Chapter 03 Digital transformation in action

What does a technology revolution look like?

What happens when smart, creative, forward-thinking women and men take advantage of the power of the cloud to collect and analyze information at a scale and depth that has never before been possible? What problems will be solved and what unmet needs will be fulfilled as innovators and dreamers connect fresh insights with new digital capabilities?

These are questions that will take years to answer. History tells us that the full impact of an industrial revolution takes years to unfold and that the most important innovations were almost never foreseen by those who created the underlying advances that made each successive industrial revolution possible.

History tells us that the full impact of an industrial revolution takes years to unfold

It was nearly a century after James Watt perfected the steam engine that people even began to call what he helped unleash an industrial revolution. It’s doubtful that Heinrich Hertz, Guglielmo Marconi, and the other scientists and inventors whose discoveries laid the groundwork for radio broadcasts could have imagined the world of mobile devices and wireless communications that most people take for granted today.

But there are already exciting and inspiring hints of what the future may hold as people begin to discover how to use cloud computing, advanced analytics, mobile devices, connected sensors, genomics, 3-D printing, geolocation, and a host of other related emerging technologies—not just to look at old problems in new ways but to envision capabilities that until now were impossible to imagine.

Today, people in every profession are using cloud computing to work more efficiently and more effectively, to serve customers in new ways, and to find answers to once unsolvable problems. In this section, we offer a quick snapshot of the impact that cloud computing is already having on key industries that are the backbone of economic and social progress in communities around the world.

Government

In 2011, Vivek Kundra, chief information officer of the U.S. government, announced a national “cloud-first” policy aimed at encouraging rapid implementation of cloud technologies by the federal government. Three years ago, the U.K. launched its own cloud-first initiative. But the fact is that in both countries—and across most of the world—governments have traditionally moved to the cloud much more slowly than businesses and organizations in other sectors.

There are a number of reasons why, including limited budgets, the challenges inherent in converting complex and aging legacy IT systems, and a lack of expertise. But far and away the top issue has been the perception that cloud environments create new risks and raise new security issues.

That resistance appears to be easing as governments begin to recognize that moving to the cloud does not mean losing control of data privacy and security. Now, more and more local, regional, and federal government entities are making the leap to the cloud and seeing the benefits, which include cost savings and productivity gain; enhanced collaboration among government employees and between government agencies and partners and suppliers; and dramatic improvements in the delivery of services to citizens. As a result, the pace of adoption is beginning to quicken. A recent study found that in the United States, annual spending on cloud computing is likely to grow by more than 20 percent a year, rising to 6.5 billion U.S. dollars by 2019.[1] And according to Fortune, some technology providers are now reporting that U.S. government agencies are moving to the cloud more quickly than private companies.[2]

In the United States, Miami, Florida, is a good example of a local municipality that has used cloud-based approaches to streamline processes, safe money, and improve city services. Today, the city’s building department can track the workload of its building inspectors more accurately and optimize inspection schedules based on distance, location, traffic, weather, and more. And because inspectors can upload and download documents and photos while they are in the field, they can issue permits instantly while they are on-site, rather than having to return to the office.

More and more government agencies are making the leap to the cloud

The technology has reduced the number of phone calls the building department receives each month by more than 5,000. Overall, the move to the cloud has enabled the city’s IT department to deliver new capabilities that dramatically improve Miami’s ability to serve its citizens, despite a budget that was significantly reduced in the wake of the 2008 recession.

In Peru, the government is using cloud technologies for reasons that go far beyond efficiency and cost savings. There, the National Office of Electoral Processes is using a cloud-based app to transform citizen engagement and strengthen democratic institutions by increasing voter participation in elections. One barrier to voting was the limited number of polling stations. In some cases, voters had to travel for well over an hour to reach the polling place they were assigned to.

