Category: Technology

Implementing IIoT: A systems challenge disguised as a technological one?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 month and 7 days ago

Industry 4.0

The current challenge facing operations across the globe can be summarized as follows: Make an increasing variety of products, on shorter lead times with smaller runs, but with flawless quality. Improve our return on our investment by automating and introducing new technology in processes and materials so we can cut prices to meet local and foreign demand. Mechanize – but keep your schedules flexible, your inventories low, your capital costs minimal, and your work force contented.1

While these words succinctly address the majority of challenges companies are trying to address with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), it should be noted that they come from Wickham Skinner's 1966 Harvard Business Review article, "Production Under Pressure."

Advances into IIoT and initiatives such as Industry 4.0 may seem to operations executives to be more of a threat to defend against rather than an opportunity. Perhaps this is why a 2016 Cisco survey found leaders skeptical regarding investment in IIoT2. As expressed by Daryl Miller, vice president of engineering at Lantronix, "Companies need to keep the IoT simple by adapting their existing systems to become compatible with the IoT."3

In other words, the introduction of a new technology often reveals a lack of understanding of the current system, rather than that of the new technology. Therefore, adoption of IIoT is primarily a systems problem, rather than a technological one.

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Nothing says love like putting down your devices

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 months and 10 days ago

Nothing says love like putting down your devices

It's hard to find bigger fans of technology than the staff, faculty, and global participants of MIT and MIT Sloan. We love using it, inventing it, and sharing it with the world. Tens of thousands of innovators have masterminded new technologies while here, or took programs to understand how best to bring those innovations to market. We also love using technology in the classroom itself, from management flight simulators and collaborative software to some of our newer experiments with telepresence and virtual reality. MIT researchers have even launched a new decision-making tool to help teachers, administrators, governments, and development practitioners around the world make smart decisions about incorporating technology in the classroom.

Given all of the above, the title of this post may seem counterintuitive. And yet, in light of Valentine's Day, we thought it worthwhile to remind our readers and ourselves that our love of all things digital can sometimes thwart true connection.

Breaking up [with smartphones] is hard to do

Smartphones, the most likely culprit, have been reshaping our etiquette for years now. Particularly in America, our "always on" state of mind has posed significant challenges for users vis-à-vis their relationship to others--whether colleagues in the boardroom or a romantic partner across the dinner table. According to a survey conducted by Pew Research Center, for many Americans, cellphones are always present and rarely turned off, and this constant connectivity is creating ever-evolving social challenges. Of the 3217 people surveyed, 89% of cellphone owners say they used their phone during the most recent social gathering they attended. And similar studies have shown that the mere presence of cellphones in face-to-face conversations inhibits the development of closeness and trust and reduces the amount of empathy we feel from our partners.

Americans are not alone in their smartphone temptations. A national study released last week in Australia shows that nearly a quarter of Australians have played second fiddle to a smartphone on a first date, with their prospective partner switching their attention to their digital device. The Intel Security study of 1200 Australians found more than a third of people have argued with friends or family about their smartphone use.

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Shifting realities: Augmented, virtualized, and mixed realities in the classroom

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 months and 12 days ago

Contributed by Paul McDonagh-Smith, Digital Capability Leader, MIT Sloan, Office of Executive Education. With a focus on driving digital transformation and harnessing emerging technologies, Paul works with the team to create learning programs to fit how we live and work in today's digital age.

TERF

Let's be honest—reality isn't what it used to be. Right now, all around us, carbon world experiences are being augmented, virtualized, and mixed by a series of emerging technologies and their offspring products. These new flavors of reality are offering tantalizing opportunities to imagine and invent improved online learning interactions to complement what we're currently doing in classrooms and on campus.

In one corner, we've got augmented reality (AR) overlaying content in the form of computer generated, gesture features and 360-degree video onto the physical world. Aiming to add meaning and context to our carbon-based reality, this content floats over it like a butterfly, if you will.

