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Digitopia Digest – May 2021

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Driverless Last Mile Delivery

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The digital transformation of the automotive industry is in high gear. CASE elements, (Connected, Autonomous, Shared, and Electric) are the four pillars of this transformation. The Electric Vehicles (EV) market booms with more than 1,000 start-ups from China alone. OEMs either acquire, partner or develop their own latest technologies to keep up with the market.

The most prominent players that come to mind when talking about autonomous cars are Tesla and Waymo. However, neither of these game-changing companies were able to acquire the very first permit to deploy fully autonomous vehicles in human-driven traffic without a safety driver. Enter: Nuro. An overlooked start-up that is disrupting the game-changers by acquiring the very first permit to hit the road; completely driverless.

Small, but mighty, this disruptor should not be overlooked at all. With a value of around $1 to $10 billion, Nuro is an autonomous vehicle start-up that focuses on logistics, not transportation. The company’s investors include SoftBank Vision Fund, Toyota’s Woven Capital and, as its latest, Chipotle Mexican Grill. Nuro is seen not only as an EV outlook disruptor, but also as a last mile delivery and e-commerce consumer behavior radical.

What’s the Big Deal?
Nuro focuses its autonomous vehicle technology on delivery and logistics; specifically local last mile delivery such as groceries and food take-out. In the age of Amazon and e-commerce heightened by the pandemic, the company’s solution benefits both local businesses and e-commerce giants while also reducing traffic accidents and shipment costs for the consumer.

Looking at its latest vehicle, R2, the first thing that catches the eye is…no driver’s seat! The vehicles are built to only carry inanimate objects, making them lighter, slower, and more nimble than a regular human-driven passenger car. It is also considerably smaller than an average car, accelerating the manufacturing process. With completely electric and autonomous vehicles, Nuro aims to eliminate the time and resources spent on life necessities. However, gaining permission to earn the public deployment for autonomous vehicles wasn’t easy. Nuro took an ecosystem approach on product development to gain confidence. Before developing their own vehicles, Nuro began by modifying a Toyota Prius to test their technologies and collect data for constant improvement. Today, Nuro is using a fleet of autonomous vehicles to collect data and optimize routes, then feeding that data into its latest prototypes. A great example of using digital to continuously innovate.

The Core Disruption
Nuro puts safety at the heart of everything they do. The company has published a voluntary safety report that discloses the specs of their vehicles to prove their “safer roads with Nuro” intention.

Nuro vehicles are an exemplary approach to safety in traffic. With custom hardware regarded as industry best-in-class, triple redundancy across all critical components, and self-driving software that constantly learns from vehicle operators extensively trained on safe driving, the company has created a layered fall-back strategy that always chooses the safest option.

The company has high specialization on last-mile delivery, making their product design fully function-oriented. Their vehicles are designed to elevate the delivery experience, all the while ensuring traffic safety and bringing ease to the customer experience. The pandemic gave  the company the chance to leverage their know-how to deploy contactless delivery solutions.

The Digital Superpowers
Design: The vehicles’ front end is designed as a “crumple zone” to minimize potential injury by using softer materials instead of traditional vehicles which are made of heavy metals to protect the driver inside.

Connectivity: The autonomous driving software is fed data by GPS and onboard sensors to create high-definition 3D maps to mark road features. Then, they use vehicle sensors, 12 high-definition cameras, radar, LIDAR, ultrasonic sensors, and audio sensors to create a live image of the surroundings to check whether anything has changed from the map previously created.

Speed: The vehicles are equipped with onboard sensors and driving systems that share real time data with the company to check for errors, potential dangers, and maintenance status hundreds of times per second, ensuring safety in real time. To ensure access to critical information even if there was a damage, there is a redundant data storage device.

Intelligence: To improve the behavior data collected by Nuro’s driverless vehicles,the self-driving software used is improved by testing that software on traditional passenger cars. This method allows Nuro to improve their driverless assets by collecting hardware, vehicle types, and road mapping capabilities.

Lessons Learned
Nuro has already partnered with big names such as Walmart, CVS Pharmacy, Kroger, Dominos, and Chipotle to provide last-mile delivery and has deployed their commercial driverless services on public roads.

The company is a great example of taking customers’ needs to heart and specializing with the solution to those needs. While the EV market is getting more competitive day by day, Nuro’s market share has a strong stance to address industry needs.

