Companies must deliver superior experiences in proximity to where business happens. After all, customers and consumers are mainly located “at the edge,” making full use of new devices and opportunities for interaction. This is also the case with lighting manufacturer Signify, according to Global Commercial Director Kevin Raaijmakers. “If you want to give your customers designing power, you have to offer them the right tools on the spot.”
Superior customer journeys are no longer just about optimal connection through different channels, says Bas Overtoom, Director of Data Analytics at KPMG, at the start of the second broadcast of CIO TV’s summer series – in collaboration with infrastructure and digital services specialist Equinix. “With the modern connected enterprise, the front office, mid office, and back office are integrated. Production and supply chain all interact to optimally respond to customer needs.”
Value creation no longer always takes place purely within one’s own environment, but increasingly within virtual ecosystems or even metaverses, in which multiple parties play a role, and both virtual and augmented reality are used. Digital transformations are important to make all of this work.
According to KPMG, there are two categories of ecosystems: the centralized “traffic lights” such as Facebook, Amazon, or Apple, which themselves provide the platform on which others can offer services. And the modern “roundabouts,” the flexible use of everything that is available on the internet. Standardization takes place here at the level of data, access rights, and mutual agreements.
“With on-demand 3D printing we know for sure that our products are actually being used”
“The hourglass model forms the link between the physical environment in which customers interact and the services that support it”, continues KPMG’s data specialist Bas Overtoom. “This is done on the basis of data platforms, protocols, and ecosystems, which bring everything together within the ecosystem.”
Kevin Raaijmakers, Global Commercial Director at Signify, sees two related strategic spearheads within his organization. “First of all, the phenomenon of connected lighting. Light points are used to generate data and to give the user the opportunity to illuminate his or her environment as desired. There are various use cases, ranging from smart cities or buildings – monitoring use for incident management, maintenance, and energy savings.”
In addition, Signify wants to produce and supply products and services as sustainably as possible. “We use on-demand 3D printing in manufacturing to ensure that all our products are actually being used. We print these products where the customer is. Then you very quickly come across other interesting possibilities, for example by transferring part of the design power to the user. These are important shifts that turn the supply chain upside down.”
Digital acceleration is largely about digital automation, states Glenn Brouwer, Co-Founder & Chief Revenue Officer at BrainCreators. “We develop so-called digital inspectors for the physical production process, with which we can close the skill gap. We clone, so to speak, human domain knowledge and skills through task automation – faster, safer, and more reliable. In this way, we give various industries the opportunity to accelerate digitally and reduce their costs.”
“Road inspection can be done in hours instead of months thanks to digital data analysis”
BrainCreators does not replace people with machines. Specialists are augmented with insights about, among other things, repetitive tasks. The human domain expert still educates and supervises the digital inspector. The big advantage is the acceleration. “Thanks to digital data analysis, for example, road inspection can be done in hours instead of months. However, the final validation remains human work.”
When you extend this to smart lighting in buildings, cities, ports, or airports, you can think of digital twins of the lighting or other assets, according to Glenn Brouwer. Connected ecosystems where, based on video monitoring and local data processing, you know what the status of assets is, what is happening, or let the system report relevant deviations. “This helps you manage specific environments in various industries.”
As connected enterprises, digitally transformed organizations are often part of ecosystems. “That goes beyond purchasing services from suppliers”, says Johan Arts, Senior Vice President EMEA at Equinix. “When I start my music streaming, two separate services are activated. One that takes care of the first ten seconds of the song, while another service provides the rest. The first is close by, fast and expensive. The other is more remote – slower but very cost efficient.”
When you start or buy an app, you may trigger ten or twenty processes and transactions. More and more services are configured in real-time, on the fly, and largely on the edge. “That is how digital ecosystems work today, with countless capabilities available to combine the desired products or services. Then completely new capabilities arise, such as BrainCreators.”
According to Johan Arts, the hourglass model forms the connecting tissue in the middle. “On the one hand, data is the new oil or the new gold. But because it is generated in such huge quantities, it can also become your choke point. Hence the distributed model: you simply cannot bring all data together at a central point. Above all, you need to know where the processing would ideally take place: in the core, in the middle, or at the edge.”
“The huge amounts of data generated can also become the choke point for organizations”
Glenn Brouwer agrees: “Leave the data where it is as much as possible. If desired: use your own data and open data from other entities within the ecosystem. Realize the intelligence where you need it.” Johan Arts: “The modern digital environment is not a brain that controls the body and makes it move, but rather a networked concept with autonomously operating components.”
According to Kevin Raaijmakers, Global Commercial Director at Signify, technology at the edge is a clear business pull. On the one hand driven by the wishes and requirements of the customer, and on the other hand by the desire for sustainability. “If you want to give your customers design power, you have to offer them the right tools on the spot.”
At the same time, there is also a technology push. “3D printing only works if you are really close to the person who makes the design. But if no one would want a custom-made lamp or other product on demand, then there is no business case.”
In any case, the technical possibilities are no longer a limitation, Bas Overtoom concludes. “The main challenge is to make it all work within organizations, the economy, and society. That requires solid digital leadership.”
Watch the full episode with some additional tips and recommendations for technology leaders.