On August 18th I had the pleasure to participate in Aalto University’s annual Make it Digital! event. Having visited the event already last year I greatly enjoyed both the event’s and the university’s focus on the Internet of Things – its impact on transforming business models, enhancing customer centricity, and the application of service design were the themes which I was looking forward to this year. Aalto has clearly understood that digitalisation is the way forward, with more than 100 professors being involved in the subject and ICT in general, and good ties that bring students and researchers together with relevent businesses.
“The technology is ready…are we? We have no choice, we have to take control.”
This year’s keynote presentation by Dr. Martin Curly, Professor and Former Director of Intel Labs Europe, provided an overview of what it means to make everything digital. He shed light on three colliding key mega trends the world is seeing right now: Digital transformation, mass collaboration, and sustainability. He emphasized that industries which were established and shaped during over a century are now going to be re-architected in just under one decade by these trends and the new business models they make possible.
Looking at digital transformation, powered by the Internet of Things (IoT), businesses switch from manufacturing and selling products to offering intelligent services to their customers. The IoT further means that products are not just physical objects anymore. They also have a digital side which is actually much more important than the mere physical object. The digital counterpart, enabled by IoT platforms, collects, stores, analyses and controls all kinds of information coming from the object, its environment and how it is being used by its owner. This technological leap enables mass collaboration: people to people, people to machines, machines to people, and machines to machines. It brings a major change in our interaction with everyone and everything.
In addition, making everything digital will increase sustainability. A manufacturer will know exactly how much resources is needed to fulfil the detailed customer demand, without overproducing. 3D printing will further enable customers to print their own objects with just the right amount of required resources – the digital manufacturer’s role will be to provide customers with ever-evolving digital recipes and 3D printer support, while raw materials are recycled as locally as possible.
The future: a cognitive business = a digital business + digital intelligence
Juha Teljo, Analytics tools executive Europe at IBM, went on to talk about the current stage of cognitive computing, or digital intelligence. Cognitive computing capabilities resemble the human learning and thinking processes. Understanding, reasoning, learning and interacting are the core elements. Interacting, as Dr. Curly also emphasized, is one of the key things machines (Things) should learn in order to engage with their users.
Right now, humans initiate the conversation with a computer. In the near future, computers will be able to start the conversation based on their own observations. There are already promising results in computers’ capabilities to make decisions – a capability with significant potential. Things, through IoT Platforms, don’t just know what’s going on but they can decide themselves what to do about it – currently this computing development is at the stage of “decision adviser”, in the future it should be “decision maker”. The result will be services that understand, reason and learn.
How do we differentiate businesses today in our digital world?
The event overall highlighted that digitalization is happening and it transforms businesses in any industry. There are no limits to our imagination anymore and service innovation can happen just about anywhere as the enabling technology already exists and is ready to be utilized. It also powers new levels of customer centricity, mass customization and service interactions.
Even in the film industry, customer centricity can be increased through crowdsourcing as Timo Vuorensola showcased: Every bit of a filmmaking process is a task that can be collaboratively accomplished together with your audience.
– C. Maiwald, SID14 student