How you can turn emerging technology into a competitive advantage

5 minute read 8 Apr 2019

In this transformative age, businesses are required to continuously adapt to build and sustain a competitive advantage.

So how can organizations get up to speed with emerging technologies and understand how best to leverage their potential?

Blockchain technology is just one of the five major technological transformations that are moving through the industry right now. In this series, EY’s Emerging Technology leaders discuss the value and impact of each technology, their role and how they can deliver a competitive advantage.


The reason why blockchain has taken off over the last couple of years is that we are taking the principles of blockchain technology — the security, the redundancy, the ability to prevent hacking or theft — from a public cryptocurrency infrastructure, and applying them to business transactions.

Right now, it seems like everybody wants to do some kind of blockchain proof of concept or pilot. To make sure you focus on the right ones, that really create value, we have a five-point test to check whether blockchain is a good solution.

Number one, are there multiple parties in this business ecosystem? Number two, do you need to build trust between the parties? Third, are you managing finite resources? A lot of the underlying technology of blockchains is created to prevent people from double counting the assets. Fourth, is there a complex set of business rules that bind the parties together so that it is more than just a simple back and forth? And fifth, does the ecosystem as a whole benefit from some level of increased transparency?

If you can say “yes” to three or more of these question, the chance is that you have a really compelling case for the use of blockchain technology.

Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT is changing the way we build new businesses and how we integrate existing businesses, or make our existing businesses more efficient.

There are two main entry points for IoT uptake. One is business profitability through reducing costs. IoT provides the possibility to measure, and if you can measure, you can really manage. The second entry point is to create new revenue streams from business processes that don’t yet exist. IoT is able to connect machines with machines and assets with assets without human interaction. Data from sensors can be sent to the cloud or to the edge, and then processed and made to work using Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Why now? Because of the price. The price of the technology is decreasing, and something which cost a lot of money 10 years ago, now is almost zero. The second thing is the speed of technology. Today, you can process data in absolutely enormous speed. So, both those elements make the business case work for enterprises.


Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI is accelerating disruption, and it is going to bring about changes that require companies to really weave this capability deep into their enterprise. AI is not one thing, it is a set of methods and tools that can be applied to solve many different problems.

Now, at the point of convergence between computation, data and science, the idea of AI is now much more practical both in the cloud and on the edge. For example, we are seeing government agencies wanting to deploy AI, not only to improve public services but also to improve the citizen experience and ultimately drive economic growth. And in the private sector, AI is being used to engage with customers and to transform access to services and customer care, all the way up to optimizing financials, supply chain and entire processes.

AI will, ultimately, become deeply embedded into the actual products and services that are delivered to customers.

Delivering value to shareholders, delivering a great experience to your employees and your customers, will increasingly depend on a continuous commitment to artificial intelligence.
Keith Strier
EY Global and EY Americas Consulting Leader for AI

Intelligent Automation (IA)

Robotics Process Automation (RPA) was a term that was developed in 2008 and is a new form of technology that is not a physical robot, but it is software, executing tasks like humans would do. It has evolved now into Intelligent Automation (IA).

Recently, transformation has been very difficult because we had no underlying way to reinvent how business was done. But what IA does is allow us to reinvent business on machine hours, not people hours. And this comes at the same time as a shift in the labor market which is requiring us to do more with less.

One of the critical things about IA is that it is not just about the technology, it is about all the other ways that it changes business. Transformation with IA demands thinking about governance, change management, policy and process and internal controls, how to retrain the workforce and what type of work your organization will need in the future.

Additive manufacturing can help companies gain efficiency in their supply chains, drive growth by design of products with improved features, or even disrupt business models. To start the journey, companies require a systematic approach to identify new applications and quantify the impact on the business.
Stefana Karevska
Global Consulting Additive Manufacturing/ 3D Printing Leader

Additive manufacturing/ 3D printing (3DP)

The availability of computing power, production speed and materials means that 3DP has really come of age and could replace many traditionally manufactured products in most industries.

There are multiple reasons to trigger the use of 3DP. One is printing the same product closer to the place of consumption, rather than having a complicated supply chain, including stock management issues and long lead times. A good example is to print spare parts in remote places such as, an oil rig or a mine.

The other major trigger is product innovation and the real value of 3DP is creating products with features and functionalities that have not been possible before. However, the additive manufacturing value chain is quite complex and requires deep insights, not only in production, design and manufacturing skills but also deep expertise on the end-to-end supply chain to be able to create the proper business case for each new printed product.

There are also tax, cyber and legal implications to protect intellectual property and finding the best possible operating models. With these considerations however, 3DP can deliver design and manufacturing capabilities and innovations never seen before.


Keeping up with the pace of technological change, and being able to realize its potential, has become a true capability and the primary source of competitive advantage.

About this article

By EY Global

Ernst & Young Global Ltd.