Home Articles Next evolution will be from automation to autonomy – Ola Rollén, Hexagon

Next evolution will be from automation to autonomy – Ola Rollén, Hexagon

Ola Rollén, President & CEO, Hexagon

Location data is a critical enabler for the technology powering the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Autonomous X (automobiles, industrial vehicles, public transportation, UAVs, marine); edge computing; advanced analytics (AI, machine learning, advanced algorithms), and visualization technologies all rely heavily on geospatial data and the insights we can derive from it.

Today’s geospatial technology is digital-first in nature. Geospatial data allows us to create digital versions of the physical world via sensor technology for reality capture opening up world of possibilities. And we can all see how amazing the potential is in front of us. However, there is an equal risk with that reward if we are unable to create actionable insights from the data we have created. The gap between what technology can do and what people are able to do with it continues to grow, and that starts with data. Geospatial technology is merely interesting if we are not able to gain actionable insights that allow us to increase efficiency and productivity.

Digital transformation

AI and IoT are only buzzwords when they have empty promises behind them. The ability to track, measure and create autonomous feedback loops provides infinite opportunities to set better targets and achieve precise goals based on these targets. For instance, 5D maps for Smart Cities support utilities planning, resource management, emergency services, and disaster response and recovery. The availability of data and the power of AI-supported data analysis will create substantial opportunities for a more sustainable future not fathomable today.

Digital transformation is not just about buying new technology. For example, if you switched from a Rolex to an Apple Watch but only used the latter to tell time, one might argue that you downgraded your time-keeping device. However, if you view a “watch” not only as a device that connects you to the external world through a single function (i.e. keeping time) but also as a feedback loop monitoring your internal well-being in real-time relative to multiple external inputs, the perspective changes. This is digital transformation — in this case from a single-function, analog device to a multi-function digital solution.

In a geospatial context, outfitting your operation with new sensors or upgrading your software is an important step, but it’s only the first step. Companies have infinite potential to leverage more useful information from those solutions. Similar to the watch example, there’s nothing wrong with a good, old-fashioned map to get from point A to point B, just as there’s nothing wrong with using a watch to tell you if you are late. However, maps can be used for so much more than directions. Combining data from reality capture sensors and overlaying it on a digital map to see what’s happening in real time tells us so much more about the world.

Ultimately, “digital transformation” is not a destination. Companies should think of their transformations in the context of digital maturation and where they are on that scale, which will continue to change as new technology continues to develop.

Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 hinges on seamless integrations. This means not only smart adoption of new technology — i.e. choosing the right digital solutions for your business and ensuring they all work together — but also interoperability of legacy systems with the latest innovations. It’s not feasible for a company to flip a switch and be “digitally transformed” — again, that’s why it’s important to view transformation as a maturation process, not a final destination. As technology companies, we need to provide a vision and a path to digital maturity.

So what does that mean? Beneath the technical language is a very simple concept: digital solutions can’t operate efficiently on their own; that’s not what they were created to do. They need to be connected, integrated and accessible everywhere, from the source of the data (edge) to where it’s stored (increasingly, the Cloud). That’s where mobility and visualization come in — to access and interpret data.

Finally, and most critically, it’s not humanly possible to keep up with the amount of information being created by these digital “things.” So, artificial intelligence is necessary to analyze the exponential amounts of data being generated and package it in a way so that it’s digestible and actionable.

Converging the physical and digital worlds

The next evolution will be from automation to autonomy. Right now, we are creating systems that can operate without humans, but an automated machine is only as good as the information we can get about its performance and efficiency. If we create more automated machines without intelligence built into them, we will only contribute to the exponentially expanding data gap. As we move from automation to autonomy, those machines will be able to process data faster and with greater accuracy, and they will be able to communicate with each other and self-correct to maximize productivity and efficiency.

This is what Hexagon does. We search for the greatest potential in technology and create solutions to connect what is to what can be and should be. We create solutions that converge the physical and digital worlds. For instance, Xalt is a new technology framework from Hexagon that supports interoperability to accelerate digital transformation. Xalt uses artificial intelligence, Cloud orchestration, data visualization, edge computing, enterprise integration and mobility solutions to create autonomous connected ecosystems, which we abbreviate as “ACE.” ACEs are digital-first, infinitely connected and innately intelligent states where the physical and digital worlds converge, and intelligence is built into all processes.

We intend to lead in the industries we serve through investment in R&D, and we continue to pursue strategic acquisitions that create synergies supporting autonomous connected ecosystems.

Our R&D efforts, in conjunction with our acquisition strategy, have focused on investing in technologies that will bring about the digital transformation of vital industries and governments, empowering them to see the ‘complete picture’ and to develop enabling platforms.

At Hexagon, we call this approach SMART X — whether it is mining, manufacturing, oil and gas, defense, construction, agriculture or smart cities. SMART X solutions are a bold approach aimed at solving the most challenging problems of the 21st century — how to make our cities safe; how to sustainably farm and feed a fast-growing population; how to make refineries more efficient; how to mine responsibly and manufacture products faster, with less waste and higher quality.

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