Opportunities of the Information Age

Industrie 4.0: Discussing the shift to fact-based decision making
Making a point: Bharat Kaushal, MD, Hitachi India
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Cheque books are for the archives. Digital payment is the new mode. Paperwork is finished. Big Data has arrived. Rigid production routines are out. Flexible manufacturing is in. Stop-and-go travel is passé. Integrated, intermodal transportation is the future. This was the majority view of CXOs and industry veterans who had gathered to share their perspectives and sharpen their views through interactions at the Hitachi Social Innovation Conclave in Mumbai on October 12, 2017.

The Chief Guest, Dr. Ranjit Patil, a leading Orthopedic Surgeon and a member of the legislative council of Maharashtra, with diverse experience in managing portfolios of Home (Urban), Urban Development, General Administration, Law & Judiciary and Parliamentary Affairs shared a perspective resonated by Mr. Bharat Kaushal, Managing Director, Hitachi India, that the government’s programme, Make in India, is integral to changing the fabric of India as the ramifications of this project will see capacity building for manufacturing and services, and enable growth of the laggard Indian economy.

They also contended that building 100 industry clusters through Smart Cities will lead to geographic concentration of businesses in specific manufacturing and service fields, while simultaneously addressing challenges of stimulating job growth for the millions of new faces entering our workforce every year. Mr. Kaushal further argued: “To make a Smart City truly “Smart”, digitization will play a complementary role. Therefore, Digital India programme is equally significant in developing 100 Smart Cities in India. A true Smart City should have access to modern technological infrastructure, access to smart energy, smart mobility, smart payments and smart public utility services. Digital India holds the potential to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy.”

This perspective set the tone for the enlightening and enriching discussions that followed, which gave way for several interesting insights and perspectives. Some of these are captured below.

Demystifying the Data Pipeline

While the tremendous benefits of Big Data in delivering higher Return On Investment (ROI) and business growth have been universally acknowledged, the challenge of integrating inconsistent data from disparate sources, along with duplicates, logic conflicts, and missing information are seen as throwing up immense data quality challenges.

The panelists were of the view, that while the tools needed to analyze such a large and disparate scale of data did not exist in the past, Big data, Analytics and data visualization are now making it possible to have innovative decision support systems implemented at low budgets.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is making it feasible today to analyze data at a scale and pace not humanly possible, to drive faster business decisions by helping close the gap from “insights” to “action”. This is giving way to new opportunities for business transformation, growth and leadership.

Cloud computing is the other area, where the advantages of economies of scale, pay-as-you go, scale, redundancy and uptime for cloud data stores are driving growth. Availability of innovative and economical analytics platforms and tools are providing opportunities for enterprises to convert data into actionable insights that can be harnessed for competitive advantage. This is also creating a role for data scientists to play Opportunities of the Information AgeData capture and analysis are reshaping our future and opening new opportunities for progressin driving company strategy.

Embedded Analytics is going a step further, with the integration of analytic content and capabilities within business process applications itself, to help people work smarter and more efficiently with additional awareness, context and analytic capability to support decision-making. The era of insights provided by predictive analytics for decision making is round the bend. This will open up several new possibilities and offer new opportunities.

Smart Banking - Digitizing the Money Economy

The digitalization of financial services has spawned revolutionary innovations and this is set to continue. The panelists expressed unanimity on this. They contended that the move was both enabling and disrupting. Digitizataliization is seen as a driver for financial institutions and technology service providers to focus on several new opportunities and challenges.

The ongoing convergence of banks and other players in areas like payments, telecommunications and retail is creating new competition and sprouting innovative business models, which are reshaping retail banking and the payments industry.

Changes in customer expectations, regulatory requirements, increased digital engagement and emerging competition from Fintech Start-ups are propelling transformation. Banks need to retool if they wish to survive and win in the digital age.

Retail banking leadership teams today are focused on developing a 360 degree, holistic view of the customer, delivering an intuitive and context- aware experience, and maximizing on opportunities to cross-sell and upsell while efficiently handling complaints and service requests.

