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Digital Transformation: Reimagining The World, Industry By Industry

Pat Bakey

The world as we know it is continually changing, and one of the fundamental drivers is digital transformation. Person by person, company by company, and industry by industry, a new reality is evolving.

The global economy is undergoing a digital transformation as well, and it’s happening at breakneck speed. Consequently, established business models no longer work, and previously successful business networks are rapidly disintegrating while industry boundaries evaporate. New, powerful players are emerging and shaking up the status quo as products get smart and consumers get even smarter.

What does that mean to the everyday person like you and me? It means imagining the world differently—because we must, and because we can.

Re-imagining industry

To see how the world can be imagined, let’s look at the agricultural industry—one that we can relate to because we all need food to survive.

One of the ambitious objectives of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is to eliminate hunger by 2030. However, with an estimated 9 billion people living on earth by 2050, this goal will not be possible unless we start re-imagining how food is produced today. In fact, a report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says that to feed the entire world population in 2050, food production must increase by 70%.

That means that the soybean farmer in Iowa as well as the cashew farmer in Africa must do things differently. And they can, thanks to digital transformation and new business models, such as precision farming, which combines a variety of technologies to enable farmers to increase production, optimize investments, and maximize returns.

Feeding the world is an attainable reality

For the agricultural industry—which consists of more than one billion workers worldwide—precision farming is a bold step. But now, farmers in even the most remote parts of the world can maximize yields like never before. They can also minimize irrigation, labor, and energy usage while intelligently using fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides that may cause harm to the environment. They can produce better food, more economically and more efficiently.

It’s advancements like this that will end world hunger. In fact, the International Food and Policy Research Institute recently reported that agricultural technologies could increase global crop yields by as much as 67% percent while cutting food prices nearly in half by 2050.

Precision farming in action

Big Data, mobile, supply chain, and cloud technologies are key enablers for precision farming. Here are a few examples of how these tools are helping farmers around the globe.

  • Gaining new insights. Farmers are using Big Data from the Precision Agriculture Hub, which connects the world’s biggest agricultural businesses, farmers, and suppliers to farm smarter. Through technology solutions and the supply chain and network of F4FAgriculture, farmers can gain insights on which crops to plant where and when. They can also learn what pesticides and fertilizers to use; how upcoming weather patterns will affect their crops; and where the best market prices are. With this critical data, they can maximize their yields, optimize sales, and help feed more people.
  • Learning new ways to farm. The African Cashew Initiative works to help over 300,000 small-scale farmers increase cashew productivity and income in five African countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Mozambique). By offering training programs, materials, and access to mobile business applications, these farmers are learning the best way to bring their product to market too. They can more efficiently forecast and plan, connect to the best buyers, and implement advanced marketing strategies.
  • Increasing sustainability. In northern Ghana, the StarShea Network is helping rural women learn more efficient ways to harvest and process shea nuts and butter. The network, with more than 15,000 members, provides information technology, education, and microfinancing to its members so they can conduct business independently and sustainably. For instance, through mobile technology, these women have access to the current market prices so they can sell their products competitively to global customers. They also have the technology to scan personalized barcode labels on each shea nut sack to track individual production and storage details. 

SAP is helping the world re-imagine itself

The vision and purpose of SAP is to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. We are committed to accelerating our customers’ digital transformation and we challenge them to reimagine their operational processes, business models, and the way they interact with the world.

We are also committed to the United Nations SDGs, including improving the health of the world by ending hunger – because we must, and we can.

To learn more about precision farming initiatives from SAP, visit here.

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Pat Bakey

About Pat Bakey

Pat Bakey is the president of Industry Cloud for SAP. He is responsible for the industry cloud footprint, which covers 25 industries globally, the finance and extended supply chain lines of business and the go-to-market execution of SAP Business Suite 4 SAP HANA (SAP S/4HANA). By offering prescriptive cloud road maps by industry and lines of business, the Industry Cloud organization serves every customer in every cloud model (private, public, and hybrid), for any business size, anywhere in the world, enabling SAP’s customers to approach their digital transformation through an industry lens.

