Bringing a change with disruptive technologies and developing smart solutions around those is what the engineering and tech giant Bosch is looking at in the era of digital transformation. The company is moving from being a pure play hardware organisation to a model that focuses on software and services.
Sri Krishnan, Senior VP, Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions Pvt. Ltd spoke to Priyanka Bhattacharya of DynamicCIO.com about the latest innovations around software, sensors and services that Bosch is working on.
Below are the excerpts of the conversation:
DynamicCIO (DC): Innovation is the driving force behind any business that is aiming transformation. What is Bosch’s take on innovation?
Sri Krishnan (SK): For us, at Bosch, innovation means investment in of money and resources in disruptive technologies that have the potential to bring about transformational change. It may or may not mature over time, but we are identifying areas and working on them continuously.
Our innovation philosophy has evolved from the fact that any successful incumbent organisation, with a strong position in the market today, can suddenly get disrupted by a start up or a new company. It is no more a new phenomenon. There are enough examples available on how smaller, more agile organisations have disrupted bigger companies because the latter were slower and complaisant to the changing dynamics. No organisation can ignore these threats of disruption. It can come from any direction, from totally unknown companies.
Instead of waiting to be shaken by those disruptions, we are working on an idea: “Can we disrupt ourselves?” That’s what brings seriousness for innovation and investing heavily in it.
DC: How do you ensure that Bosch continues its supremacy even in the age of disruption?
SK: It is true that, in the past, companies enjoyed supremacy based on their strengths in vertical spaces like automotive, healthcare etc. Incumbents have enjoyed it for ages. In contemporary times, most technology disruptions are horizontal in nature. For example, technologies such as Artificial Intelligence can cut across any vertical. Same is true for other disruptive technologies.
Keeping that in mind, we are very systematically observing the technology trends, market needs, and then look at the intersection points along with the vertical. This intelligence brings us to a point of decision making where we plan our investments in growth.
We also see whether we can make a huge difference in that segment or not. We are incubating new verticals that were typically not on our radar. For example, we are looking at healthcare and agriculture in a big way.
DC: What are the key horizontal technologies that plan to invest in to take Bosch’s growth to the next level?
SK: When we look at a technology, we do not just look at its power, but also the other key indicators such as connectivity or memory, compute power, possible usage etc. Based on these criteria, we do a technology trend analysis and then plan investments.
Keeping the above in mind, AI is on top of the agenda for Bosch. Actually, AI is an area which has existed us in various different formats – whether it is in the field of data mining, automated decision-making or any other such field. It is the usage of AI that has made it more popular now. The algorithms have improved. We are able to run them on real time. Small devices like mobile phone can today run AI algorithms. Even the key components like storage, and memory are becoming more affordable. The connectivity has improved. So when we talk about whether AI will become big and disrupt everything, it is not just the technology. One has to also look at the surrounding factors, like mentioned above, to prepare and invest in a long-term vision.
Another focus area for us is Smart Cities. We call it ‘smart living’. We are looking at bringing in smart technologies to apartments, hospitals, campuses etc. Those applications are a blend of AI and IoT. We are working on a proof of concept (POC) for traffic violation monitoring. We have sensor-based capturing units and AI-based applications to see if there is a traffic violation. The sensors capture and record the data. Basis the analysis of the data, tickets are sent out to violators. Similarly, we are working on a PoC for toll collections. These investments are aimed at making life smarter and easy.
Human-machine interaction is another area that we are looking at very seriously. We are currently investigating various possibilities in this domain. First, there was the ‘button era’, then came ‘touchscreens’ and now it is ‘voice command’. You are talking to the machines. It is slowly getting mainstream. We are looking holistically at human sensing and researching in a big way on motion sensing, and gait sensing, which we feel, is becoming important in the security area.
DC: Can you elaborate on your latest sensor, software and service strategy?
SK: We are accelerating the digital transformation of enterprises and developing solutions that are designed for the needs of Indian customers. Our digital consultative arm is using a 3S’s Approach. 3S stands for sensors, software and services. It is to enhance existing products and processes across the industry domains. Bosch is one of the leaders in sensor technology. We have expertise in fabricating, designing and developing mechanical sensors. 70 to 80 percent of the sensors in phones today are coming from Bosch.
We are using sensors and developing software based on AI to offer solutions-as-a-service to our customers. We have a unique Lead User-Lead Provider strategy. We first test our digital solutions by running them at our own plants and facilities, and then partner with customers to enhance their products and processes.
We work with partners to leverage our capabilities in integrating hardware and software. We are on a big transformative journey to become a leading service provider in this age of digitalisation and automation.
DC: What is advice to the CIOs looking to transform business with disruptive technologies?
SK: The time to watch trends is over. Today, every organisation has to necessarily bet on new, emerging technologies. Mu advice to users is they should focus on doing small, controlled experiments. It is important to develop PoCs. That helps in understanding how a technology impacts the business. Create hyper-local solutions in your business scenario.
The other important thing is to prepare the mindset of the people for change. Most of the changes have to be brought in keeping the actual user in mind. When you do pilots and show the benefits, people would be more open to accepting these new, upcoming technologies. Exploratory innovations are important for the CIOs. Contextualise your technology solutions to underline the benefits. Always focus on unique solutions.