This post comes from the perspective of Montserrat Corominas and Dave Darsch

Digital transformation, virtualization, people-less processes. These terms have become buzzwords, thrown around to describe every new app or digital offering. Some key digitization landmarks might seem like little more than fun gimmicks - like Pokémon Go, or kitsch Snapchat/Instagram masks. But these examples, and many more, show that we are actually in a phenomenally exciting moment for virtual transformation: and it's here to stay.

Digitization is shifting the vast majority of our everyday processes into the virtual arena. Something as simple as going to the grocery store becomes a timesaving digital experience  when you no longer need to checkout. As businesspeople and consumers, we need to understand the powerful potential of these changes.

Just a few years ago, we faced many constraints on how far our digital technology could go. With recent breakthroughs in augmented reality, speech and image recognition, connected surfaces and artificial intelligence, this is no longer the case. The limits have been exploded. Digitized companies and concepts are creating our connected future. So what does it look like - and which trends are most important? 

1. Mainstream artificial intelligence

We've been dreaming of a future with robot assistance for years. But now it's not sci-fi fantasy - it's everyday reality. 2017 was the year artificial intelligence became the new normal. We are getting used to customer service chatbots, and are relying on virtual helpers like Alexa, Siri and Microsoft's Cortana to answer our questions, control connected devices, and remind us of our appointments. 

2. Industry benefits

That's not to mention the industry uses. There have already been successful implementations of cobots, collaborative robots which enable workers to work closely with robots through wearables and mobile interfaces, like Festo's BionicCobot. Digital twins like KUKA and fleXstructures combine cognitive tools with AI, to virtualize manufacturing lifecycles and enable individualized high volume production. Companies now realize that digitized solutions can save them huge amounts of money and greatly boost efficiency. 

3. Homes and cars and shopping

Homes and cars are two major everyday spaces undergoing digital disruption. Smart home digital platforms will soon be a standard feature of most houses. Major advancements in the internet of things make it not just possible but affordable to control security, heating, cooking and lighting remotely. The Google Home Mini and Amazon Echo also answer questions and order products, all operated easily by voice. Cars are becoming just as easy to control with smart devices. Autonomous driving is a near reality. And the car's interior is changing, becoming a kind of living room, with mechatronics that enable automatically adapting interiors and other services, with Daimler, Renault and Brose leading the pack.

With these advances rapidly becoming the new normal, it's impossible to go back.  Organizations must embrace digitization, shifting more and more processes into connected software and making use of sophisticated sensory technology. The possibilities are endless: the digital future is here to stay.

Published on: Jan 22, 2018