To make it easier to vote, the app identifies the three polling stations nearest to each voter’s residence and enables them to pick the one that is most convenient. The system then automatically emails the location to the voter and publishes it to the agency’s district office and the National Office of Electoral Processes’ website. Called “Choose Your Polling Place,” the new system was implemented in November 2015. In April 2016, during the first round of the presidential election, voter absenteeism was 59 percent lower than during the 2011 presidential contest.

One barrier to voting was the limited number of polling stations

But it’s possible that no government has embraced the cloud more completely than the municipality of Hollands Kroon, a town of about 50,000 people in northern Netherlands. A few years ago, the city embarked on an effort to become the world’s first city to run 100 percent of its IT services in the cloud.

The cloud technology project and a comprehensive organizational restructuring make it possible for Hollands Kroon employees to work in functional teams that focus on outcomes rather than processes and give employees the option to work anywhere that is most efficient and productive— in shared workspaces, at home, or out in the community. Now, for example, instead of requiring citizens to travel to city hall to pick up a new passport or a city permit, city employees often deliver them directly to people’s homes.

The shift to the cloud has also enabled Hollands Kroon to launch a wide range of new services for citizens. A mobile app called Fixi lets residents use their mobile phone to submit pictures of problems like graffiti or broken equipment in public spaces and then track the resolution of the issue from submission to completion.

Efficiency gains from the new system have helped the municipality improve many internal processes, such as approvals of commercial zoning permits, which can now be handled in a few months rather than up to a year.

Hollands Kroon’s comprehensive implementation of cloud-based capabilities may be exceptional, but the goals underlying its shift are shared by municipal leaders almost everywhere. It’s safe to assume that more and more towns and cities around the world will take a similar approach in the years ahead.

Education

At a time when the value of a high-quality education has never been more apparent and the limits of traditional teaching approaches have never been more obvious, cloud computing offers incredible potential to address one of society’s most pressing issues—how to provide everyone with access to great educational opportunities.

So far, the impact of cloud computing on education has mostly focused on cost and efficiency. Schools are using cloud-based capabilities to provide access to e-textbooks that are significantly less expensive than hardcover editions and that can be updated regularly so they always deliver the latest knowledge and information.

Inexpensive and easy-to-use multimedia tools and interactive content is transforming how children learn about a wide range of subjects. Subscription-based applications that run in datacenters reduce the cost of software, hardware, and IT staff. By making lessons plans, teaching materials, and test results available online, schools can engage more easily and effectively with students and their parents.

The system analyzes measures of academic performance so teachers can identify those who need special attention

These productivity and efficiency gains are clearly just the start. There are an increasing number of examples today of how cloud computing is helping schools increase engagement with students and improve access to high-quality personalized learning as they begin to tackle some the most pressing problems in education.

Bridge International Academies, a private network in Kenya of more than 400 schools with over 120,000 students, is using cloud computing to raise the level of knowledge and expertise for teachers in a country where only 35 percent of classroom instructors have a decent mastery of their subject areas.

According to a report from the World Economic Forum, Bridge is using tablet computers to provide teachers with scripted lessons, detailed instructions for how to deliver the material, and options for classroom activities. So far the results are promising—Bridge estimates that its students are about a year ahead of their peers in public schools in reading and math.[3]

In the United States, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District in Ohio is using cloud-based predictive analytic technology to monitor student performance and identify children who are falling behind. Teachers and administrators in this high-poverty school system know that one key to long-term success for these students is to step in early to provide support when they start to show signs of struggling in class.

The system analyzes test scores, grades, attendance, and other measures of academic performance for first, second, and third graders so teachers can track how students are doing and identify those who need special attention. Not only does it enable teachers to see early warning signs, but it offers suggestions for lessons and material that are personalized to each student’s needs and that can be assigned quickly and easily via computer, tablet, or mobile device.

Now, even more revolutionary approaches are beginning to emerge. Imagine how learning would be transformed if school children could find out what life is like in another country by chatting with each other about the food they eat, the games they play, the music they listen to, and the books they read—even if they don’t speak the same language?

