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The human impact of the Industrial Internet of Things

Alison Kennedy, Managing Director, Accenture Strategy, ASEAN | Feb. 4, 2015
Talent and skills are the most important determinants of whether countries and companies capitalise on this new digital era to secure growth and boost their competitiveness.

This vendor-written piece has been edited by Executive Networks Media to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favour the submitter's approach.

Will digital technology be positive for workers and jobs? Amid today’s public debate about the consequences of artificial intelligence and advanced robotics comes the Industrial Internet of Things. Little understood but potentially very significant for multiple industry sectors, this next wave of technology will create more jobs than it will destroy, according to the majority of business leaders Accenture has surveyed.

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is a fast growing network of intelligent connected devices, machines and objects. It will certainly automate and drive efficiencies, but the optimism of employers reflects their recognition that, more importantly, it will enable the creation of entirely new products and services and markets. Indeed, Accenture Strategy estimates the IIoT could boost the gross domestic product (GDP) of 20 of the world’s largest economies by an additional US$14 trillion by 2030.

Where some technology advances have simply improved the quality and price competitiveness of products—mainly through automation—the IIoT breaks new ground in helping to use vast volumes of data from those products and other physical objects to offer tailored outcomes to customers.

Take the example of the agro-chemical sector. By integrating climatic, geological and other data, companies can go beyond selling products to earning revenues from guaranteed yields of specific crops in certain locations. Similarly, engine manufacturers could be rewarded for delivering reduced air travel delays by pre-empting maintenance issues through the real-time monitoring of engine performance in flight.

In short, the outcome economy has arrived—where partnerships between companies and their respective workers inspire more bespoke and varied solutions for customers. It is a small wonder then, that 86 percent of the 1,400 business leaders we polled, which includes 90 percent out of the Singapore executives surveyed, think the Industrial Internet of Things will be a net creator of jobs.

There is already evidence that this workforce transformation is happening. A Maryland steel company used automation and robotics coupled with analytics which led to more knowledge-intensive work. The result was a safer and more engaging work experience alongside higher productivity and quality. By making digital investments, the steel company was able to significantly increase hourly pay and experienced growing demand that led to an increase in hires.

It is not just about new jobs but the content of those new roles. Many businesses will demand new skills and reward workers with more interesting work. Accenture and Royal Philips’ proof-of-concept demonstration uses a Google Glass head-mounted display to research ways to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of performing surgical procedures. Theoretically, hands-free access to critical information could also be applied in the utilities or communications industries, helping field engineers repair complex equipment in more difficult stations than they can today. These digital enhancements augment skills as employees blend their skills with those of digital labour.

 

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