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Digital Disruption and Digital Platforms

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[Duke University]


- Digital Disruption and the Global Software Revolution

The new digital technologies have led to widespread use of cloud computing, recognition of the potential of big data analytics, artificial intelligence, and significant progress in aspects of the Internet of Things, such as home automation, smart cities and grids and digital manufacturing. 

Disruption in commerce means a radical break from the existing processes in an industry. In the digital age, disruption usually comes from new Internet-enabled business models that are shaking up established industry structures.

The growth of accessible cloud infrastructure, SaaS and open source software solutions, and mobile computing has significantly lowered barriers to innovation, distribution, and adoption of ITC. This ubiquitous access to advanced technology is seeing software, and communications technologies, becoming key differentiators in the way organisations of all sizes now compete. More and more major businesses and industries are now run on software and delivered as online services - drawing inspiration from Silicon Valley-style entrepreneurial technology companies that are rapidly disrupting established industry structures.

Businesses, government agencies and even Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) are being forced to adopt these new operating practices, or face going out of business. Digital disruption is causing chaos and opportunity in every industry. The risks are real and dramatic. 

- Building a Next-Gen Digital Platform to Lead in the New Digital Economy

The enterprise world is changing faster than ever. To compete, it is now necessary to do business at an almost unprecedented size and scale. In order to achieve this scale, winning companies are establishing digital platforms that extend their organizational boundaries. With the Internet as the platform for innovation and the emergence of the information-fueled economy, technology is both a strategic requirement and a strategic advantage. 

While the term “digital platforms” includes anything from search engines (such as Google), to social platforms (such as Facebook), all the way to IaaS providers and PaaS providers (such as AWS and Azure), digitalized business technology is becoming increasingly refined. 

Digital platforms are virtualized, containerized, and treated like malleable, reusable resources, with workloads remaining independent from the operating environment. Systems are loosely coupled and embedded with policies, controls, and automation. Likewise, on-premises, private cloud, or public cloud capabilities can be employed dynamically to deliver any given workload at an effective price and performance point.

- Digital Platforms in Banking and Financial Services 

Advances in digital technology has expanded the awareness of the benefits of conducting financial transactions online or with mobile devices. At the same time, digital advances have provided access to financial services for billions of previously unserved and underserved consumers worldwide, especially in less developed economies. 

Based on current trends, digital platforms will become the preferred and dominant business model for banks and financial institutions in the future. Digital platforms offer consumers and small businesses the ability to connect to financial and other service providers through an online or mobile channel as an integrated part of their day-to-day activities. 

In emerging markets, billions of people around the world without access to traditional financial services, FinTech could lead to a revolution in financial inclusion and membership in the new global digital economy. Individuals and businesses have access to useful and affordable financial products and services that meet their needs – transactions, payments, savings, credit and insurance – delivered in a responsible and sustainable way. Financial inclusion is a key enabler to reducing poverty and boosting prosperity. 

With lower distribution costs and simplified engagement, the movement from paper to digital is picking up speed and increasing consumer expectations. This provides traditional financial institutions the opportunity to transform legacy delivery options, while also challenging the business case for existing physical infrastructures. 

The digitization of financial services also will improve identity management through enhanced biometrics. This will impact on the access to banking services in underserved markets and improve traditional payments and global money movement. 

- Digital Manufacturing Platforms for Connected Smart Factories and Industry 4.0 

Digital manufacturing platforms will be fundamental for the development of industry 4.0 and connected smart factories. They play an increasing role in dealing with competitive pressures and incorporating new technologies, applications and services. Advances are needed in digital manufacturing platforms that integrate different technologies, make data from the shop floor and the supply network easily accessible, and allow for complementary applications. The challenge is to fully exploit new concepts and technologies that allow manufacturing companies, especially mid-caps, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to fulfill the demands from changing supply and value networks. 

Smart manufacturing is the use of real-time data and information and communications technology to advance manufacturing intelligence, and to significantly improve productivity, performance, technology adoption, as well as addressing sustainability issues. More specifically, this will require the research, development, and transition to industry of advanced sensing and instrumentation; process monitoring, control, and optimization; advanced hardware and advanced software platforms; and real-time and predictive modeling and simulation technologies. 

