Mixed reality: ICT solutions for a changing world economy

04 May 2010 Author: EIFonline

The 21st century requires new and innovative ICT solutions to solve real world problems. Whether in education, shipping, energy, or retail, the EIF dinner hosted on 4 May 2010 in cooperation with STOA showed that a Digital Single Market requires a mix of innovative solutions to be practically manageable.

According to Prof. Cheok of the University of Singapore, never before has mankind been confronted with a new technology that is changing our lives so drastically. For better or for worse, in the 21st century we are able to constantly communicate on a global scale. Children growing up now are part of the so-called Net generation. They think in multichannel mode. Where most grownups focus on single tasking, today’s children can actually multi-task; they own zapping, texting, chatting, all at the same time. Schools are underestimating the new Digital Kids. Old methods of linear teaching with textbooks are wasted on the Net Generation (why read about a dinosaur if you can look at a moving 3D image of one?). New educational approaches will therefore likely use a mixed reality approach to satisfy the mind of the individuals of the Net Generation.

Like individuals, companies are also changing rapidly. Examples of this were provided at the dinner by Mr. Rasmussen from SAP and Mr. Hess from DHL. If as a company you want to survive in the 21st century, you need ICT driven logistics to be cost efficient. This is pushing many industries to go where they have never ventured before. Mail companies for instance are now creating research and logistical centers and help their clients by developing web-enabled services. They write software for their clients and create solutions allowing them to know the exact physical location of their shipment every minute of the way. RFID chips are used to perform this type of tracking. RFID chips can sense if a container has been opened along the way or if the environment inside it has changed in humidity or temperature. This allows for example early detection of a pharmaceutical shipment going off, or food being exposed to too high temperatures. The moment this is detected, a shipment in transit can be stopped and a new shipment can be dispatched immediately.

The patchwork of local regulations can sometimes become a real-world problem to even the most innovative ICT solutions however. The retail industry for instance, is pushing towards a so-called multichannel approach. Besides selling to consumers in shops, they are exploring the use of the web as a major sales channel. Partially this is not yet profitable because supply chains are not yet merged. Another explanation however is the high number of local regulations retailers have to comply with in Europe. You can optimize the logistics of transportation through ICT all you want, but if you take goods from the North of Europe to the South your return on investment might still be low if regulatory compliance costs an arm and a leg.

A true Digital Single Market is extremely important for Europe to remain competitive. Industries after all tend to invest where it makes sense. Care should therefore be taken not to discourage initiatives in the early stage of net development. New ICT solutions should be applied (and allowed to be applied from a regulatory point of view) wherever they bring advantages, whether in energy-efficiency solutions to stimulate smart metering or in pharmaceutical processes to optimize testing phases.


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