This scenario has already been a reality for elementary school students in the United States and Mexico. In Tacoma, Washington, and Mexico City, rapid progress in speech recognition, automatic translation, and machine learning made possible by cloud computing enabled them to communicate with each other directly despite the barriers of language and distance.

In the process, it demonstrated how voice-to-voice translation capabilities can enable children in different countries who don’t share a common language to make friends and learn about each other’s culture, history, and customs, without having a language in common.

A recent report from the World Economic Forum identified 16 skills that today’s students will need in order to be successful in tomorrow’s job market, including numeracy, scientific literacy, cultural and civic literacy, critical thinking, adaptability, and persistence. The report, titled “A New Vision for Education” also explored how educators can use technology to help students gain these skills by providing the foundation for solutions that improve teacher productivity, use data to improve how students learn, and more.[4] Around the world, forward-thinking educators are beginning to use these approaches to help their students prepare for life in our innovation-driven world.

Healthcare

We live in a period of unprecedented progress in the quest to improve health around the world. Thanks to a combination of remarkable medical advances and a strong focus on global health, during the past quarter century, average life expectancy around the world has increased by more than six years, and maternal and childhood mortality has been cut in half.

Today, however, we are at a crossroads. In the United States, the cost of healthcare will top 10,000 U.S. dollars per person in 2016 and by 2025, healthcare spending will account for 20 percent of the country’s total economic activity.[5]

In Europe an aging population and broadening inequality of outcomes within and across nations strains health systems. And the burden of non-communicable diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes—once considered afflictions of wealthy nations—now disproportionately sicken and kill poor people in countries at every stage of economic development, threatening the gains of the past 25 years.

The opportunities that the cloud offers to transform the way healthcare professionals take care of patients and people take care of themselves is far-reaching. So far-reaching, in fact, that the U.S. Affordable Care Act included incentives totaling more than 40,000 U.S. dollars per physician to encourage the adoption of electronic health record systems.[6] As a result, the use of digital systems to store and track patient information has increased from one hospital in 10 in 2008 to three out of four today.

The broad-scale impact of this move to electronic systems on costs and health outcomes is just beginning to be felt. In New Zealand, Plunket—which is that country’s largest provider of health support services for children under the age of 5—recently adopted a cloud-based system to manage the more than 60,000 clinical records it creates every year for the children it serves.

The cloud will transform the way doctors take care of patients and people take care of themselves

Moving from paper to electronic health records will help Plunket reduce costs and enable its healthcare professionals to spend more time in the community working with families. It also gives the organization the ability to track real-time data so that it can respond quickly in the face of an emerging health threat such as the outbreak of an infectious disease.

In the United States, doctors at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, are demonstrating how the cloud can help save the lives of even the youngest and most vulnerable patients. There, they are using a cloud-base app called the Cardiac High Acuity Monitoring Program (CHAMP) to treat children born with only one ventricle, a rare—and often fatal—congenital heart defect.

CHAMP allows doctors to track key measurements of cardiac health remotely in babies with the heart defect, and it instantly notifies cardiac pediatricians when there are indications of trouble. Typically, one child in four with the defect will die from complications, but since CHAMP was introduced, there have been no fatalities among infants under the care of physicians at Children’s Mercy Hospital.

In southern Zambia, health care workers are using sophisticated data models to find isolated pockets of malaria

In the developing world, innovative programs and initiatives are providing new hope in the fight to eliminate some of the world’s deadliest illnesses, including infectious diseases such as malaria, which remains among the leading causes of illness and death in poor communities.

In southern Zambia, healthcare workers are using mobile phones and sophisticated data models to find isolated pockets of the mosquito-borne illness, identify people who are infected but have no symptoms, and ensure that the right treatment and preventive measures are delivered where they are needed when they will make a difference.

This approach has helped lower infection rates from 50 percent to below 1 percent in just one decade in some areas,[7] giving rise to the hope that malaria can be eradicated there and beyond—something that once seemed unachievable.

