Going digital

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Jan Bosch is research center director, professor, consultant and angel investor in start-ups. You can contact him at jan@janbosch.com or follow him on janbosch.com/blog, Linkedin (linkedin.com/in/janbosch) or Twitter (@JanBosch).

Software is eating the world. Data is the new oil. Artificial intelligence replaces most jobs. Industry 4.0. The Internet of Things. 5G. Autonomous cars. It’s clear that digitalization (software, data and AI) is the main trend affecting the embedded systems industry across Europe and, in fact, the world. Whereas digital technologies used to be a minor, supporting part of the primarily mechanical and electronic systems that we built, these days, it’s the mechanics and electronics that have commoditized. Differentiation is defined by the software, data and intelligence in systems and by the implications of these technologies for individuals, companies and business ecosystems.

Over the last years, I’ve been writing about the consequences of this transformation for the European software-intensive systems industry. From the time you read this column, I’ll be sharing my views with you on a weekly basis through Bits&Chips. I’m the director of Software Center, an initially Swedish collaboration between 13 companies and five universities focused on accelerating digitalization at the member companies. In this role, I have the privilege of having a front row seat as we collaborate with companies such as Boeing, Bosch, Ericsson, Siemens, Tetra Pak, Volvo Cars, Wärtsilä and many others.

Since the start of Software Center in 2011, we’ve worked on several highly relevant topics, including speed (agile transformation, continuous integration and continuous deployment), data (including A/B testing), business and software ecosystems, empowerment (removing hierarchy in organizations) as well as artificial intelligence (specifically software engineering for machine and deep learning). Different from traditional academic research that focuses on technology, our scope has predominantly been the engineering, business and organizational implications.

Based on my experiences, I predict that in the foreseeable future all systems that we use in our daily lives will get better every day that we use them. We achieve this by continuously deploying new software (including safety-critical software), continuously monitoring and measuring the value that systems are delivering to customers and users, using A/B testing and other experimental approaches to develop new functionality (rather than requirements), deploying and continuously retraining machine and deep learning models, organizing ourselves around self-managed teams with quantitative outcome targets and by strategic engagement with the business ecosystems around us.

In my upcoming columns, I intend to explore different aspects of this perspective of future software and systems engineering as well as of the software-intensive systems industry at large. The future is an exciting place with endless opportunities. And that’s a good thing as the future is where we spend the rest of our lives!