Connected Workers: Shaping the Future of Industry
Digital transformation has upended businesses on a global scale, and no industry is immune from its powerful effects.
New technologies and enhancing customer experience are key drivers for companies investing in digital transformation, but the most important reason for prioritizing this shift is that it will allow them to leverage entirely new opportunities for growth.
However, with the speed of digital transformation accelerating at a furious pace, companies need to quickly adapt their working environment to keep up. This graphic from mCloud unearths the origins of the connected worker, and explores the potential applications of connected devices across industries.
The Rise of the Connected Worker
The mass adoption of smart devices has sparked a new wave of remote work. This type of working arrangement is estimated to inject $441 billion into the global economy every year, and save 2.5 million metric tonnes of CO2 by 2029—the equivalent of 1,280 flights between New York and London.
However, flexible or remote working looks different depending on the industry. For example, in the context of business services such as engineering or manufacturing, employees who carry out different tasks remotely using digital technologies are known as connected workers.
The term is not a one-size-fits-all, as there are many different types of connected workers with different roles, such as operators, field workers, engineers, and even executives. But regardless of an individual’s title, every connected worker plays a crucial role in achieving digital transformation.
Real Time Data, Real Time Benefits
When workers are connected to assets in real time, they can make better, more informed decisions—ultimately becoming a more efficient workforce overall. As a result, industries could unlock a wealth of benefits, such as:
- Reducing human error
- Increasing productivity
- Reducing dangerous incidents
- Saving time and money
- Monitoring assets 24/7
While connected workers can enhance the potential of industries, the tools they use to achieve these benefits are crucial to their success.
Connected Worker Technologies
A connected device has the ability to connect with other devices and systems through the internet. The connected worker device market is set for rapid growth over the next two decades, reaching $4.3 billion by 2039. Industries such as oil and gas, chemical production, and construction lead the way in the adoption of connected worker technologies, which include:
- Platforms: Hardware or software that uses artificial intelligence and data to allow engineers to create bespoke applications and control manufacturing processes remotely.
- Interfaces: Technologies such as 3D digital twins enable peer-to-peer information sharing. They also create an immersive reflection of surroundings that would have otherwise been inaccessible by workers, such as wind turbine blades.
- Smart sensors and IoT devices: Sensors that monitor assets provide a more holistic overview of industrial processes in real time and prevent dangerous incidents.
- Cloud and edge computing: Using the cloud allows workers to communicate with each other and manage shared data more efficiently.
Over time, connected devices are getting smarter and expanding their capabilities. Moreover, devices such as wearables are becoming more discreet than ever, and can even be embedded into personal protective equipment to gather data while remaining unobtrusive.
Real World Applications
With seemingly endless potential, these devices have the ability to provide game changing solutions to ongoing challenges across dozens of industries.
- Building Maintenance and Management
Facility managers can access real time information and connect with maintenance workers on site to resolve issues quickly. Building personnel can also access documentation and remote help through connected technologies.
- Task Management
Operators in industrial settings such as mining can control activities in remote locations. They can also enable field personnel to connect with experts in other locations.
- Communications Platform
Cloud-based communication platforms can provide healthcare practitioners with a tool to connect with the patient, the patient’s family and emergency care personnel.
By harnessing the power of artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and analytics, connected workers can continue to revolutionize businesses and industries across the globe.
Towards a More Connected Future
As companies navigate the challenges of COVID-19, implementing connected worker technologies and creating a data-driven work environment may quickly become an increasingly important priority.
Not only is digital transformation important for leveraging new growth opportunities to scale, it may be crucial for determining the future of certain businesses and industries.
The Periodic Table of Commodity Returns (2012-2021)
Energy fuels led the way as commodity prices surged in 2021, with only precious metals providing negative returns.
The Periodic Table of Commodity Returns (2022 Edition)
For investors, 2021 was a year in which nearly every asset class finished in the green, with commodities providing some of the best returns.
The S&P Goldman Sachs Commodity Index (GSCI) was the third best-performing asset class in 2021, returning 37.1% and beating out real estate and all major equity indices.
This graphic from U.S. Global Investors tracks individual commodity returns over the past decade, ranking them based on their individual performance each year.
Commodity Prices Surge in 2021
After a strong performance from commodities (metals especially) in the year prior, 2021 was all about energy commodities.
The top three performers for 2021 were energy fuels, with coal providing the single best annual return of any commodity over the past 10 years at 160.6%. According to U.S. Global Investors, coal was also the least volatile commodity of 2021, meaning investors had a smooth ride as the fossil fuel surged in price.
Source: U.S. Global Investors
The only commodities in the red this year were precious metals, which failed to stay positive despite rising inflation across goods and asset prices. Gold and silver had returns of -3.6% and -11.7% respectively, with platinum returning -9.6% and palladium, the worst performing commodity of 2021, at -22.2%.
Aside from the precious metals, every other commodity managed double-digit positive returns, with four commodities (crude oil, coal, aluminum, and wheat) having their best single-year performances of the past decade.
