Her simple followers evidently shews
Sometimes what Schoolmen scarcely can decide,
Nor yet wise Reason absolutely knows.
This week we learned more about the green infrastructure of the developing world and compelling digital user experience that drives global take-up. Our Finance Directors met to learn about Corporate Social Responsibility and the implications for their activity in the developing world from Carbon Trust and Unilever. Carbon Trust have helped many UK businesses reduce their carbon footprint, but see more of the carbon that we consume being imported from places like China. Unilever anticipate that, in 2020, 80% of their sales will be in developing world countries by 2020 like Brazil, India and China where consumers are buying in smaller quantities (e.g. sachets of shampoo rather than plastic bottles) and where neither utilities nor waste handling have networks that reach the whole country. Greening the developing world presents UK technology businesses with many short-term opportunities. Carbon Trust in China spoke of taking a UK company with technology already cooling 3,000 mobile base stations across the UK into 50,000 base stations in China, but already see that native Chinese onshore wind equipment suppliers have quickly passed overseas providers. In addition, simply exporting Western values to the developing world will ruin the planet. Unilever greatly improved child mortality and health when it introduced soap here a hundred years ago and is doing the same in the developing world, but now our power showers demand so much water and energy that it would be disastrous if everyone in the world adopted them. Both the opportunities and the grand challenges excited good debate among attendees including ARKeX, Breathing Buildings, Hypertag, LMK Thermosafe, Pi Shurlok, Plastic Logic, Ridgeons, Ubisense, and Xaar among others.Great end user experience is critical to getting widespread adoption of Digital Media. We heard from Cisco (85% of internet network equipment), Jagex (10 million active users), and Red Bee (metadata for the iPlayer, and playout for 70% of the UK linear TV audience) in a session sponsored and chaired by Taylor Vinters, who kindly summarised some of the current legal issues. Some common themes emerged from the way these organizations design user experiences. First, they get to a no-compromise but simplified first version early on to make the end user experience real. Second, they design for accessibility across a wide range of devices, seeking to hide the complexity of choices from the end user. There were lots of surprises too: that developing world users generally have very good devices; that consumers still view ten times as much linear TV as internet video, despite their claiming the opposite; that postmen in Boston would rather walk and keep warm than ride a free Segway in winter. We also heard a pitch from Velocix, another local start-up that is also hiring very fast as demand to download video and games drives its content delivery technology. It was good to see a diverse audience of designers and technologists from Anglia Ruskin, Arcus, Cambridge Sensotec, Deep Visuals, EmotionAI, GE, Innovia, Medical Research Council, Unilever, University of Cambridge, and Zeus amongst others.
Cambridge academics and technologists need to understand their end-users around the world if they want to change their lives for the better. It was a privilege hearing from people already doing just that this week, and seeing them engage in our community.