JOE GILL: Joe Gill: Ireland could be a leader of the automation revolution

Automation, data analytics, and electric power are areas producing huge waves of change that will affect all of our lives in the next decade.

For businesses that can anticipate deep structural adjustments, the opportunities are immense. Those that ignore it could be overwhelmed.

The speed at which these technologies are evolving is remarkable. Automation is probably most visible in the car industry but has an impact in every area of engineering. The car industry is investing in technologies that will provide hands-free driving.

New cars can already through precise GPS navigation systems identify the smallest boreen in the Irish countryside. It is now possible to have your car keep itself within the white lines on the motorway and at a safe distance from other traffic. Imagine what will be possible in 10 years.

Data analytics is fast developing as a tool for use in almost everything. Rapid advances in computing power allow companies to analyse vast amounts of data to provide solutions to everyday problems. This is leading to engineering innovation.

The third leg is electric power. Major global technology and car companies are investing billions to produce batteries that provide clean inexpensive power for all types of machines.

Batteries are getting smaller while the power they provide is increasing. The time needed to power-up batteries is also falling quickly. Combining data, automation and power will unleash a new industrial revolution that will affect ordinary lives. All of us may need soon to figure out the best way to benefit from the changes coming our way.

Ireland should signal a thumbs-up to all this revolution. We are underweight in traditional industries, including car and engine manufacturing, but we have new technology and renewable energy.

Self-driving transport powered by electric batteries fits a society that relies heavily on tourism and is home to a food industry that needs to underline its pollution-free origins.

The food industry is ripe too for transformation as it migrates from traditional foodstuffs to functional foods. The latter is a sweet spot for investors as they see advances in DNA analysis, big data and food technology as factors that will help produce a new generation of foods and beverages which have direct health benefits.

Ireland can be at the forefront of that revolution because we have the academic and industry infrastructure to support the development of new foods based on all natural products. In addition, Ireland has become a hotspot for IT companies. In recent years, travel technology firms have sprung up. It is not far-fetched to imagine a similar cluster of food technology start-ups will emerge.

Instead of fretting about how new technology and robots could threaten our future we should instead seize the opportunities.

Joe Gill is director of corporate broking with Goodbody Stockbrokers. His views are personal.


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