Behind the scenes, industry is powering forward in this new technological age, so what does the future look like?
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is bringing a tsunami of change that will dramatically affect how we interact with and adapt to technology. The ways we choose to ride this wave will determine the shape of our future. Will we use this as an opportunity to solve our most pressing issues, or allow it to become a calamity that divides us? Hosted by TED’s Bryn Freedman, five speakers and one performer explored the tools and expertise we’ll harness to build the future
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is bringing a tsunami of change that will dramatically affect how we interact with and adapt to technology. The ways we choose to ride this wave will determine the shape of our future Click To Tweet
The evening included fascinating presentations from experts on the woeful state of America’s election systems and how technology can help, how we need to change the way we learn if AI is part of the process and Zebra’s own design technologist James Morley-Smith who took inspiration from how his disabled son Fintan learned piano starting with the black keys (the opposite of the traditional method) to inspire his designs. In his work at Zebra, Morley-Smith designs for employees who are often in noisy, poorly lit industrial settings and clad in bulky protective gear. By following the black-keys tactic, he’s factoring in users’ limitations from the get-go, much like the idea of accessible product design championed by Microsoft at this year’s Build Conference.Morley-Smith designs for employees who are often in noisy, poorly lit industrial settings and clad in bulky protective gear. By following the black-keys tactic, he’s factoring in users’ limitations from the get-go Click To Tweet
“It doesn’t matter what is impairing you from reaching your goals,” Morley-Smith says. “Reframe them so they are no longer a disability, and they might just be the advantage you need.”
This clever approach to how we design and use tech was only one example of how Zebra are innovating for this new revolution (and it won’t be televised 😉). It is difficult to overestimate the positive changes the development of the barcode brought us as consumers, that seemingly simple striped rectangle that we swipe over scanners in almost every shop on the high street (you can read more about its fascinating history and future here in this article that Alice Bonasio wrote originally for Quartz).
Liquid Expectations, where each amazing new customer experience becomes the standard to which all others are compared, are changing business models Click To Tweet
If you haven’t guessed yet Zebra (stripes… get it…?) were at the forefront of this technology and are now pushing the boundaries of where we go next when the challenges of tracking, tracing, stocking, allocating, selling and shipping products are only getting more complex as tech-savvy, online and mobile consumers drive change in the market.
Liquid Expectations, where each amazing new customer experience becomes the standard to which all others are compared, are changing business models. Customer expectations are higher after experiences such Starbucks mobile Order & Pay system so now retail companies are demanding that all their customer-facing employees work as intelligently as they possibly can. This has led to a huge uptake of connected IT devices that can run generalised applications in store to give quick access to more information for staff and customers. Explained Zebra’s CTO, Tom Bianculli
The cutting-edge technologies Zebra are developing right now are a fantastic example of how Tech Trends sees similar tech changing our lives in the not-too-distant future. The tech powering complex operations behind the scenes and out of public sight in the retail, health care and manufacturing sectors will soon bleed out into our personal lives, changing the way we interface with technology and the world. The future of how humans merge with technology is being forged by the industries that serve us and companies like Zebra are developing systems and interfaces that will soon change the way we live, shop and relax.The tech powering complex operations behind the scenes and out of public sight in the retail, health care and manufacturing sectors will soon bleed out into our personal lives Click To Tweet
The key idea behind these advances is Edge Computing. Driven by the development of IoT devices and the increased capabilities 5G connectivity will bring, Edge Computing is basically the decentralization and redistribution of computing resources such as server power, software, AI and data processing from centralised data centers out to the edge in the form of handheld devices such as smartphones, tablets and wearables, or onsite IoT sensors, automated machines and robots used for on-the-spot computing and analytics.
Edge Computing is the decentralization and redistribution of computing resources. AI and data processing from centralised data centres out to the edge in the form of handheld devices such as tablets Click To Tweet
For example, driverless cars will need the ability to perform complex computing incredibly quickly and onboard rather than their sensors sending proximity and location data up to the cloud and waiting to be fed back vital instructions, braking commands or traffic data. That would simply take too long when decisions need to be made on the spot. The car itself will be an edge device, with AI taking a lot of the critical decisions and subsequent actions independent of the cloud. Sure it needs the cloud to function but the weight of the computing is split as appropriate between the two. The cloud’s role will lean toward system oversight and deep data analysis.
In a typical deployment we might have the edge devices and sensors in the stores and a cloud-connected server also on site. Then we do edge computing on the server but what we are seeing now is edge processing move down to the devices so you see processing happening on cameras and handsets. We are looking at pushing that processing closer and closer to the edge except for when you need more data than can be generated at the edge to reach the answer you are looking for. We are well on the way to true edge processing in some situations. Continued Bianculli.
Imagine how much safer from burns you would be if your hand recognized heat and decided to pull your arm away without having to send the pain signal to the brain, wait for the brain to process the correct reaction then send out a signal to instruct the arm’s muscles to pull back. I think that makes sense? Anyway, the benefits of this system are immense and open up the real possibilities of safe driverless cars, powerful IoT & wearables, autonomous robots and many more world-changing Sci-Fi technologies.Imagine if your hand felt heat and decided to pull away without having to send the pain signal to the brain, wait for the brain to process the correct reaction and send a signal to instruct the arm’s muscles to pull back Click To Tweet Edge Actions are when handheld devices tell staff which task to do next, rather than staff working to a scheduled list of jobs their actions are dictated by the local edge systems Click To Tweet
Zebra has partnered up with several of the big players in cloud computing including Google and already have 11K stores in the US using their tech to empower staff through edge computing to take Edge Actions. This is when their handheld device tells them which task to do next to improve efficiency, rather than staff working to a scheduled list of jobs their actions are dictated by the local edge system, meaning they can be more adaptable and effective in that moment.
Of course, the central core system monitors, records and analyses what’s going on but takes a broader view, possibly using the data to guide future procedures and provide insight on evolving company policy. A good example is Zebra’s SmartLens technology, which can act as a digital overseer using video cameras, RFID and onboard data analytics to monitor and guide operations and staff through smart handsets such as the TC8000 above, and all done in real time at a local, on-site level.Zebra's SmartLens technology can act as a digital overseer using video cameras, RFID and onboard data analytics to monitor and guide operations and staff through smart handsets Click To Tweet
Zebra is focused on augmenting the worker to be the best possible so all workers can be like the best worker Click To Tweet
Zebra is focused on augmenting the worker to be the best possible so all workers can be like the best worker. There is a long way to go in improving the worker before full automation might take over, but that is a long way off. Concluded Bianculli
These product videos are pitched at retail customers but if you can see past the corporate tone the possibilities for these advanced technologies reveal themselves. Companies like Zebra are changing the world around us in ways we have yet to grasp and Tech Trends will be taking a look at their next generation of technology soon so watch this space.
The descendants of this tech will be all around us soon and in the hands of our children or sewn into their clothes, maybe not for scanning RFD chips in warehouses but for passively scanning products as we pass shops then activating interactive AR interfaces full of information and an augmented checkout. Welcome to the future.There is a long way to go in improving the worker before full automation might take over Click To Tweet
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