IoT Can Keep You Healthy — Even When You Sleep [VIDEO]

Christine Donato

Today the Internet of Things is revamping technology. IoT image from American Geniuses.jpg

Smart devices speak to each other and work together to provide the end user with a better product experience.

Coinciding with this change in technology is a change in people. We’ve transitioned from a world of people who love processed foods and french fries to people who eat kale chips and Greek yogurt…and actually like it.

People are taking ownership of their well-being, and preventative care is at the forefront of focus for both physicians and patients. Fitness trackers alert wearers of the exact number of calories burned from walking a certain number of steps. Mobile apps calculate our perfect nutritional balance. And even while we sleep, people are realizing that it’s important to monitor vitals.

According to research conducted at Harvard University, proper sleep patterns bolster healthy side effects such as improved immune function, a faster metabolism, preserved memory, and reduced stress and depression.

Conversely, the Harvard study determined that lack of sleep can negatively affect judgement, mood, and the ability retain information, as well as increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even premature death.

Through the Internet of Things, researchers can now explore sleep patterns without the usual sleep labs and movement-restricting electrode wires. And with connected devices, individuals can now easily monitor and positively influence their own health.

EarlySense, a startup credited with the creation of continuous patient monitoring solutions focused on early detection of patient deterioration, mid-sleep falls, and pressure ulcers, began with a mission to prevent premature and preventable deaths.

Without constant monitoring, patients with unexpected clinical deterioration may be accidentally neglected, and their conditions can easily escalate into emergency situations.

Motivated by many instances of patients who died from preventable post-elective surgery complications, EarlySense founders created a product that constantly monitors patients when hospital nurses can’t, alerting the main nurse station when a patient leaves his or her bed and could potentially fall, or when a patient’s vital signs drop or rise unexpectedly.

Now EarlySense technology has expanded outside of the hospital realm. The EarlySense wellness sensor, a device connected via the Internet of Things, mobile solutions, and supported by SAP HANA Cloud Platform, monitors all vital signs while a person sleeps. The device is completely wireless and lies subtly underneath one’s mattress. The sensor collects all mechanical vibrations that the patient’s body emits while sleeping, continuously monitoring heart and respiratory rates.

Watch this short video to learn more about how the EarlySense wellness sensor works:

The result is faster diagnoses with better treatments and outcomes. Sleep issues can be identified and addressed; individuals can use the data collected to make adjustments in diet or exercise habits; and those on heavy pain medications can monitor the way their bodies react to the medication. In addition, physicians can use the data collected from the sensor to identify patient health problems before they escalate into an emergency situation.

Connected care is opening the door for a new way to practice health. Through connected care apps that link people with their doctors, fitness trackers that measure daily activity, and sensors like the EarlySense wellness sensor, today’s technology enables people and physicians to work together to prevent sickness and accidents before they occur. Technology is forever changing the way we live, and in turn we are living longer, healthier lives.

To learn how SAP HANA Cloud Platform can affect your business, visit It&Me.

For more stories, join me on Twitter.

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Christine Donato

About Christine Donato

Christine Donato is a Senior Integrated Marketing Specialist at SAP. She is an accomplished project manager and leader of multiple marketing and sales enablement campaigns and events, that supported a multi million euro business.

Zhena’s Gypsy Tea Brews Sustainable Growth On Cloud ERP

David Trites

Recently I had the pleasure of hosting a podcast with Paula Muesse, COO and CFO of Zhena’s Gypsy Tea, a small, organic, fair-trade tea company based in California, and Ursula Ringham from SAP. We talked about some of the business challenges Zhena’s faces and how the company’s ERP solution helped spur growth and digital transformation.

Small but complex business

~ERP helped Zhena’s sustain growthZhena’s has grown from one person (Zhena Muzyka) selling hand-packed tea from a cart, into a thriving small business that puts quality, sustainability, and fair trade first. And although the company is small its business is complex.

For starters, tea isn’t grown in the United States, so Zhena’s has to maintain and import inventory from multiple warehouses around the world. Some of their tea blends have up to 14 ingredients, and each one has a different lead time. That makes demand-planning difficult. In addition, the FDA and US Customs require designated ingredients be traced and treated a certain way to comply with regulations.

