5G in Asset Intensive Industries – An Enabler of Future Business Transformation

Gaurav Verma (Research Manager, IDC Energy Insights)

In these unprecedented times, enterprises have left no stone unturned to ensure business continuity and resilience. Having navigated through one of the worst economic slowdowns, companies are eager to make the most out of the next normal. The fundamental key to success will lie into organizations’ ability to ensure connectivity among their people, processes, and assets.

They all need more consistent investment to ensure effective connectivity at least into critical operational activities. There is already more interest among industrial players in the asset-centric digital initiatives such as IT-OT integration, industrial automation, and remote operations (asset monitoring and smart maintenance).

However, in most cases the adoption of digital initiatives is yet to be scaled up. While in a few cases industrial-grade digital initiatives are already implemented on a large scale, the outcome is not satisfactory and still to be improved in terms of efficiency and performance.

What is preventing end users from realizing the true potential of digital solutions? The lack of robust connectivity infrastructure that can withstand the millions of IIoT sensors and the multitude of OT systems effectively and reliably. As we advance, industrial players require stable network coverage for the enormous amount of operational data generated by disparate sensors to flow seamlessly through machines to the control centre in near real time.

Meeting such needs, 5G is going to play an instrumental role in the future of multiplied innovation.

5G: Taking the Industry 4.0 Concept to the Next Level

5G is not merely an incremental version of 4G/LTE. It is more of a catalyst for enterprises to accelerate their digital transformation. With its solid package of disruptive communication standards (fastest data speed, ultra-low latency, and massive device density), 5G will not only address the existing connectivity challenges, but also be a key enabler of innovative use cases.

An example of such a use case could be a fully automated smart factory — a factory setting in which real-time operations can be intelligently automated at scale, with computing and analytics performed near operational assets using multi-access edge computing. For instance, it would enable the transmission of videos from the production assembly line to the edge to run AI-ML powered real-time video analytics. It could open more avenues for industrial players to unleash new capabilities, such as intelligence at the edge, machine-vision-based defect detection, real-time collaborative operations, and deployment of large-scale autonomous devices.

Leveraging a robust and reliable 5G network communication infrastructure, 3rd Platform technologies can function optimally to support end-to-end near-real-time operations.

In fact, the technology ecosystem started to respond to future opportunities by codeveloping a 5G-based application portfolio. Several new tie-ups are emerging between CSPs and tech giants, such as Verizon and AWS, offering scalable and ultra-low-latency use cases. For example, Verizon’s partnership with IBM will bring 5G, edge compute, AI, and IoT solutions together to offer innovative use cases around Industry 4.0.

Network Slicing Enabling High Performing and Cost-Effective Solutions to Industrial Players

There is a lot of buzz about 5G’s three key features — Massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC), Extreme Massive Broadband (eMBB), and Ultra-reliable and low-latency communications (URLLC). However, the real jewel in the crown is its network slicing feature.

Network slicing works with 4G too but it is very limited, and the scope of the customization is not as sophisticated as what could be achieved in 5G.

5G network slicing allows end users to select a single or a combination of any two of the capabilities. The mobile network operators can virtually segment their network to provide customized levels of service tailored to industrial customers’ network performance requirements to meet, for instance, IIoT-based use case specifications.

With such a curated product, the user will only have to pay for what they use. It will allow end users to run critical operations with high performing features of the network while running the less critical operations at normal speed or bandwidth using the same network architecture.

5G Candidates — Industries and Prominent Use Cases

The greatest beneficiaries of 5G will be manufacturing, the public sector, petrochemicals, oil refineries, EPCs, O&G upstream, utilities, mining, healthcare, and warehouses.

There are several cross-industry use cases where 5G network could be a much-needed performance booster. However, caution must be taken to prioritize use cases that need 5G most, and to do that some key questions must be asked:

  • Does the use case require high speed?
  • Does the use case require very low latency?
  • Does the use case require massive connection density?
  • Can it work on a different radio technology?

