms on various continents. Their vision of controlling quality and ensuring that all farms operate in a way that fulfills their promise of next-level healthy, sustainable, and affordable food was a key motivator for them to experiment with new innovations.
As monitoring, collaboration, and visualization were key values for Growy, a clear synergy with Digital Twin technology emerged. Growy has assets at multiple levels, such as plants, robots, and farm units, that they need to monitor. Not only was there a need to keep track of all these objects but they also had to consider the overall process and life cycle of the plant and the farm. That’s how the replication of the farm, its objects, and their life cycles in the here and now was identified as a key focus rather than using the Digital Twin for future simulations.
INFO tapped into IoT, data analytics, data integration, and visualization through a platform (using 2D assets) and approached the concept in a way that was be faster in comparison to traditional 3D modeling approaches. This helped us to test and understand if the technology and the concept could fulfilling our need to monitor, visualize and control assets of the farm remotely and demonstrate a clear proof of concept of how Digital Twin concept could help accomplish the vision and create economical value for the company
Experimentation is a big part of Growy delivering on its promise and staying ahead of the curve. With all the data being collected on how different levels of water, nutrition, and oxygen help with yield and quality, the next step for Growy could be to run simulations by leveraging machine learning to create new scenarios and experiment with different plant profiles.
To optimize visualization and collaboration, their solution could explore 3D modeling of the farms to run simulations or help teams understand how to optimize farming units inside the farm to meet their goals as well.
Advice on how to get started
Today – Research what value Digital Twin can add
Get a dialogue going and determine what the Digital Twin concept can mean for your business and team. By taking a design-led research approach to understanding what value Digital Twin can add, you can pave the way for actual Digital Twinning in the (near) future. The technology and concepts are constantly evolving, as are their applications, and there is no one way to fulfill a certain need or approach a certain problem. Diving deep into case studies, research papers, and keynotes about the subject can help you to build context and assess what you can achieve with the technology beyond the traditional applications.
Tomorrow – Evaluate which values will you unlock
Now that you have a baseline, start aligning the value that Digital Twins offer with the challenges you need to address to see if there is a junction somewhere and if Digital Twin is a good fit. A good rule of thumb is to make sure you’re unlocking two or more values out of the following:
Evaluate what the key technologies from Digital Twin are and take a lean approach to test if the technological concept of ‘Twinning’ the process, object, or its behavior will help address the challenge or unlock the value you identified.
Done with your evaluation? Then it’s time to take a look at the people that will embark on your Digital Twinning journey. Do you have a team in place with the necessary skills? Or do you need to look outside the organization?
Implementation of Digital Twins can be complex. However, by working on smaller chunks that make up the Digital Twin concept and technologies involved, we can get a step closer to streamlining which features will create the most value to convince your stakeholders of the technology. Work on smaller chunks that make up the Digital Twin space. Focus on the concept and ideate on low-fidelity ways to achieve the same result. Catch our keynote at TNW 2022 (4) to see how you can build an approach for your needs.
Day after tomorrow - Strong need for industry collaboration Digital Twin opens up a bunch of possibilities for your complex business needs. And since we’re all in the same boat there is a strong need for the industry to collaborate and share frameworks, approaches, and experiences while at the same time working with this technology to match it more to the challenges it is solving.
Despite all of the benefits, Digital Twins are not suitable in all instances. Some business problems simply do not need a Digital Twin and can be solved without the associated investment in time and cost.
At the same time, with so many connected devices and technologies involved, security and privacy are important themes to consider. The close connectedness between physical and digital objects also increases the risks of security breaches and foul play. For certain domains in the public realm, Digital Twins and IoT pose a considerable risk, and a lot of attention needs to be paid to tightening security.
INFO evaluates how to implement emerging technology like Digital Twinning from a responsible design lens while considering themes of security, privacy and ethics as well. Our hope is in the future we collaborate with companies and industry value chains to explore these frameworks and to bridge the knowledge gap when it comes to new emerging technologies like Digital Twins to solve societal gaps.
When people think of design, they usually think about simply adding visual context to (written) content and making things beautiful. And even though this is certainly part of it, design encompasses a lot more than merely making content beautiful. Designers create solutions to specific problems and the international council of design states that ‘they strive to do more with less, they maximise economy (of materials, of investment, of energy, etc.) ‘
To us, design is about adding value. Value for the company, sure, but more so for the customers, the end users. In our (humble) opinion, any designer worth their salt adds value through designing solutions: a solution to eliminate friction; a solution to help set priorities; a solution to increase conversion; a solution to streamline the customer journey; a solution to create alignment, etc.
How design adds value
The higher in the organization the designer can operate, the more value is added. This is called the maturity of design, or, in other words, the level to which design is attuned to the values, day-to-day operations, and potential problems of an organization. If you start small but dream big, you will add value throughout your business, solve problems, and guide your organization through operational, tactical, and strategic problems.