Capabilities like these are an important reason why the expanded use of digital technologies, including the cloud, is an essential component of healthcare policy in the European Union, a key part of the Affordable Care Act in the United States, and a pillar of the World Health Organization’s long-term approach to improving health around the world.

Public safety

When we think of the impact of cloud computing on public safety, we tend to focus on the growing sense that we’ve entered a period of unprecedented risk. Security breaches in the United States at the Pentagon and the Office of Personnel Management— where personnel records and security clearance information for 22 million people were compromised in 2015—raise concerns about whether those who protect us can protect themselves.

But there’s another side to this story—the potential for a new generation of cloud-enabled innovations to improve public safety. Around the world, fire departments and law enforcement agencies are beginning to take advantage of cloud computing and advanced analytic capabilities to reduce costs and serve the public more effectively. In fact, according to a recent survey by the International Association of Police Chiefs, more than half of police departments have implemented cloud technology or are planning to move to new cloud systems during the next two years.

Sometimes it’s a simple matter of improved efficiency. Relatively simple cloud-based mobile communications software and digital records systems enable law enforcement officers to spend more time in the community and less time in the police station, while video-enabled command centers have been shown to reduce crime by enabling police officers to respond to incidents more quickly.

Increasingly, however, law enforcement agencies are looking at truly advanced cloud-base systems that aggregate data from a wide range of sources and sensors—everything from license plate readers to 911 call centers, warrant and arrest data, real-time video, and even social media feeds—to provide officers responding to an emergency with critical contextual information that is constantly updated.

Ceará State in Brazil, for example, is testing a cloud-based system that can enable police responding to reports of a gunshot to instantly view video from the surrounding area before, during, and after the shot was fired. If a suspect flees the scene in a car, police can automatically track the vehicle using license plate readers, even if they only have a partial plate.

Law enforcement agencies are using the cloud to reduce costs and serve the public more effectively

The benefits of cloud computing can extend beyond law enforcement and public safety and have a transformational impact on judicial systems, as well. In Argentina, the Supreme Court of Buenos Aires—which has jurisdiction over a region that includes more than 15 million people—has implemented an online portal that provides lawyers, judges, and citizens with access to files, videos, and documents related to court cases via connected digital devices, including mobile phones.

In the past, when citizens in Buenos Aires had to appear in court, it meant taking time off from work, budgeting money for travel, and scrambling to file paperwork according to court-mandated deadlines. For lawyers who could only exchange documents with clients and the courts in person or by mail, the inefficiencies and costs often meant that it could take years for a case to work its way through the judicial process.

The impact of the new system has been dramatic. Video capabilities make trials and legal proceedings accessible remotely and minimize the need for citizens and lawyers to travel long distances to appear in court. Lawyers can upload digital documents to the portal and clients can review and sign paperwork on personal tablets. Because of the sensitive nature of the proceedings, the system includes robust security that uses digital signatures to ensure that documents are authentic and can only be accessed by authorized people.

Cases that once took years to resolve can be completed in weeks or months

Before the portal was launched, it usually took 50 days from the time a court document was requested until it was delivered. Now information requests are usually filled the same day, and cases that once took years to resolve can be completed in weeks or months.

Small and midsized businesses

It would be difficult to overstate the importance of small and midsized businesses to job creation, economic growth, and the health of local communities. As recent research makes clear, smaller businesses are the economic bedrock in every country. A World Bank study considered by many to be the most comprehensive analysis of small businesses around the world in the formal economy concluded that they account for 67 percent of global employment.[8]

The United Nations International Labour Organization and the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development found that unregistered small and midsized companies make up 95 percent of the world’s enterprises. And worldwide, businesses with fewer than 100 people generate more than 50 percent of net job creation.[9]

Against this backdrop, cloud-enabled capabilities that improve the competitiveness of small businesses offer the potential to significantly expand access to job opportunities and strengthen local economies. Already, many small organizations are using cloud computing to lower costs, improve productivity and efficiency, and enhance agility. According to a recent study conducted by Pb7 Research and the software company Exact, small businesses that have adopted cloud solutions have doubled profits and increased revenue by 25 percent.[10]

For other companies, the benefits of cloud computing go beyond costs and productivity and provide the capabilities needed to build thriving businesses by reaching and serving customers in ways that would never otherwise be possible.

