This Is What Long COVID Feels Like Fatigue Dizziness Brain Fog and Muscle Spasms

When the novel coronavirus began to spread across the world in February 2020, Freya Sawbridge was caught in a bind. The 27-year-old was living in Scotland, but when businesses and borders began to close she packed up and flew home to Auckland, New Zealand. On arrival, she felt feverish and couldn’t smell or taste food.

In those early months of COVID-19, every new symptom made global headlines. Freya got tested and the result came back positive. Panic began to set in.  “I was in the first wave,” she says.

“There weren’t many people that had had it by that stage, so I knew no-one could tell me anything about it, no-one could offer me any real guidance because it was a new disease.

“No-one can tell you anything about it or when it might end. You’re just existing in the unknown.”

Freya found herself on a vicious merry-go-round of symptoms — fever, sore throat, dizziness, muscle spasms, numbness, chest pains and fatigue. The symptoms kept coming around and around and around.

After 12 days, she stabilised, but four days later the pains returned with a vengeance. It would be a sign of things to come. Freya would relapse five more times over the next six months.

“Each relapse, the depth of it would last about 10 days and then I would take about four or five days emerging from it, have about two or three symptom-free days before another relapse would kick off,” Freya says. “The symptoms would come and then dissipate…

“I’d have a fever for an hour, a sore throat for four hours, then dizziness for two hours, then I was OK for an hour.

“…it was just a cycle like that.”

By April 2020, “long COVID” was being mentioned in Facebook support groups. It’s not an official medical term; it was coined out of necessity by the public. It’s sometimes also referred to as long-haul COVID, chronic COVID and post-acute sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC).

Exactly what constitutes long COVID remains extremely broad. Earlier this month, the World Health Organization released its clinical case definition of what it calls ‘post COVID-19 condition’, which affects people at least two months after a COVID-19 infection with symptoms that “cannot be explained by an alternative diagnosis”.

For Freya, symptoms like chest pain and a sore throat were manageable, but the dizziness and “brain pain” she experienced were debilitating. “It’s as if there was like a mini person in my brain and he was scraping my whole brain with a rake, it was just pain,” Freya says.

“And then it would feel like it would flip on itself continuously and so it makes it really hard to sleep because you’re lying there and it feels like your brain is doing somersaults and then it’s also spinning.”

The memory loss was especially unnerving. “Heaps of people say, ‘Oh, I get that and I’m young,’ but it just feels different… you’d be mid-sentence and then completely forget what you’re talking about.”

Doctors couldn’t give Freya any clarity about what was happening to her because the reality was no-one knew enough about COVID-19.

The hardest was month four, when Freya ended up in hospital from her long COVID symptoms. In a journal entry dated August 24, 2020, she wrote: “Must stay hopeful. Must believe I will get better.” After so many relapses, she had fallen into a depression filled with grief, for her healthy body and her old life.

To this day, we still know very little about long COVID, including just how many people it affects.

Various studies over the past 18 months estimate long COVID can affect anywhere from 2.3 per cent to 76 per cent of COVID-19 cases. It’s important to remember these studies vary in method, with some tracking only hospitalised cases and some relying on self-reported surveys.

A comprehensive study by the University of NSW places the figure at around 5 per cent. Researchers tracked 94 per cent of all COVID-19 cases in NSW from January to May 2020. Of the 3,000 people surveyed, 4.8 per cent still had symptoms after three months.

The uncertainty doesn’t end there. We also have no idea why long COVID hits certain people, but not others. It’s been likened to a kind of “Russian roulette”.

Studies have consistently found long COVID to be more prevalent in women, older people and those with underlying conditions, but there’s evidence to indicate children are capable of developing long COVID too.

Being young and fit is no guarantee you’re safe either, and nor is having a minor initial COVID case. The longer-term symptoms can strike even those who had few initial symptoms.

Those with long COVID report a constellation of symptoms including fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, brain fog, memory loss, loss of taste and smell, numbness, muscle spasms and irritable bowels.

One of Australia’s leading researchers in the area, Professor Gail Matthews, says long COVID is likely a spectrum of different pathologies.

Dr Matthews is the Head of Infectious Diseases at St Vincent’s Hospital and Head of the Therapeutic Vaccine and Research Program at the Kirby Institute at UNSW. She says the issue of long COVID will be huge on a global scale and it’s crucial to understand it better.