Being organic and fair trade also makes things more complicated. Zhena’s has to pass an annual organic compliance audit for all products and processing facilities. And all products need to be traceable back to the farms where the tea was grown and picked to ensure the workers (mostly women) are paid fair wages.

Sustainable growth

Prior to implementing its new ERP system, Zhena’s was using a mix of tools like QuickBooks, Excel, and paper to manage the business. But to sustain growth and ensure future success, the company had to make some changes. Zhena’s needed an integrated software solution that could handle all facets of the business. It needed a tool that could help with cost control and profitability analysis and facilitate complex reporting and regulatory requirements.

The SAP Business ByDesign solution was the perfect choice. The cloud-based ERP solution reduced both business and IT costs, simplified processes from demand planning to accounting, and enabled mobile access and real-time reporting.

Check out the podcast to hear more about how Zhena’s successfully transformed its business by moving to SAP Business ByDesign.

 This article originally appeared on SAP Business Trends.

Building a successful company is hard work. SAP’s affordable solutions for small and midsize companies are designed to make it easier. Simple to install and use, SAP SME Solutions help you automate and integrate your business processes to give real-time, actionable insights. So you can make decisions on the spot. Find out how Run Simple can work for you. Visit sap.com/sme.

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David Trites

About David Trites

David Trites is a Director of SAP Global Marketing. He is responsible for producing interesting and compelling customer stories that will humanize the SAP brand, support sales and marketing teams across SAP, and increase the awareness of SAP in key markets.

The Robotics Race

Stephanie Overby

As robotic technologies continue to advance, along with related technologies such as speech and image recognition, memory and analytics, and virtual and augmented reality, better, faster, and cheaper robots will emerge. These machines – sophisticated, discerning, and increasingly autonomous – are certain to have an impact on business and society. But will they bring job displacement and danger or create new categories of employment and protect humankind?

We talked to SAP’s Kai Goerlich, along with Doug Stephen of the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition and Brett Kennedy from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, about the advances we can expect in robotics, robots’ limitations, and their likely impact on the world.

SAP_Robotics_QA_images2400x16002

qa_qWhat are the biggest drivers of the robot future?

Kai Goerlich: Several trends will come together to drive the robotics market in the next 15 to 20 years. The number of connected things and sensors will grow to the billions and the data universe will likewise explode. We think the speed of analytics will increase, with queries answered in milliseconds. Image and voice recognition – already quite good – will surpass human capabilities. And the virtual and augmented reality businesses will take off. These technologies are all building blocks for a new form of robotics that will vastly expand today’s capabilities in a diversity of forms and applications.

Brett Kennedy: When I was getting out of school, there weren’t that many people working in robotics. Now kids in grade school are exposed to a lot of things that I had to learn on the job, so they come into the workplace with a lot more knowledge and fewer preconceptions about what robots can or can’t do based on their experiences in different industries. That results in a much better-trained workforce in robotics, which I think is the most important thing.

In addition, many of the parts that we need for more sophisticated robots are coming out of other fields. We could never create enough critical mass to develop these technologies specifically for robotics. But we’re getting them from other places. Improvements in battery technology, which enable a robot to function without being plugged in, are being driven by industries such as mobile electronics and automotive, for example. Our RoboSimian has a battery drive originally designed for an electric motorcycle.

qa_qDo you anticipate a limit to the tasks robots will be able to master as these core technologies evolve?

Goerlich: Robots will take over more and more complex functions, but I think the ultimate result will be that new forms of human-machine interactions will emerge. Robots have advantages in crunching numbers, lifting heavy objects, working in dangerous environments, moving with precision, and performing repetitive tasks. However, humans still have advantages in areas such as abstraction, curiosity, creativity, dexterity, fast and multidimensional feedback, self-motivation, goal setting, and empathy. We’re also comparatively lightweight and efficient.