Smart industry is a synonym for Industry 4.0 or industrial transformation in the fourth industrial revolution within which smart manufacturing de facto fits. Sensors and data analytics underpin smart manufacturing initiatives. Industry 4.0 is the name given to the German strategic initiative to establish Germany as a lead market and provider of advanced manufacturing solutions. It represents a paradigm shift from “centralized” to “decentralized” smart manufacturing and production. The 4th industrial revolution is powered by robotics, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), drone, 3D printing, Augmented Reality, and Cloud technologies, all of which will use wireless 5G technology to allow machine to machine communication. This will become the backbone of manufacturing and related services in the future. 

In this hypercompetitive world, the need for businesses to deliver more for less whilst meeting an increase in consumer expectations is ever more challenging. Logistics 4.0 and Smart Supply Chain Management are at the heart of addressing these challenges through a combination of cross-industrial methodologies. Organizations will need to become more innovative if they are to manage the complexity of today’s environment and succeed in creating more value for their stakeholders. 

Following nine pillars of technological advancement underpin Industry 4.0: Big Data and Analytics, Autonomous Robots, Simulation, Horizontal and Vertical System Integration, the Industrial Internet of Things, Cybersecurity, the Cloud, Additive Manufacturing, and Augmented Reality. Many of the nine advances in technology that form the foundation for Industry 4.0 are already used in manufacturing, but with Industry 4.0, they will transform production: isolated, optimized cells will come together as a fully integrated, automated, and optimized production flow, leading to greater efficiencies and changing traditional production relationships among suppliers, producers, and customers—as well as between human and machine. 

- Agricultural Digital Integration Platforms 

Digital agriculture is the use of new and advanced technologies, integrated into one system, to enable farmers and other stakeholders within the agriculture value chain to improve food production. The rise of digital agriculture and its related technologies has opened a wealth of new data opportunities. Remote sensors, satellites, and drones can gather information 24 hours per day over an entire field. These can monitor plant health, soil condition, temperature, humidity, etc. The amount of data these sensors can generate is overwhelming, and the significance of the numbers is hidden in the avalanche of that data. Companies are leveraging computer vision and deep-learning algorithms to process data captured by drones and/or software-based technology to monitor crop and soil health. Machine learning models are being developed to track and predict various environmental impacts on crop yield such as weather changes. 

Needed first and foremost in this digital ecosystem is an integrating digital platform. Much like how Apple opened up the iPhone to independent application providers, The standardized digital platform will be able to provide a hub for all agtech providers to essentially sell their wares, at the same time capturing their data and integrating it into the digital platform.This integrated platform gives farmers the ability to track their operations from several different angles, from soil moisture sensing to satellite imagery to weather data, to better make predictions and decisions on how their operations are faring. The integrating platform enables and protects stakeholder access and information; automates the development and analysis of massive bodies of data; and develops, reveals, and manages the potential costs – and revenues – of these decisions. These decisions can then be quickly implemented with greater accuracy through robotics and advanced machinery, and farmers can get real-time feedback on the impact their actions. 

Digital agriculture has the potential to transform the way we produce the world’s food but the approach is still very new, costs are high and the details of the long term benefits are rarely available. That means to secure its widespread adoption will require collaboration and consensus across the value chain on how to overcome these challenges.  

- Digital Service Platforms for Rural Economies 

The term ‘Digital Entrepreneurship’ most commonly refers to the process of creating a new - or novel - Internet enabled/delivered business, product or service. This definition includes both startups - bringing a new digital product or service to market - but also the digital transformation of an existing business activity inside a firm or the public sector.
In the developed world, the emergence of utility-based cloud computing is shifting focus from technical barriers to the business environment challenges facing digital entrepreneurs. This shift reinforces the growing importance of implementing effective policies that foster the best climate for digital service incubation, growth and successful development. However, in many rural areas and developing countries, even basic infrastructure remains a challenge, from the hardware, the network, the content, the ICT eco-system, to the skills on both consumer and business sides. 

