Vaughan RobertsonTechnology is changing at breakneck speed; technologies that didn’t exist yesterday will soon become commonplace. The challenge for business is to identify and adapt to new technology trends, or risk becoming irrelevant and caught in a “Kodak moment.” Former industry leader Kodak was slow to transition to the digital world and filed for bankruptcy after sales of photographic film declined due to the rise of digital photography.

Vaughan Robertson, Group Manager of Technology Strategy at Beca, is an expert at tracking technology trends and seeing their business relevance. It’s his job to identify technologies that might be opportunities or disruptors to Beca’s business. Vaughan joined us at our recent TechDrop session and talked about various technology trends that could affect business in the future. He highlighted technologies that are showing strong potential to shake up traditional industries and create a paradigm shift in the way we work and live.

SMAC (Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud) may be the new acronym for mega trends in technology today, but it’s the intersection of these areas that creates the greatest risk and opportunities for business. However, Vaughan was quick to point out, “It’s not about the technology, it’s about the application (of technology).”

Vaughan discussed sensors as an area of opportunity that has risen with the intersection of technology, mobile and analytics. For example, Microsoft applies analytics to usage data from smart sensors on their campus fire extinguishers to determine maintenance needs, thereby reducing maintenance costs. The University of Florida has embedded sensors into night-time mouth guards to monitor and measure teeth grinding, highlighting opportunities for other medical applications for sensors.

FutureTrends Photo 1Specific to civil engineering, Vaughan talked about Reality Capture technology, which captures massive amounts of live building data by taking snapshots of structures on a continual basis. The data can be overlaid on new building plans to detect design clashes and avoid potential problems before construction begins. He also spoke about the technology behind autonomous or unmanned trucks. This is very effective within the mining industry where dangerous conditions and high risk to human drivers make manpower both costly and in short supply.

Vaughan also demonstrated some very cool RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems), often referred to as “drones.” The applications for drones are countless from space rovers to construction monitoring, to earthquake recovery assistance. While their benefits are obvious, RPAS have raised concerns around safety, privacy and flight zone rights. As with most new technologies, accepted social parameters for use become refined as adoption of the technology increases.

Hearing from Vaughan and how he monitors various technologies through search alerts made me wonder how many other companies have formalised this role. Naturally it means providing research time for the person or people tasked with “technology strategy.” Companies that don’t have a formal role could benefit from tapping into the curiosity of their staff and providing an outlet to share knowledge.

Vaughan Robertson - Thumbnail photoAt ClearPoint we’re naturally passionate about technology. We encourage knowledge sharing through forums such as TechDrops where our people can present information and ideas to their peers and learn from others such as Vaughan.

Our clients look to us to provide insight into technology trends and how these might affect their industry. Knowing sector issues deeply enough and being able to envisage the application of new technologies to address those issues can provide competitive advantage. By identifying future trends and their relevance to our clients’ business, we help our clients adapt, innovate and stay relevant.

“It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change,” Charles Darwin


Vaughan Robertson, Group Manager, Technology Strategy at Beca, presented at ClearPoint’s TechDrop session on 14 July 2015. At ClearPoint we believe that innovation can occur anywhere and anytime. Discussion and debate between peers from different industries is a good stimulus for creativity and innovation. That’s why we initiate the TechDrop series. Get in touch for more details or stay tuned to our blog for more fresh thinking.