Disruptive Technology – Redefining Reality


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by Art Kahn, Co-Founder and CEO of Aveopt, The Next Generation Solutions Provider with product suites that are Redefining Reality™ by leveraging innovative Virtual and Augmented Reality technologies that integrate with Sensors, Autonomous Vehicle, and GIS technologies.

“Are you going to believe what you see or what I tell you?” Have you considered this question? As they say–seeing is believing, but if we were only to believe what can already be seen, much of what we enjoy today and what defines us would not exist–cell phones for example.

Technologies such as those associated with the cell phone are described as “disruptive technologies.”  “Disruptive technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy,” according to a McKinsey Global Institute.

Or to put it mathematically…

Disruptive Technologies = Transformations (Life + Business + Global Economy)

Consider these innovations and how profound an impact they have made: Mobile Internet, Automation of Knowledge, The Internet of Things, Advanced Robotics, The Cloud, Autonomous or Near Autonomous Vehicles, Next Generation Energy Storage, and Renewable Energy to highlight a few. These technologies, in addition to other “disruptive” technologies, are estimated to have a potential impact of between $14 Trillion and $33 Trillion in 2025.  Sounds great! But why the GAP in the projected impact? Between 14 and 33 Trillion Dollars. Quite a range. Why the Chasm?

Many contributing factors impact this “gap,” but it can all be boiled down to uncertainty: uncertain if these technologies will be ready, uncertain if these technologies will be adopted either because of actual need shifting or simply the fear of trying something new. 

To bring it a bit closer to the Infrastructure world, according to the PwC report, “Clarity from above,” the predicted value of current business services and labor that are likely to be replaced by drone powered solutions will total $127B by 2025.  The Infrastructure sector alone is projected to have some of the best prospects for drone applications with a total addressable market value of approximately $45.2B (maintenance and asset inventory), and the Telecommunication sector is projected to reach $6.3B. (Source: Computer Business Review (CBR), May 2016).

The real value here is not in the drone itself but in the applications and tools that the drone can deliver as part of a system solution. Disruptive technologies are driving these applications and devices. It’s been over 25 years since Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm was published. As a founder of a technology start-up company, Crossing the Chasm is still very relevant today when introducing new products and technologies to the market.  What does that say about the market itself, the environment in which it operates, and the justification criteria that lead to the adoption of these new technologies (and products)?

There are no guarantees–we all know that.  The future is fluid, impacted continuously by people and events, of which technological evolution is one.  In the end, however, the pragmatic view that both sides (technologists and adopters) of the equation must deal with are the determining factors to whether the new technology/product is indeed ready to be adopted.

Those of us on the technology side of the equation have it easy.  The heavy lifting associated with the success or failure of a disruptive technology and the products derived from those technologies resides with the adopting or the buying community.  Technologists are always going to seek to create the next generation “mouse trap.”  That is what technologists do.  It is in their DNA. And while the journey they undertake is complicated and the path sometimes winding, it is no more fraught with detours, complexities, or dangers than the path taken by those that must decide whether these technological innovations should be adopted.

So, what will enable the early adoption of new technologies?  Let’s apply the “KISS” principle (probably dating myself but “Keep It Simple…” never gets old).  In its purest form, adoption of new technologies and their derivative products will happen under four fundamental conditions.

  • There is an actual market need for the product
  • A business case can be made for the product that justifies its adoption
  • The Technology/Product has been proven
  • The conditions as mentioned above are believed to be accurate by the buying community

Continuing to “keep it simple,” it is incumbent upon both the technologists and buying communities to validate that the first three conditions are “real.”  The fourth condition being the result of the first three.

Let’s look at a case in which we apply the components of the Disruptive Technologies: Automation of Knowledge, Internet of Things, Advanced Robotics, Cloud, Autonomous or Near Autonomous Vehicles to the Wireless Infrastructure Market. Imagine integrating Virtual and Augmented Reality technologies, with sensors, robotics, and autonomous (or near autonomous) vehicle technologies, creating a system that would and can:

1) Significantly reduce the cost associated with the planning, construction, and sustainment of the Cell Tower (Macro, DAS, Small Cell) infrastructure

2) Accelerate Time to Revenue for the Wireless Infrastructure Value Chain (engineering and surveying companies, construction, asset owners, carriers)

3) Increase safety and reduce related liability issues, concerns, and costs

Now, what if I were to tell you that an application/solution using disruptive technologies which have been proven in other industries to provide significant cost savings in planning and construction functions (specifically site assessment and line of sight) associated with the wireless infrastructure market by as much as 90%?  Would that be of interest?

