Cognitive technology is a field of computer science that attempts to follow the functions of the human brain: cognition, through a variety of applications including computer vision, natural language processing, and pattern recognition.  

While artificial intelligence and its by-product, cognitive technologies, have been studied for a long  time, their applications grew exponentially in recent years, through the march to technological singularity, where technology begets technology through pattern recognition and machine learning.  

Cognitive Technologies and Legacy Industries

This begs the question of where the opportunities lie in legacy industries such as construction, engineering, automotive and industrials. Here are some insights for legacy businesses:  

1. The connected jobsite. 
From construction to manufacturing, robotics and data play complementary roles. They have been able to impact society in many positive ways: in Japan, robotics and data have been applied to prolonging the careers of a silver tsunami – helping older workers continue in vocational roles despite age and illness.  

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Data provided through sensors and robotics including exoskeletons and driverless automation have led to a spectacularly efficient workspace, where everything from temperature and humidity control, fatigue levels of workers, completion productivity and the anomalies in behavior can be tracked right to the millisecond in which it happens. Applied the right way, this can enable legacy businesses to do the right thing: care for its workforce, enable engagement, and increase employee happiness. Applied wrongly, a sad dystopian future of surveillance can take over the connected workplace.  

2. Augmentation of current processes and workflows. 
Augmentation of workflows is essentially the process of helping workers do their jobs faster and better, at speed and at scale. Some applications of cognitive technologies can eliminate jobs by taking on worker responsibilities, but well-designed cognitive technologies would complement the human worker by allowing technology to perform the repeatable and mundane parts of the work, and allowing the human worker to do the real heavy lifting.

Through cognitive technologies, detection of failures and anomalies can be automated and human error can drift into a thing of the past – leaving valuable tasks to be performed by real humans. Traditional businesses including construction and heavy engineering present significant opportunities for growth in productivity and impact to their bottom line, through the augmentation of current workflows, particularly around administrative processes like certification, licensing, and application of permits, estimating and costing.  

3. Reinventing value propositions. 
Organizations now can take a deep dive into their value propositions and offerings, investing in cognitive technologies for their end solutions. Examples of these include embedding connectivity as a service in commercial real estate, data-visualized dashboards in healthcare organizations, drones, and AR in quality control for shipbuilding and construction – the list goes on.

Non-essential augmentation of value propositions (the nice to have’s) can improve your brand proposition, whereas vital augmentations (the need to have’s) can be the difference between surviving in a post-pandemic economic trek up the mountain and perishing in the ravines of irrelevance. Some nice-to-haves include administrative automation like virtual AI assistants, and some need-to-haves could include fraud detection in financial institutions.   

Embrace or Perish 

With the current economic and technological situation all of us are in, businesses must make strategic decisions about their investments into cognitive technologies. Many of these decisions are becoming minimum industry standards – as in the case of sentiment analytics to e-commerce retail recommendations. Those who do not catch up, or embrace these technologies too late, may have already made their decision on their companies’ fates.