How mixed reality technology helped transform the three pillars of sustainability - The EE

How mixed reality technology helped transform the three pillars of sustainability

Sustainability is a broader term than it used to be. Today, it is often seen as consisting of three pillars: environmental; business and human impact. The traditional view of sustainability was that if you wanted to favour one of these pillars, you had to sacrifice, or at least neglect the others, says Yan Simard, CEO, Kognitiv Spark.

This was always a model based on compromise. If you did well on the environmental element, you would do less well on the business, or human, side of the equation. What we are seeing more in the market today, however, is a recognition that instead of those pillars being in competition, they, in fact, reinforce each other, so by doing very well on the environmental side, you help your business, and the human side of your company as well.   

Across the world, the companies that are struggling in this new age of sustainability are those that have not embraced this view. Many of these businesses still look at sustainability as an expense as opposed to a transformational force to adapt their companies to today’s environment. Moreover, many of the companies finding it difficult to adapt to the modern interpretation of sustainability are continuing to manage their businesses the way they did 20 years ago.

Working together in harmony

More companies today, however, are, in contrast, moving to a position where they see all three of these areas as complementing each other rather than being in opposition. Many businesses today base their whole strategic plan on sustainability while of course making sure that people and the business are in the equation as well and reinforcing each other.

That’s hugely positive. Organisations and the technology providers that service them increasingly need to embrace the change around sustainability and take the opportunity both to become more nimble and agile and more in tune with society and the environment.

Mixed reality technology, in which physical reality and digital content combine to enable interaction with and among real-world and virtual objects, is today helping to move the needle on all three of these pillars. In terms of business and productivity, mixed reality technology helps both to save on the need for travel for subject matter experts and also on production downtime. This in turn directly helps the bottom line of companies.

Mixed reality helps on the environmental side of the equation too. After all, whenever we get more output with the same input, we are more efficient and as a result the approaches taken are effectively more respectful of the environment. In terms of direct carbon footprint, each time a business can avoid the need to send an engineer out on site to visit a customer or help a field worker, the provider is helping the environment as well.

Finally, mixed reality technology can also help empower the third pillar: the human side by empowering field workers to perform tasks right the first time every time. And it is about making them feel good, making them more relevant than ever before even in an era of automation. So, again rather than these pillars being in conflict with each other, they are instead reinforcing each other, with mixed reality technology a major enabling factor.

The ESG dimension

One additional benefit of this coming together is that it helps businesses to achieve their main ESG targets.

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) has rapidly moved up the corporate agenda in recent years, with 90% of business leaders saying that it made their business more attractive to investors, according to Grant Thornton’s Business Outlook Tracker. But many businesses are failing to meet their stated targets as is shown in a recent survey conducted for Navex Global Inc.

Mixed reality can help address this. Sustainability can help organisations reduce waste of all kinds of resources. It can be energy. It can be materials. It can be a host of other things, so each time a company can use mixed reality technology to reduce production downtime, or produce more output with the same input, it is helping the environment. That has a very direct impact on that company’s consumption of metals, minerals and energy in all kinds of formats, so as soon as we move the needle even a little it has a direct impact on efficiency.

There are a raft of other examples, where mixed reality has helped in reducing the carbon footprint of an organisation. A company that is flying experts around the world to solve problems is going to generate a lot of air miles. Imagine if you have five of these experts going to multiple sites – the fuel emissions would be considerable. So, by eliminating the need for these experts to get on planes to go on site and support peer workers working on projects or in different factories that the company has around the world, the organisation concerned can drive significant environmental benefits.

So, the potential of mixed reality technology as a means of enhancing sustainability for businesses and for helping them to meet the ESG targets they face is already clear.  Companies are increasingly looking at it in this context today. Many more see sustainability as a driver of their business than in the past. As of today, few have realised the full potential of what mixed reality can bring to them, and many are still doing it at a small scale and, rightly, validating and measuring their success. We expect to see over the near future a big wave of companies rolling out that kind of technology at scale and starting to really reap the benefits.

Yan Simard

Mixed reality is not a silver bullet, of course. It does not provide a single solution to all the problems facing businesses today. It is instead one of the solutions that is part of the bigger picture solution when it comes to ESG.

Partly because of this, we see adoption of mixed reality technology really ramping up in the coming years all over the world. At the moment, this is often being led by those sectors that have historically seen as being less green and who want to redress the balance such as the energy sector, aerospace and defence and advanced manufacturing, where businesses are increasingly keen to adopt that kind of technology. Across every sector and every corner of the world though, we are seeing companies realising that mixed reality technologies can help protect the environment and make business sense into the bargain.

The author is Yan Simard, CEO, Kognitiv Spark.

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