Software is Eating Infrastructure
Marc Andreessen famously coined the phrase “software is eating the world”, nearly nine years ago, in which he argued that “we are in the middle of a dramatic and broad technological and economic shift in which software companies are poised to take over large swathes of the economy. This was due to the confluence of several fundamental technological trends: “Six decades into the computer revolution, four decades since the invention of the microprocessor, and two decades into the rise of the modern Internet, all of the technology required to transform industries through software finally works and can be widely delivered at a global scale.” While software began to first disrupt industries developing content and services such as video rentals, publishing, and real estate, it has also been transforming industries dealing mostly with the physical world, namely, manufacturing, transportation, and logistics.
We hear about this every day here at Humatics when we talk to customers and prospects who are trying to either change the way they make things or move things around, each of which requires humans to collaborate with machines and infrastructure. Some of this has been automated but these are still early days in the automation of the factory or the warehouse. There is plenty of physical infrastructures but not enough software intelligence. The Industry 4.0 movement, for example, is about using software to digitize infrastructure. With this movement comes the massive wave of autonomous robots, digitization of shop-floor machinery via the Internet of Things, cloud storage/processing capabilities to work with millions of data points, as well as easier data integration with ERP, MES, and custom-built applications. The impetus for software eating infrastructure stems from increased customer demand paired with market pressures to expedite shipment to appease that demand.
At Humatics, we’ve realized that Industry 4.0 has paved the way for another IoT-driven movement: the Internet of Moving Things (IoMT). Industrial operations are often dynamic in nature with a steady stream of forklifts, cranes, carts, autonomous robots, and people on the floor. As a result, there’s a growing need to optimize for efficiency, smooth handoffs, and collaboration. In line with this trend, a PwC study has shown that out of 2,000 manufacturers who responded to their survey, 75% of them expect to have a fully digitized supply chain in the next five years. Meanwhile, 86% expect to see cost reductions and revenue gains from their digitization efforts over the next five years.
While the use cases and industries are radically different, the motivations driving our customers are the same: flexibility, safety, productivity. Our customers are trying to move beyond tape and wires or other physical infrastructure that literally erects barriers to operating in a safer, more flexible, more productive, and more connected way.
Therein lie the defining characteristics and requirements for an optimal Industry 4.0 strategy: robust connected sensors, such as LiDAR and ultra-wideband (UWB). Connected sensors enable industries to code infrastructure into software whether it be remote temperature control to the automatic detection of workers in safety zones via beacons to the navigation of robots in a warehouse. Humatics is providing the connective tissue for humans, machines, and infrastructure: centimeter and millimeter-scale microlocation technology for locating, navigating, and collaborating.
While this transformation is being driven by industrial applications, that’s just the start. Over the next decade, we’ll see IoMT evolve into something greater – a widespread principle that goes beyond the confines of a warehouse and into and onto the streets, bridges, tunnels, railway systems, and roads. This the golden opportunity: the ability to build a smart, safer world, whether via beacons providing location information, to motion-activated street lamps to self-parking garages.
While the core of all data may stem from a single chip, it’s the interplay between the sensors, the software, and infrastructure that will ultimately enable Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Moving Things. Humatics is excited to be part of Industry 4.0 and enabling a future for software, microlocation, and infrastructure to join together.