Having considered above questions, the following are some use cases for which 5G is the right technology:

  • Connected smart factories
  • Digital twins
  • Real-time intelligent video analytics
  • Asset performance management
  • Automated control systems
  • Real-time asset tracking
  • Drone-based logistics
  • Vision-based quality assurance
  • Smart grids
  • Smart wearables
  • Autonomous hydrocarbon production
  • Smart AR-VR applications

IDC European Industrial IIoT Digital Summit

European industrial companies are applying IoT in the context of digitization. Understanding the opportunities this technology offers beyond process optimization and cost savings is crucial for organizations seeking to maximize the value from the IoT data they collect and to generate innovative business models as a result.

IDC’s European Industrial IoT Digital Summit, to be held on September 24, will be an exclusive knowledge exchange forum for C-level executives.

For more information, please contact Helena Chappell.

Sepsis healthcare

Sepsis: The Hidden Hospital Threat Technology Can Draw Out

Giulia Besana (Research Analyst, Health Insights)
Nino Giguashvili (Senior Research Analyst)

Sepsis. The word alone may not ring a bell for many of us, but if you ask a healthcare professional or a hospital worker, they will tell you a different story.

Sepsis is a body wide organ dysfunction caused by a dysregulated host response to generalised infection which affects many internal organs and, if not recognised and managed promptly, can lead to septic shock, multiple organ failure and death. Sepsis is a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide and is a serious burden on healthcare systems.

According to the WHO, there were nearly 49 million cases and 11 million sepsis-related deaths globally in 2017, accounting for almost 20% of all deaths worldwide. Sepsis is also a major cause of neonatal mortality.

Care Quality and Patient Safety

Dealing with sepsis is often something as simple and obvious as care quality and patient safety. The following fact alone speaks for itself: sepsis is one of the most common life-threatening conditions that triggered by healthcare-associated infections (HAI — also known as nosocomial infections, referring to infections that are contracted in healthcare facilities).

Sepsis is therefore a very tangible health threat posed right at the place where a patient is supposed to be cured. Time is highly critical for survival, as the risk of mortality increases every hour that appropriate antimicrobial therapy is delayed.

The Role of Technology in Sepsis Prevention

Most sepsis deaths could be prevented with appropriate preventive measures, early detection, and timely treatment. The WHO estimates that elaborate infection prevention and control programs can reduce the risk of sepsis infection by as much as 30%.

So, early detection to prompt timely intervention clearly deserves great attention. Digital technology plays a critical role in this area as it allows the collection, combining, and bringing together of data from different sources in a context-relevant fashion, supporting care teams in predicting, identifying, and preventing the condition.

As an example, after the introduction of a digital system of hospital infection alert, leaders in Cambridge are reporting decreased death rates over the past three years.

Data Intelligence for Patient Value

It takes hospitals and healthcare facilities to accelerate the shift towards data-driven intelligent patient safety, enabled by real-time data collection, transmission, and analytics. Healthcare facilities must turn into smart, intelligent, digital care providers.

Data intelligence capabilities lie at the core of a digital hospital ecosystem and are key in an environment where the increasing volume, velocity and variety of data is crucial for the creation of patient value, specifically when patients’ safety and life is concerned.

According to a recent IDC Survey, one out of three healthcare organisations in Europe is using or plans to use IoT technology to remotely track vital signs of patients within the care facility. Also, 13% are already deploying AI to analyse data in real time and provide intelligent patient monitoring at the point of care.

Such intelligent approaches can translate into the ability of healthcare providers to identify and monitor patients at risk, spot subtle changes in patient health status that can be early predictors of sepsis, generate alerts and help automate the response, for example by customising treatment protocols to sepsis patients’ individual needs.

An intelligent command centre can anticipate demand and allow timely action on needs before they emerge, as well as streamlining communication, processes and workflows, resource allocation, and asset and process tracking (antibiotic prescription and use, hygiene and infection control processes etc.).

