The Manufacturing Connection conceived in 2013 when I decided to go it alone in the world from the ideas of a new industrial infrastructure and enhanced connectivity. I even had worked out a cool mind map to figure it out.

Last week I was on vacation spending some time at the beach and reading and thinking catching up on some long neglected things. Next week I am off to Las Vegas for the Hewlett Packard Enterprise “Discover” conference where I’ll be inundated with learning about new ideas in infrastructure.

Meanwhile, I’ll share something I picked up from the Sloan Management Review (from MIT). This article was developed from a blog post by Jason Killmeyer, enterprise operations manager in the Government and Public Sector practice of Deloitte Consulting LLP, and Brenna Sniderman, senior manager in Deloitte Services LP.

They approach things from a much higher level in the organization than I usually do. They recognize what I’ve often stated about business executives reading about all these new technologies, such as, cloud computing, internet of things, AI, blockchain, and others. “The potential resulting haste to adopt new technology and harness transformative change can lead organizations to treat these emerging technologies in the same manner as other, more traditional IT investments — as something explored in isolation and disconnected from the broader technological needs of the organization. In the end, those projects can eventually stall or be written off, leaving in their wake skepticism about the usefulness of emerging technologies.”

This analysis correctly identifies the organizational challenges when leaders read things or hear other executives at the Club talk about them.

The good news, according to the authors: “These new technologies are beginning to converge, and this convergence enables them to yield a much greater value. Moreover, once converged, these technologies form a new industrial infrastructure, transforming how and where organizations can operate and the ways in which they compete. Augmenting these trends is a third factor: the blending of the cyber and the physical into a connected ecosystem, which marks a major shift that could enable organizations to generate more information about their processes and drive more informed decisions.”

They identify three capabilities and three important technologies that make them possible:

Connect: Wi-Fi and other connectivity enablers. Wi-Fi and related technologies, such as low-power wide-area networks (LPWAN), allow for cable-free connection to the internet almost anywhere. Wi-Fi and other connectivity and communications technologies (such as 5G) and standards connect a wide range of devices, from laptops to IoT sensors, across locations and pave the way for the extension of a digital-physical layer across a broader range of physical locations. This proliferation of connectivity allows organizations to expand their connectivity to new markets and geographies more easily.

Store, analyze, and manage: cloud computing. The cloud has revolutionized how many organizations distribute critical storage and computing functions. Just as Wi-Fi can free users’ access to the internet across geographies, the cloud can free individuals and organizations from relying on nearby physical servers. The virtualization inherent in cloud, supplemented by closer-to-the-source edge computing, can serve as a key element of the next wave of technologies blending the digital and physical.

Exchange and transact: blockchain. If cloud allows for nonlocal storage and computing of data — and thus the addition or extraction of value via the leveraging of that data — blockchain supports the exchange of that value (typically via relevant metadata markers). As a mechanism for value or asset exchange that executes in both a virtualized and distributed environment, blockchain allows for the secure transacting of valuable data anywhere in the world a node or other transactor is located. Blockchain appears poised to become an industrial and commercial transaction fabric, uniting sensor data, stakeholders, and systems.

My final thought about infrastructure—they made it a nice round number, namely three. However, I’d add another piece especially to the IT hardware part. That would be the Edge. Right now it is all happening at the edge. I bet I will have a lot to say and tweet next week about that.

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