robotics

Revolutions. Industrial or Otherwise

The Fourth Industrial Revolution changes everything. Although it has many names—Industry 4.0, Digitalization, the Singularity, the Internet of Things (IoT), Connected World, Smart Home, Cognitive, etc.—it will be known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or 4IR. It is being driven by vast technology advancements and will change the nature of wealth, health and happiness, how we live, work, relate to one another, as well as how governments engage, regulate, serve, and protect. By 2025, 50% of the world’s GDP will be derived from digital (a process that is completely automated by machines, which does not require human intervention). This will have profound implications. The First Industrial Revolution (1750 – 1840) was powered by water and steam to mechanize production. Inventions such as the steam engine, iron working, textiles, cement, and railroads terraformed our landscape as humans migrated from rural (agrarian) to urban (city) settings in massive population shifts. Language and reading skills increased with the printing press and so our civilization advanced. Great libraries of the world were built and opened to the public. Revolutions ensued and Napoleon conquered most of Europe. The very fabric of society changed and great thinkers like Voltaire, Paine, and Rousseau agreed that society should be organized according to rules based on rational thought rather than religious ideology. Indeed, most western advances are based on rational thought, behavior, and market dynamics. This is changing in our time. The Second Industrial Revolution (1840 – 1969) was driven by electronic power to create mass production and predicated inventions such as cars, airplanes, the television, the telephone, and even the hydrogen bomb. It was the great age of iron, steel, rail, electrification, petroleum, chemicals, engines, telecommunications, and modern business management. It demonstrated the greatest increase in economic growth in the shortest period ever, introduced by mass production and modern manufacturing. The foundations of globalization were laid and great western populations rose up out of poverty while many deadly commonplace diseases were eradicated. Civil war defined America, Germany rose to power, and two world wars were fought. The Third Industrial Revolution (1969 – 2000) was enabled by Information Technology to automate production. Inventions included the integrated circuit, the personal computer, smartphones, the Internet, space exploration technologies, and the laser. In 1988, Kodak had 170,000 employees and sold 85% of the world’s paper. Within a few years, their business model disappeared and they went bankrupt. Yes, digital technologies replaced film, but what Kodak failed to realize was the disruptive force around them, its opportunities, and the appropriate investment in them (thus, the defining “Kodak Moment”). The Fourth Industrial Revolution (2000 – present) not only digitizes production, but also “intelligence-based tasks,” which previously could only be handled by the human mind. This revolution is of a scope, scale, velocity, and complexity unlike anything else we have faced. Its effects will impact all of humankind, all industries, all countries, every facet of every glorious element of our society—revolutionizing business models, reshaping the world, and even redefining our very existence. The technological opportunities presented by this revolution will be unlimited and challenging, having the power to create and the power to destroy; and as we say in Vermont, any fool can burn down a barn. Extinction events happen. The Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event (i.e., the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs) decimated some 75% of the plant and animal species on Earth. Some add sentient machines and the Singularity—or the point at which a machine can think and act at or beyond human capability (thereby rendering us redundant)—to this list of possible present-day extinction events. This blog series highlights the power to create inherent in the 4IR as the Golden Age of Innovation, but it is important to note the perils that are equally present. In my next blog in this series, I’ll explore what makes the 4IR difference from the 3IR in more detail. To read more, download The Golden Age of Innovation. I’ll be taking this message on the road for the Innovation Tour and Enterprise World. Learn more. I’d love to hear your thoughts. To provide feedback, or if you would like to see additional topics covered in future publications, please add your comment below.  

Read More

Is the Microphone Working?