Cloud capabilities can enable small businesses to expand job opportunities and strengthen local economies

Sistema Biobolsa is a great example. Based in Mexico City, Mexico it has developed technology that enables small farmers in developing nations to turn cow and pig waste into biogas for stoves and other equipment. The digesters also produce organic manure-based fertilizer, which reduces the need for chemical fertilizers and saves money.

Cloud-based communications and collaboration services make it possible for the company’s team of 30 employees to work in four offices in Mexico and Nicaragua and connect with hundreds of installers and promoters around the world.

This capability has enabled the company to install more than 3,000 digesters across Mexico and Central America, as well as in remote areas from the Andean region in South America to pilot programs in Ghana, Nigeria, and Madagascar.

Today Sistema Biobolsa is developing new pilot programs in East Africa and India. Working in partnership with the nonprofit Kiva, Sistema Biobolsa is also taking advantage of a cloud-based microfinancing system to offer no-interest loans to its customers, many of whom have never had access to credit before.

For companies like U.S.-based CardioDiagnostics, which is revolutionizing the way doctors monitor patients with heart problems, the cloud is more than a powerful tool for improving competitiveness and profitability—it is the foundation for the technology innovation that the business is built on.

Until recently, to track patients’ heart function over an extended period of time, they had to wear a bulky portable recording device for a couple days and then take it back to their doctor for assessment. CardioDiagnostics has developed a version about the size of a mobile phone that enables cardiologists to record information remotely and access real-time data about how a patient’s heart is functioning.

CardioDiagnostics’ scientists have also developed algorithms that automatically detect potentially dangerous heart rhythm abnormalities and generate an alert so that emergency assistance can be dispatched quickly if necessary. As more and more small businesses take advantage of the benefits of the cloud, stories like these will become increasingly commonplace. Research by Intuit reported in Forbes suggests that in the United States, about 37 percent of small businesses have already moved their operations to the cloud. Estimates are that this number will rise to 78 percent by 2020.[11]

Farming and agriculture

Ultimately, there may be no area where the impact of cloud computing will be more important—or, for many people, more surprising—than farming and agriculture. The combination of an expanding global population, rising incomes, and changing diets will require the world’s farmers and fishermen to produce about 60 percent more food by 2050.[12]

But while it’s easy to imagine how the cloud might transform information-based sectors such as healthcare, financial services, and manufacturing, it can be a little more difficult to understand how the ability to collect, store, and process large amounts of information in datacenters around the world will help people who grow food and catch fish be more productive.

In truth, however, digital technology has already had a significant impact on farming and fishing around the world. Today, many farmers in developed nations rely on a wide range of innovative new technologies for their day-do-day operations—everything from self-driving tractors that use GPS and satellite imagery to plant more efficiently to drones and sensors coupled with advanced software that enables them to make smarter decisions about when to irrigate and how much fertilizer to apply.

And in Africa, mobile phone technology has raised agricultural productivity and income levels for many farmers by improving access to information about market prices, weather, and sound farming practices, and by making it easier to receive payments and subsidies.

To get an idea of how the cloud will change food production, a small dairy farm in Wagenfeld, Germany, is a good place to start. There, Steffen Hake, his father, and a couple of additional farmhands manage a herd of about 240 cows.

In the past, they spent a significant part of each day observing their cows in person because that was the only way to track where each cow was in the cycle of birth, pregnancy, and fertility, which determines milk production.

An expanding population will require the world’s farmers and fishermen to produce about 60 percent more food by 2050

Now they rely on a cloud-based system that uses sensors to monitor each cow’s activity, milk output, and health. Sophisticated algorithms generate automatic alerts when a cow is in heat or if there are indications that a cow is sick. The system has helped them increase yield, improve the health of their herd, and reduce the amount of time they spend in the stables observing cows.

