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The unavoidable path of digitization

Digital Transformation, Sustainability

THE ERA OF THE 4th INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION WILL EXTEND TO ALL MARKETS, INDUSTRIES, SECTORS AND COMPANIES. DIGITIZATION AND THE CREATION OF INTELLIGENT SYSTEMS ARE VISIBLE FACES OF THIS NEW REALITY FOR WHICH PORTUGUESE SOCIETY AND ALSO ISQ – MUST BE PREPARED.

BY Blandina Costa

Already digital today

The water has been in portuguese prominence today for the worst reasons. The country has experienced a drought with all the consequences that this entails and the issues of efficient management of this good are more present than ever. What if it were possible to create a system capable of predicting consumption, adjusting flow rates or anticipating water shortages?

It was precisely to meet these challenges that ISQ has partnered with the LIFE SWSS project, a digital platform for managing and supporting operators’ decision-making ensuring more efficient water management. Starting from the analysis of large amounts of data and using artificial intelligence techniques, patterns are determined and clues are found about impending events related to the supply and consumption of water capable of avoiding problems in the future.

agua consumo

LIFE SWSS – Smart Water Supply System

Led by ISQ, the project aims to demonstrate an innovative digital management and decision-making platform that, through simulation, forecasting and optimization models, supports the operation of Water Supply Systems (SDA). LIFE SWSS aims to address the problem of the efficiency of water supply networks, which causes significant impacts due to the huge amount of energy consumed, the associated GHG emissions and water leakage.

The LIFE SWSS project is an example of how to create more efficient systems, in this case connected to the water sector, an area where another ISQ project is also taking shape, WaterWatt. But these are just two examples of how we can live in the midst of the 4th Industrial Revolution, where digitization and the creation of intelligent systems will extend to all markets, industries, sectors and companies.

“DIGITAL IS NOT A CHOICE WE CAN MAKE OR NOT. IT IS SOMETHING THAT IS HAPPENING (…) It IS THE SUPPORT OF ALL ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES AND IT IS CHANGING EVERYTHING”.

Like water, energy systems, agriculture, the automotive industry, the reuse of materials, the aerospace industry or the sea-related economy are sectors where processing is already taking place. They are also areas where ISQ is making its contribution, looking at it as one of its major challenges for the future

“Digitization is not a fashion, it will last and cross the whole society, all sectors, all companies,” says ISQ President Pedro Matias, ensuring that the institute is already “tread this path.”

A FUTURE THAT BEGINS TO BE PRESENT

In various spheres of our daily life, this reality is already beginning to be present and to take shape in various expressions that have entered the most common lexicon, such as big data, internet of things, 3D printing or machine2machine. In fact, it’s the tip of an iceberg that brings with it a big change in the way we work, produce, sell and even think.

They are part of a process of widespread digitization and for which there is no choice, as the Economy Minister said.

At the opening of the Portugal Digital Summit, Manuel Caldeira Cabral stressed that “digital is not a choice that we can make or not. It is something that is happening (…) is the support of all economic activities and is changing everything.”
This process of digitization is becoming visible in Portugal: 73% of Portuguese use the internet and already more than 30% shop online, according to data from an annual study by ACEPI – Association of Digital Economy and IDC. Still, Portugal is below the European average in the degree of digital maturity, in a
list that is headed by the Nordic countries.

But considered worrisome by ACEPI are even the data related to the digitization of national companies: only 39% have a presence on the Internet. “There are 60% of companies that don’t even have a website. That is, it is as if they do not exist”, warned Alexandre Nilo Fonseca, president of ACEPI, referring to small companies.

Another study, the Human Resources Barometer, shows in its 12th edition that companies do not really feel prepared for the 4th Industrial Revolution. According to the panel of respondents, 55% of companies say they are ill-prepared and only 22% say they are “prepared”. None said they were “fully prepared” or even “well prepared.”

THE BET ON INDUSTRY 4.0

Precisely to counter this scenario, several projects are underway to help in this digitisation effort and that have been launched under the National Reform Plan (see box) presented by the Government.

One of the projects, Industry 4.0, aims to bring digitization to all phases that are part of a company’s production process, going much beyond a digital presence, as the Secretary of State for Industry explains in an interview.
” Digitization is not only expressed in the construction of a web page or the strengthening of e-commerce, but in factories it plays a key role in the efficiency and optimization of production processes,” says Ana Lehmann, noting that “industry 4.0 measures aim to support the digitization of all types of companies and at different times of modernization: services or manufacturing.”

COMPANIES NEED TO REVOLUTIONIZE THE WAY THEY ARE ORGANIZED AND HOW THEY OPERATE TO
SURVIVE THE WAVE OF STRONG CHANGE.

The way to be in full 4th Industrial Revolution is still long, taking into account the description of Professor Arlindo Oliveira, director of the Instituto Superior Técnico (IST) and author of the book Digital Minds: Science Redefining Humanity (see page 24). This will be the time when we will talk to computers as we talk to people and when computers will start to deal with parts of our lives for us, such as shopping or tidying up the house. According to Professor Arlindo Oliveira, small businesses and the entrepreneurial environment are positioning themselves well, paying attention to trends and, in general, using new technologies.

On the other hand, large companies are probably lagging behind and need to make a major change effort, says the president of IST.

THE QUALIFICATION CHALLENGE

For this to happen there is a critical factor: the qualification of human resources, as the Secretary of State for Industry notes. “One of the major challenges that many entrepreneurs, associations and clusters with whom I have talked most about is the lack of qualified human resources to work in the industry,” Says Ana Lehmann.

The Secretary of State for Industry therefore concludes that it is urgent to focus on training initiatives geared towards industry and the concrete needs of companies. More than that, he says, “it is necessary to bring young people closer to the industry, to make them feel that working in a factory is prestigious and that the industry offers solid and specialized careers.”

This is an effort, says Ana Lehmann, who has to start from companies, “investing, adapting and training their human resources to meet new challenges.” Only in this way will it be possible to create new skills and generate new mentalities.

But that alone is not enough. Then, companies will need to revolutionise the way they are organized and how they operate to survive this wave of strong change.

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