Living with technology a decade from now. Dell Technologies and the Institute for the Future conducted an in-depth discussion with 20 experts to explore how various social and technological drivers will influence the next decade and, specifically, how emerging technologies will recast our society and the way we conduct business by the year 2030.
There is no universally agreed upon determination of which technologies are considered emerging. For the purpose of this study, IFTF explored the impact that Robotics, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning, Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR), and Cloud Computing, will have on society by 2030. These technologies, enabled by significant advances in software, will underpin the formation of new human-machine partnerships, according to the IFTF.
Talk of digital transformation is virtually everywhere in Information Technology circles and Operations Technology circles. My long and varied experiences have often placed me at the boundaries where the two meet—and are now increasingly overlapping.
The take on robotics is right on target. And forget about all the SciFi scare stories that mainstream media loves to promote. The future is definitely all about human-machine partnership or collaboration. For example I often talk with EMTs about life in the rescue squad. These people are always in the gym. Our population in the US has gotten so large and obese that they often have to lift 300+ lb. people who haven’t the strength to help themselves up. Think about a robot assistant helping the EMT.
The AI discussion is also fraught with prominent people like Ray Kurzweil or Elon Musk giving dystopian SciFi views of the future. We are a long way from “intelligence.” Where we are is really the use of machine learning and neural networks that help machines (and us) learn by deciphering recurring patterns.
Back to the study, the authors state, “If we start to approach the next decade as one in which partnerships between humans and machines transcend our limitations and build on our strengths, we can begin to create a more favorable future for everyone.”
Jordan Howard, Social Good Strategist and Executive Director of GenYNot, sees tremendous promise for the future of human-machine partnerships: “Many of the complex issues facing society today are rooted in waste, inefficiency, and simply not knowing stuff, like how to stop certain genes from mutating. What if we could solve these problems by pairing up more closely with machines and using the mass of data they provide to make breakthroughs at speed? As a team, we can aim higher, dream bigger, and accomplish more.”
Liam Quinn, Dell Chief Technology Officer, likens the emerging technologies of today to the roll-out of electricity 100 years ago. Quinn argues that we no longer fixate on the “mechanics” or the “wonders” of electricity, yet it underpins almost everything we do in our lives. Similarly, Quinn argues, in the 2030s, today’s emerging technologies will underpin our daily lives. As Quinn provokes, “Imagine the creativity and outlook that’s possible from the vantage point these tools will provide: In 2030, it will be less about the wonderment of the tool itself and more about what that tool can do.”
By 2030, we will no longer revere the technologies that are emerging today. They will have long disappeared into the background conditions of everyday life. If we engage in the hard work of empowering human-machine partnerships to succeed, their impact on society will enrich us all.
While offshoring manufacturing jobs to low-cost economies can save up to 65% on labor costs, replacing human workers with robots can save up to 90% of these costs.
China is currently embarking upon an effort to fill its factories with advanced manufacturing robots, as workers’ wages rise and technology allows the industry to become more efficient. The province of Guangdong, the heartland of Chinese manufacturing, has promised to invest $154 billion in installing robots.
Buoyed by their commercial success, the adoption of robots will extend beyond manufacturing plants and the workplace. Family robots, caregiving robots, and civic robots will all become commonplace as deep learning improves robots’ abilities to empathize and reason. Google recently won a patent to build worker robots with personalities.
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
Approximately 1,500 companies in North America alone are doing something related to AI today, which equates to less than 1% of all medium-to-large companies. We’re seeing this in the financial services industry already, with data recognition, pattern recognition, and predictive analytics being applied to huge data sets on a broad scale. In a 2015 report, Bank of America Merrill Lynch estimated that the AI market will expand to $153 billion over the next five years—$83 billion for robots, and $70 billion for artificial intelligence-based systems.
In addition to their ability to make decisions with imperfect information, machines are now able to learn from their experiences and share that learning with other AI programs and robots. But AI progress also brings new challenges. Discussions surrounding who or what has moral and ethical responsibility for decisions made by machines will only increase in importance over the next decade.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
Although both Virtual and Augmented Reality are changing the form factor of computing, there is a simple distinction between the two. VR blocks out the physical world and transports the user to a simulated world, whereas AR creates a digital layer over the physical world.
Despite the difference, both technologies represent a fundamental shift in information presentation because they allow people to engage in what Toshi Hoo, Director of IFTF’s Emerging Media Lab, calls “experiential media” as opposed to representative media. No longer depending on one or two of our senses to process data, immersive technologies like AR and VR will enable people to apply multiple senses—sight, touch, hearing, and soon, taste and smell—to experience media through embodied cognition.
Over the next decade, Hoo forecasts that VR, combined with vast sensor networks and connected technologies, will be one of many tools that enable distributed presence and embodied cognition, allowing people to experience media with all their senses.