Testing, one, two, three. Testing, one, two three. Can you hear me? Is the microphone working? Testing (tapping on the mic a few times). As I stated in the intro blog for this series, we are in the midst of the Golden Age of Innovation that many are calling the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Over the last decade, the top 20 U.S. technology firms have created over $1 trillion USD in value. U.S. venture investment topped $60 billion USD in 2016. Software is now contributing over $1 trillion USD in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to the global economy. And there are 4.5 million professional software developers in North America alone—more than ever before. Innovation drives progress. Software and hardware innovation accounts for nearly 15% of all R&D, pharmaceuticals for almost 10%. In 2015, U.S. patent applications hit a record high, topping over 600,000. Half of the world’s best-known brands are now platform companies. In this golden age of innovation, we all need to be software companies. The ability to innovate at scale needs to transcend nations, cultures, and people. Many cultures find it difficult to innovate. My experience suggests there are three key ingredients to innovation: access to talent, access to capital, and an entrepreneurial spirit. The Fourth Industrial Revolution describes an era marked by digital innovation, exponential thinking, and unlimited potential. This will be a revolution of scope, scale, velocity, and complexity unlike any other in human history. But what will be the ultimate measure of this transformation: is it profit, peace, quality of life, or a new form of conscious capitalism? The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Better Life Index ranks Norway, Australia, Denmark, Switzerland, Canada, Sweden, New Zealand, Finland, United States, and Iceland as the top 10 countries for wellbeing. The United States would rank in the top three if not for: community, civic engagement, and work-life balance. I am not one to lecture on work-life balance. But democracy is not easy, and the great American experiment has invested deeply in a government of, by, and for the people, yet only 50% of eligible American citizens vote or experience civic engagement. This is shameful. In regards to community, despite progress over the last 100 years, 15% of Americans still live in poverty, which is completely unacceptable. My grandfather was born before planes, cars, televisions, telephones, and electricity were commonplace. He lived for 98 years (smoked for 60 of those and ate bacon and eggs every morning). He also worked on his farm every day until he passed, and left America only once to sail across the Atlantic to France to join the Allied Liberation Forces in WWI. There were many phenomenal aspects to my grandfather, but let me highlight the incredible human spirit of adaptability that led him to transition from horses to planes, from whale oil to electricity, from dirt roads to a nationwide transportation network. He also lived to see the first personal computer, and his grandson earn a computer science degree. As a software engineer, I have never seen a more gilded time to positively impact society and humanity through technology. This is the Golden Age of Innovation: And so begins the Fourth Industrial Revolution and our individual responsibilities for creating a better future. …Testing, one, two, three. Is the microphone loud enough? In my next post in this series, I will discuss each of the four industrial revolutions, highlighting their innovations and impact on business, society, and culture. To read more, download The Golden Age of Innovation. I’ll be taking this message on the road for the Innovation Tour and Enterprise World. Learn more. I’d love to hear your thoughts. To provide feedback, or if you would like to see additional topics covered in future publications, please add your comment below.

Read More

Introducing The Golden Age of Innovation

By all accounts, we are entering the Golden Age of Innovation, which many are calling the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Some of the early innovations of the Fourth Industrial Revolution are visible in consumer and personal use cases, such as gaming, shopping, and entertainment. But the vast majority of these innovations—like software, Artificial Intelligence (AI), medicine, robotics, and transportation—have yet to impact society or productivity. When they do, their effects will be exponential and staggering. All industries will be transformed over the next 10 to 20 years by technology. These transformations will affect us as individuals, as a society, as businesses and governments, and will change how we live, work, govern, keep the peace, and wage wars. My recent book, The Golden Age of Innovation, describes the impact of this technology-driven revolution, exploring the opportunities it presents and the risks we face as it unfolds. I’m pleased to kick off a new blog series based on this book. In this series, I will continue my exploration of digital transformation with a collection of topics addressing the radical impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution—from disintermediation to the subscription economy, automation, and the “Digital Self.” I invite you to follow the series, and together, we’ll discuss these topics in more detail: Is the Microphone Working? Revolutions. Industrial or Otherwise The Fourth Industrial Revolution The Impact on Business New Business Models Emerge Industries are Transformed New Skills are Required The Rise of the Machine The Impact on the Person The Digital Self The Impact on Government How Will We Measure the Golden Age? To read more, download The Golden Age of Innovation. I’ll be taking this message on the road for the Innovation Tour and Enterprise World. Learn more. I’d love to hear your thoughts. To provide feedback, or if you would like to see additional topics covered in future publications, please add your comment below.

