Kathy Gibson reports – Small innovation can have a dramatic impact on industries.

This is the word from Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx, who cites the example of the US supermarket Piggly Wiggly, which pioneered self-service, shopping bags with handles and just in time inventory.

Of course, just in time (JIT) came into its own in the factory environment with Toyota’s production line system, which was later re-imported back into the US.

“This took 30 years,” says Goldstuck. “The difference today – and what defines the fourth industrial revolution – is the instant evolution of business models.”

In South Africa, the question on everyone’s lips is whether we are ready for this move.

“The first rule is that the is no one next big thing,” Goldsuck explains.

In fact, there are eight distinct categories of technology that will be impacted in the fourth industrial revolution, he says

A new study from WWW and Syspro shows that South African organisations are poised to embrace new technologies: robotics, IoT, big data and machine learning.

The uptake to now has been low Goldstuck says, but there is a growing readiness to adopt them in the near future.

Cloud is not one of these technologies, he adds – because it has already become mainstream.

“They are all seeing their counterparts globally disrupted by small, nimble companies. If they don’t respond based on their own strategic direction, someone will respond for them,” says Mark Wilson, MD of Syspro in South Africa.

“The result of that would be crisis management.”

The fourth industrial revolution is already in global companies, and we are now beginning to see it happen in South Africa.

Internet of Things (IoT) is one outlier that South African organisations have already embraced, Goldstuck adds.

Software as a services (SaaS) is still the top budgeting priority, slightly ahead of virtual private networking and cloud computing. Virtualisation is an emeging priority, followed by converged communications and outsourced security services.”

Mobile solutions are still fairly low on the priority list at 44,2%, although a number of industry sectors have mobile as the most important priority.

The use to which mobile is put is email on the go, availability for emergencies, keeping up with office activity, the ability to organise or manage time, communication with colleagues or stakeholders, access information for decision-making, ability to respond to enquiries on demand, and other uses.

The most important hardware used in the enterprise are laptops and desktops, equal at 96,5%,followed by fibre to the office, fixed landlines and office WiFi. Smartphones follow at 71,5%, then ADSL, tables and MiFi devices at just 28,5%.

Smartphones are used in IT software and services, mining and other services, followed by distributors to retailer, manufacturing, logistics, construction and engineering, and the retail trade.

Tablets also still have a place in the retail trade, at 78,3%, followed by IT software and services, and distributors to retailers, health services and education, and other services.

The second rule from the study is that the use case translates into the business case, Goldstuck says.

IoT has enjoyed good adoption, with 66% of South African companies already using it This has been driven by fleet tracking as a result of high crime levels, Goldstuck points out.

OF the one-third of companies not using IoT now, 85% plan to do so in the near future. The only place companies are not embracing IoT is because there is no use case rather than because of cost.

Virtual or augmented reality is becoming a powerful training/education and retail tool in companies, Goldstuck says.

Again, the companies not using this technology are not worried about cost.

Big data and machine learning is gaining traction but about 86% of South African companies are not yet using these technologies. However, 63% of these do plan to use artificial intelligence (AI) soon.

Those who don’t have a business case won’t use it, but all of those with a business case will be using AI soon.

Robotics is still small, with just 6% uptake in South Africa. However, 47% of those not using it now plan to do so soon, and those currently using robotics plan to increase their usage.

Blockchain what Goldstuck describes as the canary in the gold mine of new technologies – is still very limited, with just 3,2% of South African companies using it.

Of those not using it, 40% plan to; but cost is a huge inhibiting factor, Goldstuck says.

Banks and stock exchanges are investing in the skills required, and 100% of companies currently using blockhain will increase their usage.

“We are only at the very beginning of sing blockchain,” Goldstuck says.

Rule number three is that the business case is proof of profit – not potential for profit.

“This is the biggest thing holding back new technologies n South Africa,” Goldstuck says. “Once we can move past this, we will have a more vigorous and successful startup environment.”

The final rule is that quality is non-negotiable, he says. “You can’t have something that breaks all the time and has o held together with sticky tape.”

The bottom line is that the foundations for the fourth industrial revolution are being laid today, although there is still work to do to make it a reality.