Digitization is already changing the economy immensely – now the corona pandemic is forcing many companies to move even faster. How is the initial situation?
This varies extremely from industry to industry. IT and financial service providers have long since digitalized many processes. The automotive industry is also undergoing change, but can also build on highly automated work processes. This is particularly advantageous now in the corona crisis, as it makes it easier to maintain physical distances when people cooperate not only with humans but especially with robots. Other industries are just starting out. Take the construction industry, for example: in many companies, digitization is limited to electronic invoicing, even though there are sophisticated software solutions for planning and managing buildings.
How does that come about?
Most construction companies have been extremely well utilized in recent years, leaving little time to deal with future issues. In general, small and medium-sized companies in particular are lagging behind. They often have not yet understood how important and diverse digitalization is. Some carpenters think: I can’t build my furniture digitally after all. Of course not – but they could present it digitally and thus be visible on the market! Digitalization affects everyone. Most large companies have understood this.
It is often said that American and Chinese corporations have an unassailable lead. What’s your assessment?
In the platform economy, US companies such as Amazon, Google and Facebook are indeed far ahead. This also applies to their Chinese counterparts Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu. In Europe, that train has already departed. However, in contrast, Europe is in a good position in terms of Industry 4.0 and artificial intelligence. This is shown, for example, by patent applications. Companies need to make the most of this position.
How can this be achieved – for example in mobility?
A good example is the control of traffic flows using artificial intelligence. AI can evaluate large amounts of data from different sources and calculate optimal routes. The information can relate to vehicles, geographical information or the weather, for example. In this way, traffic flows can be better organized, and congestion can be avoided.
How do you envisage the digitally controlled traffic of the future?
My dream is a car-free city center with perfect integration across all means of transport. At its heart could be a digital platform that provides people with all important and up-to-date information at all times in a user-friendly way: When does the next electrically powered bus leave for the city center? Where can I recharge my e-bike while I am doing something? Intelligent networking with short interval times makes cities more habitable and contributes to climate protection.