Read More

How Digital Transformation is Giving Humans More Time to Really Think

The pace of technological change today is being called the “fourth industrial revolution.” New solutions powered by artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and machine learning are enabling machines to handle processes that once required human decision-making. Just as mechanical muscle lowered the demand for physical labor in the first industrial revolution, today cutting-edge technology is reducing the demand for human intervention. The “migration” of tasks from humans to software and machines has been evident for quite some time. From ATMs to automated check-in at airports, technology has been performing relatively simple and repetitive tasks. Today, this transformation allows much more complex and nuanced tasks to move from human speed to machine speed, across industries that have remained largely untouched by machine intervention. Most recently, AI and cognitive systems have found a place in legal discovery, insurance applications, underwriting and claims processing, and the delivery of financial investment advice. In healthcare, telemedicine allows diagnosis and monitoring without the need to physically see a clinician, and a surgeon can operate from another hospital or country—just more examples of where jobs long understood as “human” are being displaced by technology. The automation option New opportunities for automation will continue to appear, as mechanization, automation, AI, and robotics replace human workers. But it’s not all doom and gloom. As “traditional” roles are replaced, new jobs will be created in the transition—jobs that require creativity, innovation, and strategic thought. As we do away with mundane work, the time gained through automation can be used to innovate, germinate ideas, and conceive new processes fueled by the kind of thinking that only happens when our minds have time to wander. The beginning of a sweeping societal change? The World Economic Forum, economists, analysts, and labor organizations have predicted a wave of job losses due to the surge in AI, robotics, and other technologies. We could see a net loss of 7.1 million jobs over the next five years in the 15 leading countries that make up approximately 65 percent of the world’s total workforce. But two million of the jobs will be offset by the creation of new positions that will support and foster the new wave of innovation, beyond what we see as credible or possible today. But as some roles are automated, others will come online; for instance, individuals who can build, develop and make sense of these sweeping changes. Developers, programmers, scientists, and technologists will—more than ever—be required to drive forward the accelerating pace of change. There will also be a greater need for economists, lawyers, and policy makers who can interpret how governance, intellectual property, and society at large will have to adapt. While algorithms may automate decision-making, it won’t be easy to replace leaders who can navigate this new fast-paced, intense change. At the end of the day, you may wonder if a machine could do your job. And the answer is that it could probably do some of it. And that’s okay, because automation will free us up to do more of the thinking required to come up with what’s next, perhaps with the help of a new robot friend or two.