Using data and analytics for constant improvement and innovation will moreover ensure Nuro stays competitive in the new market dynamics of e-commerce and in the post-pandemic era.



The Digital Maturity Connection 
Every organisation has strengths and weaknesses. Don’t waste time developing your weaknesses – instead, like Nuro, play to your strengths. Focus on improving those areas of expertise. Harness them to gain a competitive advantage and rise through the ranks of your industry. Digital capabilities should be at the forefront of these efforts. Utilise digital to enable integration, optimisation, and simplification to become more competitive and better integrated with your business partners. Going through a digital transformation is crucial to overcome automotive industry challenges, specifically.


Brewing Digital at Molson Coors

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In our Digital Shift series, we showcase companies that transform their business through digital transformation. In this episode, we showcase Molson Coors Beverage Company – a beverage producer that owns more than 80 brands around the world, and the most famous include Miller Lite, Coors Lite, Blue Moon.

The Molson Coors Beverage Company, commonly known as Molson Coors, is a multinational drink and brewing company headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Molson Coors was formed in 2005 through the merger of Molson Canada, and Coors USA.

Until 2019, Molson Coors’ sales were in decline. The subsidiary, MillerCoors, was losing more than 1 million barrels of beer per year in sales in the highly competitive beer market. Thus, Molson Coors launched its “revitalization plan” to get back in the game. The plan included slashing more than 800 jobs, streamlining its business lines to two from four, investing in its breweries, and widening its product portfolio by moving beyond the beer market.

The plan shows effectiveness as the company aims for long term revenue and strong EBITDA growth. The industry was hit by the pandemic as Molson Coors Beverage annual revenue for 2020 was $9.654B, a 8.75% decline from 2019. Despite the decrease in net sales, the company has proven a strong financial outlook for 2021. Coors’ CEO Gavin D. Hattersly stated “The fact is, our plan is working.” 

Differentiation from the Industry
One of the critical components enabling this shift is Molson Coors’ customer centricity. The company soon realized that the beer market was overcrowded with competitors brewing day by day. Realizing the demand for no-alcohol and low-alcohol options in the market, Coors leveraged its ecosystem to co-create new products through partnerships. The most notable partnership is with the Coca-Cola Company on producing hard seltzers in the United States.

However, penetrating adjacent markets with different product lines does not mean that they left their core beer business behind. The company is constantly innovating with new flavors and malt products, aligning with consumer’s desires. Brands Vizzy, Coors Seltzer, and Blue Moon LightSky are three of the top 20 best-selling new innovations in beer and flavored malt beverages, YTD. Moreover, Molson Coors was aggressively growing its above premium portfolio in the past years and buying some of the craft local breweries to accomplish portfolio premiumisation.

This constant innovation and premiumisation are only achievable with strong operational capabilities. The first step of the revitalization plan was to improve the core breweries by investing more than $150 million dollars to equip the plants with state-of-the-art technologies. Featuring new canning lines and a best-in-class filtration system at the company’s Fort Worth and Milwaukee breweries, Molson Coors will be able to quintuple its production of the new products as well as other beverages in Molson Coors’ rapidly growing portfolio.

Also, the company is augmenting their supply chain, including the increased utilisation of digital solutions that leverage data and technological capabilities to repurpose effort away from transactional activities. This empowers employees to make data-driven decisions, evaluate outcomes and quickly adjust course to achieve continual improvement against key performance measures.

Molson Coors’ aims to make its packaging 100% recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025, mitigating 20% of CO2 emissions from its value chain. This is actually one part of a bigger agenda for the company called, “Imprint 2025,” which outlines the sustainability, transparency, and accountability goals of the company as an alcoholic beverage manufacturer. The company’s 18 out of 28 major brewing facilities now send zero waste to landfill.

Moreover, Molson Coors has established a set of rules for its suppliers including its expectations on environmental sustainability, fair employment, community responsibility, ethical business practices, human rights and sound commercial standards to create an ethical supply chain.

The Digital Edge
Innovation is at the heart of Molson Coors. The company constantly leverages the ecosystem partners to create new products, flavors, and even packaging. With a customer-centric approach to innovation, MillerCoors recently introduced aluminum pint bottles for some of the brands. The aluminum pint packaging can be resealed after opening, making it perfect for outdoor occasions. The pints also display the cold-activated mountains designed to tell drinkers when their beer is cold.