One theory is that COVID-19 can trigger the immune system to behave in an abnormal way, releasing cytokines that can make you feel unwell with fatigue and other symptoms.

Another is that there could be some elements of the virus — called antigen persistence — somewhere in the body that continues to trigger an ongoing activation in the immune system.

There’s also early evidence that vaccination might help reduce or even prevent long-term symptoms. Freya stopped relapsing around month seven, although her senses of taste and smell still haven’t fully recovered. She says rest was a big part of her recovery.

“Other people, if they don’t have parental support, or they have to work because they’ve got no savings, or they can’t rely on their parents, or they have young kids — I have no idea how they got through it, because it would have been impossible in my eyes,” Freya says.

Judy Li is in an impossible situation. An all-encompassing fatigue has taken hold of her mind and body, stripping away her ability to work, parent or plan for the future.

The 37-year-old got COVID-19 in March 2020 while an inpatient at a Melbourne hospital. She had been struggling after giving birth to her second child and was getting the help she needed.

Despite her anxieties, Judy’s case was very mild and it wasn’t until three months later when her three-year-old brought a bug home from day care that she realised something was wrong.

As day-care bugs so often do, it ripped through the young family. “It felt like I hit a brick wall, I was a lot worse than everyone else,” Judy says.

“It wasn’t the usual symptoms… I was just really lethargic, really fatigued and I remember at about the three-week mark of having those symptoms, that kind of fatigue, I thought, ‘this isn’t right, this is a bit odd.’”

Her fatigue is not like being tired, it’s a different kind of exhaustion, a severe lack of energy that doesn’t replenish after sleep.

“This is like something you feel in your limbs; you feel like they’re really heavy, they’ve got this kind of, I wouldn’t say ouch-kind of pain, but it’s sort of an achiness to your limbs,” she says.

The fatigue comes and goes, but Judy has noticed it can flare up when she gets sick or when she expends herself physically or mentally.

One of the worst episodes came after an eight-hour trip to Canberra for Christmas to visit her in-laws. “I woke up and I was completely paralysed,” Judy says. Distressed, in tears, she could only call out to her partner for help.

“I just did not have the strength to move my limbs and I kept trying and trying and trying and eventually he helped me up. “I sort of dragged my arm up, I could barely hold a glass of water and he’d help me to drink out of it. If I had to go to the toilet, he had to basically carry me.”

This fatigue has derailed Judy’s life because when it sets in, she never knows how long it’s going to last or whether it will go away.  It makes work and parenting impossible. Judy’s two young children don’t understand what’s wrong with mum or why she can’t get out of bed.

“When the kids are crying at home, I can’t go and soothe them,” she says.

“This is not a lack of motivation, it’s like I want to get up and I want to go to my children.

“I want to get up, I’ve got work I need to do. I want to get up and even go get something to eat, I’m hungry, but I can’t actually tell my body to move in that way.”

Fatigue or post-exertional malaise is one of the most common symptoms of long COVID, but it’s also a very common symptom in myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), a biological disease affecting an estimated 250,000 Australians.

There are striking similarities between long COVID and ME/CFS. Both can cause symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, memory loss or ‘brain fog’, and irritable bowel, and both are likely to encompass a range of different pathologies.

ME/CFS is usually triggered by a viral infection — ebola, dengue fever, glandular fever, epstein barr, ross river virus, SARS and even the more common influenza have all left trails of chronically ill people in their wake.

Experts have even questioned whether long COVID could be ME/CFS by another name, although the jury is still out on that theory. ME/CFS has been around for decades but we still don’t know much about it.

Australian advocacy groups desperately want to see more research and support to help people with this chronic illness navigate medical, financial and accommodation services. They also say doctors need better education to diagnose and treat the condition early on.

Bronwyn Caldwell knows what it’s like to live with a condition that no-one understands or knows how to treat. She’s lived with ME/CFS for 20 years, ever since a suspected case of glandular fever in her 20s.

The 46-year-old from South Australia is adamant the early advice from her doctor to rest was the reason her condition didn’t immediately worsen. She was able to work part-time as a brewer up until 2013 but a relapse has left her mostly bed-bound.

Bronwyn considers herself lucky — her illness was validated by doctors and family, she doesn’t have cognitive difficulties and isn’t in pain. But her voice begins to break when mentioning that most people with ME/CFS face stigma that they’re being lazy or faking their illness.