Read More

Top Tech Trends for 2017

Information technologies are accelerating at an exponential rate, ushering in the fourth industrial revolution. This is a digital revolution and the pace of change is unprecedented. This revolution incorporates machine learning (think parallel processing and neural networks) and the concept of self-assembly or self-programmability. As technologies continue to advance, they accelerate the progress of other technologies, and so on and so on. To illustrate this, we can look at the evolution of disruptive technologies. In 2016, everyone was excited about the promise of 3-D printing. Now, we’re gearing up for 4-D printing, an emerging technology that will enable us to print objects that reshape or assemble themselves on-the-fly, based on intelligent data. To make this level of self-assembly a reality, we will need dynamic and agile systems. Enter the Internet of Things (IoT) as the digital platform of the future. But the potential of the IoT has evolved into the “Intelligence of Things”. Even Uber, the popular ride sharing app, has advanced its concept of on-demand travel to incorporate a fleet of electric aircrafts (called “Elevate”) to lift us up and out of the chaos of gridlocked ground traffic (yes, just like in “The Jetsons”). The old approach to technology development moved linearly at the speed of human coders. The new model progresses exponentially at the speed of data, intelligence, and self-assembly. Based on this new model, here are my top picks for technology trends that will dominate in 2017: 1. AI and Advanced Machine Learning: The Automatic Enterprise Thanks to parallel processing, big data, cloud technology, and advanced algorithms, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning are becoming more powerful. As tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Apple invest in AI, it is becoming more mainstream. People already interact with virtual personal assistants (PAs) like Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant. Facebook successfully created technology to identify people’s faces with its facial recognition app. Recommendation engines and robo-advisors are becoming a reality in financial services. And robotic butlers are delivering room service in hotels around the world. The analysts are jumping on board, with Forrester predicting that investments in AI will grow 300% in 2017 and Gartner forecasting that 50% of all analytical interactions will be delivered via AI in the next three to five years. These are impressive numbers. But how will these investments pay off for the enterprise? Are computers really more intelligent than people? Many jobs will disappear through automation and others will change significantly as the enterprise becomes more automated and intelligent. Over the next few years, some of us could be answering to robo-bosses. From a productivity perspective, we spend a third of our time in the workplace collecting and processing data—AI could all but eliminate this work. Every job in every industry will be impacted by machine learning. The upside? The opportunity to think exponentially means that the potential applications for these technologies are limitless. For businesses, understanding cognitive systems, big data analytics, machine learning technology, and AI—and how to leverage them—will be critical for survival. In the short term, these technologies will give organizations faster access to sophisticated insights, empowering them to make better decisions and act with agility to outpace their competitors. 2. The Year of Intelligent Things: A Smarter You in 2017 The capability of smart machines increases substantially as they are infused with standalone intelligence. AI and machine learning will be embedded into everyday things like appliances, cars, sensors and drones. Even our thermostats will continue to become more intelligent; they will not only learn our heating and cooling preferences, but also analyze factors like on- or off-peak use, weather forecasts, and previous consumption patterns to give us recommendations to reduce utility bills. This intelligence will be coded into apps. These apps will be driven by data and context, they will synthesize vast amounts of information, learn our behaviors, and react and adapt in real time to deliver relevant and personalized outcomes. Whether they make us more productive at work, optimize our health, or manage energy and utilities consumption in our homes, intelligent things and apps have the power to direct our actions and influence our interactions to help us make better decisions and, ultimately, improve our quality of life. 3. Get Ready for Your Digital Twin In 2017, advances in connectivity and machine intelligence will enable us to demonstrate the large-scale advantages of digital twins. A digital twin is a dynamic software representation of a piece of equipment or system that emulates the original’s materials, measurements, component parts, and behavior. More importantly, a digital twin also includes data that is unique to the asset it represents. Digital twins are created and maintained to allow simulation, analysis, and control. Initially developed by the military for aircraft, digital twins are gaining traction in other industries, such as renewable energy and manufacturing. The GE Digital Twin has created cloud-based computer models of wind farms which connect turbines while collecting and analyzing data to make them 20% more efficient. Black & Decker has digital twins of assembly lines and materials in one of their factories and has reported improvements of 12% and a 10% increase in throughput. Over the next year, organizations will use digital twins to boost efficiency, optimize design and performance, and improve quality. Over the next five years, billions of objects will be represented by digital twins, including equipment, facilities, environments, processes, and even people. For every physical asset there will be a virtual copy running in the Cloud. Their potential lies beyond demonstrating proof-of-concept to mirroring an entire supply chain to support globalization and promote economic gain. In the not too-distant future, our own digital twins will help us make better decisions. As the next version of the virtual PA, an algorithm-based identity will maintain all of our preferences and relevant data, prompting us to act based on this information through notifications, reminders, recommendations, and more. 4. The Evolving Mesh App and Service Architecture With all the apps, networks, devices, and channels, how do you make the experience seamless for the user? This is a question that will influence tech R&D in 2017. The “digital mesh” refers to everything that is