Taking innovation further, Molson Coors has established its venture capital, called TAP Ventures, to drive growth with new technologies, penetrating new markets, and accessing new resources.

To enable customer centricity, constant innovation, and operational efficiency; the company has embraced data and analytical capabilities as its North Star. To get to know their customer better, the company launched an e-commerce platform aiming to integrate with social media for frictionless purchase options. On the operational end,  Molson Coors can trace its supply chain in real-time to mitigate risks depending on harvest factors. Also, the company uses data to set standards for farming techniques, improving yield in the long run.


Incumbent Stance on the Journey
Molson Coors is a great example for incumbents to take action. The company has set a turnaround plan to strengthen its financials, stay relevant and competitive in today’s market.

The company has embraced a customer-centric approach to renovate their brand image. By expanding to adjacent markets through partnerships, Molson Coors fights to reinstate its brand-value in its core market through constant innovation with partnerships. The company has heavily invested in its operational capabilities to keep up with this change.

And at the centre of all these decisions is data and analytics. The company has internalized the value of data to generate insights on all fronts. Overall, with the help of analytics, Molson Coors went into offense mode on the customer, operations, and innovation dimensions to create a competitive edge.


The Digital Maturity Connection
Most digital transformation programs focus on customers, customer experience, and customer analytics. The better you know your customer, the better you are likely to serve them. With the right product at the right time, in the right place, with the right promotion, is now just a matter of calculated algorithms in microseconds. Coors has innovated its operations to tailor to their customer needs – all with digital capabilities. Is your company capable of doing the same? 



This article is a part of our monthly Digitopia Digest:
Digitopia Digest is a monthly newsletter showcasing the latest news in digital transformation. If you are determined to discover what to do next in your organization to achieve digital success or are simply interested in digital technology and innovation, please subscribe for updates.


Life in 2030: Linda in the Lion Scenario

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What will life be like in 2030? Will it be a world where we, as customers, are fully conscious and especially careful of what we consume and spend our money on to ensure the greater good of humanity and society. Let’s find out by consulting Linda, our fictional character who allows to gaze into the future!


Imagine a world where we are afraid of using digital channels, afraid to pay online, and prefer to go out to the shops, markets and prefer the human touch. Physical experiences are valued over the digital ones, because we can taste the food we may buy, we can wear the garment we’re about to buy, and we can socialize in street cafes and bistros and have fun together.

Life in 2030: Retail in The Lion Scenario
E-commerce may decline, but conventional retail may go up. Hospitality, mobility, personalized concierge services may evolve and grow. The scenario in which “consumer power” and “brick and mortar” prevail.

Why would something like this happen?

In a world under total digital surveillance, people had lost their faith in digital channels and  prefered to stay off-line as much as possible. Cyberattacks, credit card theft, cryptocurrency fraud, digital identity forgery, and counterfeiting led consumers to choose physical / analog / off-line interactions.

In this scenario we predict that we will face a green awakening, heightened awareness regarding climate change, preference of local and organic products, choices for more sustainable services and experiences.


The Lion Scenario
The cyber-attacks of 2019 had forced digitized companies to think smarter. With the loss of faith in digital, the popularity of human-touch and analog interaction grew, and screen-time was at an all-time low. 

Linda was, of course, disappointed at the news that the smartphone she had been waiting for her birthday was now too dangerous of a concept. Luckily, her mother had a much more appropriate alternative for the spirit of the age they were experiencing. The cyber-attacks behind the screens and the corruption of the “internet of things” was devastating, to say the least, but companies had gotten smarter.

The world was moving toward more human, physical connection. Companies wanted to prepare for a potential “fall of the screen”, as the attack phenomenon had been coined. Investments began in developing the digitalization of animal micro-chipping to create domestic companions that could store all of the data that a computer or smartphone could handle. The thinking was that these microchipped “digitalized animals” were impenetrable to attacks due to the biochemistry of the host hardware – a living organism.  

