The Top Tech Trends 2020: From Multi-Experience to Human Augmentation

Digitalisation and industry 4.0 | Engineering | future of production | innovation | Smart factory | trends of technology | Technology has never before developed so fast as it does today. One trend replaces the next - that won’t change in 2020 either. Analog and digital worlds are merging, vast amounts of data provide the foundation for pinpoint production decisions, companies are merging digitally, product and production are in digital dialogue. Industry 4.0. thyssenkrupp is already using the Top Tech Trends of 2020.

The most important technology trends at a glance

1. Hyper-Automation – Industry 4.0 at thyssenkrupp 

One of the Top Techn Trends in 2020 is hyper-automation. Sounds like science fiction, but simply means that machines are gaining much more automation and are networking ever more with people or other machines.

As early as 2017, experts in our materials business began to digitally connect the machinery by using our IIoT platform “toii”. toii ensures the networking of machines of different generations and manufacturers amongst each other as well as the networking between machines and IT systems – across locations worldwide. The goal is to make production processes transparent, increase quality and performance and – at the same time – automate more processes.

The next step is to make the platform available to other industrial companies in the future. “Right from the start, we developed toii not as a project, but as a product,” says Axel Berger, Head of Digital Transformation for thyssenkrupp’s Materials division.

2. Multi-Experience – Seeing the world through different eyes

Anyone who has ever experienced a computer game through Virtual Reality glasses knows what we mean. Multi-experience is one of the most important trends that will revolutionize the user experience in very different areas of daily life. Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) are changing the way we perceive our world – and the digital world. New standards will be set here in the years to come.

The “HoloLens” – our industry 4.0 solution for measurement and delivery processes – shows that virtual reality glasses will not only be relevant for the entertainment industry. If, for example, a stairlift is to be installed in a private household, our customer advisors rely on HoloLinc technology. With this technology, we can measure the stairwell precisely and thus reduce the delivery time by a factor of four.

3. Democratization of professional know-how – will everybody be an IT expert soon?

According to experts, digital solutions will make extensive training obsolete in the future. Therefore, professional knowledge will be much easier to access, for everyone, everywhere and not just in institutions such as universities. This is made possible by easy-to-understand tools that non-professionals can use, e.g. to create complex designs or write code.

Google has already developed an app to enable people to learn the basics of HTML, CSS and JavaScript from virtually anywhere. Coding for beginners, so to speak. In the future, it could be possible to learn complex facts anywhere in the world and at any time.

4. Human Augmentation – Technology in the human body?

Thinking of human augmentation, science fiction films or spy thrillers come to mind, in which the hero has a chip transplanted into his hand so that he can be contacted at all times. The development of human augmentation will probably not be quite as far-reaching yet, but the implantation of technology into the human body will continue to progress in years to come. The goal of human augmentation: cognitive and physical improvements in human experience.

In Sweden, for example, every fifth employee of a TUI subsidiary already carries a microchip in their hands and uses it for their daily work. That’s a great opportunity, says Managing Director Alexander Huber: “Every employee at TUI has a locker in which they can place their personal belongings in the evening. The compartments can be accessed with the chip. You can also activate the printers. I really appreciate the fact that I can use it to open the doors at the entrance and in the building. After all, I never forget my hand.”

5. Autonomous mobility – will we soon be driving fully automatically?

In road traffic, too, humans and robots will increasingly reach their destination together. One component for making this vision reality is the so-called “steer-by-wire” system. Steering systems that do not require a continuous mechanical connection between the steering wheel and the wheels. As in airplanes, the steering command is transmitted entirely electrically.

If, in the future, the autopilot actually takes control over longer distances, “steer-by-wire” allows the steering wheel to be lowered or extended into the cockpit due to the lack of a mechanical intermediate level. This means that the driver will soon be able to use the space in front of him for completely different things. Our experts have even developed a retractable steering column for this scenario.

thyssenkrupp has already tested steer-by-wire systems on experimental vehicles. Together with the customers, the steering experts are now working on developing this technology to series maturity. Until then, we simply keep navigating through the present with the steering wheel.