“I can’t imagine what it’s really like to have everyone in your life say you’re just being lazy, because the reality is all of us beat ourselves up to that all the time,” she says.

A 2018 study published in the Journal of Health Psychology looking at links between people with chronic illness and suicidal ideation found stigma, misunderstanding and unwarranted advice exacerbates patients’ feelings of overall hopelessness.

Long COVID is creating a cohort of people vulnerable to the same thing, and Judy herself has sometimes wondered whether her family would be better off without her (which, of course, it wouldn’t).

“I honestly go through periods where I wish COVID had killed me instead of just left me with this, this big burden,” she says. With no sick leave left, Judy has had to take unpaid time off work.

It’s a big blow for the high-earning, career-driven project manager who took pride in handling stressful situations and juggling multiple tasks. These days, her mind doesn’t work like it used to.

“It’s just little things like struggling to find the word that I just knew… I would know… sorry… like being able to construct sentences,” she says with an ironic laugh.

“I can try to read something but it just seems like I have to read it over and over and over again. “I frequently walk into a room and can’t remember why, when I would put something down, seriously, two minutes later I have no idea where it is. “I just feel like I’m losing my mind.”

In the COVID-ravaged UK, daily cases peaked at more than 68,000 and daily deaths at more than 1,300. It’s a situation few in Australia — where we have enjoyed long periods of little-to-no community transmission — can fully appreciate.

Adam Attia was living in London through most of 2020 and says it was almost rare if you hadn’t had COVID-19. “I’ve known of people that had given it to their parents and it killed their parents,” the 30-year-old Australian says. “People that we knew on our street had passed away.”

So one day around August, when Adam couldn’t taste the wasabi on his sushi, he immediately knew what was wrong. “I just started to go through the kitchen for things like garlic — I had a whole garlic, I couldn’t taste anything. I ate a lemon like an apple and couldn’t taste a thing.

“I ate ginger like a cannibal, like I ate it with all of the bumps and things on it and couldn’t taste a thing.”

But Adam’s infection was mild and he spent his 10-day isolation staying active. Life went on as normal until three months later, after a trip to Croatia. On the flight back to London, somewhere above Germany, Adam felt an excruciating pain in his stomach. He felt like he was going to vomit, he couldn’t breathe and his head began to spin.

The flight crew didn’t know what to do, contemplating an emergency landing in Berlin while Adam desperately sucked air from a vent they’d given to help him breathe.

The flight managed to land in London and Adam was escorted off the plane. At the hospital, doctors ran tests for internal bleeding and signs of reflux or gastritis but they all turned up empty.

In the weeks and months after that flight, as little as two hours of work would leave Adam shattered and disorientated.

His symptoms are like dominoes. Exhaustion leads to stomach pain, which leads to nausea, faintness and breathlessness.

Adam has learned to manage his symptoms and as soon as he feels the exhaustion creeping in he takes an anti-nausea pill, uses the asthma puffer he now has to carry with him and finds somewhere to lie down.

He ended up moving back to Australia to sort out his health issues, but it wasn’t until a doctor at St George Hospital in Sydney mentioned Adam’s symptoms could be an effect of COVID-19 that he twigged.

“Is it from COVID? Look, I could be shooting in the dark, I don’t actually know,” Adam says. “But what I do know is I didn’t have these [symptoms] before COVID, so I guess it’s more of an educated guess.”

Much about long COVID remains exactly that. More research is needed to really know what’s going on.

The US and UK have allocated billions of dollars into research and set up long COVID clinics to help patients find the right treatment. The Australian government has provided $15 million for research grants into the long-term health effects of COVID-19 and the nation’s vaccination efforts through the Medical Research Future Fund.

As Australia moves beyond lockdowns towards a future where most Australians are vaccinated, borders are open and COVID-19 is actively spreading through communities, this research will be crucial in our understanding of the long-term health issues and the impact on individuals, families, workplaces and the economy.

For now, Dr Matthews says the biggest take-home is that we don’t know who is or isn’t susceptible to long COVID.

“One of the biggest messages is that it’s very hard to know who this will strike.”

Health officials in Victoria have already highlighted the plight of long COVID patients as part of their drive to encourage more people to get vaccinated, as experts say it probably can prevent long COVID.

Dr Matthews says it’s important Australia recognises long COVID as a real issue and makes sure there is appropriate support to help people.