Recently, AT&T is rolling out broadband connectivity across the rural and underserved location in the United States. It offers Internet connection with download speed of at least 10 Mbps and upload speed of at least 1 Mbps through Fixed Wireless Internet service. The connectivity is facilitated through a wireless tower and is routed via a fixed antenna placed on the customer’s home. This cost-effective Internet connection is arguably one of the best methods to deliver high-quality faster broadband to customers in underserved rural areas.  

- Digital Platform for Cultural Heritage 

Cultural heritage breathes a new life with digital technologies and the Internet. Information and Communications Technology (ICT) changes the way cultural digital resources are created, disseminated, preserved and (re)used. It empowers different types of users to engage with cultural digital resources. The people have now unprecedented opportunities to access cultural material, while the institutions can reach out to broader audiences, engage new users and develop creative and accessible content for leisure and education. New technologies bring cultural heritage sites back to life, for example through web discovery interfaces representing a wealth of information from collections (archives, scientific collection, museums, art galleries, visual arts etc.) enabling their re-use and re-purposing according to users' needs and inputs. 

Technology is rapidly evolving the operations of museums and nonprofits. Now more than ever organizations must keep abreast of the technologies irrevocably changing the way they interact with visitors and administer services. Technology is turning museums into a booming industry. 

Virtual museum (VM) is a digital entity that draws on the characteristics of a museum, in order to complement, enhance, or augment the museum through personalization, interactivity, user experience and richness of content. VM is not a real museum transposed to the web, nor an archive or a database of virtual digital assets but a provider of information on top of being an exhibition room. VM provides opportunities for people to access digital content before, during and after a visit in a range of digital ‘encounters’. VM is technologically demanding especially in terms of virtual and augmented reality and storytelling authoring tools which must covers various types of digital creations including virtual reality and 3D experiences, located online, in museums or on heritage sites. The challenge will be to give further emphasis on improving access, establishing meaningful narratives for collections and displays and story-led interpretation by the development of VM. It will also address the fundamental issues that are required to make this happen e.g. image rights, licencing and the ability of museums to support new ICT technology. Virtual Museums offer visitors the possibility to see art works residing in different places in context and experience objects or sites inaccessible to the public. 

Cultural and creative industries are the economic activities of artists, arts enterprises, and cultural entrepreneurs in the production, distribution and consumption of film, literature, theatre, dance, visual arts, broadcasting, and fashion. New digital and information and communication technologies have revolutionized the industry's production process, distribution channels, and consumption modes.  

- Digital Platforms for Interoperable and Smart Homes, Smart Buildings, Smart Environments, and Smart Grids 

Modern society is dependent on a reliable, abundant supply of energy. As our populations and cities get bigger, that demand is only set to grow. Ultimately we need smart grid technology because as the population grows the demand for electricity will only increase, but we need to cut our electricity consumption to fight global warming. Undoubtedly, new sources of power generation will be needed to meet skyrocketing world energy demand. We will need a scalable, innovative, and clean energy portfolio that meets the world’s need for reliable energy sources while considering the economic, environmental, health and climate effects of energy generation. In the mean time, the smart grid will be implemented incrementally over the next two decades as technology, pricing, policy, and regulation changes. 

When energy production is becoming decentralised and ICT is increasingly present in homes, the integration of renewable energy sources (RES) and promotion of energy efficiency should benefit from smarter homes, buildings and appliances, as well as (the batteries in) electric vehicles. Smart homes and buildings are one crucial element because system integration and optimisation of distributed generation, storage and flexible consumption will require interoperable smart technologies installed at building level. Internet of Things (IoT) enables a seamless integration of home appliances with related home comfort and building automation services allowing to match user needs with the management of distributed energy across the grid, and to gain access to benefits from Demand Response. Novel services should lead to more comfortable, convenient and healthier living environment at lower energy costs for consumers whilst enabling an active participation of consumers in the energy system and energy markets. 