Other examples are autonomous passenger boarding bridges of our elevator experts. These intelligent solutions simplify complicated and time-consuming processes, avoid mistakes and ensure a smooth experience for the passengers. In addition, they optimize the standing times of the aircraft at the gate.

6. Transparency and traceability – Our data is worth its weight in gold

Consumers are increasingly aware that their personal information is valuable and requires protection. Companies recognize the increasing risk of managing personal information – the strict General Data Protection Regulation is an example of the growing need for more control over how important data is handled. Our lives increasingly take place online. Therefore, the requirements of digital ethics and data protection will continue to be an important issue in 2020.

Data protection – meaning the protection of sensitive data in cross-company and cross-institutional cooperation – also plays an important role in the Industrial Data Space at thyssenkrupp. The Industrial Data Space is an initiative with the aim of creating a secure data space that enables companies of all sizes and in different sectors to manage their data assets with confidence.  The benefits for our company, our customers and our partners: competitive advantages through new business models, smart products and services. For example, when customers, suppliers and logistics service providers form a digital ecosystem in which everyone is informed at all times about the current location, status and demand for goods.

7. Empowered Edge – On-the-spot data

Edge computing is about processing data streams in a resource-saving manner, at least partially on site (e.g. directly at the end device or within a factory), but still benefiting from the advantages of the cloud. This approach requires the use of resources that are not permanently connected to a network such as controllers, notebooks, smartphones, tablet computers and sensors.

This means that the data center that the user accesses with his devices is not located anywhere in the world in the form of a cloud, but directly on location. Edge computing refers to decentralized data processing at the edge of a network.

8. Distributed Cloud – The Cloud around the corner

When we upload something to a cloud today, it is usually hosted several thousand kilometers away. Resulting in long loading times when transferring large amounts of data. That will change. With the distributed cloud, there will be many clouds in many places in the future – in other words, closer to the users’ devices. This will enable them to access large volumes of data more quickly. That’s why we are facing a new era of cloud computing – and the big cloud services will have to adapt to this.

A thyssenkrupp invention in this category is MAX. Over twelve million elevators move more than a billion people worldwide every day. Elevators are therefore the most frequently used means of transportation worldwide – far ahead of cars, trains, buses and planes. However, high usage often means rapid wear and tear – which is why we have developed “MAX” together with Microsoft to prevent breakdowns.

MAX continuously monitors and analyzes all elevator data: How fast does the door close? How fast does the elevator accelerate? And: What is the condition of all components? The answers to these questions are sent as data to our own cloud and analyzed there. If anything unusual occurs, the data is compared with all available values for the entire thyssenkrupp elevator base. This way, the elevator can be repaired prior to a standstill. Downtimes are minimized.

9. Practical Blockchain – Less corruption in financial transactions?

Fighting corruption? In the future, the easiest way to do this is through more transparent transactions. Transaction processing times are also to be speeded up and assets are to be traced back to their origin using block chaining. This would considerably reduce the possibilities for substitution with counterfeit goods.

Asset tracing can also be transferred to other areas, such as tracing food in a supply chain to help identify the origin of a contamination more easily, track individual items or support product recalls.

“Global exchange of data, including strictly confidential information such as design files, is becoming increasingly important in industrial production,” explains Dr. Joachim Stumpfe, innovation expert at thyssenkrupp.

10. Artificial intelligence – risks and side effects

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) will continue to gain importance in 2020, e.g. to improve human decision making. While cooperation between humans and robots offers great opportunities, there are also risk factors. Thus, in 2020, new demands will arise for security teams and risk managers in companies and large enterprises – such as ours.

For example, artificial intelligence is used at thyssenkrupp in logistics. Since the beginning of the year we have been using our AI “Alfred” in the materials business, for example to optimize our logistics. Among other things, the AI, named after Alfred Krupp, is intended to help us to better serve our more than 250,000 customers worldwide. “Alfred” optimizes the capacity utilization of machines and transporters, e.g. to distribute materials more quickly to the right locations.

The Top Tech Trends: It’s a matter of time

How quickly the various trends will become established and in what form they will take place in our everyday lives, cannot yet be foreseen. However, the Top Tech Trends 2020 show that a lot will change and that Industrialization 4.0 is already visible in many areas and projects.

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