By Frank Antonysamy, Vice President of Cognizant’s Global IoT and Engineering Services
U.S. food safety has been a concern since the days of Upton Sinclair’s classic novel about the stockyards and meatpacking industries in Chicago. Public reaction to The Jungle compelled Teddy Roosevelt and the U.S. Congress to pass food safety laws and establish the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1906.
More than a century later, threats clearly remain to the safety of domestic and global food supplies and the purity of water sources. Recently, we’ve learned about significant, ongoing, even deadly threats to our food and water. Food recalls have ranged from romaine lettuce to beef in the last 12 months; the tragedy in Flint, Mich., reminds us that poisonous chemicals still make their way into our water, as well. Faulty equipment or poorly executed processes often are to blame.
Solving Safety Challenges with Internet of Things
It doesn’t have to be this way. As the Internet of Things (IoT) begins to permeate our global infrastructure, sensor-equipped devices will soon outnumber the global population. There’s no reason to wait until communities face a food- or water-borne threat before fixing malfunctioning equipment or improving safety procedures.
Today we can automatically and rapidly glean information from IoT-enabled devices – about temperatures in IoT-equipped food storage and transportation equipment, for example, or the chemicals sensed by the pumps that filter and move our water, or the monitoring capabilities of the medical devices we increasingly rely on in hospitals and the home. With such intelligence, communities and businesses can address problems before they become a threat.
Increasing Food Safety on a Massive Scale
Recently, I had a conversation with Internet of Things maven Stacey Higginbotham on one of her Stacey on IoT podcasts. We discussed Cognizant’s work with Internet of Things adoption, and the ways in which these solutions can help businesses and the people they serve.
We talked about how one of the world’s largest sellers of fresh and frozen foods uses IoT-enabled refrigerators and freezers to reduce food spoilage across its global supply chain. Such spoilage not only results in financial losses due to food waste, but can also present risks to consumers. Although the business had already implemented alarms on the refrigeration systems in its distribution centers to signal malfunctions, it could take 36 hours for the maintenance operations team to respond – clearly too long when it comes to food safety and waste. There was also no mechanism to proactively monitor the refrigeration units and ensure timely service calls.
Our solution minimizes energy consumption and seeks to ensure consumer safety. It ties together sensors, cloud-based monitoring, algorithms that trigger alerts and warnings, reminders in handheld applications and a direct link of performance data to individual employees to encourage compliance with the company’s internal food safety protocols. The system covers hundreds of freezers, thousands of deliveries, 600 million data points and millions of pounds of food.
The results have been impressive. After rolling out the system to 100 of its stores, the business reduced priority response times from 36 hours to four hours, and decreased food loss by 10% in the first year by predicting refrigeration failures. The company aims to expand the system to 5,300 stores, with the potential to reduce operating costs by up to $40 million while ensuring the safe storage of food. (Hear more about this solution in the three-minute podcast recording below.)
From Providing Pumps to Offering Insights
These same principles guided our solution for a global manufacturer of high-technology industrial water pumps used in a range of applications, from providing drinking water for cities and villages, to processing waste water, to clearing and filtering the huge volumes of water moved during deep-sea drilling.
With the movement of all that water through its sensor-equipped and self-monitoring pumps, the manufacturer had access to a flood of information on everything from performance-based data on pressure and volume to the chemical composition of the water. By collecting and analyzing this information, the company could leverage and monetize its insights into not just equipment performance but also the safety of the water it delivers. If a certain chemical spikes in the water supply, for example, alerts are triggered, and municipalities can investigate. If water pressure or volume falls outside set parameters, precautions can be taken, including automatic alerts and even preemptive shutdowns.
Buyers of the pumps want this information. So, while using this data to improve the performance of its products, the business can also share insights with its clients on a subscription basis, opening up new revenue streams. The business is no longer just providing world-class high-tech pumps; it’s offering customers critical insights from the pumps it sells, as a value-added service. (Hear more about this solution in the three-minute podcast recording below.)
Connecting Things; Connecting to Our Needs
What links these two examples is their prioritization of real human needs as part of the solution. Clean and safe food and water are vital to human health, and companies that help provide themadd value.
For many years, large industrial enterprises have lived in two separate worlds: the world of all their physical assets (factories, equipment, buildings, people) and the world of their digital assets (software, workflows, algorithms, reports). Through sensor technology, network capability, security advances and IoT platforms, these two worlds are now becoming seamlessly integrated like never before.