How INFO adds value through design
At INFO, we are all about building the right product and building the product right and we believe in the power of collaboration. Our designers regularly team up with stakeholders and our clients’ clients, aka the end users. They validate their assumptions to make sure that the solutions we come up with actually solve the problems or issues that they are experiencing and that the platform behaves in a way that feels natural to them. We don’t stop there, however. We also steer clear of the designers-design-and-developers-build trope. Our designers and developers work closely together throughout each project, from start to finish.
Below, we have defined nine ways in which INFO adds value through design. Please keep in mind that this is a “live” document – as design in tech evolves, we evolve with it, coming up with new ways to add value to your business each year.
Setting priorities through design
Often, the ideas for digital solutions are myriad, but resources are limited. Setting priorities is important to ensure that the business focuses on the right product or service. Design-oriented activities, like defining a product or value proposition, mapping value and effort, conducting a scoping session, defining design principles, etc., help to define a point on the horizon and to make decisions.
2. Alignment through design
Introducing a new digital product or service triggers cascading changes in many areas and processes within the organization. The critical factor that determines the success of those products or services is alignment. When designing for alignment, we manage stakeholder engagement and use an open and collaborative design process that creates a shared vision. Design staples, such as prototypes, storytelling, visualization, and creating a clear definition of the associated Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) also contribute to aligning all stakeholders involved.
3. Create and build proposition through design
Design is the process of creating value for all actors affected by a product, service, or combination thereof. What do your customers really need? Do they find value in what you have to offer? Creating and building a value proposition and communicating it clearly is one of the toughest challenges for any organization. It will guide all subsequent actions and decisions for the organization, both internally and externally. Design can help build a proposition by using tools like the value proposition canvas and ecosystem mapping.
4. Scalability through design
Organizations can experience difficulties when it comes to scaling their digital product or service. Increasing product or service use triggers challenges in performance and adaptation to new customer or content segments and might affect internal processes (e.g., more service desk questions). Scoping new features becomes more complex on a larger scale. A sound product vision will give direction to the development roadmap. Long-term design solutions and a clear design system contribute to scalable and consistent designs. Internal processes can be mapped in the service blueprints that designers often use in order to find weak spots and strengthen them.
5. Building trust through design
A reliable and trustworthy digital product or service has become a prerequisite for customers to engage with and stay loyal to a brand. Trust is extra important when you’re offering a high-value product or when sensitive information is involved. A good understanding of what matters most to the customer and being transparent as a provider are key. Insights from interviews or mapping the journey lay the foundation for designing a trustworthy digital product/service, including trust-enforcing moments in the customer journey. In short, we create trust by actively designing for transparency.
6. Solidifying brand identity through design
Brand identity speaks about a brand, the company’s values, what the product or service stands for, and how the company resonates with its target audience. It’s the brand’s personality, and it helps to establish a relationship with the customer. Design principles, such as ‘We build trust by being transparent’, and a design system, help to translate this personality to a (digital) product and keep track of consistency throughout the implementation. To ensure the brand’s personality is reflected in every element of your digital product or service, it is important to consistently implement design at every turn. When done right, this will make your customers feel a profound connection with your digital product or service.
7. Improving user experience and efficiency through design
Existing workflows can be greatly streamlined by paying close attention to the way people use them. This is especially valuable when dealing with products that people use on a daily basis. Designers consider the entire customer or employee journey to find ways of improving the user experience. By observing workflows and understanding people’s goals while working with a product, we often conclude their work can be done in a more efficient way.
8. Increase conversion and reduce costs through design
Organizations want to achieve their business goals, whether that is attracting more customers, increasing revenue, reducing costs, or something else. Design plays an important role; it is crucial to lowering barriers and increasing conversion. Good design can also lead to cost reductions and optimize employee workflows, making them work quicker and smarter. Making sure customers can use your product well will reduce customer service costs.
9. Translating data through design (for alignment, finding opportunities, efficiency)
Data is becoming an increasingly important asset for any organization. It can present facts, remove assumptions, reveal opportunities, and be used as a powerful tool for creating alignment or providing direction. In order to be helpful for users, data needs to be translated into actionable insights. These insights can only be created when you understand the user’s workflow and needs through design research. When data is used as a tool to analyze product usage, design translates the findings into solutions that improve the user flow.
Companies that have ‘matured’ their design capabilities are able to add value to their products more quickly. They are more agile, better equipped to cater to their users’ needs, and have a far better understanding of what those needs actually are. In short, mature design creates very tangible business value. We will cover different aspects of this value, so stay tuned! If you want to learn about design on a more personal level, get in touch!
The fintech world is always on the move. Each year, we can revel in and marvel at the new innovative and disruptive ideas that are looking to turn the market on its head.
We’ve asked ourselves what we expect for 2023 when it comes to fintech and have assembled a list of five trends.