“Even if it’s just an understanding that this condition exists, and recognition that it exists, as opposed to expecting these people to return to full health,” she says.

But until we know more, those like Freya, Judy and Adam won’t have the closure of knowing exactly what’s happened to them.

“It’s hard to wrap your head around,” Judy says, “to say this is potentially a life sentence”. “There’s no defining this is as bad as it gets, you know?  “This is just the big mystery question mark.”

By:  Emily Sakzewski, Georgina Piper, and Colin Gourlay

Source: This is what long COVID feels like — fatigue, dizziness, brain fog and muscle spasms – ABC News

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IMF Cuts Global Growth Forecast Amid Supply Chain Disruptions, Pandemic Pressures

The IMF, a grouping made up of 190 member states, promotes international financial stability and monetary cooperation. It also acts as a lender of last resort for countries in financial crisis.

In the IMF’s latest World Economic Outlook report released on Tuesday, the group’s economists say the most important policy priority is to vaccinate sufficient numbers of people in every country to prevent dangerous mutations of the virus. He stressed the importance of meeting major economies’ pledges to provide vaccines and financial support for international vaccination efforts before new versions derail. “Policy choices have become more difficult … with limited scope,” IMF economists said in the report.

The IMF in its July report cut its global growth forecast for 2021 from 6% to 5.9%, a result of a reduction in its projection for advanced economies from 5.6% to 5.2%. The shortage mostly reflects problems with the global supply chain that causes a mismatch between supply and demand.

For emerging markets and developing economies, the outlook improved. Growth in these economies is pegged at 6.4% for 2021, higher than the 6.3% estimate in July. The strong performance of some commodity-exporting countries accelerated amid rising energy prices.

The group maintained its view that the global growth rate would be 4.9% in 2022.

In key economics, the growth outlook for the US was lowered by 0.1 percentage point to 6% this year, while the forecast for China was also cut by 0.1 percentage point to 8%. Several other major economies saw their outlook cut, including Germany, whose economy is now projected to grow 3.1% this year, down 0.5 percent from its July forecast. Japan’s outlook was down 0.4 per cent to 2.4%.

While the IMF believes that inflation will return to pre-pandemic levels by the middle of 2022, it also warns that the negative effects of inflation could be exacerbated if the pandemic-related supply-chain disruptions become more damaging and prolonged. become permanent over time. This may result in earlier tightening of monetary policy by central banks, leading to recovery back.

The IMF says that supply constraints, combined with stimulus-based consumer appetite for goods, have caused a sharp rise in consumer prices in the US, Germany and many other countries.

Food-price hikes have placed a particularly severe burden on households in poor countries. The IMF’s Food and Beverage Price Index rose 11.1% between February and August, with meat and coffee prices rising 30% and 29%, respectively.

The IMF now expects consumer-price inflation in advanced economies to reach 2.8% in 2021 and 2.3% in 2022, up from 2.4% and 2.1%, respectively, in its July report. Inflationary pressures are even greater in emerging and developing economies, with consumer prices rising 5.5% this year and 4.9% the following year.

Gita Gopinath, economic advisor and research director at the IMF, wrote, “While monetary policy can generally see through a temporary increase in inflation, central banks should be prepared to act swiftly if the risks to rising inflation expectations are high. become more important in this unchanged recovery.” Report.

While rising commodity prices have fueled some emerging and developing economies, many of the world’s poorest countries have been left behind, as they struggle to gain access to the vaccines needed to open their economies. More than 95% of people in low-income countries have not been vaccinated, in contrast to immunization rates of about 60% in wealthy countries.

IMF economists urged major economies to provide adequate liquidity and debt relief for poor countries with limited policy resources. “The alarming divergence in economic prospects remains a major concern across the country,” said Ms. Gopinath.

By: Yuka Hayashi

Yuka Hayashi covers trade and international economy from The Wall Street Journal’s Washington bureau. Previously, she wrote about financial regulation and elder protection. Before her move to Washington in 2015, she was a Journal correspondent in Japan covering regional security, economy and culture. She has also worked for Dow Jones Newswires and Reuters in New York and Tokyo. Follow her on Twitter @tokyowoods

Source: IMF Cuts Global Growth Forecast Amid Supply-Chain Disruptions, Pandemic Pressures – WSJ

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5G Technology Begins To Expand Beyond Smartphones

Proponents of 5G technology have long said it will remake much of day-to-day life. The deployment of superfast 5G networks is believed to herald a new era for much more than smartphones – everything from advanced virtual-reality video games to remote heart surgery. The vision has been slow to come to mind, but the first wave of 5G-enabled gadgets is emerging.

