Next Wave Of Digital Innovation By Nishant Batra, Head, Engagement Practices, Ericsson India

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Nishant Batra, Head, Engagement Practices, Ericsson India

In the digital age, mobility, broadband and cloud are delivering exponential innovation in the form of smart materials, 3D printing and robotics

The demise of US-based electronics retailer RadioShack into bankruptcy, announced earlier this year, represents a lot more than a change in the way we now purchase our tech gadgets. The new tech era we are currently experiencing has the potential to deliver unimaginable growth and prosperity, driven by endless opportunities in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) that is set to shake the very fabric of society.

By 2020, advanced mobile technology will be commonplace around the globe, 90 percent of the world’s population will be covered by mobile broadband networks and 70 percent will be using smartphones, according to Ericsson’s latest Mobility Report 2015. But to fully understand the opportunity, we must look back to nearly a century ago when the first RadioShack opened in 1921.

The 20th Century factory floor many of us imagine involves an assembly line of workers. Each plays their part in that line preforming highly specialist jobs. Prior to this there was a far less efficient system. The factory worker would be a generalist – building the entire product from beginning to end. This is because workshop technologies did not support division of labor. When the technology eventually evolved to support the more efficient model, so did the entire process of manufacturing.  We are now standing at a similar inflection point in the evolution of ICT.

If you were to wind back nearly 25 years and walk into a RadioShack store, you’d find products ranging from a personal stereo, a VHS recorder, a PC and even a cellphone. Today, the features of all these products are crammed into one single smartphone – this device is in turn contributing to the consumption of 3 exabytes of data every month. And as with the latter day factory worker, this is leading to exponential increases in productivity and driving entirely new behaviors.

In fact, when we see stats ranging from the $13 million raised in crowd funding to the 133 million hours of YouTube watched, or the 2.7 billion Facebook ‘likes’ each day, what we are actually witnessing is ICT beyond the inflection point.

Similar to the way steam, coal, iron and railways delivered transformation in the industrial age, mobility, broadband and cloud are delivering exponential innovation in the form of smart materials, 3D printing, and robotics in the digital age.

This pace of innovation is relentless. In 2030, futurists predict that there will be people walking the planet with a life expectancy of 150 years, buildings will be generating more energy than they can consume, and the driverless car will very much be a thing of reality.

The big difference is that the technologies underpinning this new change are no longer the preserve of big corporations and institutions, but accessible to the average person.

ICT is beginning to transform the way we use services that have worked harmoniously for years.

In this age of empowerment, the very idea of ‘Education’ is being turned on its head through ICT, empowering practically anyone to gain access to the best learning resources on the planet. Coursera, Knewton and a range of online universities are redefining the idea of learning and development.

If our ideas of transportation, retail and education are being transformed at a personal level, you can only start to imagine how this is impacting businesses, institutions and industries at a macro-level. In fact there is a new logic being applied across industries. The era of Spotify, Netflix and countless other game changers in the media sector has demonstrated what can happen to a fully digitized industry. Other industries are now set to follow.

Growth and innovation is not necessarily coming from physical assets but from people, technology platforms and data that are used as a basis of invention. As a result, businesses and governments can now improve relationships with customers and citizens using digital services.
Starting a global business today requires little more than an idea, a user base and a network of collaborators. Funding can be crowd-sourced; factories can be rented while work spaces and digital infrastructures are scaled as needed.

At Ericsson, we’ve had first-hand experience of the vast potential this New Logic is delivering across industries through partnerships with likes of the Stockholm Royal Seaport, Volvo, Philips and Maersk Line.

Stockholm Royal Seaport has ambitious plans to create an urban district that is both climate-positive and free of fossil fuels by 2030. An underlying smart grid system will connect apartments, meters, buildings, vehicles and harbor facilities. This is powered by a technology platform that also allows new applications to be built for city management and smart street lighting, as well as transport, education and health services.

In other parts of the world, the city of Curitiba in Brazil was the first to connect public buses to a mobile-broadband network. In doing so, it has provided a more reliable bus service used by 70 percent of all commuters. This service produces 200 thousand tons of CO2 emissions per year, which is dramatically lower than the 1.5 million tons generated by annual car travel.

At Ericsson, we see this change as part of the Networked Society. As the term implies, a ‘Networked Society’ is more than how a network shapes the fortunes of a business or the quality of someone’s life. It is about a society that will fundamentally change the way we innovate, collaborate, produce, govern and achieve sustainability. We are on the verge of a new ‘Golden Age’ of great inventions, peace, harmony, stability and prosperity.

There are obstacles. When existing institutions are challenged, the legal, commercial and social frameworks that underpinned them need to be modernized. New practices and assets are needed. For example, connected robots may well sharply increase productivity but this again leads to bigger questions about the future of work. Similarly, market effectiveness is helping create more billion dollar startups, but the gap between income and wealth distribution continues to widen.

These are challenges that principally cannot be solved by technology alone and requires business, governments and other communities to come together and collaborate.

As we adapt to a world that has now made companies like RadioShack, we can only look towards the next wave of innovation.

Nishant Batra, Head of Engagement Practices, Ericsson India

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