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[San Francisco, California - Civil Engineering Discoveries]

- Big Data Solutions for Energy 

Tomorrow's energy grids consist of heterogeneous interconnected systems, of an increasing number of small-scale and of dispersed energy generation and consumption devices, generating huge amounts of data. The electricity sector, in particular, needs big data tools and architectures for optimized energy system management under these demanding conditions.
Digital data and analytics can reduce O&M costs by enabling predictive maintenance, which can lower the price of electricity for end users. Digital data and analytics can help achieve greater efficiencies through improved planning, improved efficiency of combustion in power plants and lower loss rates in networks, as well as better project design throughout the power system. In networks, efficiency gains can be achieved by lowering the rate of losses in the delivery of power to consumers, for example through remote monitoring that allows equipment to be operated closer to its optimal conditions, and flows and bottlenecks to be better managed by grid operators. Digital data and analytics can also reduce the frequency of unplanned outages through better monitoring and predictive maintenance, as well as limiting the duration of downtime by rapidly identifying the point of failure. This reduces costs and increases the resilience and reliability of supply. 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is making its way into all types of industries, including the energy sector, with significant growth in the use of AI to leverage big data and draw inference from very large data sets. AI is the application of machine learning for the purposes of automation and computational support of decision-making in a complex system. AI has great potential to coordinate and optimize the use of distributed energy resources, electric vehicles, and IoT. Use of AI aligns well with the current pace of change that utilities, regulators and customers expect with improvements to common utility operations including: reliability (e.g., self-healing grids, operations improvement and efficient use of renewable resources and energy storage); safety (e.g., outage prediction and outage response); cybersecurity of systems (e.g., threat detection and response); optimization (e.g., asset, maintenance, workflow and portfolio management); and enhancements for the customer experience (e.g., faster and more intuitive interactive voice response, personalization, product and service matching); etc..  

- The Smart Hospital of the Future  

Smart hospitals are those that optimize, redesign or build new clinical processes, management systems and potentially even infrastructure, enabled by underlying digitized networking infrastructure of interconnected assets, to provide a valuable service or insight which was not possible or available earlier, to achieve better patient care, experience and operational efficiency. For example, very sick patients in isolation rooms can visit with holograms of their loved ones. Visitors will find their way around the hospital using an augmented reality (AR)-based indoor navigation system. Authorized medical workers will use facial recognition to enter secure areas. Patients can call a nurse and control their bed, lights, and TV with an Alexa-style voice assistant. That’s the vision. at least. 

Smart hospitals rely on interconnected advanced technology and automation to improve patient care, clinician workflow, and overall efficiency. Smart hospitals utilize health ICT infrastructure technology such as mobile devices, data analytics solutions, and cloud computing. The process of transitioning ICT infrastructure to support a smart hospital can be challenging, but hospitals need to remember that the transformation must take place in stages. Not every hospital needs to become smart in a single step. Instead, the approach they need to take is to implement smart solutions, one by one, and then allow newer solutions to integrate with existing ones in the journey toward becoming smart. 

The smart hospital framework involves three essential layers - data, insight and access. Data is being collected even today, although not necessarily from all systems in a hospital, but is not integrated together to derive ‘smart’ insight, which can be done by feeding it in to analytics or machine learning software. This insight must be accessible to the user - a doctor, a nurse, facilities personnel or any other stakeholder, through an interface including a desktop or a smartphone or similar handheld device, to empower them to make critical decisions faster, improving their efficiency. 

There are three areas that any smart hospital addresses - operations, clinical tasks and patient centricity. Operational efficiency can be achieved by employing building automation systems and smart asset maintenance and management solutions, along with improving internal logistics of mobile assets, pharmaceutical, medical device, supplies and consumables inventory as well as control over people flow (staff, patients and visitors). Not only do these solutions reduce operational costs such as energy requirements, but also reduce the need for capital expenditures on mobile assets for example, by improving utilization rates of existing equipment. Patient flow bottlenecks, when addressed, improve efficiency, allowing more patients to be ‘processed’ through the system, allowing for more revenue opportunities at lower costs.   

[More to come ...]




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