It’s important to recognize that Cloud Computing isn’t a place, it’s a way of doing IT. Whether public, private, or hybrid (a combination of private and public), the technology is now used by 70% of U.S. organizations. This figure is expected to grow further, with 56% of businesses surveyed saying they are working on transferring more IT operations to the cloud, according to IDG Enterprise’s 2016 Cloud Computing Executive Summary.
While the cloud is not a recent technological advancement, cloud technology only really gathered momentum in recent years, as enterprise grade applications hit the market, virtualization technologies matured, and businesses became increasingly aware of its benefits in terms of efficiency and profitability. Increasing innovation in cloud-native apps and their propensity to be built and deployed in quick cadence to offer greater agility, resilience, and portability across clouds will drive further uptake. Start-ups are starting to use cloud-native approaches to disrupt traditional industries; and by 2030, cloud technologies will be so embedded, memories from the pre-cloud era will feel positively archaic by comparison.
Human Machine Partnership
Recent conversations, reports, and articles about the intersection of emerging technologies and society have tended to promote one of two extreme perspectives about the future: the anxiety-driven issue of technological unemployment or the optimistic view of tech-enabled panaceas for all social and environmental ills.
Perhaps a more useful conversation would focus on what the new relationship between technology and society could look like, and what needs to be considered to prepare accordingly.
By framing the relationship between humans and machines as a partnership, we can begin to build capacity in machines to improve their understanding of humans, and in society and organizations, so that more of us are prepared to engage meaningfully with emerging technologies.
Digital (Orchestra) Conductors
Digital natives will lead the charge. By 2030, many will be savvy digital orchestra conductors, relying on their suite of personal technologies, including voice-enabled connected devices, wearables, and implantables; to infer intent from their patterns and relationships, and activate and deactivate resources accordingly.
Yet, as is often the case with any shift in society, there is a risk that some segments of the population will get left behind. Individuals will need to strengthen their ability to team up with machines to arrange the elements of their daily lives to produce optimal outcomes. Without empowering more to hone their digital conducting skills, the benefits that will come from offloading ‘life admin’ to machine partners will be limited to the digitally literate.
Work Chasing People
Human-machine partnerships will not only help automate and coordinate lives, they will also transform how organizations find talent, manage teams, deliver products and services, and support professional development. Human-machine partnerships won’t spell the end of human jobs, but work will be vastly different.
By 2030, expectations of work will reset and the landscape for organizations will be redrawn, as the process of finding work gets flipped on its head. As an extension of what is often referred to as the ‘gig economy’ today, organizations will begin to automate how they source work and teams, breaking up work into tasks, and seeking out the best talent for a task.
Instead of expecting workers to bear the brunt of finding work, work will compete for the best resource to complete the job. Reputation engines, data visualization, and smart analytics will make individuals’ skills and competencies searchable, and organizations will pursue the best talent for discrete work tasks.
A few of us gathered for a round table discussion of Internet of Things while I was at Dell Technologies World at the beginning of the month. I arrived a little early and had a private round table for several minutes before others arrive and the discussion became broader.
Ray O’Farrell, CTO of VMware and GM of IoT at Dell Technologies, said the focus of last 6 months since the new Internet of Things organization was announced included these three points:
1. Dell is 7 companies, trying to achieve one cohesive strategy across all; one organization when facing customers.
2. Best way is to work within the ecosystem, that is history of VMWare.
3. Building technology and leverage solutions. This is a complex undertaking as not all challenges within IoT are alike—there are few cookie cutter applications.
The evolution of Internet of Things within Dell to Dell EMC to Dell Technologies constitutes an upward spiraling path encompassing the greater breadth of technologies and organization reflecting the post-merger company. When I first came along, the concept was building an ecosystem around selling an edge device appliance. Now the strategy is much broader bringing the goal of IT/OT convergence closer to reality. As I’ve mentioned before, the IT companies are attacking that convergence from the IT side after years of manufacturing/production oriented suppliers trying to accomplish the same thing from the OT side. Maybe like the old country song we’ll meet in the middle someday.
Everyone talks Artificial Intelligence (AI) these days, and Dell Technologies is not exception. However, AI is not the science fiction doom and gloom predicted by Ray Kurzweil, Elon Musk, and others. Mostly it entails machine learning (ML) from detected patterns in the data.
Or as Dell Technologies says, it is applying AI and ML technology to turn data into intelligent insights, drive a faster time to market, and achieve better business outcomes.
• Dell EMC PowerEdge expands portfolio to accelerate AI-driven workloads, analytics, deployment and efficiency
• Deepens relationship with Intel to advance AI community innovation, machine learning (ML) and deep learning (DL) capabilities with Dell EMC Ready Solutions
• Dell Precision Optimizer 5.0 now enhanced with machine learning algorithms, intelligently tunes the speed and productivity of Dell Precision workstations.