Doug Stephen: We’re moving toward a human-machine collaboration approach, which I think will become the norm for more complex tasks for a very long time. Even when we get to the point of creating more-complex and general-purpose robots, they won’t be autonomous. They’ll have a great deal of interaction with some sort of human teammate or operator.

qa_qHow about the Mars Rover? It’s relatively autonomous already.

Kennedy: The Mars Rover is autonomous to a certain degree. It is capable of supervised autonomy because there’s no way to control it at that distance with a joystick. But it’s really just executing the intent of the operator here on the ground.

In 2010, DARPA launched its four-year Autonomous Robotic Manipulator Challenge to create machines capable of carrying out complex tasks with only high-level human involvement. Some robots completed the challenge, but they were incredibly slow. We may get to a point where robots can do these sorts of things on their own. But they’re just not as good as people at this point. I don’t think we’re all going to be coming home to robot butlers anytime soon.

Stephen: It’s extremely difficult to program robots to behave as humans do. When we trip over something, we can recover quickly, but a robot will topple over and damage itself. The problem is that our understanding of our human abilities is limited. We have to figure out how to formally define the processes that human beings or any legged animals use to maintain balance or to walk and then tell a robot how to do it.

You have to be really explicit in the instructions that you give to these machines. Amazon has been working on these problems for a while with its “picking challenge”: How do you teach a robot to pick and pack boxes the way a human does? Right now, it’s a challenge for robots to identify what each item is.

qa_qSo if I’m not coming home to a robot butler in 20 years, what am I coming home to?

Goerlich: We naturally tend to imagine humanoid robots, but I think the emphasis will be on human-controlled robots, not necessarily humanshaped units. Independent robots will make sense in some niches, but they are more complex and expensive. The symbiosis of human and machine is more logical. It will be the most efficient way forward. Robotic suits, exoskeletons, and robotic limbs with all kinds of human support functions will be the norm. The future will be more Iron Man than Terminator.

qa_qWhat will be the impact on the job market as robots become more advanced?

SAP_Robotics_QA_images2400x16004Goerlich: The default fear is of a labor-light economy where robots do most of the work and humans take what’s left over. But that’s lastcentury thinking. Robots won’t simply replace workers on the assembly line. In fact, we may not have centralized factories anymore; 3D printing and the maker movement could change all that. And it is probably not the Terminator scenario either, where humanoid robots take over the world and threaten humankind. The indicators instead point to human-machine coevolution.

There’s no denying that advances in robotics and artificial intelligence will displace some jobs performed by humans today. But for every repetitive job that is lost to automation, it’s possible that a more interesting, creative job will take its place. This will require humans to focus on the skills that robots can’t replicate – and, of course, rethink how we do things and how the economy works.

qa_qWhat can businesses do today to embrace the projected benefits of advanced robotics?

Kennedy: Experiment. The very best things that we’ve been able to produce have come from people having the tools an d then figuring out how they can be used. I don’t think we understand the future well enough to be able to predict exactly how robots are going to be used, but I think we can say that they certainly will be used. Stephanie Overby is an independent writer and editor focused on the intersection of business and technology.

Stephanie Overby  is an independent writer and editor focused on the intersection of business and technology

To learn more about how humans and robots will co-evolve, read the in-depth report Bring Your Robot to Work.

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IoT, Sensors, And All Things Digital: Can We Handle It All?

Kai Goerlich

It seems we are all part of a big experiment. We’re testing our data-driven consciousness and determining how much information we can digest and at what speed. And if we continue at our current pace, we will soon see sensors and ambient computing infuse our personal and professional lives with a myriad of interactive things. Even items such as coffee mugs may be connected.

In such a digital-driven, hyperconnected world, our perceptions will heavily depend on virtual experiences and our biological view. To get a sense of where we are heading, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Dr. Yvonne Förster, professor of philosophy of culture at Leuphana University in Germany, to get her perspective.

Q: The speed of digital change is just incredible. It’s hard to imagine that we will always be able to keep up. Will humans find a way to cope with the speed of digital change?

A: Without a doubt, algorithms are faster than our conscious thinking. And although our physical reflexes and our intuition are quite fast, they are still slower than the latest computers available right now. From this perspective, we face many challenges.

