Reflecting on CES: Digital tech has changed our personal lives. Now let’s use it to expand what’s humanly possible.

By: Barbara Humpton, CEO of Siemens USA

If there were any doubt about the explosion of connectivity in recent years, one look at the show floors at CES 2020 in Las Vegas last week would have erased it. Covering nearly 3 million square feet were the latest gadgets and tech from more than 4,400 companies.

 

In the early ’80s, when I worked as a software programmer, such a tech landscape would have been unfathomable. How could anyone have anticipated that, by 2020, we would have 40 times more bytes of data than stars we can see in the sky? Or predicted the nonstop pace at which we’d be able to create data? Americans are spending, on average, seven hours a day on the internet. That’s more than a third of the country is sleeping every night.

 

Our everyday lives are changed, to be sure. But here’s the question we’re still answering: How can we bring this same level of connectivity to industry and infrastructure?   

 

At Siemens, we see these capabilities in software, data and computing power as the tools that will help us unlock new possibilities in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. And it’s a message we were eager to share at CES, from our technology on display at our Mobility and Digital Industries exhibits to the discussions several of our leaders had during the event sessions, including my own.

 

Imagine making our cities more livable even as urban populations rapidly increase. Imagine creating more pathways for people to embark on meaningful, well-paying careers. Imagine advancing the fight against climate change as we make industry and infrastructure more sustainable and resilient

That’s what we see in store for our communities as we bring today’s powerful technology to the physical world. By taking the data that’s now available to us and analyzing it, we can create new products and services, even new business models. We can create the future.

 

Consider, for example, getting from Point A to Point B in a big city. It might require jumping on a bus, riding a bike or using a ride-hailing service. But what if you didn’t have to compare timetables to map out your trip, or buy a ticket for each leg of the journey? What if, through a single user interface, you could pick the fastest or greenest route and then pay for all of it? The app we’re working on with the city of Columbus, Ohio, is designed to do just that, improving rider experience and the efficiency of our transportation systems in the process.

 

Those possibilities extend to manufacturing, where software can be used to streamline production processes, bring products to market faster and get maintenance on-site before a problem arises. Or in energy, where we can take digital tools and modernize the power grid to integrate renewables efficiently and reliably while also cutting carbon emissions.

 

At Siemens, our mission to unlock this potential across industry and infrastructure is what has driven our transformation into the largest industrial software company in the world.

 

And there’s plenty of room to grow from here. Although the average American has eight connected devices, the same comfort with the Internet of Things isn’t as prevalent at production scale. In fact, we found only about 3 percent of factories around the world are monitoring data.

So let’s get started. We’ve got the tools and the ambition. Let’s make this next decade about connecting the physical world, just as the last was about connecting consumers. Let’s solve today’s challenges and create the future we want to see.