The benefits of cloud computing extend beyond more efficient land-based production of food. In the United States off the coast of Washington State, shellfish farmers are using a cloud-based model to respond to the impact of ocean acidification—a byproduct of climate change—on oysters. As carbon levels in the atmosphere increase, it is making ocean water more acidic, which can inhibit the ability of baby oysters to form shells.

Starting in 2008, Taylor Shellfish, a fifth-generation company that is one of the largest oyster producers in the United States, began to see mass die-offs of young seed oysters because of ocean acidification. To help Washington’s oyster industry survive, the Washington State legislature allocated money to oceanographers at the University of Washington to study ocean acidification and create a model to predict water acidity in Puget Sound and along the Washington Coast.

Sophisticated algorithms have helped farmers increase yield and improve the health of their herd

Called LiveOcean, the tool helps Taylor Shellfish anticipate acidification levels in the bays where it plants young oysters, so the company will know when it is safe to move baby oysters from hatcheries to beds where they can grow to full size.

Agriculture may be the world’s oldest industry, but there are plenty of reasons to think that changes like these are just the beginning of a period of much more dramatic technology-driven transformation. One reason to expect a wave of innovation focused on food production is the rapid increase in venture capital investment in the agriculture industry. In 2015, the so-called “AgTech” sector attracted a record 4.6 billion U.S. dollars in venture funding, a jump of more than 2 billion U.S. dollars over 2014.[13]

The potential for cloud-driven transformation—and disruption— is particularly strong in the financial services industry. Digital payments, online banking, and mobile transactions all offer powerful opportunities for reinventing how people manage their money and pay for goods and services, how banks serve their customers, and how governments meet the needs of their citizens.

It’s a transformation that is well underway, as evidenced by everything from the rapid growth of mobile payments, which are predicted to triple in value to more than 27 billion U.S. dollars in the United States in 2016,[14] to fierce competition among financial services institutions, technology companies, and startups to deliver digital wallets to the rise of entirely new forms of digital currency, such as Bitcoin.

For banks, the benefits of cloud-based technologies start with reduced expenses—it costs 10 cents to serve a customer through mobile banking compared with more than four U.S. dollars for a traditional branch visit—and include greater convenience and personalization, increased security, and new ways to assess credit histories and service loans.[15]

For governments, shifting to digital payments for social programs, wages, and pensions can yield significant savings. In Mexico, digital payments have reduced costs by more than 1.3 billion U.S. dollars per year, and a McKinsey & Company study found that India could save more than 20 billion U.S. dollars per year in overhead, transaction costs, and fraud by moving to a digital payment platform.[16]

Financial services

The potential for transformation extends to every sector of the financial services industry. Auto insurance companies, for example, have priced policies the same way for years, using a formula that factors in where drivers live, their age, what kind of car they drive, and their past claims history.

Now, however, it’s possible to collect real-time data on how people actually behave behind the wheel—everything from how fast they drive to how hard they brake, whether they wear a seatbelt, and even how they adapt to changes in the weather.

All that information is enabling Willis Towers Watson—a consulting and technology services firm based in London, England— to help auto insurers offer user-based policies, an approach that rewards safe drivers and reflects the true cost of unsafe drivers much more accurately. For insurance companies that have moved to this pricing model, the benefits include greater competitiveness and increased profitability.

But the greatest opportunities for transformation almost certainly lie in the potential to remove the barriers to participation in the global economy that exist in many parts of the world today because of a lack of access to basic financial services. According to the Center for Financial Inclusion, the number of people around the world it considers financially excluded dropped from 2.5 billion to 2 billion between 2011 and 2014.[17]

In a country where a small loan can launch a business, access to financial services can have a huge impact

The power of this change is already visible in countries such as Myanmar, where more than 70 percent of adults lack access to basic financial services like a savings account or the ability to secure credit. In a country where a loan of a few hundred U.S. dollars can be enough to launch a small business, putting financial services in reach of more people can have a huge impact.