Today, the shorthand for this ongoing integration is the Internet of Things. In reality, though, it’s the Internet of Us. Technology offers us a path to connect our physical world with a digital one, in which we occupy a new space and a new future: a place where the physical and digital come together, enabling businesses to transform their operational and business models, in a scalable way, through intelligence. (Hear more on the Internet of Us in the three-minute podcast recording below.)
Is your organization intelligent?
More than 83% of respondents to a survey by Wipro said their organization is an Intelligent Enterprise or on their way to being one.
A new study from Wipro shows that Artificial Intelligence (AI), Analytics, Machine Learning, Deep Learning, and Automation are crucial to creating enterprises of the future and that post-COVID, The Intelligent Enterprise will be resilient and able to better manage disruption.
With 300 respondents in the UK and US — across industry sectors including financial services, healthcare, technology, manufacturing, retail, and consumer goods — the State of Intelligent Enterprises survey revealed that while 80% of organizations recognize the importance of being intelligent, only 17% would classify their organizations as an Intelligent Enterprise.
In the introduction to the survey’s report, Wipro explains that “The Intelligent Enterprise is no longer a futuristic vision. It is a daily imperative.”
“New problems cannot be solved using old methods. The ability – or inability – to make productive decisions now directly depends on an organization’s ability to generate accurate, fast and actionable intelligence to set the correct course.”
One key technology that businesses consider critical is AI. 95% of respondents see AI as critical to Intelligent Enterprises, but only 17% have it deployed across the entire organization.
Additional key findings include:
- Whether they are already intelligent or working toward it, close to 88% of organizations face challenges.
- 91% of respondents feel there are data barriers to becoming an Intelligent Enterprise — the most important being data security.
- 74% of organizations think that investment in technology is the most likely enabler to become an Intelligent Enterprise. 42% of these consider reskilling the workforce as an enabler.
“Organisations now need new capabilities to navigate the current challenges,” says Jayant Prabhu, Vice President & Head of Data, Analytics & AI for Wipro Limited.
“The report amplifies the opportunity to gain a first-mover advantage to being Intelligent. The ability to take productive decisions depends on an organization’s ability to generate accurate, fast and actionable intelligence. Successful organisations are those that quickly adapt to the new technology landscape to transform into an Intelligent Enterprise.”
How the pandemic has accelerated the transformation of cybersecurity
The importance of cybersecurity for remote work was a major catalyst for the recent advancement of widespread digital transformation efforts.
By the end of April, it was evident that COVID-19 had permanently altered the future of work.
So much so that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, while delivering the quarterly earnings report to Wall Street, said “we’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.”
As Microsoft Security General Manager Andrew Conway reports, a major catalyst for such a dramatic advancement of DX was the importance of cybersecurity in ensuring productive remote work.
For context, in late 2019 we reported on the global surge in spending on cybersecurity products and services — then expected to exceed $1 trillion cumulatively over the five-year period from 2017 to 2021.
Related Reading: How enterprises are facing security challenges
To better understand the pandemic’s role in shaping cybersecurity for the long-term, Microsoft surveyed nearly 800 business leaders of companies with over 500 employees in India, Germany, the UK, and the US. The results show that organizations are still impacted by phishing scams and security budgets, that hiring increased in response to COVID-19, and that investment is going into cloud-based technologies and architectures.
(Image via Microsoft)
At the top of the list of challenges reported by leaders surveyed is “Providing secure remote access to resources, apps, and data.”
“For many businesses,” Conway explains, “the limits of the trust model they had been using, which leaned heavily on company-managed devices, physical access to buildings, and limited remote access to select line-of-business apps, got exposed early on in the pandemic.”
Unsurprisingly, surveyed leaders identified that the top security investment made during the pandemic was multi-factor authentication.
Additional insights from the survey include:
- Anti-phishing technology was most identified as the best pre-pandemic security investment, with phishing threats cited as the biggest risk to security.
- 90% of indicating that phishing attacks have impacted their organization.
- A majority of leaders surveyed reported budget increases for security (58%) and compliance (65%).
- 81% also report feeling pressure to lower overall security costs.
- “Business leaders from organizations with resources mostly on-premises are especially likely to feel budget pressure, with roughly 1/3rd feeling ‘very pressured.’”