Last among the first uses of 5G to enter the consumer market is the delivery of home broadband Internet service to cord-cutters: those who want to not only drop their cable-TV bills but also give up internet access via wires altogether. give. For example, Samsung Electronics Co. has partnered with Verizon Communications Inc. to offer a wireless 5G router. Which promises to provide broadband access at home. The router takes a 5G signal just like a smartphone.

Other consumer devices that are starting to hit the market include 5G-compatible laptops from several manufacturers, all of which are faster than other laptops and offer high-quality video viewing when connected to a 5G network. (The laptop requires a 5G chip to make that connection.)

In the latest: Lenovo Group Ltd., in association with AT&T Inc., in August released a 5G laptop, the ThinkPad X13 5G. The device, which started shipping last month, comes with a 13.3-inch screen and retails for around $1,500. Samsung also introduced a new laptop in June that offers 5G connectivity. The Galaxy Book Go 5G has a 14-inch screen, and retails for around $800.

OK, but what if you want a 5G connection on your yacht, miles offshore? You have good luck. Meridian 5G, a Monaco-based provider of internet services for superyachts – the really big ones – advertises 5G Dome Routers, a combination of antennas and modems that are within about 60 miles of the coast to access 5G connectivity. Allows sailing. Hardware costs about $17,000 for an average-sized Superyacht.

America is ready for China’s Huawei, and it just happened

Of course, all of these gadgets are only useful where 5G networks are available, which still doesn’t cover a lot of locations, onshore or off. The same holds true for new drone technology unveiled by Qualcomm Inc in August with 5G and artificial-intelligence capabilities. The company says the technology called Qualcomm Flight RB5 5G Platform enables high-quality photo and video collection.

Drones equipped with 5G technology can be used in a variety of industries, including filming, mapping and emergency services like firefighting, Qualcomm notes. For example, due to new camera technology enabled by 5G, drones can be used for mapping large areas of land and for rapidly transferring data for analysis and processing.

Proponents of 5G technology have long said it will remake much of day-to-day life, bringing the so-called Internet of Things to a point where you can name any number of devices—home and office appliances, Industrial equipment, hospital equipment, vehicles, etc.—will be connected to the Internet and exchange data with the cloud at a speed that will allow for new capabilities.

“The goal of 5G, when we have a mature 5G network globally, is to make sure everything is connected to the cloud 100% of the time,” Qualcomm CEO Cristiano Amon said at a conference in Germany last month.

But it will take years for 5G devices to become widespread, analysts say, as network coverage expands and markets develop for all those advanced new products.

By: Meghan Bobrowsky

Meghan Bobrowsky is reporter with the tech team. She is a graduate of Scripps College. She previously interned for The Wall Street Journal, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Sacramento Bee. As an intern at the Miami Herald, she spent the summer of 2020 investigating COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes and federal Paycheck Protection Program fraud. She previously served as editor in chief of her school newspaper, the Student Life.

Source: 5G technology begins to expand beyond smartphones

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These Are The Top Tech Startups Attracting Talent in 2021, According to LinkedIn

LinkedIn has identified the startups that are attracting top talent this year, even amid some of the largest employee turnover in history.

On Wednesday, the Sunnyvale, California-based networking platform released its fifth annual list of 50 U.S. companies on the rise. The list tracks growth in employee count, interest from people looking for jobs, and how people interact with the online presence of the company and its employees. It also measures the startups’ ability to bring in employees from LinkedIn’s Top Companies list, which includes more established businesses like Amazon and Alphabet.

All startups on the list are less than seven years old, headquartered in the U.S., and have at least 50 employees. LinkedIn used data from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021. The ranking features some of the year’s breakout companies, like Clubhouse, and others that flourished in the pandemic, like Discord. Several of them have succeeded through their use of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics. Here are six of the most innovative from LinkedIn’s list.

Gong

Coming in at No. 2 on LinkedIn’s list, Gong uses artificial intelligence to analyze all of a company’s interactions with customers — calls, meetings, and emails — to improve their sales and marketing. The San Francisco-based company boasts clients including LinkedIn and Pinterest and was a 2021 Inc. 5000 honoree, ranking No. 99 with over $37 million in 2020 revenue.

