When disruptive technologies work in tandem, everyone wins and the future looks brighter.
MEET Sara, a mum and a supply chain executive in a leading food company. She’s a tech-savvy consumer and has embraced several solutions from the blockchain,1 artificial intelligence (AI),2 digital reality3 and cloud domains,4 the very disruptive technologies we have discussed in this series. These solutions have positively influenced her personal and professional life, and today she can execute tasks that in the not-too-distant past required significantly more time, energy and financial resources. Let’s take a look at her morning:
Beginning with brushing her teeth, Sara’s AI-based, smart toothbrush records her habits (frequency, brush zone patterns, etc.), allowing her to monitor the efficacy of her dental regime, identifying problem areas and solutions to improve her dental health.5
In the kitchen, Sara’s smart refrigerator with its enhanced AI and IoT capabilities allows her to assess her breakfast choices based on the food items inside. Using voice commands, she browses the internet for recipes based on these food ingredients. Her smartphone shopping list is also automatically updated depending on the amounts of ingredients used and their expiration dates. Added to this, the refrigerator’s smart screen downloads the morning news and weather.6
As Sara dresses for work, she chooses lipstick, mascara and eyeliner that she purchased online using AI- and augmented-reality-enabled applications. Sara was able to “virtually” try a vast number of shades using a smartphone application to decide on the one that best suits her.7
At work, Sara’s responsibilities centre around managing supply chain and automation processes for her company which procures, processes and markets meat-based products. In a recent incident, Sara’s team needed to identify the source of contaminated meat. Earlier, traditional procurement and supply chain methods did not permit them to do so. With the advent of blockchain technology, however, Sara and her team are now able to easily trace its source. Further, Sara’s company has begun applying QR codes on its packages, allowing consumers to identify where the meat originated.
Being in the meat business, Sara’s company needs to adhere to the highest standards of safety, cleanliness, and efficiency. To ensure these standards are maintained, Sara had recommended investing in the latest training resources at regular intervals to train employees in these areas. In the past, such programmes typically involved hiring expensive world-class trainers and often significant travel time for employees, which was a major expense for the company. Now, however, the company has invested in virtual reality training methods that have helped in reducing the number of regulatory lapses. At the same time, Sara has been able to significantly reduce her team’s training budget, while ensuring business continuity, as she can control how many people take training in a given period. Sara even offers her employees the option to take the training again at any time of the year at no extra cost.
Disruptive technologies are the basis on which novel solutions can be built. These solutions have wide applicability across industries. There are many ways in which disruptive technologies can be useful to both consumer product companies and their consumers.
Importantly though, these technologies don’t exist in isolation. They “talk” with one another, helping create powerful solutions. This makes it possible for companies to improve efficiency and safety—leading to increased profitability—while enhancing the customer experience.
Recognising the potential of these technologies, companies have been increasingly investing in them. It’s projected that the market size and revenue will likely grow in the near future. For example, global blockchain revenue has been on an upward trend since 2017.9 Given these projections, a day in Sara’s future could be more efficient, providing her with more choices now than in the past regarding how she will allocate her most valued asset, time. Specifically,
Even with these robust predictions, some companies remain slow to adopt disruptive technologies. The 2018 Annual Study of Digital Business by MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte15 indicates that on the spectrum of digital maturity, respondents from the consumer products companies rated themselves at the mid-to-lower end in comparison to other consumer-facing industries.16 The study also identified specific behaviours that companies would likely benefit from embracing to move forward on their journey to digital maturity. These include:
These are exciting times for companies investing in disruptive technologies. As advancements continue to emerge, so will the possibilities. As mentioned in Deloitte’s Tech Trends 2019,17 companies would likely benefit from addressing the challenges of channelling and guiding the collective value of these disruptive technologies to gain competitive advantage. Future applications of such technologies in the consumer products industry are abundant. For example, as food manufacturers continue to invest in marketing fresh foods, these technologies can play a role in ensuring their efficacy. In the agriculture sector, precision farming enabled by these technologies can help ensure the most efficient methods are deployed to help boost profitability in manufacturing.
Further, the intersection of advancement in AI and Industry 4.0 will likely create organisations in which humans and machines work together within designed digital systems to harness data-driven insights. In the future, whether in the production of food, household and personal care products or apparel, businesses will likely be able to connect machine learning, embedded sensors, augmented-reality-based training, visualisation, predictive flow-scheduling, secure networks and cloud-based tools for managing work-flow across a supply-chain.18 Just imagine what the end of Sara’s day might look like in the future!
As Sara closes out her day at work, she quickly scans an AI-enabled dashboard updating her on procuring batches of raw meat for the factory. Automated robots operate the factory floor using an AI-enabled algorithm and smart sensors, which generate vast amounts of actionable data. Results of the latest employee engagement survey came in just this afternoon and Sara scored the highest in the company. She’s glad that her efforts have paid off—last year, she rallied for cognitive HR solutions for her team, which were implemented by the company a few months ago.
Sara heads home in an AI- and sensor-enabled self-driven car. She checks on the status of her son whose class was visiting the zoo today. While her smartphone previously read her emails and put them on her calendar, newer AI-enabled technology arranged her son’s pickup from school as well; continued technology advancements such as this provide new and evolving solutions to help simplify daily tasks.
As she continues her drive home she uses her digital reality-enabled goggles to browse different food recipes on the smart screen. After Sara decides what she wants for dinner, she winks twice to convey her choice. The information is passed on to her humanoid robot at home, who has already mopped the floor, dusted the furniture and washed the laundry during the day. In the meantime, her smart watch has quickly scanned Sara’s electrolyte and mineral levels. AI technology consolidates the data and places an order at the nearest retail store. Once the groceries are delivered to her home by a drone, her humanoid robot cooks the meal in time for Sara’s exact time of arrival—predicted using the robot’s cognitive-learning feature. Mindful of Sara’s allergies, her robot has avoided products with possible allergens.
As Sara prepares to go to bed, the lights in the house begin to dim, the main door lock secures itself and the wireless mobile charger begins to charge Sara’s smartphone that she leaves in a different room nightly. The trigger for them is the AI-enabled toothbrush, the type that Sara has been using for many years. Tomorrow will be another exciting day with vast technological possibilities.
The Deloitte Center for Industry Insights is the research division of Deloitte LLP’s Consumer and Industrial Products practice. The centre’s goal is to inform stakeholders across the consumer business and manufacturing ecosystem of critical business issues, including emerging trends, challenges and opportunities. Using primary research and rigorous analysis, the centre provides unique perspectives and seeks to be a trusted source for relevant, timely and reliable insights.