Digital Transformation Helps Lockheed Martin go Hypersonic!

Digital Transformation is becoming the buzzword of the decade and its meaning is rather broad. We like to call it the application of the latest computing technology to improve business processes. More specifically, using cloud, AI, cognitive computing, mobile, IoT, big, data, and other tech like chatbots and APIs. The list of technology is really never-ending, we could have added sharing economy, autonomous vehicles, smart cities, smart buildings, mesh networks, blockchain and so on.

Practically speaking, companies need to disrupt themselves or become new disruptors depending on the age of the organization.

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The best recent example of digital transformation may be Lockheed Martin as they develop a successor to the SR-71 Blackbird. Referring to detailed specifics of company design and manufacturing, Jack O’Banion, a Lockheed vice president, said a “digital transformation” arising from recent computing capabilities and design tools had made hypersonic development possible. Then—assuming O’Banion chose his verb tense purposely—came the surprise.

“Without the digital transformation, the aircraft you see there could not have been made,” O’Banion said, standing by an artist’s rendering of the hypersonic aircraft. “In fact, five years ago, it could not have been made.”

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Hypersonic applies to speeds above Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound. The SR-71 cruised at Mach 3.2, more than 2,000 mph.

Computer processing power and new tools allow for three-dimensional design of a scramjet engine, O’Banion said at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ annual SciTech Forum near Orlando. (Scramjet refers to engine combustion occurring at supersonic speeds, which adds to the engineering complexity.) Adding a little Hollywood to an engineering presentation, O’Banion likened the digital advances in 3D design to the build process Tony Stark employs in the film “Iron Man.”

“We couldn’t have made the engine itself—it would have melted down into slag if we had tried to produce it five years ago,” O’Banion said. “But now we can digitally print that engine with an incredibly sophisticated cooling system integral into the material of the engine itself and have that engine survive for multiple firings for routine operation.” The aircraft is also agile at hypersonic speeds, with reliable engine starts, he said. A half-decade before, he added, developers “could not have even built it even if we conceived of it.”

Most corporations aren’t focusing on building engines but they do rely on communications and other technology to build solutions to real-world problems. How to serve customers better, respond to competitive threats and come up with new models rapidly to see what the market is interested in.

akshay-sharma-final.pngDigital Transformation analyst and Principal, neXt Curve Akshay Sharma says mobile carriers have a huge role to play in this transformation. He continues, “They have the opportunity to reshape industries, such as the hospitality and retail industries, through 5G networking combined with edge computing as the IoT transformation is permeating through the US economy.”

He continues:

Times are changing with newer 4.5G/5G technologies, IoT, mobile video, smartphone payments, tablet-based point of sales, cellular powered digital-signage, and wireless broadband connectivity, including newer combo-Tablet-TV Tables, and combo video gaming point of sale devices.

Now hotels can have a mobile strategy beyond an app for faster, more convenient check-in where your phone becomes the key to your room as well as payment device for on-premise services ranging from the restaurant to the spa to the retail shops inside. Leveraging mobile device applications, and beacons, concierge personnel can greet customers personally as they arrive with rooms already prepared.

Wireless Kiosks and greeters with tablets or on robots are occurring for a more personalized experience depending on the class of hotel you are in. Hotels aiming at a superior experience can leapfrog to the cutting edge of entertainment and let guests experience mobile AR/VR augmenting the existing video and gaming in the hotel rooms, while restaurants can provide fixed gaming tablets, point of sales, and food ordering with tablets connected to the tables.

He points out opportunities exist for the building of Restaurant 2.0 with these and other features:

  • Electronic Kiosks for order management with Tablet operation on Robot Greeters like Sanbot or Softbank’s Pepper,
  • Open AI interfaces to IBM Watson or other AI Engines with recommendations based on past selections, and what is on sale,
  • Facial Recognition to not only identify customers but to also identify eye-contact and customer facial expressions to identify mood and recommend newer products and services.

While it may not qualify as transformation, it is mind-boggling to us how direct-to-consumer has revolutionized so many markets. Pillows, mattresses, razors and even toothbrushes are being sold online and often through subscription. Taxis and hotels have been savaged via Uber and Airbnb. Auto manufacturers are terrified that people will use services like Uber and Lyft instead of buying one of their cars. No market is safe. No market lead is guaranteed. We might amend the statement pointing out that Amazon, Google and Facebook do seem to have defensible monopolies. This statement of clarification is all the more reason why you need to evolve your organization because tomorrow, Google could be one of your competitors.

This reminds us of Jamie Siminoff of Security Doorbell company ring. He spoke at ITEXPO in 2010 and mentioned how companies need to always be concerned that Google will come after them. At the time he had a company called SimulScribe which became PhoneTag which performed voicemail transcription. Google decided to take the service his company offered and charge $360/year for and give it away free.

He now runs Ring and perhaps his biggest competitor is Nest, owned by none other than Google.

Not all of us will compete with Google but we need to be prepared to go up against companies which could seem to have infinite resources like they do. The startup with hundreds of millions in funding. The adjacent player looking for growth in related markets. The 800 pound gorilla.

Having regular strategy meetings and following where the funding is going are some ways to see where the next threat will come from and where the next opportunity can be. From there, companies need investment, prototyping and rapidly trying various models which may make sense in an evolving world. Moving from fixed pricing to monthly or regular subscription is a simple idea that may work in your business. Other transformations are more complex and vary by market. It’s an exciting time to be in business and we wish you luck as you navigate this tumultuous journey.


Speaking of transformation, Craig Walker, the CEO of Dialpad will be keynoting ITEXPO, the Communications Transformation event in Fort Lauderdale, Florida February 14-16th, 2018. Why is this important? Well, it ties in nicely with the Google voicemail transcription topic above. Craig’s company GrandCentral was purchased by Google and became the basis of Google Voice which did the transcribing. This will be the best ITEXPO ever. It is collocated with an MSP Expo, an SD-WAN Expo and The Blockchain Event which has a keynote from the architect of the ICO and Ethereum!

Here are the collocated events and list of ITEXPO keynotes such as IBM, Juniper, Mitel and Atlassian.

What is ITEXPO? It is the one event purchasing decision-makers attend from around the world to make sure they know where the future of technology is heading. Communications carriers, enterprises, small business and resellers attend the company in the thousands.

We hope to see you there.

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