To help close this gap, Temenos, a banking software company based in Geneva, Switzerland, is working with the bank Fullerton Myanmar to provide software so that loan officers can travel to remote villages to meet potential customers and conduct transactions securely using a smartphone.

In the past year alone, Fullerton Myanmar has offered banking services to more than 50,000 new customers in formerly unserved areas of the country, providing microloans that have enabled entrepreneurs in the Myanmar countryside to open hundreds of small factories and new businesses.

Thanks to examples like this, it is now possible to imagine a world in which every adult has a bank account—a goal that the World Bank is pushing to make a reality in 2020. With the spending power of the bottom 40 percent of the population in low- and middle-income economies expected to grow from 3 trillion U.S. dollars to nearly 6 trillion U.S. dollars during this decade, the Center for Financial Inclusion says this push to “full and meaningful financial inclusion by 2020 represents an enormous opportunity for social impact and economic growth.”[18]

Manufacturing and industry

If this truly is the dawn of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it’s reasonable to expect that manufacturing-based industries will be among the very first to incorporate the capabilities that cloud computing makes possible. And this is, in fact, starting to happen as forward-thinking companies explore the opportunities that emerge when the digital and physical worlds begin to merge.

In many ways, the changes underway now reflect ideas put forward in 2013 in Germany’s “Industrie 4.0” proposal to promote digitization and automation of manufacturing as a way to enable the German manufacturing industry to maintain its competitive edge. Today, the insights that come from being able to collect and analyze data from millions of connected sensors, devices, and products are enabling manufacturers to transform their processes, make better-informed business decisions, and create new revenue streams by developing high-value services that reflect how customers interact with products in the real world.

One place where there are clear signs of transformation is in advanced factories that are taking advantage of the ability to monitor the performance of almost every aspect of manufacturing processes to streamline operations and anticipate problems before they happen. Jabil, a Florida-based company in the United States that is a leader in advanced manufacturing solutions, is one of the companies helping create intelligent factories that use machine learning and predictive analytics to prevent quality issues from occurring.

Already up and running in manufacturing plants in Mexico and Malaysia, this technology makes use of sensors and cloud computing to collect and analyze millions of data points from machines running dozens of steps across manufacturing processes and to predict with 80 percent accuracy the likelihood of a slowdown or failure. For the plants using these systems, the benefits include an average reduction in rework costs of 17 percent and energy savings of 10 percent.

In Germany, ThyssenKrupp, the world’s leading manufacturer of elevators, is deploying similar capabilities to build intelligent elevators that are more reliable and that orchestrate the flow of people up and down through many of the world’s tallest buildings more quickly and smoothly.

Its systems employ a vast number of sensors to monitor everything from motor temperature to shaft alignment, cab speed, and door functioning to automate the diagnosis of problems so the company can dispatch maintenance teams before breakdowns happen. And its advanced shuttle technology makes it possible to carry significantly more passengers per hour in many of the world’s tallest buildings.

In the United States, at New York’s 102-story One World Trade Center, for example, the fastest elevators in the Western Hemisphere will carry 3.5 million people every year, with a trip from bottom to top taking just 60 seconds.

The implications of advanced manufacturing processes extend beyond improving operations and profitability for private sector companies and suggest ways to address issues that impact the environment, food production, and more.

One example is access to water. As the world’s population continues to grow, increasing urbanization, changing diets, and expanding industrialization will increase the need for water significantly.

According to a United Nations’ report, demand for fresh water for consumption, agriculture, and industry will exceed supply by 40 percent.[19] Ecolab, which is one of the world’s leading suppliers of water and energy technologies, is using advanced cloud-based technologies to help tackle the world’s growing water scarcity issue.

The goal is to create systems that are so efficient they essentially operate at what the company calls “net-zero” water consumption. To do that, Ecolab is delivering solutions that provide real-time monitoring and control of every aspect of manufacturing processes involving water, from pretreatment to production and waste water treatment.