Outreach

The Seattle-based sales management platform, an Inc. Best Workplaces company in 2021, uses machine learning to optimize customer communications, from social media to text to email. It ranked No. 9 on LinkedIn’s list and counts customers including Zoom and Adobe.

ScaleAI

ScaleAI helps clients process data faster via what it calls scaled artificial intelligence. The goal is to manage the swath of data that A.I. can generate, founder Alexandr Wang told Inc. The San Francisco-based company’s products can track visual data for AR companies or autonomous driving and provide complex models and results displays. Ranked No. 29 on LinkedIn’s list, the startup has a $7 billion valuation.

Neuralink

Elon Musk co-founded this startup, and its mission, predictably, is futuristic: It’s developing technology to connect the human brain to devices that can translate thoughts into speech or text, which could have wide applications for people who are paralyzed, for example. Neuralink is based in Fremont, California and ranked No. 33 on LinkedIn’s list. Its eventual goal is to merge mankind with computers, Musk said in 2017.

Nuro

Nuro sells self-driving cars, but not ones meant to ferry humans around. Nuro cars just deliver goods — and are programmed to avoid loss of life. The Mountain View, California-based startup, which became a unicorn in 2019, now delivers for the likes of Walmart, FedEx, and CVS Pharmacy. Nuro says it is the first self-driving, driverless car to get permission to operate from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The number of cars is still limited, but they are now available in San Jose, California; Houston; Silicon Valley; and Phoenix.

Relativity Space

Relativity Space builds rockets. In the future, it hopes to establish a society on Mars. The Long Beach, California-based company produces a 3-D printed, reusable rocket called Terran 1, using robotics and artificial intelligence for its development. Mark Cuban was an early investor, as was Y Combinator. LinkedIn ranked the company No. 45 on its list.

By Gabrielle Bienasz, Editorial assistant, Inc.@gbienasz

Source: These Are the Top Tech Startups Attracting Talent in 2021, According to LinkedIn | Inc.com

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Four Ways To Shift Automation From Tactical To Transformative

Organizations must transcend piecemeal approaches to business reinvention and design processes around people — tightly linked from the front to the back office, advises Girish Pai, who leads Cognizant’s Intelligent Process Automation practice.

“Going digital” has long been touted as a silver bullet for delivering better customer experiences and streamlining processes. Automation has become the go-to approach for solving immediate pain points, mainly in the form of tactically deploying one-off robotic process automation (RPA) initiatives to make our jobs a little easier and/or more efficient.

While achieving short-term gains, this piecemeal approach to process reinvention creates complexity due to disconnected strategies, siloed pilot projects and an incohesive technology strategy, among other factors. More importantly, it complicates businesses’ ability to adapt and inject fluidity into operations — characteristics crucial for delivering the future of work right now.

Old ways of thinking about automation just won’t cut it anymore, and the decentralized business world emerging from the pandemic has increased the pressure to deliver.

However, we’re finding that businesses are overwhelmingly ill-prepared for this journey. According to our research, 60% of companies have implemented or piloted automation technology, but only a tiny minority (8%) have said they’ve achieved automation at scale.

To unlock new value, opportunities and growth, organizations need to focus on the “why” of automation to achieve business results. They need to design processes around people — customers, employees, partners, suppliers — fused together from the front-office to the back-office, across all functions. Here’s how.

Anchor end-to-end process redesign to business outcomes and ensure scalability.

Organizations typically approach automation by looking for opportunities to increase speed or take complex manual tasks off their hands. It seems logical — but if they’re automating processes that just don’t work, they’re merely automating inefficiency. As customer journeys become more complex and competitors accelerate innovation, it becomes even more important to exert strategic oversight into automation initiatives.

End-to-end process change doesn’t work when organizations focus arbitrarily on finding opportunities for automation. They should first determine their overall business goals, identify inefficiencies in existing processes and then create automated systems that can scale. To succeed, they need to weave together people, processes, experiences, data insights, intelligence and technology via an automation fabric that masks complexity from users, simplifies orchestration, brings together disparate emerging technologies such as machine learning, natural language processing and intelligent document processing, and drives adoption and collaboration.

We recently worked with a healthcare provider to reduce its claims denial rate and improve net collections. We used process mining tools to identify bottlenecks and process issues, then ran possible intervention simulations to build a business case for business change.

