5 times when technology pushed corporate innovation
Artificial intelligence is set to change a range of industries, and one of those is retail. So no surprise that retail giant Walmart is experimenting heavily with AI. It for example opened a “store of the future”, that is largely AI-powered. It’s open to the public, which allows them to test the technology with actual customers. One key element here is that the store is filled with cameras that use AI algorithms to detect what is happening. When someone takes a product from the shelves, for example, it’s automatically registered. But in contrast to Amazon’s supermarkets this feature isn’t used for automatic check-out, the store has traditional counters. AI checks if products are in stock, if caddies are available and if lines are forming at the check-out. The goal isn’t to replace workers, but to have them focus more on customer service.
AI is also helping the transition to online retail. During the pandemic Walmart rolled out a feature where customers could receive a two-hour express delivery. This super-fast service is coordinated behind-the-scenes by AI. It constantly determines if customers are eligible for two-hour delivery, based on the real-time locations of delivery drivers and inventories of local stores. The technology then helps inventory workers to quickly put together orders, so they can arrive as fast as possible.
Whereas 4G was focused on smartphones and telecom operators, 5G is much more about B2B applications and industry 4.0. A trend German industrial player Bosch is heavily investing in.
The company bought their own wireless spectrum in Germany, and wants to deploy 5G in 250 factories worldwide. With it they support applications such as autonomous transport systems, connected machines and industrial IoT. Using these technologies they make their own operations more efficient, but also develop products they can in turn sell to other companies. 5G is transforming Bosch from an industrial company into a key industry 4.0 player.
Lego may not sound like a technological powerhouse, but the toy manufacturer is increasingly incorporating innovative technologies into its products. One area in which they are now investing is augmented reality.
The Danish corporate has already released lego-sets with an integrated AR app. The physical sets can be combined with an AR smartphone-app to show a deeper, hidden story happening, in this case a world haunted by ghosts. It’s really pushing storytelling to a whole new level with this online-meets-offline combination. This experiment is now being applied beyond just individual sets. In the Lego AR-studio, consumers can scan the most popular Lego sets, and play with them in a virtual environment. Kids can even make movies through the app. This way the sets become more open-ended, and the decades-old toy concept keeps up in an increasingly digital world.
Shipping supply chains are a very complex administrative cluster. Paper documents are often needed, and cargo is handed off between dozens of sometimes competing companies. This makes it the ideal case for blockchain, which Danish shipping giant Maersk has now clearly recognised.
Together with IBM they have set up a blockchain-service through which companies in the shipping chain can digitally share information about cargo. Started in 2018, it has already tracked 42 million container shipments and digitised 20 million documents. Blockchain in this way pushes a paper-based, legacy industry to go digital.
Electric car innovation isn’t just coming from challengers like Tesla anymore. It’s also coming from unlikely places, like Volkswagen Group. This is the same group that in 2015 was caught up in the Dieselgate scandal, where they manipulated emission statistics for their combustion engines. Since then, however, they seem to have made an about-face, and started heavily investing in electric vehicles.
Electric engines are rapidly improving, and provide a number of advantages compared to combustion engines, such as less maintenance, besides of course a reduction in emissions. This is forcing legacy car-makers to change. Over the next five years Volkswagen Group wants to invest 73 billion euros in electric vehicle technologies. That’s more than double the entire Tesla revenue in 2020. In 2021 they announced new battery designs which would reduce costs by 50%. And by the middle of the 2020ies the German group wants to introduce high-tech solid-state batteries.