With hundreds of thousands of sensors in thousands of facilities generating data from in-plant monitoring equipment, Ecolab will be able to take advantage of the analytical power of the cloud to establish operational benchmarks. And by comparing millions of data points from common processes in plants around the world, it will be able to identify ways to operate more efficiently and make recommendations for services that will lead to even greater reductions in water, energy, and labor costs.

As these technologies continue to take hold, the impact on overall economic growth could be huge. The European Commission estimates that the digitization of products and services will enable European industry to generate an additional 110 billion euros per year in revenue over the next five years.[20]

The implications of advanced manufacturing suggest ways to address issues that impact the environment, food production, and more

And according to McKinsey & Company, by 2025, advanced digital capabilities could add 2.2 trillion U.S. dollars to the GDP in the United States and 2.5 trillion euros to the GDP in Europe.[21]

Nonprofit organizations

In many ways, nonprofit organizations aren’t that different from private sector companies when it comes to information technology. Both benefit from productivity technology for creating, organizing, and analyzing data; relationship management software for tracking customers or clients; communications applications to connect employees; and digital storage for backup and recovery.

But nonprofits often lag behind their private sector counterparts because of the imperative to focus budgets on programs that advance their mission, which often limits the availability of funds for IT budgets and IT staff.

This is slowly beginning to change as nonprofits start to take advantage of cloud-based applications, services, and storage. The ability to pay only for what they need without having to worry about installation or maintenance is translating to significant savings both in terms of staffing and the cost of technology.

And, as it has done for business, it is improving productivity and collaboration through services that make it easy to work remotely, hold virtual meetings, edit documents with colleagues online, and more.

For Partners In Health, a Boston, U.S.-based nonprofit with 18,000 employees that provides healthcare services to some of the world’s poorest communities, switching from personal email accounts to a single cloud-based email system has transformed its ability to respond quickly and effectively to emerging health crises such as Ebola and Zika.

Meanwhile, new online document and workflow management tools are giving teams the ability to collect care-delivery data that is enabling the organization to better assess programs and progress, as well as promote its work to funders.

And for professionals at the Cooperative for Childhood Nutrition (CONIN), an organization based in Mendoza, Argentina, that is working to reduce child malnutrition, the switch from paper to digital records marked a huge leap forward.

Sensors similar to those found in smartphones detect when a pump is failing

Now the ability to store notes from family visits in the cloud and collaborate online across the organization and with partner health providers has made identifying, diagnosing, and treating children in need significantly more effective.

But it was when CONIN began to apply cloud-enabled mapping and analytical capabilities to the information they were already collecting that it really began to transform how the organization works to achieve its mission.

Today, CONIN healthcare workers can automatically tag field notes with a GPS location and analyze the information they collect against a wide range of parameters to identify emergency malnutrition cases. That intelligence is helping the nonprofit reach areas it never could before—and even prevent malnutrition before it begins to impacts families’ lives.

Meanwhile, in Africa and Asia, the REACH initiative is using cloud computing and mobile sensors to help ensure that thousands of villages have access to safe, secure drinking water.

Using technology developed by a research team at the University of Oxford, REACH takes advantage of accelerometers and gyroscopic sensors similar to those found in smartphones and fitness bands to record the motion of pump handles and the vibration that the flow of water causes. This information tells them when a pump is failing and makes it possible to dispatch repair teams quickly and efficiently—in days instead of weeks or months.

They are also using advanced analytic capabilities and machine learning to figure out how to detect whether water is coming from a deep source or a shallow one and to predict how much water remains underground. Over time, the information they collect about underground reservoirs will help expand access to safe water—their goal today is to use these technologies to help bring water security to 5 million people in Africa and Asia.

For the hundreds of thousands of organizations around the world whose mission it is to provide services, training, assistance, and support to empower others, the capabilities that cloud computing offers can truly be transformative.

Operating in an environment in which the ability to maximize the impact of funding and extend the reach and effectiveness of services is essential, nonprofits are discovering new ways every day to use cloud computing to change people’s lives for the better.