Zero UI – Will it be Adopted in CTRM?

The recently issued Disruptive Technologies report makes for some interesting reading however, it is also what it doesn’t say that might give pause for further thought. The report found that just around 25% of people responding to the survey thought that virtual or augmented reality would have some form of impact over the next 2-3 years and only 8% saw investment in that area over the same period and I for one, found this somewhat surprising. On the other hand, perhaps in truth, we asked the wrong question? In an era when big data and the use of AI and ML is exploding across the commodities space, what about the ability to visualize data? The man-machine interface?

Our interactions with applications are primarily screen and text-based. Most CTRM solutions look pretty similar superficially if the truth be told in terms of how the user interacts with the software. However, with more and more data and the need to make faster decisions, what about some thinking into different types of UI’s? OK, so if AI and ML are going to do a lot of the heavy lifting in the future, much of the interpretation may be done by the machine itself I get that but still, the human has to interact with the system somewhere along the line. To that end, I was intrigued by a presentation given at the VisoTech User Forum last week in Vienna by a futurist that talked about the concept of Zero UI. A bit of research showed me thatZero UI is a coin termed by Fjord Designer Andy Goodman. By his definition, “Zero UI refers to a paradigm where our movements, voice, glances, and even thoughts can all cause systems to respond to us through our environment.” Instead of relying on clicking, typing and tapping, users will now input information by means of voice, gestures, and touch. Interactions will move away from phones and computers, and into physical devices which we’ll communicate with instead. This may mean communicating with your applications by voice (think Alexa), gesture, glances, thoughts or messages. Plainly, there is some way to go in making these technologies totally reliable and applicable to commodity trading and risk management but will they play a role and will those screens ever go away?

According to an article on, John Frémont, global digital project lead and group director at Fjord Austin,

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sees Zero UI as less a design idea than a gateway to AI. “It’s really about understanding contextual information,” he said, “unlocking all that data that’s available and being able to have that machine be predictive enough to be able to give me notifications very quickly and in my environment.”

Over time, a pervasive computing system will be able to make very accurate predictions and suggestions about purchases. For instance, a smart refrigerator with object recognition capability would be able to notify and ask the user, “You’re out of milk. Do you want to buy some? (Y/N)”

Frémont’s vision of a Zero UI future isn’t so much a world without screens as a world with fewer reasons to check your screen because you’re fairly certain you will be notified if something important needs addressing.

According to Andy Goodman in an article at Creative Bloq,

Zero UI doesn’t mean getting rid of the interface entirely. Rather, it’s a process where many of the visual interfaces we spend so much time with recede into the background, leaving us open to engage with the stuff that is important and useful to us. It is analogous to inbox zero, where we strive to achieve a blissful state in which everything is dealt with, calm and invisible. As we move into a connected world where objects, people and environments are all joined together by a mesh of invisible electronic tethers, the decision making, the services we want, and the results we expect from our interactions become exponentially more complicated. A system will have to predict what someone wants to do next. But it will also need to know where they are, where they’re heading and what their intent is. It will be about how we as humans interact with entire systems.

The key to the future of the CTRM and related software UI may well be using AI to actually drive the interactions helping users navigate from place to place and application to application in a prioritized manner that helps them complete their daily, monthly and other tasks and activities. It may well be that sometimes these interactions are not screen-based but through the use of gestures or even voice commands (although trading rooms can be very noisy places!) or some other technique. Virtual or augmented realities may also play a role in how data is inspected and analyzed by the human operator. I don’t see this future as being so far away either. Much of the technology already exists and will improve considerably over the next few years.

Already, we see consulting and specialist firms offering agile UI design services. One senior Utility IT person I spoke to this week told me that this has been quite the trend recently with a number of firms approaching them to discuss agile UI design where the traditional thoughts around screens and UI’s are challenged by specialized designers to optimize man-machine interactions. For me, this is evidence that the trend has already started towards rethinking how information is consumed, visualized and acted upon in the commodity world. A few recent demonstrations from newer vendors has also afforded a glimpse of different looking UI’s that do seem to add real value.

In retrospect, we probably asked the wrong question in the survey. We should have asked about UI’s generally as opposed to picking a specific example of man-machine interaction. Had we asked the right question, I’m convinced more importance would have been attached by the respondents to this area and ComTech is fully expecting an explosion of activity in the area of UI’s. It has to happen due to the volume and speed of data and decision making. Whether it is a truly Zero UI future, we will have to wait and see but our guess is that UI design and appearance is going to change and change quickly.

What do you think?


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