Much of our future experiences in a digitized world will be powered by technological devices that operate on micro-timescales. The Internet of Things is a term that describes technologically permeated lifeworlds comprising billions of sensors and highly interconnected devices, which measure – or more precisely, sense – various activities in their environment. The interesting question is not so much about coping, but the perspectives and possible futures of human life itself. How will we evolve while changing our lifeworld?

Q: If we cannot operate at the speed of computers, will we experience disruptions between more direct, data-induced experiences?

A: Not necessarily. Disruptions are exactly what modern technology tries to avoid. Smooth operation and flow are ideal in technology and design, allowing applications to be invisible and creating self-learning systems.

Understanding how technology influences our perception today is a subject of aesthetic research. Media artists try the impossible: Make the invisible visible or render the nonexperiential rhythm and speed of algorithms experiential. It would be naïve to think that the exponential growth in exposure to technological devices would leave people unchanged.

Evolution goes on in culture. And nowadays, we are not just passively shaped by adaptive behavior; we can also actively alter our bodies and minds. New digitized environments and our own wish to extend human life will be fundamental forces in the game of evolution, which we should carefully reflect on.

Q: Will we still experience our environment without additional interactions? Will nature become a dull world to us?

A: I don’t think so. The world will be a fascinating place in the next few decades when it comes to technological development. It doesn’t necessarily mean that every device will remove us from our environments like the dystopian world portrayed in movies such as The Matrix or Surrogates. But, we also shouldn’t forget that our experiences in nature and everything else are always mediated by cultural concepts, attitudes, and technological devices.

Just think of the perception of time, which has been interceded through watches of all kinds for centuries now. Some would even hold that human culture is essentially rooted in technology from its very beginning. Still, as long as we preserve nature, our world will never be a dull place. There are just new perspectives to discover.

Q: How will wearables and sensors help us achieve new perspectives?

A: The interesting question here is: How will our lifeworld and behavior change when sensors are present everywhere? With the omnipresence of sensors and devices that sense locations and other types of human agency, we find ourselves in an environment that is not only tracked by living beings, but also by highly interconnected technological devices. You could even one day say that walls, streets, or cars have eyes in the most literal sense possible.

Sensing is not a concept only about living organisms anymore. Rather, it’s a ubiquitous property of our lifeworld. This will deeply change how we act and interact with each other – but more important, it will transform how we engage with objects. Our lifeworld is altered by the Internet of Things as objects sense and communicate among themselves. The impact of this technological development has yet to be estimated and described.

Q: Will everyone become digitized?

A: If we define digitization as a significant part of everyday life that is connected to digital technology, then we are already digitized. However, if we mean that technology will invade our bodies and turn us into cyborgs that are physically connected to the Internet, this is already becoming a reality in laboratories. This idea is strongly connected to enhancing the human body and mind. Still, most people remain skeptical when it comes to technology invading the body.

We can think of a third alternative of digitization: The co-evolution of humans and technology. When our world is deeply permeated by technology, it will present different and new opportunities to humans. We can develop new ways of behavior, creativity, and thinking. Also, we will need to engage with technology and actively reflect on its use.

This approach calls for an understanding of technology as a precondition for handling such innovation critically and creatively. We see these kinds of engagement emerging from artistic and scientific practice. Jennifer Gabrys, for example, works with sensor technology used by citizens in different environments, such as fracking areas, to better understand and build awareness around changing environmental conditions by using do-it-yourself technology.

Q: Will we have a choice in what we do – or do not – want to know?

A: Yes, we certainly have a choice. As biological beings, we are adaptive. The presence of technology is evolving – and will continue to change – our perception and behavior. If we don’t reflect on that process, we will remain passive and eventually feel outrun by technology.

Still, technology is our making, even though it is not entirely predictable and manageable. Given that technology functions according to emerging patterns of artificial intelligence, we should be prepared to engage in new processes of understanding and agency in computed environments.

Q: Will digitization change the way I experience my body?

