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Industrial Edge: The Energy Opportunity

The recent rise in energy prices has brought into sharp contrast the need to re-examine how we generate, distribute, and consume electricity. 

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This article is a guest post by Natalya Makarochkina – Senior Vice President, Secure Power Division, International Operations, Schneider Electric

As if the drive to decarbonize energy as part of sustainability and climate change efforts was not enough, the recent rise in energy prices has brought into sharp contrast the need to re-examine how we generate, distribute, and consume electricity. 

It has been well argued that simply generating more electricity is not the answer to the myriad of requirements now being faced. Greater transparency, management, and efficiency in distribution and utilization must all be achieved to better use what is available, even as demand might require greater volumes. 

The increasing digitalization of industry, through the application of technologies such as Industrial IoT (IIoT), 5G and automation, managed through AI-assisted systems, has offered greater insights and visibility of how electricity is used than ever before. As Industry 4.0 has brought digital to industry and manufacturing, creating the Industrial Edge, that same trend in energy, Electricity 4.0, can have its methodologies adopted and implemented in industry, enabled by intelligent management systems, leveraging expertise from the world of data centers, microgrids and secure power. With these tools, services and insights, industries can ensure they utilize energy as efficiently as possible, even as they transform to meet the needs and demands of the future. 

Electricity 4.0

Industry 4.0 is the application of digital technologies to industry processes, supporting, enabling, and extending Operational Technologies (OT). Within this, the Industrial edge is the subset of edge computing where OT and information technologies (IT) combine to apply high speed analytics in a localized, on-site system, addressing various industrial and manufacturing challenges. The industrial edge can provide simple, secure, highly available, powerful autonomous edge computing solutions that can be managed remotely. These can be applied to dangerous, harsh, and extreme environments to ensure high availability, preventing, not recovering from, failure. 

Electricity 4.0 is a similar fusing of electricity generation and distribution with digital technologies to deliver new capabilities, insights, and manageability. It will be the foundation of the new energy future of renewable energy sources and net-zero carbon, to allow intelligent distribution, delivering electricity where it is needed, as it is needed, storing it when it is not, and balancing the needs of all electricity users. 

Electricity 4.0 will enable smart grids in smart cities, as well as meeting the needs of industry through not just greater volume but facilitating demand side moderation and generation. Through the insights gained, grid operators will be able to model and forecast usage and demand to further increase efficiency and resilience, bringing large energy consumers into the fold as part of the new energy future.

Data lead

The growing wave of digitalization in industry driven by transformation efforts, especially the implementation of IIoT, has meant that industries are better placed than ever before to gather and manage data on energy usage. However, industries were not always able to turn that data into intelligence, nor take advantage of it in real time. 

Speaking to Dalia Adib, practice lead, edge computing lead with analyst STL Partners, Dalia emphasized the importance of being able to act quickly, at low latency on sensor and IIoT data gathered, rather than centralizing it in a remote data center. 

The development of the Industrial Edge, that interface between OT and IT, has meant there are now facilities to utilize all that data from every sensor, machine and line. 

Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure Micro Data Centre and EcoStruxure IT combines edge compute expertise and innovation with remote intelligent management systems which enable customers and partners to leverage the Industrial Edge to make deep energy management more practical and informative than ever before.

Intelligence opportunity

The interface that is the Industrial Edge has the potential to deliver greater visibility across the entire infrastructure, from edge sensor to intelligent insight. With a holistic view of energy usage across the organization, predictive modelling can ensure that management can stay ahead of demand. 

With many geographies likely to see some restrictions on energy supply in the near future, as major transitions towards renewable energy sources are embarked upon, the ability to confidently predict consumption and demand, moderate it where necessary and support sustainability goals, is vital. The potential for information gathering through IIoT, combined with edge deployed compute power to apply analytics, enable automation and even autonomous operation, can increase resilience, reduce downtime and ensure efficiency. 

IIoT can facilitate predictive maintenance regimes, monitoring performance and efficiency, allowing remote management, to identify where failures may occur. Preventative measures can then be taken to ensure continuity. This applies not just in production and processing, but across the operation through power distribution and IT too.

There are many examples of industries taking the lead to bring the end-to-end benefits of IIoT, edge computing and direct intelligence to their business. 

