The future is being won or lost today by investments into digital transformation. While digital initiatives are typically considered in terms of moving workflows from paper to the cloud, it is more profound than this. How should we think about the digital transformation?
There are two aspects to consider. First is the classic economic concept of productivity improvement or efficiency gains. We can apply technologies of the software and hardware (e.g. robots) variety to transform slow, manual and inconsistent ways of working into clear, consistent and reproducible digital workflows. Increasingly this boils down to automation, whether preparing a dataset, grading and sorting tomatoes or performing brain surgery.
Second, unless your new innovative workflows are digitally native, the quality of work performed by your algorithms and robots can be limited by the quality of data. Digitally native activities could be things like accounting or payments. The inputs and outputs live entirely in the digital realm. But everything else, consider product quality, safety records, material analysis, operational metrics. These parameters, variables and factors must be monitored. The digitisation of operations is inseparable from the internet of things. It is the sensors that transform atoms into bits and pixels.
Therefore, it follows that the quality of your digital and automation efforts are subject to the quality of your sensors. It is the sensors that transform the physical to digital, the manual to automated, and the intermittent to continuous. This is a story about making necessary investments, which means higher Capex, to increase value and lower marginal costs. Robotics and automation are how risk is mitigated, costs are lowered, value is unlocked. It is through better sensors that the future of automation and control is enabled.
Proactive continuous monitoring is the secret to success in the digital economy. In a perfect world, operators would have the sensors required to enable perfect visibility into every nook and cranny of their operations. Spot contamination. Find gold. Ensure consistent product quality. Control the slightest variability. Sort ingredients by quality. And so on. While not yet the perfect solution, hyperspectral imaging technologies are evolving to help operators, clinicians and scientists transform the physical to the digital automatically, non-invasively in real-time.
If you wish you and your robots knew more, broader, deeper, and with greater precision, hyperspectral imaging may help answer any outstanding questions.