Our Digital Destiny
Today, money flows are fully digitized. Production and transfer of materials are monitored on digital screens across the globe. Various assets are also tracked digitally, and energy is “magically” supplied to industry and household alike through an underlying digital infrastructure that just works. When consumers enter a supermarket or order a t-shirt online, they expect instant gratification, paying no mind to the magic happening in the background. However, the “magic” occurring in the background is what we call operational excellence at its best.

Whether or not we will digitalise our furry companions to assist us in possible cyber-attacks, it is no secret that the whole world is becoming digital. How are you preparing your company?


Download our report: 👉  Digital Future Scenarios: Retail in 2030


An Analog Fan Creating A Digital World: Vannevar Bush

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Our Digital Heroes brings you one tech-savvy icon every month to love and learn from. This month we bring you humble brainiac, Vannevar Bush.

Most famous for bridging the gap between military and technology, Bush also patented quite a few inventions during his career. Interestingly, he was not a fan of digital. So why should we bother with him?

Well, it is ironic that he should be such an advocate for analog capabilities, because his work would later lead to informational luxuries that we may take advantage of today. Take Wikipedia entries, for example. Their hyperlinks take readers deeper and wider than a traditional book ever could. Hyperlinks create a dreamy informational black hole that we can access in seconds, and would be nothing without Bush’s creation of the memex. Bush also constructed several other assets, including but not limited to analog computers capable of solving differential equations of up to 18 variables; which was quite impressive in 1945.

During World War II, U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt appointed Bush to head the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD). This was the first time technology and military operations were employed together in the United States. A humanitarian at heart, Vannevar stressed the importance of scientific research to national security and economic well-being.

A true innovator, this digital hero loved to lead. He coordinated upwards of six thousand leading American scientists in the application of science to warfare.

Now exposed to politics, Bush feared that the military’s new enthusiasm for research and development would ultimately prove detrimental to economic growth. In fact, the technocrats of this era will later be blamed by some as responsible for The Great Depression.

Today Bush is also remembered as a prophet in another field, computer science. His article entitled “As We May Think,” foreshadowed personal computers and the World Wide Web.

For Bush, this article was an extension of his work in analog computing and microfilm technology.


Not bad for someone who wasn’t too keen on digital.

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Bush was a well-known policymaker and public intellectual during World War II, when he was in effect the first presidential science advisor.

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Born in Everett, Massachusetts on 11th March, 1890, he was named after John Vannevar, a reverend and old friend of the family who had attended Tufts College with his father.

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The end of WWII marked the beginning of the end for Bush’s influence on the development of science policy. Bush published a work of both practical politics and political theory, Modern Arms and Free Men, in 1949. Widely discussed and reviewed, the book was Bush’s warning that the militarization of American science would harm the development of the economy.

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Subsequently, this system of funding and directing scientific research through the military became known as the Pentagon system, or the military-industrial complex.

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In Science, The Endless Frontier, his 1945 report to the President of the United States at the time, Bush called for an expansion of government support for science, and he pressed for the creation of the National Science Foundation.

From Here on Out…
Simply put, digital is inevitable. Whether or not you like it, the whole world will become digital. We might as well embrace it and use it to create a better world; the better normal. For this purpose, we get up every morning and work the hardest we can, to help great companies to succeed with their digital transformation journey. You should have a clear vision of the best possible digital future for your organization. As much as it is important to set digital goals, it is equally important to know where you are – we call this process digital maturity. From here on out, you must know where you are, where you’ve been, and where you are going. We’ve been waiting for you.



Sources
BritannicaScience History InstituteAccess Genealogy


The Top 10 in Tech News – May

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1. What Coinbase’s IPO Tells Us About The Future Of Cryptocurrencies

Take: The IPO that broke the internet on April 14th was Coinbase, described as “crypto’s coming out party” by The New York Times. The largest crypto-asset exchange platform was valued around $65 billion. The IPO is a big step in the legitimization of cryptocurrencies and an interesting take on the future of the free market as completly virtual companies with no physical assets (not even Headquarters); valued in very big numbers.

2.    Uber and Lyft Have a Driver Shortage Problem, and it’s Costing Them a lot of Money

Take: Gig economy is against an unexpected downturn. Both Uber and Lyft recently announced stimulus and incentives to attract more drivers to the platform as the number fell down %40 in the U.S. Just the same with Airbnb, the CEO Brian Chesky stated that the platform needs more than millions of  hosts to meet the demand surging with the revival of the travel industry. The demand is there, but gig workers are having a hard time with hygiene and safety compliances.

