Innovation at the heart of the Seoul

Not surprisingly, South Korea the home for technology giants, such as Samsung and LG. is experiencing a revolution in city living. Home to around 10 million people, Seoul is one of the most technologically advanced cities in the world and has gained a reputation for innovative thinking. The future of most western societies is currently being experienced in Seoul today.

Seoul is the world’s most connected city. With over 10,000 free Wi-Fi hot spots. Seoul also has the world’s fastest average wired broadband speed at 22.1mps – almost twice as much as its nearest rival Japan. It also boasts the world’s fastest 4G network with download speeds of 80mps – even on the underground. At the end of 2013, the Chinese giant technology company, Huawei announced plans to invest a minimum of $600 million into R&D for next generation 5G networks capable of speeds 100 times faster than modern LTE networks.

The 5G service will be ubiquitous, and available to everyone at almost every point in a given country or territory – regardless of whether they are indoors or outdoors, in the city or in the depths of the countryside. It will allow electrical manufacturers to include Internet connectivity as a standard feature and, according to Mark Heraghty, MD, Virgin Media’s Business, we will then start to usher in the world of the connected home and office – the so-called ‘internet of things‘:

We are moving beyond the realms of people-to-people (P2P) and people-to-machine (P2M) communications and firmly into the world of machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity, with the fridge being able – quite literally – to research online and tell the oven or microwave what the cooking requirements are for the item(s) that the householder has just removed from the freezer.

By 2017, when South Korea gives the world 5G mobile networks, an HD movie will download in under a second. Already, with 70% of the population of Seoul owning a smartphone, they are used for virtually everything from paying taxis to ordering groceries. It is  possible to order products and services when travelling using phone apps to scan the QR codes from advertisements, and then submitting the shopping list when complete.

The availability of mobile technologies is beginning to change the concept of e-commerce, with customers browsing in retail stores, but then buying online – the process of “showrooming”. However, if it is the shop’s own online site customers are accessing, then it can target customers and focus on their needs. In Seoul, department stores are rolling out virtual reality changing rooms that scan a customer’s whole body to produce a personal 3D avatar. The 3D scanners (like those used in airports) gather data from 200,000 points on the body and then take approximately 10 seconds to produce a virtual copy of the shopper. Customers are able to select clothes for their avatars to wear and can rotate the virtual image to view the fit and effect from all angles. If satisfied, the clothes can be ordered, and paid for, using a smartphone app.

Seoul cafes have begun to introduce their own innovative approaches to services in the form of  automatic ordering of food and drink and delivery using waiter ‘bots’. Tables in the cafés are equipped with an NFC (near field communication) tag, which when scanned with a smartphone opens up an entire menu on the customer’s phone, along with nutritional information and mouth-watering descriptions of the ingredients in the dishes. Once ordered, customers pay electronically and when the food is ready, the waiter bot is summoned to the kitchen by Wi-Fi before delivering the order to the correct table.

Visitors to hotels, such as the Seoul Skypark, are provided with smartphones on check in replacing keys and cards. The phones are NFC enabled and the phone can control heating, lighting, the television and even order room service.

Architects and engineers are working together to ensure new technologies are being integrated in to new build homes in South Korean. Motion controlled living room are equipped with interactive walls using HD projectors and motion sensors to allow surfing of the net and to provide a rnge of personal services such as apps to monitor fitness levels, nutrition and health and software to allow users to collaborate on work projects remotely.

These innovations provide a range of examples that can be used to illustrate the 6 concepts in the new Business Management programme. The technologies described in this post are at the forefront of a revolution in modern living, particularly in city environments. When integrated with other technologies, such as nanotechnology and 3D printing, the change to our lifestyles will be dramatic. There will be social and cultural impacts of these technologies and the use of data generated from these systems will raise ethical questions in terms of who has access to personal information and how this is disseminated to others. Already firms, like Google and Samsung, are working on systems to allow rapid transfer of data and storage systems in the cloud as well as using NFC technologies to offer an increasing array of personal and commercial services.

 IB style questions

  1. Define the following terms:
    • e-commerce
    • innovation
  2. Explain the potential impact on distribution chains of the technologies identified in this post.
  3. Analyse the ethical issues associated with the expansion, manipulation and dissemination of data in business transactions.
  4. Evalute the impact on the objectives of  firms new innovations such as NFC and 5G  become mainstream.
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