The Intelligent Health Enterprise Approach to Sepsis Management

Data intelligence solutions combining smart monitoring devices, artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies can consolidate multiple test results, bedside monitoring outputs, medical records, and treatment guidelines across disparate platforms. This potentially gives physicians access to rich data in real time and allows the prediction of risks early on, provide actionable insights and so support clinical decision-making processes in sepsis prevention.

However, this approach to data intelligence requires looking at technologies such as AI and advanced analytics not just as solutions to put on top of a technology stack, but as the intelligent core of a new enterprise platform. This core uses data produced within and outside the organisation to constantly predict outcomes and improve processes and decisions.

This vision of the healthcare enterprise is what determines the real impact of technology solutions on the management of sepsis and other HAI, particularly in the new realm of COVID-19.

But this isn’t the full story yet.

If you want to know more about how the healthcare sector should approach data intelligence to enhance its intelligent capabilities and thrive, please register at our IDC European Healthcare Executive Digital Forum in October.

In an interactive environment, European healthcare leaders will discuss how the digital acceleration experienced in the past few months can be a launchpad for strategic transformation, particularly after the advent of COVID-19.

For further information on how to join the Summit contact Helena Chappell.

And to learn more about our upcoming research and key topics, contact Adriana Allocato, Silvia Piai, Giulia Besana or Nino Giguashvili.


physical store customer experience

Why the Physical Store Is Key to Improving Customer Experience

Ornella Urso (Senior Research Analyst, IDC Retail Insights in Europe)

For a long time now, IT vendors and retailers have been discussing the role of physical stores as key enablers to help them improve real-time contextual customer experience. Current events are bringing stores under even more scrutiny as the pandemic changes the way customers shop.

In a recent call with reporters, Corie Barry, CEO of technology retailer Best Buy, described the store as a “powerful” asset for the next normal. “It’s not about less stores …” she said. “It’s probably about using stores differently and meeting the customer where they want to be met.”

The Store as a Hub of Services and Experiences

Today’s customers expect an interactive digital environment, so reimagining stores has become imperative for retailers. According to IDC’s 2020 Global Retail Innovation Survey, 46% of retailers have already implemented or are implementing contextualised consumer interactions in-store as part of their innovation strategy for physical stores.

To meet shoppers’ expectations, retailers need to digitally transform their store operations, fulfilment, in-store technologies (such as IoT, AR and robotics), automated and self-checkout systems, new delivery and pickup options, store associate technology enablement, and mobile commerce. Innovative trends are increasingly reshaping retail stores, with differences across retail subsegments.

Our recent IDC PeerScape: Practices to Enable Food and Grocery Retailers of the Future looks at food and grocery retailers’ key challenges and best practices. Retailers’ store operations need to be fully optimised to better respond to the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This means investing in intelligent supply chains and collaborative ecosystems, as well as distributed order management and fulfilment. At the same time, we’re seeing greater implementation of automated self-checkout systems — self-serve commerce services that enable retailers to deliver frictionless and seamless purchasing experiences in the store, reducing waiting times or completely removing friction during checkout.

With the rapid growth in ecommerce, BOPIS and click-and-collect capabilities during the pandemic, stores are evolving into fulfilment hubs to better serve multiple delivery options and enhance online CX, while fostering collaboration with potential partners (such as Amazon Lockers, Nordstrom Local and Rent the Runway). More examples can be found in other retail subsegments, such as fashion and apparel, cosmetics and beauty:

  • Zara, for instance, introduced “Store mode” as part of its mobile app to enable customers to check inventory in store, book fitting rooms, self-checkout in store and generally improve the shopping experience in a socially distanced environment.
  • Sephora is investing in its “beauty advisors” (store associates) through training and providing them with in-store technology to help customers. “Stores are a powerful way to bring experiences to life for people,” said Mary Beth Laughton, Sephora EVP of Omni Retail, in an NRF “When they come into one of our stores, that’s when they can interact with our beauty advisors. They can get this really personal, amazing advice.”