This allowed us to create a strategic blueprint for implementing process changes, automation, monitoring and people enablement. Using RPA, optical character recognition (OCR) and artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) technologies, we were able to reduce the claims denial rate from 17% to 12% and improve net collections from 23% to 30%.

Because automation was deployed strategically instead of tactically, the processes behind the technology are efficient and will remain stable through growth periods.

Take a people-first approach.

As businesses adjust to a digital culture, they need to prioritize the human beings working alongside software and bots (i.e., digital workers). A one-size-fits-all approach to education and upskilling doesn’t work with a multigenerational and distributed workforce. Creating a people-first automation plan requires accommodations for skill level, comfort with technology and the state of innovation.

We worked with a claims processing organization to help it navigate this type of culture change. By analyzing the day-to-day challenges and dependencies of users, we created a customized training program that showcases how technology can reduce effort and improve decision-making. We prioritized initiatives based on ease of implementation and scaled them as technology understanding improved.

By prioritizing the needs of the workforce as new technology is deployed, the business will not only enhance time-to-adoption but also create a better customer experience through skilled employees, more efficient claims handling, greater cost savings from reduced penalties and more resilient operations.

Use modern technology to create modern experiences.

Digital is enabling companies to break traditional industry boundaries, introducing supportive and complementary offerings that create seamless purchasing environments for customers. But in doing so, they’re no longer just delivering products — they’re delivering experiences.

This means that back-office metric optimization can no longer be disassociated from front-office customer interaction and overall process change. The customer experience must be at the core of how processes are managed.

One leading medical device company struggled to educate customers on the features of its new devices. Because users’ health was involved, the company needed access to accurate information as quickly as possible. After reviewing patient, caregiver, payer and supplier personas and journeys, we helped create a blueprint for simplifying the interaction across ecosystem touchpoints.

We introduced chatbots, remote monitoring and AI-based patient safety services. By centering decisions around customer needs and expectations, the company was able to create a seamless user experience that reduces friction.

Guide widespread digitization with high-level strategy.

Automation is becoming more pervasive in enterprises. Low-code automation tools are rapidly entering the market, making it easier than ever to create digitally connected ways of working.

The key is to empower those closest to the process challenges with design and execution guide rails to holistically integrate and optimize disparate technologies as they learn, build and scale experiences and process transformation rapidly.

While the growing accessibility of automation offers a panoply of process optimization opportunities, the ease of use of low-code automation should not override the need for high-level strategic planning. To truly power customer-driven business decisions, organizations need data — and lots of it. If departments within your organization are approaching automation independently, data can quickly become trapped in siloes — making it impossible to efficiently gather the insights required to eliminate friction points.

Never lose sight of the “why” in automation

As process digitization evolves, it will become even more important to understand the “why” — not just the “what” — behind automation initiatives. Efficient process digitization requires a balancing act between effective technology adoption and enterprise-wide oversight.

By taking a fused, end-to-end automation approach, businesses can cut across siloes and enable data to flow freely between departments, creating an opportunity to thrive through better decision-making, reduced costs and greater business innovation.

To learn more visit the Intelligent Process Automation section of our website or contact us.

Girish Pai is a seasoned digital and transformation leader with over two decades of experience and a strong track record of delivering strategic business outcomes for clients globally across industries. Girish heads the Intelligent Process Automation Practice for Cognizant Digital Business Operations, leading the charge to create next-gen digital solutions by leveraging technology to simplify, reimagine and transform processes. Girish holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Manipal Institute of Technology, India. He can be reached at Girish.Pai@cognizant.com or on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/girishpai/

Source: Four Ways To Shift Automation From Tactical To Transformative

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Bank Of America Listed Among Heavyweights Invested In $300 Million Blockchain Funding Round

On Thursday trading

Originally announced in April, the bank joins other well-known investors such as PayPal PYPL -2.1%, crypto derivatives exchange FTX, and Coinbase. The round was led by Oak HC/FT and gives Paxos a $2.4 billion dollar valuation, with it having raised $540 million across multiple rounds of funding.

This investment comes to light after the May 2021 announcement that Bank of America joined the Paxos Settlement Service, which allows for same-day settlement of stock trades. Other partners on the network include Credit Suisse and Japanese bank Nomura Holdings.