• Dell EMC uses AI, ML and DL to transform support and deployment
14th generation Dell EMC PowerEdge four-socket servers and Dell Precision Optimizer 5.0 are designed to further strengthen AI and ML capabilities.
According to the recently released update of the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) 2018 IT Transformation Maturity Curve Index, commissioned by Dell EMC, transformed companies are 18X more likely to make better and faster data-driven decisions than their competition. Additionally, transformed companies are 22X as likely to be ahead of the competition with new products and services to market.
“The Internet of Things is driving an onslaught of data and compute at the edge, requiring organizations to embrace an end-to-end IT infrastructure strategy that can effectively, efficiently and quickly mine all that data into business intelligence gold,” said Jeff Clarke, vice chairman, Products & Operations, Dell. “This is where the power of AI and machine learning becomes real – when organizations can deliver better products, services, solutions and experiences based on data-driven decisions.”
Unlike competitors’ four-socket offerings, these servers also support field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs)3, which excel on data-intensive computations. Both servers feature OpenManage Enterprise to monitor and manage the IT infrastructure, as well as agent-free Integrated Dell Remote Access Controller (iDRAC) for automated, efficient management to improve productivity.
Dell EMC is also announcing its next generation PowerMax storage solution, built with a machine learning engine which makes autonomous storage a reality.
Leveraging predictive analytics and pattern recognition, a single PowerMax system analyzes and forecasts 40 million data sets in real-time per array4, driving six billion decisions per day5 to automatically maximize efficiency and performance of mixed data storage workloads.
The new Dell Precision Optimizer 5.0 uses AI to automatically adjust applications running on Dell Precision workstations to maximize performance by:
• Custom-optimizing applications: Dell Precision Optimizer learns each application’s behavior in the background and uses that data to employ a trained machine learning model that will automatically adjust the system to optimized settings and deliver up to 394% improvement in application performance.
• Automating systems configuration adjustments: Once activated and a supported application is launched, the software automatically adjusts system configurations such as CPU, memory, storage, graphics and operating system settings.
Speaking of partners and collaboration, Dell Technologies and Microsoft join forces to build secure, intelligent edge-to-cloud solution featuring Dell Edge Gateways, VMware Pulse IoT Center, and Microsoft Azure IoT Edge
• Joint IoT solution helps simplify management, enhances security and help lowers cost of deployment at the edge
• Built on innovative analytics applications, management tools and edge gateways to enable network security from edge devices to the cloud
• Accelerates IoT adoption in industry verticals key to economic growth and development
The joint solution offers an underlying IoT infrastructure, management capabilities, and security for customers looking to deploy IoT for scenarios like predictive maintenance, supply chain visibility and other use cases. The solution will deliver:
• Intelligence at the edge with Microsoft Azure IoT Edge: This application extends cloud intelligence to edge devices so that devices can act locally and leverage the cloud for global coordination and machine learning at scale
• Management and monitoring of edge devices with VMware Pulse IoT Center: This provides more secure, enterprise-grade management and monitoring of diverse, certified edge devices including gateways and connected IoT devices, bios and operating systems. This ecosystem will be built over time involving deeper integration and certification to support customer requirements.
• High-performance, rugged Dell Edge Gateways: IoT devices with powerful dual-core Intel® Atom™ processors connect a variety of wired and wireless devices and systems to aggregate and analyze inputs and send relevant data to the cloud
VMware Pulse IoT Center will serve as the management glue between the hardware (Dell Edge Gateways or other certified edge systems), connected sensors and devices and the Microsoft Azure IoT Edge. Initially, Pulse will help to deploy the Microsoft Azure IoT Edge to the requisite edge systems so that it can start collecting, analyzing and acting on data in real-time.
A small group of companies proposed a marketing initiative promoting OPC UA over a new Ethernet standard called Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) in 2017 at Hannover Messe. I was privileged to sit in a meeting to listen to the proposal and subsequently wrote a white paper about it. I believe this is revolutionary technology for the information part of manufacturing technology.
Meanwhile, Rockwell Automation is beginning to regularly surprise me. They first went out of their twice to talk about truly adopting OPC UA and introduced a module for its control platform using it. The company has a long standing reputation for getting involved in standards it doesn’t directly control for the purpose of delaying adoption. But this seemed like a genuine adoption of interoperability recognizing that customers are demanding freely flowing information from a variety of sources.Just to add to my surprise was an announcement I heard about at Hannover that Rockwell Automation has joined that group of OPC UA over TSN companies, now dubbed the “Shapers”. This group is rapidly moving toward critical mass with rumors swirling about companies not (yet) a part of it.
