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Engineers need to use tech to make humans more powerful

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Jim Heppelmann, CEO of PTC, gave the convocation speech to Boston University’s College of Engineering and talks about how engineers can create better machines and tools for humans, rather than just focusing on robots that put humans out of work.

In his convocation speech, Heppelmann focused on the importance of better connecting humans with digital tools and creating tools and machines that don’t just aim to replace humans, but creating machines that will aid humans in their understanding of the digital world.

One of the ways to do this, Heppelmann said, is using AR. In his view, AR will help to alleviate some of the problems caused by the great divide created by automation — where people have been split into two camps: the “haves” and the “have-nots.” The “haves” are the ones who are benefitting from, understanding and creating automation, the “have-nots” are those who are being replaced. Heppelmann said that this imbalance creates an image problem for the tech industry.


He said that there needs to be a stronger focus on connecting physical, digital and human capabilities because “humans have innovation and creativity” and future engineers and tech industry professionals need to create “new ways to pass digital information onto humans.”
He describes AR as “augmenting god-given human capabilities with a technology overlay,” like one might see in a hearing aid or smart glasses. By giving humans this overlay of digital information, AR becomes “a great equalizer [that] allows people to become smart and connected.”
An example of this would be giving employees in a factory a pair of smart glasses to help the human employee with their productivity.

Heppelmann said that engineers have a responsibility to “elevate [their] focus higher than productivity and cost savings” and spoke about the concept of “the societal engineer,” which is an engineer “who uses digital technology to make humans more powerful.”

“The societal engineer combines quantitative and creative problem solving skills with the ability to communicate effectively with systems-level thinking and global awareness with a passion for innovation and awareness of public policy and a social consciousness and an appreciation for the need to improve the quality of life while creating jobs and economic opportunities.”

Heppelmann ends his convocation speech by asking engineers to take this responsibility seriously and “help create a safer, more sustainable, healthier more productive world with enough food and water and opportunity for all.”

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Leadership

Ethics and data management key to business strategy in 2019

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As well as the other challenges facing businesses in 2019 and beyond, a particular focus needs to be placed onto digital ethics and data privacy, according to industry analysts Gartner. The firm outlines the top ten coming industry and technology trends in a new report.

The new Gartner document is titled “Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2019” and it takes a look into what might be in store for corporations for the next year. Three of the key trends are discussed below: ethics, privacy and connected and automated technologies.

Business ethics are needed to ensure brand loyalty

The report focuses on the new elements for businesses strategies for the coming year, with the overall message that businesses need to place individuals and society at the forefront. These types of business behaviors are seen as necessary to ensure that businesses retain a competitive edge, especially with Millennials and Generation Z. These demographics are as a whole more in tune with what businesses do in terms of corporate governance, and they will shy away from companies that do not appear to proport certain values or ethics.

For example, the most recent Deloitte Millennial Survey found that those of the Millennials and Generation Z generation place a strong emphasis upon ethical businesses and business leaders showing they care about society.

Data privacy

Many consumers have lost faith in corporations in terms of data privacy. Businesses that can show they place data privacy at the heart of their digital businesses ethics are more likely to keep customers. The signal is that customer attitudes to data privacy and protection are changing fast in both the business and consumer markets.

Consequently, and supported by a recent IBM poll, trust in a company handling data correctly is now a key consumer issue. To achieve a business culture that values data privacy requires appropriate leadership, in order to steer an ethical and transparent approach to data collection, management and use.

Connected and automated technologies

The report also has strong focus on emerging and connected technologies, such as blockchain, which provides a digital ledger that it clear and transparent; and connected services like cloud computing, which are predicated to push more responsibility for driving data back to the end users.

In addition, artificial intelligence remains of interest. AI offers a range of potential uses from assisting with product development to data extraction and analysis. However, the full capabilities of AI in terms of assisting with software development are unlikely to happen in 2019, according to the report.

What is more likely to continue, according to Gartner, is automation, especially in relation to the use of robots to replace the more mundane forms of human activity. This is, however, most likely to continue on a machine-for-person basis. The robotic concept of swarming — where desired collective behavior emerges from the interactions between the robots and interactions of robots with the environment — remains some way off.

While these technologies are useful, the report notes they have yet to achieve their full potential and organizations need to be careful when adopting them. This is because such “technologies and concepts are immature, poorly understood and unproven in mission-critical, at-scale business operations”. The adoption needs to have a firm goal placed central to any digital transformation process.

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Leadership

GE prepared to invest $300 million in new CEO

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GE has made a $300 million bet on its new CEO and the performance that the board hopes he will deliver. The new CEO is Larry Culp — and success for Culp could bring considerable share benefits.

General Electric Co. will remunerate its new chief executive with up to $21 million a year for four years. To add to this there are options for issuing the new chief with hundreds of millions of dollars, with these payments tied to GE’s stock performance, according to The Wall Street Journal. The big payoff will come if GE’s shares rise at least 50 percent and stay there on average over 30 trading days between now and 2022.

Culp and culpability

Culp’s appointment follows on from outgoing CEO John Flannery. Flannery was GE’s eleventh CEO and the company’s tenth Chairman, although he only spent around one year in the role. GE ditched Flannery, according to The Financial Times, based on progress being too slow and due to a lower-than-expected profits outlook. Flannery’s tenure was the shortest of any previous leader in the company’s 126-year history. During Flannery’s year, GE’s share price fell by more than 50 percent.

Promotion from without

H. Lawrence “Larry” Culp Jr. becomes the first outsider to run GE in the company’s history. Prior to his appointment, Culp worked at Danaher Corporation in Washington, D.C. Danaher’s products are concentrated in the fields of design, manufacturing, and marketing of industrial, healthcare and consumer products.

As to why Culp has been offered such a lucrative package, the Boston Globe has the basis of an answer: “Larry Culp is a nuts-and-bolts executive with little name recognition outside of the business world, noted for turning a little-known industrial conglomerate into a hugely profitable growth machine.”

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Events

Packed house for Elevate ScaleUp reveals insight gems

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Today’s ScaleUp track at the Elevate Tech Festival involved incredible speakers sharing their thoughts on what it takes to go from a great startup to a phenomenal scaleup. Sponsored by CIBC and Osler, the event ran the gauntlet of tough subjects that scaleups must come to grips with.

Hopper CEO Frederic Lalonde brought the issue of product/ market fit into clear focus. It can make or break a company. And it can land you on Good Morning America!

Jonna Griffiths of Knixwear chatted with Janet Bannister of Real Ventures about what it takes to bring innovation to your organization. From day one, it’s all about how you communicate throughout your organization.

Dan Debow of Helpful got blunt about how to best be a constructive member of the scaleup community.

To top it all off, Cloudflare founder Michelle Zatlyn boiled scaleup culture down to a very simple principle.

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