Tver Carriage Works is a more than century old company based in the city of Tver, northwest of Moscow. It deployed an EcoStruxure Data Center Expert managed modular data centre infrastructure to achieve its aim of Digital Transformation of its manufacturing enterprise. Manufacturing electric trains, rolling stock and carriages to travel at more than 200 kph, it needed compute power close to manufacturing lines to improve efficiency, increase resilience, and reduce downtime. 

Brazil’s largest waste water treatment plant, Aquapolo, achieved a 15% increase in operational efficiency, with a lower cost of ownership, while providing drinking water for more than 500,000 customers. This was achieved while also improving compliance standards for environmental protection. There, the EcoStruxure Augmented Operator Advisor connects multiple industrial systems through an edge control framework, connecting Harmony HMI, Foxboro instrumentation, and ConneXium switches

Deep insights

The strides already made by industries to implement digitalization have brought many benefits, unifying OT with IT in the Industrial Edge. By taking on board the lessons of Electricity 4.0, industries can further improve efficiency, resilience and manageability.

With challenges expected in the near future as the world transitions to net-zero energy and operations, organizations that have achieved deep insights from sensor to core, will have the ability to predict, implement and adapt to change. 

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7 Digital Transformation trends on the horizon for 2023

Salesforce’s MuleSoft reports seven trends that are key to balancing operational pressure and improved customer and employee experience.

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Efficiency and growth are at the heart of many a business plans right now, even though an economic downturn is widely predicted to be on the horizon.

In the face of these organizational pressures, Salesforce’s MuleSoft recently released a report detailing their predictions and insights for digital transformation in 2023. In the report, they outlined seven trends that are going to be crucial for organizations that want to overcome these pressures while keeping the gas on customer and employee experiences. 

As MuleSoft Global Field CTO Matt McLarty explained, “as companies gear up for the year ahead, businesses must recognize that effectively utilizing new digital techniques is the only way to ensure growth amidst economic pressures.” 

“Investing in cost efficient, employee- and customer-centric technologies will be critical for companies seeking to remain agile and break away from the competition in 2023.” 

Here are MuleSoft’s seven digital transformation trends-to-watch:

Increase in automation investment

MuleSoft’s research has validated what many in the industry have already predicted regarding the projected growth of automation tools. According to a previous survey, roughly 80% of organizations plan on incorporating hyperautomation into their technology roadmap within the next 24 months. This points to a paradigm shift in the way businesses operate, as they move away from reliance on manual processes to a more digitized and technology-enabled future.

Composability is key

MuleSoft and Salesforce predict that in lieu of the point mentioned above, companies will be inclined to implement strategies like low/no-code platforms and application programming interfaces (APIs) to make their automation efforts more composable.

The rise of low/no-code tools

The report from September found that 73% of leaders agree that acquiring IT talent is the hardest it’s ever been, which makes perfect sense given the global shortage of software developers. In order to free up resources and enable a wider range of employees to participate in digital transformation, low/no-code platforms will continue to grow in popularity.

Investment In total experience (TX) strategies

Amid findings that 86% of IT leaders believe that both employee and customer experience (EX and CX) are as important as a company’s products, MuleSoft’s research anticipates that organizations will increase their focus on delivering great experiences through loyalty and advocacy.

CX and EX initiatives will work in tandem to increase revenue and retain talent, focusing on integration and automation that connect the dots where these two meet.

Data-Driven Decision Making Should Be Technology’s Job

Salesforce research highlights that 83% of organizations consider data-driven decisions to be a top priority in their organization. This data, however, is often siloed. As a result, MuleSoft predicts, 2023 will see the rise of real-time analytics to bread down silos, to “create a data fabric that provides automated, intelligent, and real-time insights and reduces untimely decisions.”

Cybersecurity Is Set to Scale

Expect to see more organizations invest in a cybersecurity mesh approach in order to secure data as it moves between multiple cloud applications. This is in response to data from Gartner that claims doing so could reduce the financial impact of security incidents by 90%.

Sustainability Will Be a Priority

Organizations are likely to increase their adoption of data-driven insights and integration across supply chains as they seek to become more sustainable. 


Download the full Mulesoft report

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CEOs are pausing or slowing down DX strategies over anticipated recession

KPMG’s 2022 CEO Outlook found that 40% of respondents are rethinking their digital approach ahead of potential economic downturn.