- 40% say they are prioritizing investments in Cloud Security, followed by Data & Information Security (28%), and anti-phishing tools (26%).
Conway also identified five ways the pandemic is changing the cybersecurity landscape for the long-term:
- “Security has proven to be the foundation for digital empathy in a remote workforce during the pandemic”
- A top priority of those surveyed is improving end-user experience and productivity while working remotely (41%).
- The Zero Trust model will become industry standard
- 51% of business leaders are expediting the deployment of Zero Trust capabilities — a security model based on strict access controls where the default is to not trust anyone both inside or outside the perimeter.
- 94% of companies report that they are in the process of deploying new Zero Trust capabilities to some extent.
- The importance of diverse data for improved Threat Intelligence
- “Microsoft tracked more than 8 trillion daily threat signals from a diverse set of products, services, and feeds around the globe.”
- The absolute necessity of cyber resilience to business operations
- “Cybersecurity provides the underpinning to operationally resiliency as more organizations enable secure remote work options.”
- Maintaining this requires regular evaluation of risk threshold and the deployment of cyber resilience processes.
- “The cloud is a security imperative”
- Integrated security solutions are crucial for organizations of all sizes.
What digital transformation looks like coming out of the pandemic
59% of executives surveyed say that COVID has created a motivation to accelerate their DX initiatives.
COVID-19 has disrupted just about every faction of our world. So where and how does digital transformation (DX) fit into the picture now?
“Recalibrating investment priorities to mitigate the risks associated with COVID-19 should continue to be the first priority of any company,” writes EY Canada partner Anthony Rjeily. “But pushing forward with your digital transformation program should still be a priority for the organization.”
Businesses face a wide variety of challenges — shifting customer engagement models online, enhancing digital capabilities of customer service, remote work, an increase cyberattacks and so on, and so forth. Rjeily says long-term successes will come from those driving innovation programs.
Let’s look at two examples:
When COVID-19 first hit, the retail sector moved online at a near-breakneck speed to drive commerce online. It makes sense that it was easier for businesses with already-existing, scalable digital infrastructure to pivot to the pandemic realities. But as Ryan Talbott writes, this is the new norm for retailers. “A retail organization’s ability to react quickly to changes in consumer behavior has become a key survival skill. Regardless of how good their business contingency plans were, once the pandemic hit, many retailers found they were in a difficult spot and simply couldn’t move at the pace their customers needed them to.”
Within architecture, engineering, and construction industries, COVID-19 accelerated digital transformation plans but many companies still have a long road ahead. Industry experts predicted that 2020 would be a watershed moment for DX integration in these industries and this did, in fact, come to fruition. But going forward, James Dean, CEO of Sensat, says companies in these industries will need to “create a more holistic approach to the entire asset lifecycle, ensuring technology takes prime position in their approach, supporting revenue generation and ensuring continued business success,”
A focus on emerging technologies
According to a new report from KPMG International and HFS Research, 59% technology executives surveyed say that COVID-19 has created an impetus to accelerate digital transformation initiatives. The report, titled ‘Enterprise Reboot,’ found executives have shifted their focus to must-have technologies and more than half (56%) say cloud migration has become an absolute necessity due to COVID-19.
(Source: KPMG/HFS Research)
At the same time, COVID is also a caveat. Approximately four in 10 say they will halt investment in emerging technology altogether as a result of the pandemic.
“This crisis isn’t affecting all industries equally, but for many of the industries facing crisis, managing the transition to a digital business model is imperative,” explains Cliff Justice, KPMG global lead for Intelligent Automation and US lead for Digital Capabilities. “However, doing so is made more complicated in a time where investments are critical, but cash must be preserved.”
(Source: KPMG/HFS Research)
Investment for business survival
“Emerging technologies and new ways of working can play a significant role in the transformation to a more digital economy,” said Justice. “These technologies are helping companies maintain customer and stakeholder trust, keep remote workforces connected, ensure their business is resilient and prepared for disruptions, and build a strong foundation for future product and service innovation.”
Ultimately, the pandemic has placed straight-up business survival as the primary objective for most emerging technology investments.
“Now more than ever, companies need to make smart investments in emerging technologies if they are to prevail in the medium- to long-term,” said Justice. “Companies who don’t, risk threatening their own survival.”
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