Customers expect a consistent experience, whether they access their bank via mobile, tablet or visiting a branch in person. Banks are responding to this by enabling better multichannel transactions: online, ATM, tablet and smartphone.

Enabling cross-channel integration and additional touch points requires an expansion of an already complicated IT system with silos, which are bolted on to legacy platforms, leading to a fragmented experience.

Security is the other big challenge. Banks need to deliver technologies that are completely secure, yet user-friendly. A huge battlefield exists between hackers and the banks. Real-time fraud alert and Predictive Analytics is now a critical capability requirement.

On the other hand, the availability of data and low-cost storage technology is creating an opportunity to fully leverage analytics to improve decisions, enhance marketing, and influence consumer behavior. Smart banking will be powered by actionable insights and intelligence delivered by analytics solutions. How effectively banks use this information will determine their success and survival.

The Future of Transportation

While the term “smart mobility” in developed countries generally refers to employment of intelligent, ICT-based solutions (telematics) to ensure ease of individual transport in megacities—while attending to environmental concerns—in India’s context, the term must be redefined. For India, it must include all modes of transport that can potentially enable ease of individual transport in rural and semi-urban areas as well as in urban megacities, while attending to environmental concerns.

Experts are of the view that achieving this requires creation of sustainable mass transportation systems, as well as a greater penetration of environment- friendly motorized vehicles for personal use. The future lies in utilizing multiple automatic data sources, such as smart cards, GPS vehicle locations, cell phone call detail records, and mobility tracking apps, to estimate and predict travel demand, explore behavioral regularities, quantify service reliabilities and manage travel demand.

Efficiently managing the mobility of people in a sustainable manner is a key challenge for Indian cities. Unfortunately, today we are witnessing more and more congestion on the streets of our cities, which is leading to problems like air and noise pollution, posing serious health hazards for citizens.

There is a strong case to be made for a flexible design of the railway system which depends on developments of the key variables in the system and other modes. Around the world there are examples of innovative new ticketing solutions improving the passenger experience and encouraging more sustainable travel patterns. Urban Transport needs to leverage technology to provide an integrated service to the consumer based on fulfilling door-to- door mobility.

Intermodal measures cover infrastructure investments such as stops or terminals that link multiple modes of transport, such as bicycles, private cars and public transport. Urban transport systems require several functions to be performed in a well-coordinated manner for seamless and comfortable travel experience for commuters. Unfortunately, these are performed by multiple agencies under the central, state and city governments, which do not necessarily work together. Herein lies the opportunity for transformation: a future that’s integrated and seamless, making travel easier for citizens and less impactful on the environment.

Industrie 4.0 – Smart Factories

Unanimity is rare, but when it comes to the future of industry, there is a broad consensus on its future direction. With technology and platforms used in the production-oriented world of OT and the commercially-oriented world of IT becoming more and more similar, the integration of IT and OT is expected to deliver economic benefits and competitive advantage.

Industrie 4.0 envisages smart factories in which cyber-physical systems will monitor the physical processes of the factory and make decentralized decisions. The physical systems will become the Internet of Things (IoT), communicating and cooperating both with each other and with humans in real time via the wireless Web. Fact-based decision- making, peak productivity and clear understanding of commercial impacts are just a few of the central factors that will underline the concept.

In order to leverage the full value of Industrie 4.0, Indian companies will need to overcome certain challenges. These include: a clear vision of digital operations from the leadership, building capabilities for data analytics and fostering a strong digital culture. On the shop floor this will entail creating a blueprint for skilling of personnel, setting up data measurement systems, understanding of data & interpretation and empowerment of employees for decentralized decision making in real-time.

Supply chains will need to move from being forecast driven to being demand driven. The maximization of profit will lead to a focus on most profitable customers and products, and to protecting and promoting them. Agility will be the defining facet of industry in the new era, and this throws up a tremendous opportunity for those who move quickly on adoption of Industrie 4.0.

A further crystallization of the thought process required to lead this transformation will happen in Delhi on February 9, 2018, when Hitachi hosts the Social Innovation Forum—a culmination of the efforts put in during two earlier Social Innovation Conclaves in Bengaluru and Mumbai.

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