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Volume 32, Issue 2

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Tuesday, 12 March 2019 14:50

Atoms Get Their Revenge At The Intelligent Edge

My colleagues J. P. Gownder, Craig Le Clair, and I just published the results of a year-long study to answer the question “What happens when digital business systems and physical-world processes come together?” The answer: Atoms get their revenge. By that we mean that so much of our attention has been focused on digital business over the past decade that we have almost forgotten where business happens — in the real world.

What about eCommerce, online trading, and digital platforms? Yes, they are digital, but at the end of the day, it is still humans —sitting at their desks, in hotels, on airplanes, in the plant, at ball games, or at conferences — that drive most of the decisions around who buys what and how much, even if they’re made by programming algorithms. And all of that happens in the world of atoms. A big takeaway from our report is that when algorithms start to act on the physical world, firms have the opportunity to change their relationship with their customers. In other words, algorithms plus atoms balance the power between customers and businesses. We see savvy businesses deploying algorithms in the real world to balance customer engagement and efficient operations.

Consider, for example, innovative startup DocBox. It makes a clinical process management solution for hospitals that promises to help clinicians eliminate medical mistakes, improve clinical workflows and processes, and free up time. At the heart of its solution is a “patient area network” that integrates data from bedside machines, making insights available to doctors. While that is good for doctor and patient engagements, providers are exploring how to drive intelligence into logistics and operations to ensure that high-value capital equipment is placed and used efficiently as well.