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Digitization and Our Future

Digitization has been a huge buzz word this year. I’ve heard some people equate it to another Industrial Revolution: the Digital Industrial Revolution. What is digitization? What does that mean? What is the Internet of Things or the Internet of Everything? How will I be impacted? These are all great questions and things that we will explore.


For a quick definition, digitization is converting anything that is currently analog to a digital form. (See http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/digitization.html, Gartner’s definition is also similar)  An example is taking the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and putting the content online so that people can download it to their iPads. That’s the simplest definition, but digitization or digital disruption is really a whole lot more than that. (http://blogs.wsj.com/cio/2014/11/12/what-the-heck-is-digitization-anyway/) What if you take a manual process (eg. sales incentive creation and approval) and make it an online process? That can also be digitization. Cisco has a really good definition, albeit a bit more complicated than the first one posited above: “Digitization is connecting people, process, data, and things together to increase the mobility of data and workforce to enhance efficiency and productivity”. I like this definition.


There are currently 18.2 billion connections to the internet throughout the world. This is expected to grow to 50 billion by 2020. That’s in 4 years. The current number of connections is expected to almost TRIPLE in only 4 years. What’s the expectation that’s going on here? We will have MORE connected devices. We have already started to see this happen in terms of Nest, the internet connected digital thermostat….we’re seeing it in Phillips HUE, Wi-Fi enabled lights…we’ve seen it in digital locks on our doors that can unlock our home through a tap of a button on our phone…we’ve seen it in Amazon pods which can re-order specific products when we’re low…we’ve seen it in baby monitors that stream video and allow parents to speak to their children from different rooms.  All of these products are connected to the internet. This is the Internet of Things or the Internet of Everything.


Within this, companies are seeing an opportunity. Companies see value in having an internet connection for their devices which may not have had one previously, or innovating to create a new product. Imagine the possibilities of data mining all of these devices. You’ll see when I turn my lights on and off, when I put my home shades up and down, what are the top products on my grocery list, how I heat or cool my home, etc. From that data, imagine the possibilities of connecting better to customers, and the potential for predictive analytics. This is only the tip of the iceberg. Imagine entire countries digitizing and what effects that could have on society as a whole. The World Economic Forum published a white paper on Societal Implications which states that many jobs will go away through digitization: they’ll be automated; but also digitization will have the potential to net create jobs.


How does all of this impact you? You have likely already seen the virtualization of the workforce. People can work from wherever, almost whenever. Your team may be spread all around the world. Who knew that Columbus was actually right in saying that the world is flat? Only he was 500 years too early and said it to understand literally rather than figuratively. This means that everyone will need some kind of tech background and understanding. There’s already a huge push for biologists to have a tech background to better understand how to use analytics and potentially even machine learning to solve problems. Deepen your skills and understanding of technology and software development. Strengthen your communication skills so that you can work within a virtualized workforce, which means having less in person face-to-face contact. These are 2 seemingly simple and small suggestions, but they will go a long way in terms of the future and your career.

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