A Glimpse Into the Future of Retail

With digital transformation accelerating, retailers need to redefine their business strategies to target their investments in the extended value chain to better meet customer and consumer requirements. They need to reconsider the strategies, programmes and use cases they are investing in, share success stories and develop new practices to enhance collaboration and innovation.

IDC’s European Retail Executive Digital Forum 2020, to be held on October 20, will look at retailers’ ability to proactively respond to the product, workforce, partner and operations needs that will shape the future of retail.

For more information, please contact Helena Chappell.

Digital Innovation Skills Are Key to Recovery — But So Are the Fundamentals

Marianne Kolding (VP, European Skills Practice)

The COVID-19 pandemic has made many of us re-evaluate what’s important — and what perhaps not so important. Many jobs and functions that have been taken for granted for years have suddenly shown themselves to be key to society and organizations coping — even surviving. This also applies to tech roles and for digital skills.

The Lockdown Forced a Rethink

The rapid lockdown across countries forced organizations to scramble and to rethink business operations quickly. Priorities changed, including the evaluation of which technology skills were needed to make the day-to-day business possible.

However, at the same time the lockdown also forced many organizations to fast-track transformation projects that may otherwise have been red taped for a while, purely to continue to deliver their services and products to their customers.

As one CIO of a large logistics told us: “Projects that may have been slow to get off the ground have now become “speed boats”. Not all of them will be successful but our company is willing to try more new things.”

IT Skills Take Center Stage on the Road to Recovery

This all impacts how organizations are thinking about the IT skills that they need to survive, to maintain, and to rebuild. In Wave 6 of IDC’s bi-weekly European IT Buyer Sentiment Survey, which we have been running since March 2020, we asked respondents which skills would be most important for them in the near future, and some interesting patterns emerged.

digital skills
Source: IDC European IT Buyer Sentiment Survey, wave 6 — June 8–12, 2020 (n = 730)

For organizations that are still focused on business continuity, digital innovation skills are deemed most important. They realize that their road to recovery will need to involve secure, innovative use of technology.

They are also looking for skills to help them automate processes for cost optimization and for expertise in data analytics to be able to make quick, informed decisions in a volatile situation. In addition, they need technical support to ensure business continuity as well as to help the workforce get to grips with new technology.

Those businesses that are expecting to enter recession are putting a premium on digital innovation and cybersecurity skills as well. Interestingly, though, IT operations skills are now deemed important. A continued focus on driving down costs means that businesses are looking at how they can lower the “keeping the lights on” part of their IT budgets, which often is as much as 60%.

This could involve switching to cloud wherever possible.

Respondents to our survey that believe they have turned the corner and are firmly on the road to recovery have somewhat different priorities. Cybersecurity stands out as the most important skill set to ensure the business in the growth phase.

Data analytics skills are needed to create a data-driven organization, which is part of most businesses’ digital transformation efforts. But ensuring a stable, efficient IT backbone is key, hence the focus also on technical support and IT operation skills.

But How Do You Secure the Skills You Need?

Another impact of the pandemic has been a renewed focus on the need for training and learning for employees to be able to pivot to the new work environment. We’ve seen from the survey mentioned above that European organizations have increased their spending — especially on remote learning (virtual instructor-led courses as well as self-paced learning offerings).

However, training and upskilling will not be enough. We had a tech skills gap in the market before the pandemic — and overall, this is still the case. We at IDC have mapped out how effective skills management use cases can help organizations on the road to recovery, and how they can help create an agile and resilient organization that can better withstand shocks to the system.

We’ll return to this topic in a later blog.

But one thing is clear: the value of having a skilled workforce that can quickly adapt to changing environments and pick up new skills when needed has crystallized through the pandemic.


If you want to learn more about this topic or have any questions, please contact Marianne Kolding, or head over to https://uk.idc.com and drop your details in the form on the top right.