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This content was paid for by Verizon and produced in partnership with the Financial Times Commercial department.

Future proofing business with real-time data

In an era of rapid change and great uncertainty, the organisations which keep pace with technology and are able to exploit its potential are best placed to prosper. 

This is one of the main conclusions reached in a new Verizon Business report, The Future Of Work. Commissioned with The FT’s research team Longitude, the report identifies a number of key issues facing organisations and the steps they need to take if they are to grow in such demanding times.

Produced in two stages, the report identifies four key, interconnected dimensions – technology, skills and behaviours, leadership and new ways of working – that executives were asked to rank. The findings then became the basis for the Future of Work Index, which used 12 characteristics to rate a company’s future readiness. The top 20 per cent of companies in the index were labelled Pioneers, the bottom 20 per cent Late Movers.

Of the four key dimensions, technology emerged as the leading factor in improving competitiveness, particularly emerging technology such as data analytics, IoT, 5G, software-defined networking (SDN), machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI). More than 90 per cent of Pioneers that were measuring the impact of IoT and AI/ML said they had seen benefits in terms of improved revenue, profit and customer experience. And 66 per cent of those respondents said the crisis had emphasised the importance of being able to deploy new technologies rapidly.

Why real-time data is a game changer

While it is clear emerging technologies such as data analytics, ML and AI are already having an impact, there are greater benefits to be tapped, especially the ability to use them in combination, which creates a powerful tool in the shape of real-time data. Harvesting and analysing data already provides businesses with competitive advantages, but when it can be employed in real time the impact can be multiplied exponentially. It has the potential to help companies identify and address issues, pivot and even change business models.

 

66 per cent of ‘Pioneers’ said the crisis had emphasised the importance of being able to deploy new technologies rapidly

 

The quicker data can be collected and processed, the more usefully it can be applied. Fast-tracking deliveries is already commonplace. In medical tech, IoT data can be employed in an artificial pancreas to gauge the amount of glucose in the bloodstream and administer insulin accordingly. In car insurance processing claims using an app and AI/ML-based image recognition and fraud detection is shortening resolution to days, sometimes hours. None of these things, however, currently happen in real time. 

Real-time IoT-driven AI/ML applications are still rare. Where they exist, they tend to use very limited AI/ML, or involve scenarios where the internet-connected nature of the IoT device isn't central to the real-time AI/ML application. Smart thermostats, for example, can learn the temperature preferences of their users and adjust their settings accordingly but it's very limited learning. Self-driving cars with AI-powered driver-assist system systems rely on connected sensors installed on-board.

Unlocking the full potential of data

One of the main factors holding back real-time data applications was connectivity speed and cost effectiveness. 5G offers the solution to unleashing their vast potential. 

Combined with advances in edge computing, 5G offers fast, affordable connectivity that can move large volumes of data incredibly rapidly. For IoT devices, this can mean single-digit millisecond latency and more connections at once - up to one million per square kilometre. Machines will be able to exchange information in a way that’s currently not possible at scale and the effect will be transformational in many sectors.

 

57 per cent of respondents said they expected that their organisations would boost investment in 5G once the worst economic impact of the crisis is over

 

For example, it can deliver real-time augmented-reality guidance to engineers working on a jet engine or create safety critical applications such as intelligent collision-avoidance systems in dangerous industrial machinery. In retail, it can be used to create extended reality changing rooms and intelligent virtual assistants. It could shape medical care- tracking prescriptions to provide per-unit visibility in the pharmaceutical supply chain. 

Where 5G accelerates the transfer of data, edge computing provides the ability to process it rapidly. Currently, when data is transferred to a data centre there is a lag in response, but edge computing dramatically reduces that.

The Future Of Work report suggests attitudes to 5G have shifted considerably since the pandemic began and it has moved up the agenda with 57 per cent of respondents saying they expected that their organisations would boost investment in 5G once the worst of the economic impact is over.

One of the key effects of the pandemic has been to focus the best organisations more acutely on strategy and innovation. The World Economic Forum has called this period The Great Reset, a pivotal moment when business leaders embrace transformation. Technologies are developing extremely rapidly but capital is being squeezed as never before. Companies must remain flexible and develop strategies that allow them to seize new opportunities as they emerge. Identifying expert partners who can help them recognise, respond and facilitate those opportunities is paramount.

Learn more about the Verizon Business framework for assessing and responding to digital transformation readiness.

 

Discover what distinguishes Pioneers from Late-movers in the Verizon Business Future of Work report