If you have worked in the technology industry, there is a good chance you have seen one or more failed organizational changes to align with industries. If you have been on the receiving end of these vendor changes, you have witnessed offerings that partially address what you need or a horizontal solution with some clever vertical messaging. Industry solutions initiatives in many technology companies are short-lived for this reason. In my time, I have seen a lot of vertical efforts from many technology companies, but very few deliver on customer needs. Oracle is one company providing industry solutions for over twenty years and is now taking industry solutions to the next level with the opening of the first of several Oracle Industry Labs on the outskirts of Chicago, Illinois.
Labor shortages and the rise of robots
We have all heard the rallying cry to bring back manufacturing to the United States. That requires a much-skilled workforce that this country does not have.
Additionally, Covid-19 has changed our attitudes toward the work-life balance and caused many to rethink career options or even retire early. The phenomenon even has a name - the “great resignation.”
Robots, often shunned as stealing jobs, cannot be deployed quickly enough in some parts of the economy. Covid-19 and the U.S. labor shortage are changing the conversation about robotics and automation from threat to opportunity — from putting jobs at risk to filling critical gaps in the workforce.
But it's not just about backfilling roles once held by human workers. Robotic systems can free people for higher-level or more meaningful activities and even make the workplace safer.
Robotics is not a thesis or theory. The utility industry uses drones to inspect power lines and transmission towers to reduce the risk of injury. Drones make the work safer and can use machine learning to find defects often missed by humans. A great example of applying technology with humans still in the loop to ensure we keep our infrastructure running.
Environments like the Oracle Industry Labs will be vital in developing real-world solutions using technology such as cloud applications, infrastructure and artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML).
A working lab, not a briefing center
Many of us have visited company briefing centers as part of the sales process - Oracle Industry Labs is a functional lab, providing customers a hands-on environment.
The 30,000 square-foot facility focuses on the energy and water, construction and engineering, communications, public health and safety, and manufacturing industries. Opening later this year in Reading, England, another lab will focus on energy sustainability, clean energy, and high-speed rail. Another lab will concentrate on asset-intensive industries such as construction in Sydney, Australia.
The type of solutions we saw on display will stimulate the imagination. Suppose you have been in business for fifty years, and suddenly you are experiencing a disruptive competitor or a significant industry shift. In that case, this is the place to map the technology journey to deliver the business results.
We saw robot dogs, helmets that would track workers, and a robot that put up drywall. Unfortunately, 40 years ago, when I did that for a living in summer, I was the drywall robot.
Strategic vertical applications at the Edge,
As part of our on-the-road series, I got the opportunity to speak with Mike Sicilia, Executive Vice President of Oracle’s vertical industries and the architect of the Oracle Industry Labs. Of course, I asked him what made Oracle stand out from the pack, and I will paraphrase what I heard.
Oracle has decades of experience working with countless companies across every industry. Vertical applications today are not just business to business but, in most cases, business to customer. These applications are becoming strategically essential and critical to transformational opportunities by serving customers better.
Technological transformation around database infrastructure and Back Office applications is essential, but the class of applications that customers and employees see and touch is strategic. That is the reason for the drive to industry cloud and vertical adoption.
Oracle is committed to taking on the entirety of the problem. For example, in utilities, it is everything from meter data management (running software to manage data in smart electrical meters), to helping utilities protect and preserve their assets, to driving energy efficiency programs in the home to reduce carbon and costs, all the way back and through the financial reporting at the company, the ERP systems, the back office, and all the infrastructure required.
For Oracle, the key differentiator is to deliver the entire stack. Most customers will have invested in other vendors and other technologies for some parts of the solution. The stack has to be highly abstracted, and Oracle must connect to partners and, in some cases, competitors to be successful.
Oracle Industry Labs are so important because it showcases not just what Oracle can build but the ability to work with the ecosystem of over thirty partners, which is equally important. It is impractical to think that one vendor will solve every single problem for every single industry.
Understanding what 5G can do for business
At the lab, Verizon and Oracle are teaming to enable customers to explore what Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband means for business. It is likely to be transformational when building vertical activations on top of the 5G service.
Understanding how 5G solves business problems will be fundamental. For example, what does it mean telemetry in an ICU? What does it mean for telemetry in meters at the Edge? Taking a horizontal technology like 5G and applying it to vertical applications will result in value.
For example, in the construction industry, large amounts of data from drone laser scanning and video data with BIM (building information management) models flowing through Verizon’s 5G network can help mitigate potential schedule risks and improve project outcomes.
In the utility industry, fast, reliable access to the sub-second smart meter and IoT-sensor data, enabled by 5G, can help utilities better monitor everything from city-wide energy use to potential pipe or pole hazards which can help avoid power outages or costly and dangerous asset failures.
Oracle Industry Labs take industry solutions to the next level and will enable customers to build solutions faster.
There have been many examples of what I would call a façade of verticals. Build one solution and then make it fit for financials and take that same solution and make it work for healthcare and manufacturing, as an example.
I thought the Oracle Industry Labs was interesting because there is a realization that the challenges even in the same industry are often different for each company. Companies are unique with other processes, datasets, compliance, and regulations. In Oracle Industry Labs, companies get to build and tear down, change and co-create that unique solution that meets the need.
Oracle Industry Labs is not just to showcase Oracle innovation, but a means to create meaningful solutions to the whole problem in concert with an ecosystem of partners.