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How will Industry 4.0 impact the channel?

How will Industry 4.0 impact the channel?

How technology transformation is changing the playing field for partners

The cellar door of a regional winery is not the most obvious place for a technology reseller to ply his or her craft.

Yet, that is precisely where Mandoe Media managing director, David Thorn, found his company rolling out some of the more innovative information technology in its portfolio.

Thorn and his team installed a high-resolution object recognition table at a winery cellar door for customers to place random bottles of wine on.

Once the system identifies the bottle, it spits out a range of details about the wine, the grape, what food it goes best with, and a range of other information.

“I think everyone’s looking for that ‘wow’ factor,” Thorn told ARN. “Traditionally, cellar doors are wooden and glass and there’s not a lot of technology at the scene.

“So, when you see a cellar door with a 4K object-recognition table, where you can take a bottle of wine off the rack, and put it on there and learn all about it, that stands out."

Mandoe Media is an interactive digital technology provider and Telstra partner.

As a specialist in customisable digital advertising solutions for businesses of all sizes, it is just one of a growing number of channel players taking advantage of the technological evolution of Australia’s commercial and industrial landscape – sometimes known as Industry 4.0.

Strictly speaking, Industry 4.0 - also known as the fourth industrial revolution - is a term used to describe the trend of digitisation and automation within the manufacturing industry.

The concept, however, spills out into many other industry sectors.

The digitisation of conventional processes and the growing connectivity of traditionally non-connected equipment and devices are trends that have swept through just about every industry sector in Australia.

It's an important part of Australia’s economic future, with the federal government setting up the Prime Minister’s Industry 4.0 taskforce, aimed at helping the country transition to a “new economy”.

Likewise, the South Australia government is forking out for innovation in Industry 4.0, with its pledge in October to pump $10 million into autonomous car technology, in a bid to tap into an industry it believes will be worth $90 billion globally by 2030.

“Transforming the South Australian economy depends on our ability to adopt new ways of doing things, using advanced technologies to build globally competitive, high-value firms and sustainable, well-paid jobs,” the state’s government said in a statement.

Banking, transport, and education are just a few of the industry verticals being transformed by the spectrum of technology that is synonymous with Industry 4.0, such as connected devices and automated systems.

Despite the visible transformations taking place in many sectors, Industry 4.0 is not a new phenomenon, even if some of the technology behind its current manifestation is. Manufacturers, for example, have used networked automated systems for decades.

Rather, it is the evolution of continuing trends. At its centre is the proliferation of connected devices and digital systems in commercial arenas that have traditionally had little or no use for them.

This proliferation has already led to major transformations in many industry verticals, and has seen the implementation of IT systems in non-traditional environments for non-conventional purposes commonplace.

As a result, this trend is opening up an enormous range of new opportunities for channel players in the local landscape.

Manufacturing is ground central for the term, Industry 4.0, and represents one of the major areas of new business for IT integration partners. Locally, mining is another. However, industry sectors most of us come in contact every day, such as retail and hospitality, also present growing opportunities.

For Thorn and his team at Mandoe Media, retail represents much of the company’s bread and butter. As retailers continue down the digital transformation path in a bid to compete with online sellers and other market pressures, business is looking up for technology resellers like Mandoe Media.

“You’re going to see a continual influx of more and more technology in various locations,” Thorn said. “The pace isn’t going to slow down; it’s going to continue to increase.”

The cellar door project is just of many that see Mandoe Media rolling out technology in unusual or unexpected places. For Thorn, like others, the evolution of Industry 4.0 is leading to opportunities to expand into new market areas.

While Thorn and his team are in the habit of installing technology such as digital signage and media panels in retail outlets, the cellar door project signals the burgeoning opportunities for technology partners that are opening up in other domains.

According to John Mcvicker, founder and managing director of technology field services firm, Best Technology Services, the retail industry has delivered a growing amount of new business, as the market’s appetite for digital media panels and other technology increases.

John Mcvicker - Founder and Managing Director, Best Technology Services
John Mcvicker - Founder and Managing Director, Best Technology Services

“We’ve had a lot of impact in relation to media panels; it’s been a real growth area for us,” Mcvicker told ARN.

From Mcvicker’s perspective, however, retail is just one of the many areas that offer new opportunities to his company and others like it.

Agriculture, for example, is an area that is starting to see a marked boost in technology investment, and is likely to present the IT channel with some interesting business opportunities.

In September, the National Farmers’ Federation, the Victoria government, Findex, and other stakeholders teamed up to launch SproutX, an innovation hub and accelerator focused purely on the agri-tech sector.

Meanwhile, a new $200 million venture capital fund, named Alchemy Ventures, launched earlier in the year to support early stage agri-tech startups.

While agriculture businesses are yet to play a part in Best Technology Services’ client mix, the company has expanded its range of services and in-house talent to meet the technology demands of a growing number of industry sectors.

“We’re working with shopfitters, we’ve got our own electrician, we’ve got our own cablers, and we’re actually leading each site,” Mcvicker said.

“So, how does a technology company lead that site as opposed to a building company? It’s not difficult. It’s just another task.

“We’re a services company that specialises in technology. And the differentiation is important. A building is just another technology. And our project management office is pretty well developed, so it’s not a stretch for us to take on managing other outcomes on the side."

This approach, according to Mcvicker, is just one way to make the most of the new opportunities arising from the technological transformation sweeping across Australia’s industry verticals. Another way is for partners to specialise.

“Apart from deciding where you’re playing – the edge, the data centre, or the network – the other thing you can do to adapt is industry specialisation,” Mcvicker added.

“I think it will become more challenging for others who haven’t adopted an industry-specific approach to what they do.”

However channel players decide to adapt to Industry 4.0 and the rise of technology in traditionally non-technology-reliant sectors, it is clear that technology resellers will play an enormous role in helping other organisations adapt and transform.

In the case of the retail industry, Telstra retail industry executive, Gareth Jude, is unequivocal, retailers and technology resellers are partners in innovation.

“Retailers agree that most of the significant innovation over the last twenty years has been facilitated by digital technology and that this trend will continue in the future," Jude said in Telstra’s Innovation in Retail paper.

"However, it is not a retailer’s job to understand long-term technology trends. A retailer’s job is understanding customer needs and fulfilling them today.

"On the other hand, it is an ICT company’s job to understand long-term technology trends.

"This is necessary because of the long development cycles and large capital investments involved in product development. Retailers and the right ICT companies are natural partners in innovation."

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