Industry 4.0 has been slow to evolve, until now

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The manufacturing industry around the world is about to go through a period of unprecedented innovation and technical revolution. Artificial Intelligence, robotics, IIoT will all play a role.

The pandemic that has ravaged our world impacted every industry. Some businesses, such as restaurants and retail stores haven’t fared well. The manufacturing sector was hit hard as well with supply chain disruptions and restrictions on transportation of goods, raw and finished. …

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Countries around the world see Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a critical general technology to give them competitive advantage in productivity, economics and of course, warfare, be it cyber or real-world. Governments have poured billions of dollars into academia and industry to gain competitive edge. China, Israel, America, the UK, Canada and others have laid claim to staking out leadership roles with AI.

While the type of AI that we see in Hollywood movies, what is termed as general AI remains a ways off and some think it may never happen, the development of AI is moving fast and even in 2020 we saw significant progress around the world. …

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For decades the biggest challenges for Big Tech, from Facebook and Apple to Amazon, Twitter, and Google had been about growing their customer base and launching new hardware and features. In 2018 I predicted that in 2019, Big Tech would face entirely new big challenges; regulatory and societal attitudes. And those issues arose in 2019 and then more in 2020. In 2021, Big Tech faces some very serious challenges.

While the Big Tech companies still face the challenges of audience growth and delivering new hardware and software products, this year will bring in a whole new level of challenges. With the use of social media during the recent insurrection in Washington, D.C. …

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Right now, Google dominates the search engine market with an over 90% share. Largely because they built a good product. They’ve done so well that they’re now where Microsoft was in the 1990’s; facing anti-trust battles. From the original search engine, Google added other products such as Maps and now Workspaces. Some products like Buzz and Google+ failed. All part of the process. My time with the internet goes back to the days of the AltaVista search engine and when Yahoo! Dominated search. SEO? Unheard of. There were a multitude of search engines. It was a mess but it was also good. It forced innovation and Google won. But Google needs a proper competitor again. Facebook failed. So have others. …

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One key feature most any investor in a technology startup will ask about is how is the app or device set up to connect to other apps and devices? They’ll also look the “ecosystem” in which the startup’s app plays in, such as FinTech, InsurTech, AgriTech and so on. And of course, that key question of “what problem are you solving?” These are valid and important considerations; for the startup and the investor. But it has also created a rather large mess. And it’s getting messier.

The pandemic hasn’t helped, although it might seem so. As people started to work increasingly from home, technology solutions from video conferencing to messaging and project management apps started to pump out new features. And they all found ways to connect with more and more other apps. This interconnectedness isn’t so much the problem. …

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In early 2018, I predicted that the biggest challenges Big Tech and the information technology industry would face would be political, as in regulatory and anti-trust. That is largely when the issues of the responsibilities of Big Tech companies started and now the US government is proceeding with anti-trust imvestigations on Google and governments are looking ever more closely at Facebook and Apple. Amazon has come under fire as well. Regulation, in some form or another is inevitable. Why?

Prior to what was called Web 2.0, where technologies that enabled easy ways for humans to collaborate and communicate in real-time (social media) became broadly available, most information technologies were the domain of business. It was difficult and often expensive for the average citizen to engage online. So the impact on broader society was significant, but not to the degree it is today. As the cost of technology came down, mobile data networks and smartphones became more pervasive and social media wound its way into every corner of societies around the world, there was a fundamental shift. …

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Ask just about any company what their most important asset is and they’ll tell you people and/or information. Today, information as an asset is probably more important than ever before and could, when properly recognized, managed and turned into knowledge, or even just raw, provide entirely new revenue streams for a business. Monetized, information and even raw data, could also double or triple a company’ valuation.

For a business to think of its information or raw data as a monetizable asset and to just treat information as an asset is a paradigm shift in thinking. Business sees revenues as strictly coming from the products they produce or the services they deliver. It is an understood transaction that is tangible in that it is surrounded by accounting principles that the business, accountants, financial markets and governments agree upon, for most, this is the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, GAAP. …

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Ever since humans fell out of trees we’ve been creating tools to help us survive. One of the most important of those tools was writing. As our brains and species evolved up to today and the arrival of homo Sapiens, so too did our use of tools. Until the closing of the 21st century, we augmented our physical selves. Things are about to get a bit messier now though.

As we became an agrarian society, we developed tools for farming. When our villages became so big we needed more land, we invented weapons. So we could go over and thump our neighbours and take their land. In anthropological terms this is called “caging.” The debate continues as to weather this was the start of warfare. Arguably so. …

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As a digital anthropologist, I spend a lot of time at that liminal space between humans and technology. An area of interest for me, for personal reasons, is print products such as books, magazines and newspapers. I’m sure you yourself have thought that print books and especially magazines and newspapers are dinosaurs on the path to extinction. It’s a narrative that carries with many technologies that are threatening consumer products or analog industries. And sometimes, it is true. Combustion engine cars will be overtaken by electric cars eventually. I believe it is unlikely that print books and magazines however, will ever truly die. But print newspapers? Yes. …

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Image courtesy PixaBay

When it comes to a digital transformation (we prefer the word adaptation) the biggest challenge is people. And the key part of that, aside from personalities, siloed and kingdom building is the ability to adapt to change.

In the ethnographic studies I’ve done at the start of developing a digital adaptation strategy for organizations, the first thing I do is look at the type of smartphone the employee is using. I ask them what they like about the phone they’re using. This helps me to understand their socioeconomic situation as well as their mindset in regards to adopting new technologies. …

About

Giles Crouch

Chief Information Officer | Featured in Wired |Digital Anthropologist | Polymath

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