If we asked you to think of an industry that has been revolutionised by technology, you’d probably have no problem answering. In fact, the more difficult question might be naming an industry that hasn’t experienced digital transformation, particularly in the past year.
It’s clear that some industries are more technologically advanced than others. Naturally, technology businesses including Apple, Microsoft, and Google are leading the way. Media, financial services, and energy providers are some of the most digitised sectors.
Some sectors, meanwhile, are still in their digital infancy. But that’s about to change. Here, we detail three sectors that are on the cusp of a digital revolution.
Haulage benefits from connected digital systems
There will never be a scenario where we don’t rely on haulage and transport companies. These businesses proved to be a vital source of support for us all during the coronavirus pandemic. With many stores closed as the result of multiple national lockdowns, the public turned to online shopping, and we aren’t looking back. An Accenture survey found that this shift will continue in the long term as consumers see the benefit of shopping online.
This increased demand has massively impacted the sector. Hauliers which had already embraced digital technologies had a head-start. These industry leaders were able to take advantage of this increased demand for their services, using cloud systems to allow staff to work remotely and mobile technology to keep their wheels turning. Operators in sub-sectors including refrigerated food were essential to keeping the UK running during the initial national lockdown. However, businesses that hadn’t embraced digital didn’t have the same advantage as sector leaders.. [TW1] [NB2] Those serving the events, manufacturing, and catering sectors suffered an unavoidable drop in business.
The sector has historically been slow to adopt digital technologies. PwC’s latest sector report revealed that only 28% of businesses rated themselves as “digitally advanced”. But the technologies that are currently shaping the sector, including artificial intelligence, the cloud, blockchain, and robotics, are set to give the industry an incredible boost.
However, digital innovation doesn’t always have to come in the form of AI and robotics. In fact, this blue-sky thinking can cause executives to miss the most effective technologies right in front of them. Back-office systems including transport management solutions and logistics software can help businesses get a bird’s-eye view of their operational and financial performance and significantly increase productivity. A number of businesses in the sector report huge cost and time savings as a result of implementing these sector-specific digital solutions, which allowed them to go mobile and paperless. Others have deployed cloud-based [NB3] solutions to allow them to manage their business growth effectively and keep teams working remotely, which is essential for a future society in which we rely on haulage more than ever before.
Healthcare takes advantage of AI and interoperability
The coronavirus pandemic also impacted the way we take care of our health. Many GP practices switched to remote phone or video appointments in order to reduce the risk of spreading the virus in the surgery. A plethora of mobile apps, including Patient Access and the NHS app, are now available to help alleviate pressure on the NHS and allow patients to self-serve and book GP appointments, order repeat prescriptions, and access their medical records.
We’re also seeing advancements in the diagnosis and treatment of a number of illnesses and conditions. Artificial intelligence is being tested in the detection and diagnosis of strokes to significantly reduce the long-term impact of strokes on a patient. Furthermore, Microsoft’s InnerEye technology is paving the way for automation in cancer treatment. The tool identifies lesions and tumours in body scans, automating a once-manual task and allowing NHS staff to speed up cancer treatments.
The NHS is also looking to build on its current successes with artificial intelligence by announcing the second round of the AI in Health and Care Award. Winning projects from the first round are currently being tested, and include a mobile app that uses urine samples to detect the early signs of kidney disease.
A current project which is set to revolutionise the NHS is the refresh of its legacy back-office systems. This was highlighted to the public when the WannaCry ransomware attack was able to successfully take down multiple NHS authorities because of its outdated technologies. A key focus for this project, in addition to strengthening the service’s cyber-security, is interoperability. This will allow key systems to share critical data effectively and securely. This project will also help the NHS improve key processes including the discharge of patients from inpatient care and mental health facilities, managing A&E operations, and medication prescriptions and application.
Manufacturing explores machine learning and robotics
The manufacturing sector has arguably experienced the biggest digital revolution of all time. Items that were once handmade are now fully automated, changing the landscape of the sector but also the job landscape. Now, the sector is making strides in exploring how humans and robotics can work together.
Machine learning is set to speed up the process of manufacturing materials like metallic alloys for aerospace, making the process more cost-effective and therefore more profitable. According to Deloitte, machine learning can improve the quality of a product by up to 35%. This machine learning is also being used to optimise the output of heavy manufacturing machinery, allowing the devices to run in auto-pilot mode and thus enabling manufacturers to produce products 24/7 with minimal to no supervision.
The sector is also uniquely positioned to benefit from the Made Smarter Adoption programme. The government initiative is designed to help businesses embrace digital technologies, modernise their operations, and create new jobs. For many, a lack of resources, guidance, and capital have been barriers to digitisation, and this programme is designed to help businesses in the manufacturing sector overcome these hurdles.
We’ve all witnessed how much technology has positively impacted businesses. There isn’t a single sector in the UK that hasn’t benefitted from digital technologies, but there are sectors whose uptake is slower than expected. Happily, many of these sectors are currently on the cusp of realising the potential of digital.