The press release (I haven’t yet had an interview) states Rockwell Automation is joining industry leaders ABB, Belden, Bosch Rexroth, B&R, Cisco, Hilscher, KUKA, National Instruments, Parker Hannifin, Phoenix Contact, Pilz, Schneider Electric, TTTech and WAGO (collectively known as Shapers) to create a communication solution for real-time and sensor-to-cloud applications in industrial operations.
The solution will be based on the OPC UA protocol, which allows easy and secure sharing of information across different vendor technologies and the time-sensitive networking (TSN) suite of standards, which helps improve latency and robustness in converged industrial networks.
“Connecting technologies across an industrial organization while maintaining multivendor interoperability requires a harmonized, interoperable solution that uses consistent information models, communication and application behavior (together known as application profiles),” said Paul Brooks, business development manager, Rockwell Automation.
“That’s what this group of automation leaders are combining their expertise to create. Our solution will give manufacturing and industrial organizations best-of-breed I/O device control, motion and safety application profiles,” said Sebastian Sachse, B&R Industrial Automation.
To ensure the emerging OPC UA TSN solution supports interoperability of different vendor technologies on the same network, the companies are engaging with industry consortia such as Avnu, IEEE, IIC, LNI 4.0 and OPC Foundation. The companies are also planning an announcement in the coming months on how to achieve unified application profiles, which is the last hurdle to device harmonization. They aim to provide one-stop-shop certification of the overall solution up to the device-profile level. The companies have already published whitepapers on OPC UA TSN technology, such as an IIC whitepaper on converged traffic types. They have also made significant contributions to the recently released PubSub extension of OPC UA, and plan to set up a collaboration between the IIC and LNI testbeds.
This potentially holds great promise for end user companies and systems integrators. We can only hope it progresses.
Most of my time involves Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) where I am devoting about 2.5 hours a day to interviews. As one person asked, what does HPE have to offer. Briefly described, HPE has a variety of compute devices, services, and partnerships.
One application was a prescriptive maintenance solution where IoT data is analyzed and the CMMS is notified to initiate a work order. We are not in the era of self-healing machines, yet, but we are one step closer where the machine can begin a maintenance workflow with information about what to repair.
The SecureEdge Data Center combines enclosures from Rittal, I/O from ABB, and Edgeline edge computing hardware from HPE into a scalable industrial center to provide IIoT data to the enterprise from ABB robotics and automation.
As a former machine vision integrator, I loved the video analytics demo application showing Relimetrics software to analyze servers in manufacturing. In this case, the application read a 2D barcode to determine the build, discovered the bill of materials, and then checked that all the proper components were in the assembly, that everything was properly installed, and there were no other defects.
One application of Edgeline edge compute devices, for example, is in partnership with National Instruments to accomplish complex testing at the edge with communication to the cloud as necessary. Edge compute is also important in autonomous vehicles where decisions must be quickly executed locally, but large amounts of data must also be communicated to the cloud for further analysis.
Speaking of partnerships, HPE has forged significant partnerships in the industrial world with ABB, GE Digital, OSIsoft, PTC (Kepware and ThingWorx), Rittal, and Schneider Electric. Most of these involve a significant IT infrastructure including power at the Edge from HPE along with data and connectivity plus solutions targeted to various industrial applications.
Some people have told me that they prefer the YouTube versions of my podcasts. Not sure why. Here is the latest one. 173-Digital Twins and the Internet of Things. Discussing trips to San Diego and the Industry of Things World event (Internet of Things, Mindsphere from Siemens, OPC UA) and Siemens Manufacturing in America (university students, simulation, PLM, digitalization, cyber-physical systems, blockchain).
You can subscribe to the podcast version on Podcasts (iTunes) or on Overcast or wherever you find podcasts. Or click the podcast button on this website. Or click here.
Let me try to summarize a number of other news items gleaned from the ARC Forum featuring edge computing, IIoT Platforms, and technology. When ARC’s Paul Miller told me it would be the best ever, he turned out not to be exaggerating. More people, more news.
Stratus Technologies, known for years for secure servers, released an edge computing device. Interest in computing at the edge of the network has blossomed lately, with many companies releasing products. Lots of choices for users.
Integration Objects, firmly within another important trend, introduced an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) Platform. I’m beginning to see articles about users latching on to these platforms rather than building their own ad hoc connections among IoT devices and applications.
UL discussed standards with me during the show. The company known for developing safety standards and then testing for compliance has developed also a security standard. And it tests to it for compliance.
HIMA is another company combining safety and security technologies. There is so much in common between the two–especially thought processes and planning.
Yokogawa has extended and rebranded its process automation offering, now called Synaptic Business Automation. Among other things, it has refined the dashboard into a “karaoke” style.
Bentley Systems discussed the combining of engineering design tools with digital photography and other digital technologies to better represent the engineering and design of a plant. This is the most cutting edge technology I saw during the week, but I cannot do it justice in a paragraph. I encourage a tour of the Website.