An important innovation within the fintech field is the smart contract and so far, there are no indications that this trend will lose any of its momentum in 2023. We think that smart contracts will be the official contracts for an increasing number of subscription services, like mobility subscriptions, Netflix, and the gym, but also for renting a home.
Simply put, a smart contract is a digital contract. To put it a little more complicated, it’s a digital protocol that acts out a contract automatically once all the agreed-upon criteria are met. So, if you’re leasing a VanMoof, you can use the bike as long as you pay your monthly subscription fee. The moment you don’t meet your payment obligations, for example due to insufficient funds in your account, the smart contract automatically locks your bike until the amount due is paid in full. It doesn’t involve notaries, lawyers, or debt collectors; everything is arranged automatically.
However brilliant, at the same time this is the smart contract’s potential Achilles’ heel: there’s no room for nuance, for humanity, for empathy. If someone comes up with a solution to this challenge, we expect that nothing will stand in the way of smart contracts’ world domination.
An ever-increasing adoption of cryptocurrencies
Few things have divided the fintech world as much as cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dogecoin, etc.) have. Banks, financial institutions, and large multinational corporations are skeptical of digital coin(s), whereas techies and early adopters are raving about cryptocurrencies, the many possibilities they provide, and their innovative aspects.The number of crypto whales (addresses with more than 1,000 Bitcoins) has been steadily increasing since 2020 and the end is nowhere near.
Despite the skepticism of the major players in the market, over the past few years we’ve seen a growing number of companies (and private individuals) that are pumping capital into crypto ecosystems.
In addition, we also see some of the previously mentioned major players, such as banks and financial institutions, tentatively allowing their clients to pay for their services using cryptocurrencies. This creates a larger societal support for “unconventional” payments like these, which will cause the cryptocurrencies to gain more and more ground. We expect that within a couple of years, crypto payments will be as common as using Venmo.
However awesome, smart, and innovative crypto currencies may be, it’s not just sunshine and rainbows in the crypto world. Cryptocurrencies are notoriously volatile, extremely susceptible to fraud, and the laws and regulations regarding them are virtually non-existent, or, in the best case scenario, not sufficient.
Enter RegTech (short for regulatory technology). RegTech is used to improve regulatory and compliance processes. It uses tools that are able to process large data sets and/or unstructured information to automate data monitoring and recording. Additionally, RegTech can help financial institutions, such as banks and insurance companies, keep track of current regulations and legislation. That’s why we feel that RegTech start-ups will pop up like mushrooms in the years to come.
For a few years now, we’ve noticed a steady increase in the number of times the term ‘open banking’ pops up in the fintech world. Open banking refers to banks and other financial institutions using open APIs with which third-party developers can build apps and services to better meet the needs of account holders by personalizing their services as much as possible. Essentially, it’s the same as other open-source software, except that it’s designed specifically for banking.
Fintech experts think that open banking is revolutionary and are sure that it will completely rock the financial world. And not just because it opens up a world of possibilities, like BaaS (Banking-as-a-Service) becoming a thing. It also forces banks to become more transparent and creates room for new players, like fintech start-ups and neobanks, to enter the field.
Unfortunately, open banking also comes with a couple of drawbacks: both fintechs and banks predict that the risks concerning data security will increase, that the privacy of their clients will be compromised, and they’re worried about the possible increase of fraud through, for example, phishing.
Nevertheless, we predict that more and more financial institutions will venture into the wonderful world of open banking.
Another trend that we expect to continue well into 2023 and beyond is autonomous finance. Like most things in the 21st century, our finances will be completely automated. Autonomous finance refers to an ecosystem of appliances, machines, and apps that conduct transactions and other financial actions without human intervention. It’s a completely automated process that doesn’t only perform autonomous actions but also uses AI to learn autonomously, improving the system and finding new ways to improve service to its users.
If you have any questions about how you can use your tech stack to bring your financial situation into the 21st century, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’ll be happy to answer all your questions!
DeFi Powers More Use Cases
Decentralized Finance has drawn more attention than most innovations in de crypto community could wish for. The concept involves traditional financial transactions that take place on the blockchain. These transactions are enabled by the use of smart contracts. Unlike traditional payments or money transfers, there’s no need for financial intermediaries. DeFi transactions range from the creation of derivatives to traditional lending.
One of the most popular recent DeFi applications has been yield farming. Yield farming involves lending crypto assets to other platforms in return for interest or new cryptocurrencies.
When you introduce a new digital product, it automatically triggers cascading changes in many areas and processes within the organization. So, how do you nudge that change in the right direction and make sure that everything and everyone is perfectly aligned so that the digital product becomes a success?
We start off this blog series by talking to Martijn Hazelaar, Head of Digital at VanMoof and finding out how they brought about alignment within their organization through a structured approach towards data.