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Managing Emerging Technologies

In this post, I finish up my focus on the management theme from the previous four weeks of posts, with a concentration on the management of emerging technologies like robots and artificial intelligence (AI). There’s been much written about jobs being lost to new technologies like computerized algorithms (at this time) and autonomous vehicles (in the future). Now that these technologies are maturing rapidly, what management challenges are inherent with them?

Emerging Technology Examples

Perhaps emerging isn’t the right word for these technologies. Disruptive is probably better because, despite advantages, there are many changes that can and will come from their growing prominence. Here are three examples of these beneficial yet disruptive technologies.

Robots are used in many settings. In industry, the numbers of robots have grown from 1.2 million in 2013 to 1.9 million in 2017. Robots are getting cheaper in cost and because of this being considered for tasks that replace lower cost laborers. Researchers estimate large and robust negative effects of robots on employment and wages across commuting zones.

Autonomous vehicles are emerging as an important technology. Cars and trucks that drive themselves could reduce mobility and infrastructure costs, and offer improved safety and rider satisfaction. These vehicles offer the potential for a significant reduction in traffic collisions and the resulting injuries and related costs including a reduced need for insurance. These are an example of the potential benefits. In addition to benefits, however, other impacts can be easily imagined like few jobs repairing cars or selling insurance.

AI is intelligence displayed by machines. The scope of AI is changing and open to discussion. Researchers indicate that capabilities generally classified as AI include successfully understanding human speech, competing at a high level in strategic game like chess, self-driving cars, military simulations, and interpreting data that includes images and videos. In his presentation, “Can Machines Really Think”, Chetan Dube reported that business rules are being redefined by machine intelligence. He quoted Gartner: By 2017, companies leveraging autonomics and cognitive platforms will drive a 60 percent reduction in cost of services. That has caught the attention of CEOs.

Management Strategies: Consider the Robot 

Since these emerging technologies are heavily reliant on software, some of the traditional management approaches apply like systems and network management are relevant. Devices like robots run an OS that requires maintenance and administration. Robots are connected in networks just like other computing devices so administration, support, monitoring and management of the network are needed.

Beyond basic management, other management is needed (in a way like application management). Consider ABB robots. ABB is a supplier of industrial robots and robot software, equipment and complete application solutions. This industrial robotics company has installed more than 300,000 robots, supported by a service network. When you buy a washing machine or dryer there is a service network to help keep it running. The same is true for robots.

One of the ABB robots, the IRB 1200 SafeMove2 is a small robot that features advanced safety-certified monitoring and control software, which allows robots and operators to work more closely together by restricting robot motion to precisely what is needed for a specific application. This monitoring and control software demonstrates the role and importance of management tools with these devices. What’s true for robots is the same for other emerging technologies. If you are a systems, network or application management specialist, you have skills that can be made use of in these areas.

Importance of Manageability and Reliability

As these disruptive technologies take on roles in our society and in our individual lives, manageability and reliability of the hardware, operating software, network and application components and logic are of critical importance. A failure in the systems of a self-driving car can cause passenger deaths. AI-based systems are taking every industry by storm. It’s been noted that the jobs that many of us are currently doing may become obsolete or automated sooner than we think. Maybe this isn’t so bad—perhaps man will be freed from shackles of routine.