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First came COVID-19, which forced many organizations to quickly accelerate their digital transformation strategies. Now, a looming recession that’s expected to descend in early 2023 is forcing many CEOs to reconsider and retool their approaches to digital.

KPMG’s new 2022 CEO Outlook is a look at the overall business and economic landscape from the perspective of 1,325 global CEOs across 11 markets. While there are a variety of insights, zooming in to the tech-related outlook, CEOs are largely pinning their digital investments to areas of growth, with a special emphasis on partnerships and preparedness. Also at the top of mind is technology risk in both the short and long term. 

Over the next three years, according to the report, disruptive technology is going to be the top risk and greatest threat to growth. As a result, 70% of respondents say “they need to be quicker to shift investment to digital opportunities and divest in those areas where they face digital obsolescence.”

Digging in further, the report found that in light of the anticipated recession, four out of five CEOs are pausing or reducing their digital transformation strategies. Breaking this number down, 40% have paused or reduced, and 37% plan on pausing or reducing over the next 6 months. Ultimately, however, digital investment is still a priority, with 72% of respondents saying they have an “aggressive” strategy for investment.

“It’s no surprise that more than half of CEOs responded that they are placing more capital investment in buying new technology,” says Carl Carande, KPMG’s Global Head of Advisory, in the report. “These investments include an emphasis on cyber security culture, which CEOs say is just as important as building technological controls as fears of a cyber attack grow as a result of geopolitical uncertainty.” 

As a result of this geopolitical uncertainty, 77% of respondents see information security strategically, and as a potential competitive advantage. However, 24% of respondents said they are unprepared for cyber attack, up from 13% in 2021. 

Learn more about KPMG’s 2022 CEO Outlook, and download the full report.

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60% of employees view AI as a coworker and not a job threat

A new survey from MIT Sloan Management Review and BCG explored how organizations are using AI to create value in the workplace.

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As artificial intelligence is increasingly moving into commonplace lexicon in a wide variety of industries and workplaces, it’s raising questions about just how deep its usage will go. Sure, a frequent use case for AI is to use it for repetitive tasks, but there’s always a looming question: will it take my job?

Achieving Individual — and Organizational — Value With AI is the sixth annual iteration of a joint effort between MIT SMR and BCG to explore how organizations are using AI to create value in the workplace. It features in-depth findings from a global survey of 1,741 managers and 17 business executives who collectively represent 100 countries and 20 industries around the world.

One of its prevailing themes focused on the issue of awareness and how employees’ current familiarity with AI technology might affect their overall perception of it in the workplace.

Researchers took an initial survey asking respondents whether they used AI in their day-to-day jobs. Around two thirds (66%) indicated that they believed the answer was no, likely picturing ultra-advanced futuristic technologies like those seen in popular films or read about in science fiction novels. However, when the same group was then prompted with examples of specific AI-enabled tools like business productivity software, calendar schedulers, and CRM applications, roughly 43% backtracked and stated that they used such technologies on a casual or regular basis.

François Candelon, global director of the BCG Henderson Institute and coauthor of the report, highlights this pattern as a key factor in AI adoption: “When individuals don’t know that they are using AI, they naturally have a harder time recognizing its value.”

He argues that a greater understanding of what AI is and how it can be applied to various business tasks – as well as its potential implications for the workplace – is essential for convincing employees of its benefits.

Another key finding of the report, there seems to be some tangible evidence of AI’s effectiveness and potential ROI in the working world.

Survey results noted that 64% of respondents believe the technology has derived some form of value in their jobs, which is a stark contrast to the 8% who report feeling less satisfied in their role because of it.

The research went on to further state that those who did see value in the use of AI were 3.4 times as likely to be satisfied in their jobs, while professionals who receive AI-based suggestions on performance improvement were 1.8 times as likely to feel competent in their work. 

Of the specific uses study participants believed AI to be the most helpful for, interactions with team members (56%), managers (47%), and other people in their departments (52%) topped the list.

All in all, roughly 60% of total respondents stated that they view the technology as a tool for success, not a threat to their job. 

The Bottom Line

When individuals feel that AI technologies are helpful and improve their self-determination in the form of competency, autonomy, and relatedness, they’re more likely to experience satisfaction in their jobs. As Shervin Khodabandeh, senior partner and managing director at BCG, co leader of GAMMA in North America, and coauthor of the report, puts it: “The relationship between individual and organizational value from AI is additive, not zero-sum.”

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