End of the Service Society

January 24, 2011 by Frank Völkel

IBM CTO Gunter Dueck didn’t sugarcoat his predictions (image: Frank Völkel)

IBM CTO Gunter Dueck didn’t sugarcoat his predictions (image: Frank Völkel)

The Innovation Summit is a cross-industry meeting of leading minds from the fields of science, economics, and media who are interested in driving research and development. Every year, this platform provides the opportunity to put forward ideas and innovations intended to inspire new business models. The fourth iteration of the Innovation Summit recently took place in Munich, Germany, under the theme “Sustainable Innovations and Strategies.” Following an opening address by Martin Zeil, deputy minister president of the German state of Bavaria, a number of industry representatives gave their scheduled talks.

Dr. Peter Waldmann of BMW, for instance, spoke about how automated driving could soon be implemented on normal roadways and offered the evolution of BMW’s Track Trainer into its Emergency Stop Assistant as an example of sustainable development. Whenever a driver experiences a health-related emergency, ESA automatically takes control of the vehicle, carefully maneuvers it to the right side of the road, and begins emitting an emergency signal.

Warning: end of service society ahead!

Causing a particular stir, meanwhile, was Dr. Gunter Dueck, whose presentation dealt with fundamental developments in the industrial community. Dueck put forward the theory that knowledge one can acquire in two hours online hardly contains enough added value to support a business model. “We need to put ourselves on a path toward a society of greater knowledge,” stated Dueck, an author and unconventional thinker who also serves as IBM’s chief technical officer. After all, the Internet and the advancing state of general interconnectedness are offering an ever-increasing level of transparency that is testing the foundations of many successful businesses.

Taking a look around at those in attendance, Dueck also declared that today’s premium providers will constantly have to reinvent themselves. He postulated that more and more “specialist companies” will put established firms under pressure by simplifying aspects of the market. Dueck then continued on the subject of how today’s citizens can handle virtually all of their administrative processes – including banking, insurance, travel reservations, postal services, and governmental functions – through a Web browser. While it is enjoying a considerable amount of hype in connection with cloud computing, this trend is also making many jobs obsolete.

Dueck followed up with a provocative question: What will become of teachers, doctors, pharmacists, attorneys, headhunters, bankers, agents, travel agencies, and office buildings when you can gather all of the information you need just by clicking a mouse? The market continues to evolve toward a greater focus on specialists and expertise. Despite the increasing integration of information, Dueck called for the invention of new industries in light of the falling prices generally associated with aging business. Luckily, advances are being made in fields such as medical, environmental, genetic, solar, culture, nano-, and biotechnology.

Meanwhile, Dueck also reminded the audience of the Smart Planet initiative, which IBM started in 2008 as a means of bundling specific proposals to tackle the challenges of 21st-century society. In the end, Smart Planet is essentially about how IT can make our actions more intelligent, efficient, and ecological.

Next page: ERP software from SAP

Christian Berg of SAP outlined the topic of sustainability

Christian Berg of SAP outlined the topic of sustainability

To begin his presentation, Dr. Christian Berg – responsible for the topic of sustainability at SAP – cited the dramatic increase in the price of energy and raw materials and the attendant scarcity as a driving force behind innovation in many areas of industry. He went on to state that the time when companies could manage their resources efficiently, for example, without ERP software has long since passed; legal regulations, increasing requirements with respect to transparency and controlling, and the growing flood of information demand optimized business processes to make sustainable practices possible.

In Berg’s view, SAP – as the world’s largest provider of business software – has an obligation to its some 105,000 customers. He spoke of the solution SAP Carbon Impact, which can help reduce CO2 footprints by incorporating processes and supply chains based on their own respective emissions. After all, all of SAP’s customers together account for around one-sixth of the world’s CO2 production.

Berg also referred to the SAP Sustainability Report, which the company publishes at the end of every quarter – exclusively online and without a printing option.

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