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Making sure Digital Reality goes hand in hand with Reality

The economy of abundance is fuelled by technology progress in many areas. At the core it is enabled by the shift from atoms to bits. Image credit: Peter Diamandis

Over the last 30 years we have become better and better in extracting data from the world around us. Sensors based on a variety of ever better (and cheaper) technologies can detect a variety of real world parameters and more recently data analytics, machine learning and deep neural networks have made possible to read between the lines of the real world to capture intention and moods. The sensors market is a trillion dollar market and it enables a business that is way larger than that. It would be very difficult to identify an area today where sensing of some sort is not involved.
The Digital Transformation is enabled by sensors, most notably by the data they produce, and it reshapes the whole economy at a fundamental level.
The world of atoms, that sensors transform into a world of bits, is profoundly different from the one created and enabled by the Digital Transformation. More than that: the world of atoms, and its economic ground rules, is the one that has shaped the economy we have had for hundreds, thousands of years, the economy of scarcity.
Even the so called Knowledge Society, although based on immaterial assets, the Knowledge, is an economy of scarcity. Usable Knowledge transmission takes time, paradoxically as we have more and more knowledge available it becomes more and more difficult to get the one that really matters. Experts are scarce, the depreciation of knowledge makes experts even scarcer.
Yet bits are creating a new economy, that of abundance. Not because there are many bits, there are!, but because we can replicate, transmit and manipulate them basically at zero cost. In addition, a bit copy is indistinguishable from the original.  That is at the core of the economy of abundance and economy where selling something –for free- can still make good business sense, an economy based on ecosystem.
This is an economy where rules are different, where companies have to open up, rather than build walls to protect their assets. It is the economy of open data and creative commons. It is as economy that on the one hand stimulates the birth of a myriad of start ups and on the other hand creates oligopoly, the G-MAFIA and the BAT.
The EIT Digital – IEEE Digital Transformation course includes several modules addressing these aspects that are so crucial for companies today.
Atoms are resilient and “heavy”, bits are fickle. You can put chains on atoms to ensure ownership and trustiness. Not so with bits, but technologies like blockchain can ensure trust and robustness to the world of bits and related transactions. Learning where and how to use blockchain to foster a business as it gets Digitally Transformed is crucial. Bits are cheap only at their surface. Managing bits in quantities that make than a real asset, the new gold, requires tremendous investment, and in turns it can only be afforded by a few companies with a worldwide footprint.
The Digital Transformation course, through examples and exercises, ensure the understanding of the bits economy and how to leverage on that, in many cases by flanking it with the economy of scarcity, balancing a company business between the two. More than that. I provides a grasp on designing new services and products that can leverage one or the other, sometimes both because in the end being successful in the Digital Transformation means understanding how to leverage both economies.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.