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How digital disruption is already changing customers’ lives

In an age of intelligent cloud and intelligent edge – an age of AI-powered virtual agents and intelligent bots – it’s hard to recall a time, when, not long ago, finding the simplest piece of information demanded hours of poring over encyclopaedias.

What about a time before cloud, when adapting to the changing needs of customers could take years – months to discover, months to decide on action, and months to implement?
Fast forward to the current age of digital transformation, and change can now be seen and adapted to in real time. Breakthroughs in technology have allowed innovators to create without the drawn-out processes that beleaguered them before, and to do so at unprecedented scale and speed, often made possible by the boundless intelligence of the cloud.

Digital transformation allows them to deliver meaningful, measurable change, built on four pillars: the engagement of customers, the empowerment of employees, the optimisation of operations and the transformation of products.

Businesses around the world are using them to move ahead of the pack – to lead and inspire.

Autonomous driving

Ihsan Anabtawi, chief operating and marketing officer, Microsoft Gulf
Ihsan Anabtawi, chief operating and marketing officer, Microsoft Gulf

China’s leading Internet search provider Baidu has established an open platform called Apollo that is nothing less than a full hardware-software solution for autonomous vehicles.
The solution exploits the fact that today’s vehicles are voracious retainers of data. With the application of cloud AI, machine-learning, and deep neural-network capabilities, Apollo has taken a huge step forward in making autonomous vehicles safer. Projects such as Baidu’s are causing market-watchers to predict impressive adoption figures for autonomous vehicles. McKinsey projects that up to 15 percent of new cars sold in 2030 will be fully autonomous.

Sales support

It’s easy to see how millennial-run Internet firms are among the first to digitally transform, but what about companies that are older than any living human beings? Market intelligence firm Dun & Bradstreet has been around for 176 years, but is living proof that being venerable does not necessarily equate to being set in your ways. Companies all over the world use Dun & Bradstreet data and analytics services for business-to-business sales and marketing, risk management, supply-chain management, sales-lead scoring, and credit-history management. The company realised it could use the cloud to offer Data-as-a-Service. The company decided to leverage the cloud to make its creditworthiness data available to its customers through CRM applications, allowing sales teams to qualify leads in real time.

A sporting chance

Sports teams, managers and club owners not only compete on the field, pitch, court or track – they are constantly occupied with fan engagement. Digital transformation is playing a starring role in that story and has reached MVP status among sports-facility innovators. The cloud has brought spectators the connected stadium and the livestream app, as well as real-time information about teams and players.

La Liga, Spain’s premier association football league, is home to the world’s best clubs and players – Real Madrid and their star man Cristiano Ronaldo, and Barcelona, led by Argentinian talisman Lionel Messi. The league’s organising body has used technology to engage fans by giving them round-the-clock access to their favourite players. AI solutions and cloud services allow fans to personalise their interactions, specifying the kind of content in which they are most interested, and then receiving, for example, videos that reflect their preferences, or stats on their favourite teams or players.

FoxTales, meanwhile, is a California-based company that provides a cloud-connected hardware platform at stadiums and events, for the creation of branded portraits, animated GIFs, burst GIFs, 360 videos and more. Fans then share the created material on social media pages, depicting concocted images of themselves on a baseball card or them dashing onto a field during live play.

Greenfield tech

Gil Cowie, CEO and founder of SmartCart Technology, has hit a hole in one in the global golfing community, with SmartCartSVX, an all-weather, ultra-bright, interactive touch-screen system for television sports broadcasters. CBS coverage of the PGA Tour showed Cowie’s device in action, where the technology allowed analysts to dissect video replays and pick out stats, giving spectators a true, inside look.

SmartCartSVX was also used at Wimbledon 2017, and other versions have been used in the European Tour, Ryder Cup, UEFA Champions League, English Premier League, NFL International Series and Formula 1. For Cowie, the technology represents the power to step inside the game – to transform broadcasts so that those watching an event at home can get closer to the action and feel like they are there, watching it up close.

Sometimes, however, digital transformation becomes all about the internals – transforming the product and optimising operations. In NASCAR racing, the ability to shave fractions of a second off lap times and pit stops is the difference between the victor and the also-rans. At the same time, race-day officials want to get drivers back to full speed as soon as possible, following caution flags. A cloud-connected app allows all of that to happen. Historical data, timing, scoring, pit-road officiating, video replay and car positioning have been merged into a single platform supported by a hardware tool the size of a hockey puck. The entire solution maps every aspect of the race, enhancing safety, competitiveness and accuracy.

The future is here

“The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed,” fiction writer William Gibson famously said. Digital transformation is not a theoretical, utopian prediction. It is going on right now, all over the world, as you read this.

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