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Blurred Lines -- Living on the Edge of Digital and Physical Worlds

Nick Taylor, ASEAN Technology Lead, Accenture | April 10, 2014
The “cyber physical” is changing the way we experience everyday life.

Picture a person on the street having a conversation with his mobile phone's operating system, a car parking itself, a watch reporting a jogger's pace and distance in real-time and a surgeon monitoring a patient's vitals during surgery through the lenses of their smart eyeglasses. This isn't science fiction, although it may have been just ten years ago. This is reality and reflects a convergence of digital and physical technologies - the "cyber physical" - that is changing the way we experience everyday life.

Every human being now has the ability to access, create and share an astonishing array of information in an instant. According to the Accenture Technology Vision 2014, this is due to the emergence of connected devices that creates a new level of connected intelligence to augment individual actions, automate processes, and incorporate digital machines into our physical lives.

This is more than the Internet of Things - this is a complete blur between the physical and digital worlds that gives us the ability to make choices "on the edge." Combine this with the ability to share data with other devices via the cloud, add in some deep analytics, and the result is an incredibly rich user experience that enables more intelligent, real-time decision-making for better outcomes. These decisions can be made exactly when they're needed in informed, social, easy-to-use ways, allowing companies to reimagine the possibilities for engaging with customers.

Accordingly, individual users have not been the only beneficiaries of the digital/physical blur. Companies are always looking for a competitive advantage, and many have embraced the idea of creating an immersive experience for consumers, whether it is through apps, usage tracking or other digitally augmented capabilities that can make the selling of goods and services simplified and more customisable.

For instance, digital billboards at the airport that track flights in real-time, smart parking meters that can alert drivers to varying levels of parking difficulty, and stores with less stock but more kiosks to order an array of merchandise for next day delivery all provide an edge by quickly bringing detailed information to potential customers. The customer, almost by definition, always wants more, and the ability to grab them while they are on the edge of making a decision is critical.

This upheaval isn't just taking place as the point of customer interaction. It's also happening inside company walls, changing the way employees conduct their day-to-day tasks.  Connected devices now allow employees to be more flexible, and react in real-time to inquiries. Whatever the situation, they have more information at their fingertips - whether it's instant data on their customers, information about past situations, better indications of minute-to-minute situational variations - and therefore, are better situated to make faster, more appropriate decisions.


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