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Smart-Machine-Enabled Services: Are they the Future of Technology?

Machines have been an integral part of our lives for years, and now we are in the age of Smart Machines. What is a smart machine? According to TechTarget, a smart machine is an intelligent device that uses machine-to-machine (M2M) technology, such as robots, self-driving cars and other cognitive computing systems that are able to make decisions and solve problems without human intervention.

In September, I had the opportunity to attend the Supply Chain Insights Global Summit in Phoenix, Arizona. It’s a meeting of minds from the Supply Chain industry, hosted by Lora Cecere – a friend and admired supply chain industry analyst. There was lot to learn about the future of the industry and how things are evolving in the next decade to impact all of us – but 2 specific areas made an impression on me personally. First was a keynote by Jeremiah Owyang on the future of autonomous cars and the impact on different industries. Second was Sawyer, an industrial robot by Rethink Robotics.

As head of a Silicon Valley company, with our office next to Google in Mountain View (we call it Google View) for a long time, over the last few years I have seen these driverless test cars with beacons on the top, Google signage and curious onlookers. The cars always used to roam around with a person sitting in the driver’s seat – just to comply with the law – who didn’t really control anything. We had casual discussions all the time – whether this is real or just a fancy experiment, if this is viable and how it’s impossible to realize the dream of all driverless cars roaming around us.

By August 2016, we saw Singapore launch a new business model of self-driving taxis. Companies like Uber are talking about driverless ride share. And here at this conference I heard people talking about the impact of driverless cars on multiple industries. Will short flights and hotel stays be replaced by onboard hospitality in a driverless service? Should I expect my next delivery by Amazon on my terrace by a drone – within an hour of my order? The industry has already moved from a question of whether it will work, to how it will work and what will be the impact. The business models around these autonomous cars are not futuristic any more.

Machines have been an integral part of our lives for years, and now we are in the age of Smart Machines. What is a smart machine? According to TechTarget, a smart machine is an intelligent device that uses machine-to-machine (M2M) technology, such as robots, self-driving cars and other cognitive computing systems that are able to make decisions and solve problems without human intervention.

This is beyond industrial automation. They don’t just do a mechanical job of moving a stack of things from one place to another. They sense, learn, and change the way they overcome challenges and respond to solve problems – just the way humans do – to an extent.

“Smart machines are not future fantasy; they are commercially available. According to Gartner’s analysis of external sources, more than $10 billion have already been purchased through more than 2,500 technology companies,” says Frances Karamouzis, Vice President and distinguished analyst at Gartner. “For the business and IT services industry, this translates to a new source of fuel for the industry – namely ‘virtual talent.’ It’s faster, cheaper and more predictable.”
Thanks to Rethink Robotics, I met Baxter last year, and Sawyer this year, in Phoenix. Baxter is a robot that handles tasks like kitting, packaging, loading and unloading, machine tending, and materials handling. Sawyer takes care of the demands of companies doing circuit board testing and other precise tasks that traditional industrial robots just can’t hack. Both robots run on a learning engine platform. He learns as he works, and the outcomes improve as the process evolves. Innovative companies like Schneider Electric are already adopting these kinds of smart machines as a part of their manufacturing processes.

The smart machine era will create a ‘digital workforce,’ comprised of intelligent agents, virtual reality assistants, expert systems and embedded software to make traditional machines ‘smart’ in specialized ways. This workforce will be low-cost and have a long-term impact. Easy-to-train robots and purpose-built automated machines could significantly devalue and displace millions of humans in the workforce.

How do all these smart machines impact the services industry in the future? By 2018, 40 percent of outsourced services will leverage smart machine technologies, rendering the offshore model obsolete for competitive advantage, according to Gartner, Inc. Gartner maintains that the rise of smart machines will send organizations back to the drawing board with regard to their long-standing arsenal of sourcing approaches.

This does not mean that the offshore service model will go away and everything will move from people-based to smart machine executed services. Subject matter expertise remains with humans. However, this does mean that the business model will shift dramatically. The lower end jobs on the manufacturing floor will be mostly done by smart machines. The major driver of these jobs going offshore was to control the cost; smart machines can achieve that with speed on their side. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 80% of jobs at a lower pay level will be automated.

While currently unable to make many decisions, achieving a certain level of human cognition is still a remote possibility for these smart machines. Also, the amount of effort to train humans and get things done is still considerably cheaper, currently, than to create repeatable, scalable smart machine processes.

Where we are looking at major change is in the area of cognitive analytics. Problems are solved by quickly analyzing huge data sets and capturing analysis that may have been missed in earlier techniques. This dataset, when presented to more intelligent humans with scenario interpretations, can guide the decision support systems in all aspects of life.
It’s an interesting time ahead for sure, as smart machines will enforce the social change, business models, the way we interact with systems currently as well as our daily life.

Source: http://bwdisrupt.businessworld.in/article/Smart-Machine-Enabled-Services-Are-they-the-Future-of-Technology-/03-10-2016-106460/

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