3.    Kroger Launches its First Ocado-powered ‘Shed’, a Massive, Robot-filled Fulfillment Center in Ohio

Take: Looking for ways to collaborate since their partnership agreement three year ago, Kroger finally launched its customer fulfillment centre, a colossal warehouse with a giant grid built on the floor called “the shed”. The warehouse features 1000 robots and 400 employees to process the sales equivalent of 20 brick-and-mortar stores.

4.    Microsoft is Acquiring Nuance Communications for $19.7B

Take: Microsoft recently announced that it’s acquiring the speech-to-text company Nuance Communications that specializes in healthcare. Microsoft launched its Cloud for Healthcare last year, and Nuance seems to be filling the gaps for Microsoft to create industry-specific cloud strategy and offerings. The acquisition will also help Microsoft improve its Cortana digital assistant services.

5.    Walmart Helps Push Cruise’s Latest Investment Round to $2.75B

Take: As a brick and mortar retailer in transformation, Walmart was struggling due the pandemic and its restrictions to take on the e-commerce giants. To relieve the pressure, the company saw the future in low-cost, autonomous grocery delivery. Walmart has already partnered with other names such as Waymo, Nuro, Gatik, Udelv as autonomous vehicle developers and the next in line is Cruise.

6.    Jeff Bezos Says Amazon Needs to Change to be “Earth’s Best Employer”

Take:“World’s most customer-centric company” now aims to also be “Earth’s best employer” as Jeff Bezos stated the vision for the company in its last shareholder letter. Struggling with the union crisis, the company already started taking initiatives in investing its people. Amazon unveiled its next headquarters in Arlington called HQ2, creating 25.000 jobs and serving as an alternative working area for the employees.

7.    Huawei to Invest $1 Billion on Car Tech, Surpassing Tesla

Take: Huawei joins the tech giants such as Apple and Xiaomi to enter the EV market. Chairman Eric XU just stated that “Huawei’s autonomous-driving technology has already surpassed Tesla’s in some spheres, for instance by allowing cars to cruise for more than 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) without human intervention”. As impressive as that be, the company is entering the world’s biggest EV market which is at its peak competition at the moment with NIO and Xpeng viciously fighting for the slice.

8.    NASA Has Just Flown a Helicopter on Mars for the First Time

Take: The first time an aircraft was flown on another planet. The Ingenuity flewed up the three meters of Mars’ surface and hovered for 40 seconds. The flight was such a challenge for the engineers with an incredibly thin atmosphere, %1 of Earth’s. The conditions required Ingenuity to be light with faster and bigger rotor blades. Tackling this challenge will enable us to rethink our current aeronautics models.

9.    Fatal Tesla Crash In Texas: What We Know And What We Don’t

Take: One Tesla Model S has crashed to a tree in Houston, resulting in the death of two men. But the story starts from there after. While police stated that there was no one in the driver’s seat, Tesla refuted with the real time logs of the crash concluding that Autopilot was not involved in this accident. It is still a question mark whether the logs or the police statement is further from the truth, but the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the case.

10. Discord Walked Away from Microsoft talks, May Pursue an IPO

Take: After a month of talks about a possible acquisition, Discord walked away from the table to stay independent, possibly eyeing an IPO. As its stock only gets hotter with doubling numbers for the last six months, Discord has no rush to such a deal. Some analysts declared that one of the possible reasons why Discord walked away is to keep its distance to the antitrust reforms against the tech giants.

Digitopia’s Final Take
Digital transformation is not an option, it’s mandatory. You have to do it. The questions are when, how, how much, with whom, and probably most importantly why or differently articulated, for what purpose?

Yes. Investing in digital is sometimes expensive, sometimes even very painful. But not investing may harm or even cannibalise your company. Now it’s up to you. We hope you get the point. Customer analytics, profitability, dashboards and data visualization don’t have an immediate pay-back. But, if this is your reasoning not to engage with digital, will you be able to compete against your peers who know where they are on their digital journey?


Digitopia Digest is a monthly newsletter showcasing the latest news in digital transformation. If you are determined to discover what to do next in your organization to achieve digital success or are simply interested in digital technology and innovation, please subscribe for updates.

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