In January, the first big industry show of the year, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), drew visitors to Las Vegas. The trends and products on display were not new and most of them were not really surprising either. Smart home, Internet of Things (IoT), connected cars, wearables and drones – not old hat yet but also not exactly red-hot.
That’s why it’s worth just taking a step back at this stage, in order to take in the bigger picture. If you do this, it soon becomes clear that there’s scarcely a product around today that doesn’t have a digital component. And if you do find one, there is a high likelihood that a digital component for it is already under development.
… as an innovation driver
OK, so we are still talking about consumer goods and not about business and much less, business IT. But that doesn’t mean that the situation there is any different. Digitalisation is going to change our world every bit as much as the invention of printing, the steam engine or the car – in our day-to-day lives and in the way we work. Germany, with its tradition of being an exporting nation, a land of engineers and automobile and machinery builders, has to make sure that, as an innovator, it doesn’t let itself become a bit-player in the digitalisation game.
Thinking of tomorrow’s key markets
It may just be an isolated case, but when an Internet company can get a driverless car to market quicker than a traditional manufacturing company, it certainly makes you think. No question, a lot is being done and a lot of money is being invested. When it comes to Industry 4.0, Germany’s flagship companies, its trade associations and its industrial forums, together with the German government, are clearly demonstrating how to contribute to shaping digital trends and how to secure the key markets of tomorrow.
But it is also true that this approach does not resonate across the board. In its survey “Views from around the world”, Microsoft discovered that globally, 85% of all people associate IT and the Internet with a positive development both for business and society. But only 60% of those questioned in Germany saw any correlation between these two things and innovation and only 56% identified any positive effects on productivity. And while in emerging nations, 80% of those questioned believe that IT start-up companies should be given better conditions, only 54% of Germans voiced the same opinion.
The industry needs to address this state of affairs. Because without enough acceptance by society at large, they are going to have a hard time keeping pace with global competition.