Digital: How 5G will boost Big Industry

David McClure

The acceleration of digital transformation across industries because of the COVID pandemic and the rapid build-out and adoption of 5G is having a huge impact on the way that big business is planning for new market opportunities.

The response to the pandemic, with lockdowns and border closures, restricted travel and the impact on office work has generated a surge in planning for digitalisation and the creation of new business models.

Across different industry sectors, big business is looking at ways to position themselves to take full advantage of opportunities as businesses and economies emerge into a new world order.

The thinking is that companies are accelerating digital transformation now not only as a response to the current difficult work environment, but also to be fast out of the blocks as economic activity picks up.

Adrian Beer, Corrie McLeod, Tony Harb
Digital acceleration: METS Ignited’s Adrian Beer, InnovationAus publisher Corrie McLeod and Verizon Business’ Tony Harb

In this episode of Verizon’s podcast series, The Age of Trust – Securing Our Future, InnovationAus publisher Corrie McLeod talks to the chief executive officer of the METS Ignited growth centre Adrian Beer and Verizon Business head of solution architects Tony Harb. Both report seeing a significant increase in activity related to digitisation.

As the CEO of METS Ignited, Adrian Beer has good visibility of the widespread adoption of Industry 4.0 technology. The METS sector – or Mining Equipment, Technology and Services – in Australia is a genuine world leader and a major reason our resources sector is so competitive, by any yardstick.

But METS is about technology, not resources and Australian leadership is in areas like remote sensoring, automation, robotics, and logistics.

Mr Beer says that Australia is well placed to lead the widespread adoption of Industry 4.0 technology and sees a parallel acceleration towards processes automated of “the last mile”, and says he has witnessed accelerated digital activity in mining in 2020.

“Automation has been central to the mining industry for nearly 20 years. COVID-19 accelerated the last mile of automation as companies that had partly implemented automation solutions hurried to complete that process to enable fully-remote working for mining,” Mr Beer said.

“The biggest opportunity in expanding automation is getting access to robust networking and connectivity. Without that, they are unable to achieve those outcomes, so it is a primary focus for the industry at the moment.”

Verizon’s Tony Harb said “becoming digital is critical to survival as a business.

“We have seen an acceleration of digital transformation and discussions around 5G,” he said. “Customers are saying what would normally have occurred over four years has been done in six months as a result of the pandemic, bringing projects to the forefront previously planned in several years’ time.

“New technologies such as virtual reality, machine learning or 5G are now becoming key to their planning for this year.”

The healthcare sector is also keen to make use of the high bandwidth and low latency that come with 5G networks.

“We are seeing healthcare organisations leveraging Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) combined with the capabilities of 5G to enable robotic control surgery and remote analysis,” said Mr Harb, adding these advanced techniques made sense given Australia’s vast distances.

Local manufacturing would also be a chief beneficiary of the accelerated 5G roll out.

“The factory floor is just starting to change. It goes beyond just looking at how you can help control costs and minimise downtime to really making that factory floor reconfigurable.”

“Quality assurance can be improved. One customer has integrated IoT, AI, machine learning and digital vision to automate quality assurance. They take pictures of the circuit boards to automatically determine whether there’s a quality issue or not,” said Mr Harb.

Smart city integration was another natural use case for 5G and an area where businesses and communities and seeking to put in place planning and infrastructure that will enable them to be fast out of the blocks on the other side of COVID.

“There is a technology convergence taking place, whether it’s about the autonomous vehicle or how it interacts with its environment, right through to traffic management, and how we manage traffic in a real time point of view,” Mr Harb said.

“At the moment, these processes are still very static, or it’s based upon someone having to do something manually from a traffic control centre.”

What sort of person is driving the current digitisation drive in organisations?

Adrian Beer says that in the resources sector there has been a transition over the last five years from chief information officer to the chief digital officer and on to chief transformation officer.

Most recently, that chief transformation officer is becoming more prevalent, Mr Beer said. “That chief transformation officer is now maturing the digital transformation process in organisations.”

While the traditional CIO remains a powerful role, there is a new breed of technology influencer arising.

“Because of the rate of innovation and the speed that things are changing you start seeing people who are focused on customer experience within an organisation, said Mr Harb.

“These are the people looking at how to leverage all these capabilities to drive the customer experience. So, you are seeing it moving from the traditional people who are driving technology to new functional groups looking at different capabilities that are seeing how they can best leverage them in their organisation.”

The Age of Trust – Securing Our Future is produced in partnership by InnovationAus and Verizon Business Solutions.

In the next episode of the Verizon, Securing Our Future podcast series Verizon’s Prescott Pym and Australian Federal Police Cybercrime Operations Commander Chris Goldsmid will discuss the findings of the 2020 Data Breach Investigation Report in an episode entitled Securing the Heartbeat of Knowledge.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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