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Last month, we introduced our 2021 Business Trends report based on in-depth conversations with top CSOs in our Outthinker Strategy Network. We will be expanding on one of these trends every week with the intention of supporting your organization’s strategy for the next year and beyond. This is our fourth installment. 

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Among the ten trends mentioned in our 2021 Business Trends Report, there is one that is underlying and amplifying all other trends more than any in the list. The culmination of automation and the Internet of Things (IoT), powered by 5G technology, is accelerating trends across all industries.

Last month, I delivered a workshop in the field of construction tech, where worksites are becoming safer and more interactive due to enhanced communication that would not be possible without the speed and low latency of 5G. The Wild, a virtual/augmented reality platform, allows architecture, engineering, and construction teams to collaborate remotely on hosted models in an immersive workspace. Vinnie, Smartvid.io’s AI, collects insights on site safety hazards and uses them to warn workers of project risks.

Our cities, homes, stores, factories, and farms are becoming smarter, allowing us to live and work more efficiently while capitalizing on the massive amounts of data available to us through machines and devices.

The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the importance of 5G and the IoT 

The chaos of the past year brought us back to basics. With existing technology escalating and data tracking almost everything we do, why not use the information we have to make life easier by controlling what we can control?

We spent more time at home in our private spaces, and relied on connected devices to ease the transition to remote work and to provide fast, accessible entertainment options at our fingertips. In 2021 we will continue to see the expansion of our own devices linking with those outside of the home, to help us stock up on necessities without planning, access additional remote education opportunities, and communicate with loved ones without interruption.

The future will bring our devices into greater communication with each other. Our phones and wearable technologies will be able to deliver metrics to our doctors, outlining treatments and medicines that we may need even before we realize that we do. With increased connection speeds, we’ll check in with medical providers from home through telehealth services and may someday even receive remote surgery from a doctor thousands of miles away. To protect the safety of frontline workers, robots enabled by 5G will be called into action to safely disinfect common surfaces or conduct temperature checks.

Outthinkers recognize and embrace 5G opportunities

This web of autonomous connected devices has already become essential and unavoidable as it impacts home life, cities, manufacturing, supply chains, and energy industries. Automation, 5G and IoT will continue their profound impact on seamlessly integrating the devices that power our lives.

Companies like EDP are preparing for the future, not only by delivering solutions using data to predict needs and provide renewable energy, but also to further the accessibility of 5G networks. EDP, along with partners from four European countries, recognized the difficulties in installing and deploying 5G networks in densely populated areas. They created 5Gaas to repurpose existing infrastructure and install smart city equipment, thereby expanding market potential and enabling the adoption of new technologies.

Will future technologies unite or divide us?

At Outthinker, we like to focus on the positive implications that new technologies inspire in our society, our businesses, and our lives. There is, however, often a darker, more challenging side to most trends.

The difficulties we have seen in recent months in distributing the COVID-19 vaccine in rural areas of America present the question: will 5G and the network of autonomous connected devices serve to unite or further divide us along technological barriers? Rural counties still have limited access to high-speed internet connections and smartphone service.

Historically, the most up-to-date technologies have been rolled out in wealthier, urban areas before trickling out to more remote locations. 5G has the potential to make the digital divide worse by leaving certain communities exempt from the speed and ease of a more connected world.

Outthinkers will consider both the opportunities and challenges of propagating these technologies of the future, recognizing new possibilities in areas that have traditionally been underserved.


“8Ps” of StrategyOpportunity
for Disruption
Recommended Leverage Points
Position- The farmers, individual and corporate, that you are targeting.

- The need of the agricultural industry that you seek to fill.
3- What technologies do you control that can help you tap into market
segments that you previously thought unreachable?

- What are the potential business alliances you could think about with key players in the segment to serve your customers with integrated solutions? (Serving customers with more integrated solutions example: serving farmers with fertilizers, crop protection and other).
Product- The products you offer, and the characteristics that affect their value to customers.

- The technology you develop for producing those products.
8- What moves are your organization taking to implement Big Data and analytics to your operations? What IoT and blockchain applications can you use?

- What tools and technology could you utilize or develop to improve food quality, traceability, and

- How can you develop a more sustainable production model to accommodate constraints on arable

- What is the future business model needed to serve new differentiated products to your customers?
Promotion- How you connect with farmers and consumers across a variety of locations and industries.
- How to make consumers, producers, and other stakeholders aware of your products and services.
8- How are you connecting your product with individual and corporate farms who could utilize it?
- How could you anticipate market and customer needs to make customers interested in accessing your differentiated products?
PriceHow consumers and other members of the agricultural supply chain pay for access to agricultural products.7- What elements of value comprise your pricing? How do each of those elements satisfy the varying needs of your customers?
Placement- How food products reach consumers. How the technologies, data, and services reach stakeholders in the supply chain.9- What new paths might exist for helping consumers access the food they desire?
- How are you adapting your operations and supply chain to accommodate consumers’ desire for proximity to the food they eat?
- How could you anticipate customer expectation to make products more
accessible to customers/agile supply chain?
- Have you considered urbanization as a part of your growth strategy?
- How your food satisfies the needs and desires of your customer.
- How the services you provide to agribusiness fulfill their needs.
9- Where does your food rate on a taste, appearance, and freshness
- Could the services you provide to companies and farms in the agriculture industry be expanded to meet more needs?
- What senses does your food affect besides hunger? How does your
customer extract value from your food in addition to consumption?
Processes- Guiding your food production operations in a manner cognizant of social pressure.8- How can you manage the supply chain differently to improve traceability and reduce waste?
- How can you innovate systems in production, processing, storing, shipping, retailing, etc.?
- What are new capabilities to increase sustainability (impact on the environment, or ESG) components?
People- The choices you make regarding hiring, organizing, and incentivizing your people and your culture.- How are you leveraging the agricultural experience of your staff bottom-up to achieve your vision?
- How do you anticipate new organizational capabilities needed to perform your future strategy (innovation, exponential technologies needed, agile customer relationship, innovative supply chain)?
- How do you manage your talents to assure suitable development with exposure in the agrifood main challenges/allowing a more sustainable view of the opportunities/cross-sectors?