Prepare to be digitalized
The digital era is here. And everybody is talking about it. Things are changing extremely rapidly at the moment and around every corner lies something that will disrupt our markets, our products or our way of life.
But this is actually old news - or no news.
The digital era has been here for a long time. Apple Computer is - like me - in its 40’s. I got my first home computer (a Vic 20) in 1982. The 3D printer has more than 2 decades on its back. And AR (Augmented Reality) is so 2000’s, [space] ships have been autonomous or remote controlled for a long time, not to say trains, like our own Metro here in Copenhagen, which was inaugurated in 2002. Robots have been serving assembly lines for quite some time as well. Is it just old wine in new bottles?
What then is all this talk about the new technologies? Why the buzz at the moment? The reality is somewhere in between. We are at the moment seeing a number of technologies starting to mature and find its way into new areas. Technologies, which earlier served military purposes, have now found its way into the consumer market - drones as one remarkable example. Different technologies are now easier combined, and technologies are opened up for programming and interfacing through open source principles.
Automation is much talked about. Both of the fearful and the fearless.
Imagine blind people can now enjoy the freedom of roaming around in the cars, or the increased safety for road traffic, which currently kills 1,4 million people yearly on a global scale, mainly due to unconcentrated, tired or drugged humans behind the wheel. Or the freedom to work when driving to work - or not having to worry about driving home after enjoying a glass of champagne with your colleagues on a Friday after work.
Imagine countless vehicles, ships or planes roaming around on fully automatic leaving thousands and yet thousands of chauffeur’s, seafarers or pilots hanging out on the street corners jobless. How on earth we can automate machines to operate in complex environments with the possibilities of children running in front of driverless cars, autonomous ships entering into stormy and unpredictable weather or airplanes with faulty engines to be landed safely on the nearest river (maybe Hudson River). And for all this - we have to talk about the legal aspects.
In the automotive industry, we see two paths taken. The Tesla path - where the driver is assisted more and the Google path where the computer is put into the driver seat - literarilly speaking.
Another technology which has matured rapidly over the past year is the 3D printer - All though there are still more people who are clever on 3D printing (including me) than those who have actually worked with it.
But how will 3D printing affect our industry? Well, first a little understanding, insight and then realism about the technology will help. Then there will probably still be quite many years to worry whether 3D printers will replace the need for shipping - this is probably not going to happen in the next decade. Printing a plastic cup, an umbrella, and an auto chair for your child or an AC/DC t-shirt simply does not make sense - it consumes way, way too much energy compared to traditional processes. This said - we can easily see more and more parts of our consumer products that are 3D printed - as is the case for hearing aids, where 3D printing in the process is an advantage.
And hits is the key point - there needs to be an advantage. There is an advantage when a lab can prototype a model in a fraction of the time compared to the traditional prototyping processed. Or if you onboard a ship can print a critical spare part needed to bring you safely to port and arrange a proper repair. Or if you can make special sections of pipes or tools which is far lighter or more optimal for the job if produced with traditional methods.
Again we have a concept, which has been around for more than a few years. In military quite a few governments have experimented with drones (both sailing, diving or flying) - some failed and some succeeded. The Danish Navy and Air Force have been amongst them. In the offshore industry, ROV’s (Remote Operated Vehicles) are also commonly used for inspection and maintenance of subsea installations. Today any hypermarket with respect for itself has a number of different drones on their shelves. Commonly used for monitoring farmland condition, making cheap fly-by videos or for looking into your neighbor’s garden, and off course delivery of packages all over the world.
VR and AR
During Danish Maritime Days, at Danish Maritime Fair, you would be most welcome to come by our booth. This year we are highlighting a specific technology, namely Virtual Reality and 360 degrees video. It will be a showcase of the technology and we will dive into the possibilities this media has given us through workshops enabling folks to get their hands dirty. When taking AR (augmented reality) into the picture we can see new opportunities arising.
If you want to explore this technology, a good place to start is EMUC’s booth at the Danish Maritime Fair.
In terms of AR, I really believe this is a technology of the future - because it is the essence of this, that data and information from various sources are combined to provide information or interaction with the real - or virtual worlds - in a new way.
Each technology in itself might now be revolutionizing, but the increased possibilities to link technologies and make it work might be the factor that does the trick.
But again we also have to ask ourselves why? Why are we embracing or implementing new technologies? I suggest we look a little more to where technology can actually provide solutions to the problems we have - and not create new ones. So instead of focusing on technology that makes labor redundant (people is one sure resource the earth has) then why not use our energy on technology that makes our footprint on this planet smaller? Hence a focus on how we save or reduce our emissions through technology - this would be an honorable argument for implementing more autonomous technology onboard for example.
/Mikkel Hansen, CEO, EMUC