Energy Commodities Outperform as the World Reopens
The partial resumption of travel and the reopening of businesses in 2021 were both powerful catalysts that fueled the price rise of energy commodities.
After crude oil’s dip into negative prices in April 2020, black gold had a strong comeback in 2021 as it returned 55.01% while being the most volatile commodity of the year.
Natural gas prices also rose significantly (46.91%), with the UK and Europe’s natural gas prices rising even more as supply constraints came up against the winter demand surge.
Despite being the second worst performer of 2020 with the clean energy transition on the horizon, coal was 2021’s best commodity.
High electricity demand saw coal return in style, especially in China which accounts for one-third of global coal consumption.
Base Metals Beat out Precious Metals
2021 was a tale of two metals, as precious metals and base metals had opposing returns.
Copper, nickel, zinc, aluminum, and lead, all essential for the clean energy transition, kept up last year’s positive returns as the EV batteries and renewable energy technologies caught investors’ attention.
Demand for these energy metals looks set to continue in 2022, with Tesla having already signed a $1.5 billion deal for 75,000 tonnes of nickel with Talon Metals.
On the other end of the spectrum, precious metals simply sunk like a rock last year.
Investors turned to equities, real estate, and even cryptocurrencies to preserve and grow their investments, rather than the traditionally favorable gold (-3.64%) and silver (-11.72%). Platinum and palladium also lagged behind other commodities, only returning -9.64% and -22.21% respectively.
Grains Bring Steady Gains
In a year of over and underperformers, grains kept up their steady track record and notched their fifth year in a row of positive returns.
Both corn and wheat provided double-digit returns, with corn reaching eight-year highs and wheat reaching prices not seen in over nine years. Overall, these two grains followed 2021’s trend of increasing food prices, as the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s food price index reached a 10-year high, rising by 17.8% over the course of the year.
As inflation across commodities, assets, and consumer goods surged in 2021, investors will now be keeping a sharp eye for a pullback in 2022. We’ll have to wait and see whether or not the Fed’s plans to increase rates and taper asset purchases will manage to provide price stability in commodities.
A Global Breakdown of Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Sector
In a few decades, greenhouse gases (GHGs)—chiefly in the form of CO₂ emissions—have risen at unprecedented rates as a result of global growth and resource consumption.
To uncover the major sectors where these emissions originate, this graphic from Our World in Data pulls in data from 2016 courtesy of Climate Watch and the World Resources Institute, when total emissions reached 49.4 billion tonnes of CO₂ equivalents (CO₂e).
Sources of GHG Emissions
Global GHG emissions can be roughly traced back to four broad categories: energy, agriculture, industry, and waste. Overwhelmingly, almost three-quarters of GHG emissions come from our energy consumption.
|Sector||Global GHG Emissions Share|
|Agriculture, Forestry & Land Use||18.4%|
Within each category, there are even more granular breakdowns to consider. We’ll take a closer look at the top two, which collectively account for over 91% of global GHG emissions.
Within this broad category, we can further break things down into sub-categories like transport, buildings, and industry-related energy consumption, to name a few.
|Sub-sector||GHG Emissions Share||Further breakdown|
|Transport||16.2%||• Road 11.9%
• Aviation 1.9%
• Rail 0.4%
• Pipeline 0.3%
• Ship 1.7%
|Buildings||17.5%||• Residential 10.9%
• Commercial 6.6%
|Industry energy||24.2%||• Iron & Steel 7.2%
• Non-ferrous metals 0.7%
• Machinery 0.5%
• Food and tobacco 1.0%
• Paper, pulp & printing 0.6%
• Chemical & petrochemical (energy) 3.6%
• Other industry 10.6%
|Agriculture & Fishing energy||1.7%||-|
|Unallocated fuel combustion||7.8%||-|
|Fugitive emissions from energy production||5.8%||• Coal 1.9%
• Oil & Natural Gas 3.9%
Billions of people rely on petrol and diesel-powered vehicles to get around. As a result, they contribute to almost 12% of global emissions.
But this challenge is also an opportunity: the consumer adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) could significantly help shift the world away from fossil fuel use, both for passenger travel and for freight—although there are still speedbumps to overcome.
Meanwhile, buildings contribute 17.5% of energy-related emissions overall—which makes sense when you realize the stunning fact that cities use 60-80% of the world’s annual energy needs. With megacities (home to 10+ million people) ballooning every day to house the growing urban population, these shares may rise even further.
Agriculture, Forestry & Land Use
The second biggest category of emissions is the sector that we rely on daily for the food we eat.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, methane from cows and other livestock contribute the most to emissions, at 5.8% total. These foods also have some of the highest carbon footprints, from farm to table.
|Sub-sector||GHG Emissions Share|
|Livestock & Manure||5.8%|
Another important consideration is just how much land our overall farming requirements take up. When significant areas of forest are cleared for grazing and cropland, there’s a clear link between our land use and rising global emissions.
Although many of these energy systems are still status quo, the global energy mix is ripe for change. As the data shows, the potential points of disruption have become increasingly clear as the world moves towards a green energy revolution.
For a different view on global emissions data, see which countries generate the most CO₂ emissions per capita.
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