In the other corner, virtual reality (VR) is loitering with some serious heavyweight intent, looking to replicate or simulate physical and imagined environments via hardware such as Google Cardboard and HTC Vive. Whether using pre-rendered or rendered software, VR computer generated immersive experiences are getting ready to rumble.

Positioned somewhere in the middle of the ring, we've got the hybrid of mixed reality (MR), which in effect merges real and virtual worlds to produce new environments and visualizations where physical and digital objects can co-exist and interact in real time. MR hardware includes products such as Microsoft's Hololens device, which might be seen as ushering in a new era of holographic computing.

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Attending by telepresence robot--no falling down stairs, please

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 months and 30 days ago

Contributed by Paul McDonagh-Smith, Digital Capability Leader, MIT Sloan, Office of Executive Education. With a focus on driving digital transformation and harnessing emerging technologies, Paul creates learning programs to fit how we live and work in today's digital age.

telepresence robotics  at MIT Sloan

Earlier last week, from my home office desk here in London, I logged into one of our telepresence robotics units stationed in the Executive Education suite of the MIT Sloan School of Management. Using telepresence robotics is a normal occurrence among our team, where units get "hired" for a number of jobs including teaching and learning in class, collaborating with team members, meeting with external companies as well as doing plain old-fashioned, day-to-day work.

But this day was a little different. I was using the robot to attend a Sloan Fellows and EMBA Alumni event on campus in Cambridge, MA.

As I logged onto the unit (via a website) I saw my colleague, Lisa, waiting for me at the front desk. Having asked the robot to drive me to where Lisa was standing (the robot has mapped the floor space and can either be used in autonomous or manual mode), I had just enough time to give myself a pep talk.

"Please don’t trip anybody up, don’t knock coffee cups out of anyone’s hands, and above all please don’t fall down the stairs with the Robot, again," I murmured to myself in a positive mantra.

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Fast fashion: What's the true cost of a bargain?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 5 months and 14 days ago

fashion waste

American consumers love a bargain. In fact, consumers will often choose a bargain over ideals; this past spring an Associated Press-GFK poll found that, "when it comes to purchasing clothes, the majority of Americans prefer cheap prices over a Made in the USA label." This, despite decades of political rhetoric about the need to bring manufacturing jobs back to America.

But there's a bigger, hidden cost behind our love of a deal—particularly our love of cheap clothing. In today's market, there's no shortage of options for buying amazingly inexpensive, yet trendy clothing, including big box stores, "fast fashion" stores such as H&M and Primark, and off-shore clothing retailers advertising on Facebook. Some of the messaging inherent in these brands is that the items are so cheap, it's OK to purchase them for only one wear. You can buy that novelty sweater for the "ugly sweater holiday party" or any other frivolous clothing item for a one-time event. After all, it cost less than a night out, or even an entrée at many restaurants.

However, the dirty little secret that these retailers, manufacturers, and their supply chains don't share is the true cost of the disposable clothing industry. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, "15.1 million tons of textile waste was generated in 2013, of which 12.8 million tons were discarded." According to MSNBC, "10 percent of the world's total carbon footprint comes from the fashion industry, and apparel is the second largest polluter of fresh water globally."

The fast fashion industry not only generates textile waste, but the economics behind it demand the clothes be produced using massive amounts of cheap material and cheap labor. This means relying on the laborers at the very lowest end of the wage spectrum in countries with few protections for workers. While the fashion industry on the whole is a job creator, many of those equate to low wages, forced labor, unhealthy and dangerous working conditions, and even child labor, which is now rampant through apparel supply chains.

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Upping the IT quotient: A custom program for News Corporation

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 9 months and 11 days ago

news media

With business units as diverse as 20th Century Fox, The Times, MyNetworkTV, National Geographic Channel, and Fox Interactive Media, News Corporation touches 70% of the world's population every day. While its vast reach and numerous holdings are a plus in terms of a successful business model, these elements make for a complex organization, along with challenging leadership responsibilities.