A: The playful element of digitization will change the way we learn as well as the knowledge space of what can be known. It’s not just transformation of the thinking process or the quality of decisions, but an evolution of the body as well. In gaming, for example, we use evolutionary, yet old and hard-wired, behaviors such as flight-or-fight reflexes. This means digital gaming is less about our culturally and highly rated reflection, but more on gut feeling and our intuitive mode of acting. But, it might also bring about completely new patterns of behavior and action or reaction.

Another aspect of bodily experiences in times of digitization is the measurement of movement and live data such as heartbeat, blood pressure, and more. This is accompanied by an objectification of a bodily experience. We tend to perceive ourselves as numbers, such as the number of steps we have walked or the calories we have eaten. This might be problematic because it can distract us from our actual bodily state, which is not tantamount to a number or chart appearing on a screen.

The flipside of this is the issue of Big Data and control. Where does this information go, and who uses it? Will your insurance company be interested what your everyday habits are? This seems very likely and should be observed carefully.

Q: How will we experience the world in the future? Will it be in the form of data streams?

A: The world around us is getting sense-driven; it will have eyes and ears. I am waiting for the day when my refrigerator starts arguing with me when I grab a piece of steak instead of a salad. But more interesting is the question of what happens when information goes beyond being presented as text, video, or speech to include body temperature, heart rate, and the pitch of our voice. What kind of knowledge will be generated out of this data?

In the movie Ex Machina, such information leads to the first self-conscious android named AVA. But, I am sure that we will not perceive data streams. Data by itself has no value as long as it is not interpreted. Also, our brains are not an information-processing organ. It generates information only through sense-making activities.

Life never deals with raw data. Movement and perception are to be understood as relational activities, which bring about meaningful structures such as me as an individual and you as another person. Similarly, we will conceive technology as part of our environment and, therefore, part of a sense-making process that extends beyond human perception.

Q: If data could be experienced directly one day, where is the border that separates us from it?

A: Current technologies, such as augmented reality and Google glasses, will not change very much. Even if the physical and virtual worlds merge, these technologies will not interfere with our sense of self. The sense of self is already a stretchy category since cultural practices can alter it profoundly. Mediation techniques, for example, can broaden our ability to be compassionate and make the self subside in meditation and agency.

Another interesting development is the use of invasive techniques that substitute or change our perceptual and cognitive abilities. An example is Neil Harbisson, who can hear colors, or Enno Park, who is using a hearing aid with a speech processor that transfers sounds into digital signals that are sent directly to the brain.

Merging human bodies and technology can create new forms of sensing and acting. Even the ontological gap between what is human and what is technology might become blurred. But this is old news. The self has – and never had – any fixed limitations. We become what we are by interacting with each other and our environment. And we are always evolving; no self is ever complete. The moment you meet another person, you undergo a change. This is why we should not be afraid of losing ourselves in the future.

Q: Will we co-evolve with machines, rather than creating a world similar to The Terminator?

Certainly the merging of humans and machines is an interesting idea as it promises to overcome human limitations. It’s part of our human nature to adapt, and I have the impression that we are entering an era of a new form of cultural evolution that combines biological, technological, and cultural practices.

The most important lesson we will learn is that technology will develop in unforeseen, not programmable, ways. This might destroy the myth of the human as a rational being who can understand and predict the reasons and consequences of an action. Humanity is a very creative species, but we have a hard time understanding complex and nonlinear processes. These processes have become ubiquitous since the Internet became our second nature and stock markets are partly controlled by algorithms.

Complex processes also lie at the core of life. The best example is our own brain whose inner workings are highly complex and nonlinear. Still, we lack the cognitive abilities to understand them. This is why we should experiment and reflect on the possibilities of a life form that engages with technology as a complex process and cannot be simply controlled and predicted. Issues of data privacy, information ownership, and governance need to be discussed in light of ecological entanglement with technology.

For more on this topic, see Live Business: The Importance of the Internet of Things.

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Kai Goerlich

About Kai Goerlich

Kai Goerlich is the Idea Director of Thought Leadership at SAP. His specialties include Competitive Intelligence, Market Intelligence, Corporate Foresight, Trends, Futuring and ideation. Share your thoughts with Kai on Twitter @KaiGoe.