The following is the dilemma:

Imagine a system, a solution, that can create a network of “virtual” towers all from a single location–without going out to the proposed sites. A solution that provides the visual representation of the virtual tower network that takes the collected data and determines if the Line of Sight between the proposed towers and their parent tower is clear or obstructed, even for distances as much as 20 km.  A solution that then takes the collected data and integrates it with the IoT or data reflective of a physical environment that you can’t see and can aggregate and present this information enabling faster, safer, more cost-effective decisions for the optimal site for that new tower?  A solution that can automatically and definitively report that the minimum necessary height for the tower, which does not currently exist, needs to be 45+ feet to maintain a clear line of sight. Many people can’t imagine it. They can’t accept it. For those, there is the tried and true methodology for doing this assessment with typical costs, safety issues, and time investments. But some people can. Those first adopters. Consider the following, a business comparative of the assessment described above between the current methods and an Augmented Reality approach.  I’ll leave it to you to plug in your own numbers for the comparative.

Assessment Category Current Method VR/AR Solution

Labor:  2 Teams Totaling: 5 People 1 Team Totaling: 2 People

Material/Equipment: 2 Trucks + 1-2 Drones or strobes… 1 Truck + 1 Drone

Time: (Per Site: 6 Path Drives) 1 Site per 3 Days 3 Sites per Day

Risk: Requires Climbers  No Climbers

Now let’s look at the “KISS” conditions of adoption previously identified.

There is an actual market need for the product

  • Over the next 1-2 decades, the Wireless Infrastructure Market faces the daunting challenge of the expansion of wireless technology driven by such things as IoT, Smart Cities, Autonomous Vehicles, etc.  Necessitating the densification of the infrastructure to address growth.
  • The aggregate cost estimate to perform LOS assessments between now and 2022 will exceed $13.0B
  • A business case can be made for the product that justifies its adoption
  • The cost savings from a system capable of performing LOS assessments utilizing disruptive technologies could range from 50% -90% (or roughly speaking $6.5B – $11.7B)
  • The required tasks performed in 1/10 the time
  • The solution mitigates the safety and liability issues and costs by reducing the need to climb
  • The Technology/Product has been proven
  • VR/AR is being used today in the construction, automotive, health, gaming, realty, industries
  • Autonomous Vehicles/Drones and Sensors are already being adopted for use in the Telecommunications sector as well as Transportation and other infrastructure markets
  • The technology is now being considered for use in Infrastructure Inspection
  • The technology is also being evaluated for Public Safety, Security, and Military applications
  • The conditions mentioned above are believed by the buying community
  • This one hasn’t quite happened yet. So, what do we do?

Adoption requires the buying community to reach a level of confidence that the new technology and solution can perform as needed and generate the ROI that will justify its adoption. As we’ve learned over the years, the business decision often defaults to waiting for the early adopters to initialize the process and wait for the technology to “mature.”  It is not likely that the nature of this process will change but what can change is the timetable for early adoption and “maturity,” specifically accelerating that process.  Consider the “New Product Introduction” (NPI) process undertaken by companies.  Typically, there are several factors considered, including Market Research and Assessment, Competitive Landscape, Emerging Technologies, Engineering/Product Development Time and Cost, Manufacturing Time and Cost, and Strategic Product Lifecycle Plan.  All of these factors are typically viewed through the Market Window of Opportunity.

So, how can the adoption to maturity process be accelerated?  It could be done by individual companies; after all, that is what capitalism is all about.  Or maybe, just maybe, we look at “Disruptive Technologies” and their derivative products in the industries they will serve and formulate a vehicle by which these new technologies and products can be piloted and progressed to maturity faster.  Maybe, such a vehicle is a Government/Industry consortium comprised of entities with a vested interest in the adoption of these technologies.  This idea is not new!!  It’s just pragmatic.  NUAS-RTC (National Unmanned Autonomous Systems Research and Training Center) is one such example.   NUAS-RTC is a cooperative effort between Industry (companies and Associations), Academia, and Government. The initiative’s charter is to foster new technologies (many which are considered Disruptive Technologies by McKinsey) growing out of the autonomous vehicle and drone applications, the adoption of those technologies, and resultant job creation through the education and training of labor resources with the skill sets to support them. Located in Michigan, NUAS-RTC has begun to extend its reach nationally through the participation of members in various regions of the country.

Government participation such as the City of Detroit and federal agencies provide development vehicles and testing environments that will enable the accelerated adoption of these new technologies and derivative products.  Who after all, wouldn’t want to see the potential impact of Disruptive Technologies happen when and to the extent projected–$14 Trillion – $33 Trillion in 2025. But until that time, it’s up to us, the technologist and buying communities within the industry to make it happen.

Art Kahn is Co-Founder and CEO of Aveopt Inc (www.aveopt.com), a solutions provider leveraging Virtual and Augmented Reality technologies integrated with Sensor, Autonomous/Near-Autonomous Vehicle, IoT, and Robotics technologies in support of the Infrastructure Markets.  Art has more than 30 years of experience serving the public sector and infrastructure markets from both management (process/business engineering) and IT perspectives.

November 9, 2017 


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