In an effort to assist its executives and strengthen its organizational structure, News Corporation’s then Senior Vice President and CIO Dave Benson turned to MIT Sloan for help—in particular, Peter Weill, whose book, IT Governance: How Top Performers Manage IT Decision Rights for Superior Results, Benson was reading at the time. Weill is a Senior Research Scientist at MIT Sloan and the Director of the School's Center for Information Systems Research (CISR).

Benson's ultimate goal was to enhance the company executives' skill set so that they could manage their IT operations like businesses and better align the IT activities with the company's diverse business units. Weill suggested a custom program because of MIT Sloan's research and expertise in finance, marketing, leadership development, and generating business value from IT—as well as the program's tailored curriculum and one-on-one coaching aspects. "The key to the success of this program was the combination of MIT Sloan’s reputation, a strong customized curriculum, outstanding faculty, and the ability to deliver it all without relieving people of their day jobs," says Benson.

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Price optimization: Q&A with Professor Simchi-Levi

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 10 months ago

MIT Sloan Executive Education recently hosted the latest in its INNOVATION@WORKTM webinar series, entitled “The New Frontier in Price Optimization," with MIT Professor David Simchi-Levi. The webinar, now available on demand, which drew hundreds of attendees from across the world, presented recent breakthroughs in the development of models that combine machine learning and optimization for pricing that significantly improve revenue and reduce inventory risks

During the webinar, Simchi-Levi presented a case study on Rue La La—an online retailer with whom he worked that offers invitation-only flash sales—to answer the question: “How can we generate an effective forecast for a product we’ve never sold before?” His second example, Groupon, a daily deal website and mobile application offering things to do, see, eat, and buy, focused on how to combine forecasting with learning on the fly to understand the probability that a customer will purchase a product at a specific price. Simchi-Levi’s third case-in-point was the story of B2W Digital, the leading e-commerce company in Latin America, which took price optimization even further by leveraging forecasting, learning on the fly, and optimization.

The event included a live question and answer session and was immediately followed by a Facebook chat with the webinar audience. Recently we spoke with Professor Simch-Levi to dig deeper into the topic of pricing optimization.

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Is the tech industry overlooking half its talent pool?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 11 months and 26 days ago

There is much talk as of late over the lack of women working in and leading organizations in the technology industry. For example, a report by the American Association of University Women concluded that women made up just 26% of computing professionals in 2014, a substantially smaller proportion than 25 years ago and about the same percentage as in 1960. Women in engineering roles in the US are even less represented, making up 12% of working engineers.

Mitra Best

MIT Sloan Executive Certificate holder and U.S. Innovation Leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Mitra Best, may have said it best in her recent blog post on CIO Dashboard: "It is ironic that while technology has broken many barriers to innovation, barriers to women’s engagement are rising." Mitra recalls her time as an undergraduate in computer science in the late 80s, when approximately 30% of computer graduates were women. She had assumed at that time that we’d reach parity in 10 to 15 years and was recently disappointed to learn that, in 2015, only 18% of computer graduates in the US were women.

Unfortunately, the underrepresentation of women in tech is, for the most part, a global phenomenon. In the U.K., women represent only 17.5% of computing professionals, and only 8.2 percent of engineers. In Israel, known for its thriving tech scene, women compose only 12% of PhD graduates in engineering and only 15% of professors in STEM subjects.

There is hope. Female scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians worldwide are breaking barriers and making incredible contributions to their fields, despite the odds. Projects like The Internet of Women, an upcoming book and global community to support women in technology founded by leaders from Cisco and New York Institute of Technology, prove that there are exciting cultural shifts taking place around the globe. Some of these achievements, particularly in the Middle East and Africa, are in part driven by the UN's Sustainable Development Goals and Millennial Development Goals, which emphasize gender equality and technology education for girls, respectively.

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