connected across digital ecosystems—from people to processes to things. As more services and apps connect across more channels and networks, the digital mesh is growing and as it does, it is fundamentally altering the user experience. Consumers expect a seamless experience that flows across a shifting set of devices and channels, combining the physical and virtual. This kind of ambient user experience requires that the supporting platforms, technologies, and architectures must also change. Enter Mesh App and Service Architecture (MASA), a modern architecture that allows for modular, flexible, and dynamic solutions. MASA connects devices, apps, services, and other information sources in a consistent user experience across the digital mesh. It leverages cloud and server-less computing, containers and micro-services, and dynamically supports user needs as they interact with their technology and devices. MASA is an architectural shift that will require significant changes to enterprise infrastructure and R&D. 5. The Best Defense is a Good Offense with Adaptive Security Adaptive security tops the CIO agenda. While moving to digital presents enormous opportunity for business growth, it also presents great risk for cybercrime. In 2016 alone, cybercrime was the second-most reported economic crime. As the number and sophistication of cyberattacks increases, an effective enterprise security becomes more critical than ever. The traditional (reactive) approach that relies on antivirus software and firewalls to protect the perimeter and responds to incidents as they occur is just not good enough. In 2017, the enterprise will go on the offensive, assuming that its network is constantly under attack. To pre-empt cyberattacks and information leaks, organizations will implement an adaptive security architecture with continuous, real-time monitoring, big data, and analytics. As the next generation of security, an adaptive architecture delivers the preventative intelligence needed to uncover anomalies and potential threats and prioritize risks. 6. Digital Platforms Lay the Foundation for the Future Digital platforms will continue to play a prominent role into 2017 as foundational platforms for transformation. For enterprises that have already transformed, they will be key to supporting future growth. In particular, Digital Experience (DX) platforms and the IoT will be essential. The year 2016 bore witness to a pivotal tipping point with shoppers making more than half of their purchases online. As this number continues to rise, DX will become an integral digital platform for the enterprise. In 2017, the digital customer experience may be the only interaction consumers have with a brand. It will be important for organizations to get this experience right the first time. We also saw an estimated 5.5 million new devices connect to the IoT each day in 2016. This exploding ecosystem of tightly interconnected devices and people will only get smarter. The result will be digital environments that respond to each individual in highly personalized ways. In 2017, we will build a new world. Using digital platforms and leveraging the existing IoT infrastructure, interconnected intelligent devices will transform the way we interact with each other and our environments. 7. A Hyper-connected Global Ecosystem Creates New Opportunities Over the past few years, business networks have been driving opportunity for business. In 2017, as business networks expand into new ecosystems, they will transcend geography, industry, and language to create exponentially more opportunities for digital enterprises. Much of the technology required for this ecosystem (like AI, robotics, sensors, and the IoT) already exists. A culture of information sharing and collaboration is required to connect the dots. Data and standardization are also fundamental for the development and sustenance of digital ecosystems. When business networks are reliably and securely connected, they can be layered with intelligence. As information is added, the ecosystem and opportunities for growth will only increase. Organizations are connecting across industries to form digital ecosystems with the customers at the hub. Auto manufacturers like Tesla and Fiat are partnering with technology companies to integrate GPS, navigation, social media, and entertainment services in ways that are transforming the driving experience. Adding intelligence for predictive maintenance and servicing integrates suppliers into the network to deliver efficiency and convenience. Taking advantage of the emerging concept of the connected car, it’s only a matter of time before standardization enables cars to tap into a broader range of networks, like smart transportation systems that automatically locate vacant parking spots, for example. When all of these services are connected in the self-driving car (or aircraft), we will truly be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. 8. Customer-Centricity Drives Transformation In 2017, customer-centricity will drive transformation across all industries. In 2009, Uber created history by disrupting an entire market. Today, the company supports global operations and is valued at over $60 billion USD. What is the secret of its success? Many would say disruptive technologies or even intelligent data but, in fact, Uber’s customer-centric approach played an even greater role in the company’s success. Uber stepped into a market that needed an overhaul to offer more responsive and convenient travel for consumers. By focusing on the customer, Uber was able to quickly build trust. And while it is true that technology has given consumers more choice than ever before, technology is only an enabler. The key to success lies in customer-centric approaches, technologies, and business models. Over the coming year, digital leaders will shift from marketing digital products and services to embracing customer-centric operations. They will invest in IT to become more responsive. Customer-led self-service will be a requirement, along with AI and predictive analytics, innovation, and the agility needed to adapt to changing customer needs. In the digital world, consumers have come to expect higher levels of service. The fight for differentiation will be won by excelling at customer experience and this can only be achieved through customer-centricity. Whether you’re ready or not, the fourth industrial revolution is here. We are witnessing incredible breakthroughs in every industry, driven by disruptive innovation. And the possibilities for application are unlimited. To quote Sun Tzu: “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.” I wish you all a Happy New Year and great success in 2017.

Read More