In announcing the new investors Paxos CEO Charles Cascarilla noted, “We’re at the beginning of a technological transformation where new market infrastructure is needed to replatform the global financial system. Paxos uses innovative technology to build the regulated infrastructure that will facilitate an open, accessible and digital economy. We’re defining this space and are excited to grow our enterprise solutions beside these market leaders.”

Additionally, Bank of America appears to be warming up to digital assets and cryptocurrencies. The bank created a research team in July to analyze the emerging asset class and its various applications. On July 16th it was reported that the bank would allow bitcoin futures trading for select clients.

By taking this step, it appears that Bank of America is following the lead of its fellow financial services brethren, who are increasingly engaging with the space, often in response to consumer demand. Bank of America is following the lead of its fellow financial services brethren, who are increasingly engaging with the space, often in response to consumer demand.

State Street STT -0.8% recently created an entire digital assets division, and in an interview with Forbes Jenn Tribush, Senior Senior Vice President & Global Head of Alternatives Product Solutions said, “We’re going to bridge between the innovation that’s happening within the digital world with solving the need for clients to be able to operate in this new paradigm so for me it’s incredibly important to have this level of focus within a dedicated division.”

Source: Bank Of America Listed Among Heavyweights Invested In $300 Million Blockchain Funding Round

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Critics:

Paxos – a provider of blockchain infrastructure – said Bank of America, crypto exchange FTX, Founders Fund and Coinbase Ventures were among a heavyweight list of investors in its $300 million Series D funding round, the firm disclosed on Thursday.

Oak HC/FT led the funding round, which the nine-year-old company announced in late April at a valuation of $2.4 billion. The round also included PayPal Ventures and Mithril Capital, among others. The firm has raised more than $540 million over multiple funding rounds.

The company noted that Bank of America joined the Paxos Settlement Service earlier this year. The platform uses blockchain technology to achieve same-day settlement of stock trades. Paxos started providing infrastructure for PayPal’s crypto service last year, which has extended to PayPal’s Venmo payments app. Credit Suisse, fintech Revolut and Societe Generale are among other customers.

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Asia Becomes Epicenter of Market Fears Over Slowdown in Growth

Asia is emerging as the epicenter for investor worries over global growth and the spread of coronavirus variants. While their peers in the U.S. and Europe remain near record highs, Asian stocks have fallen back in recent months amid slowing Chinese economic growth and a glacial rollout of vaccines. The trend accelerated Friday with the benchmark MSCI Asia Pacific Index briefly erasing year-to-date gains for the second time in as many months.

“Asia was seen as the poster child in pandemic response last year, but this year the slow vaccination rollout in most countries combined with the arrival of the delta variant means another lost year,” said Mark Matthews, head of Asia research with Bank Julius Baer & Co. in Singapore. “I suspect Asia will continue to lag as long as vaccination rollouts remain at their relatively sluggish levels and high daily new Covid counts prevent them from lifting mobility restrictions.”

The growing jitters in the region comes as investor concerns shift from runaway inflation to an early withdrawal of stimulus by central banks. China’s authorities signaled earlier this week they may soon unleash more support for the economy, suggesting the world’s fastest-pandemic recovery may be weaker than it appears.

A fresh regulatory crackdown on Chinese tech stocks this week has also impacted investor sentiment in the region. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index fell briefly into a technical bear market Friday, led by weakness in the sector.

While Asia bore the brunt of the retreat in global equities, havens in other asset classes from Treasuries to the yen have rallied, and the rotation toward economically-sensitive cyclical stocks from their high-priced growth counterparts continued to unwind.

“It’s a sign of how challenging the reopening process is,” Marvin Loh, State Street senior global market strategist, said in an interview with Bloomberg TV. “What the PBOC is going through as well as these variants that keep popping up around the world shows it’s going to be an uneven process. Maybe a normalization tightening policy is not necessarily going to be as fluid.”

Covid Challenge

Covid 19 remains a key challenge. In Japan, Tokyo has declared a renewed state of emergency to combat the resurgent virus, banning spectators from the Olympics and pushing the Nikkei 225 Stock Average toward a correction. South Korea is intensifying social distancing measures in Seoul while Indonesia is battling a virus resurgence that has crippled its health system.

“Asian equities are being particularly impacted by the rebound in coronavirus cases in the region, fears about the impact of that on regional growth and concern that we may now have seen the best of the rebound globally,” said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy with AMP Capital Investors in Sydney. “Asian shares may have led the way on this but coronavirus concerns may also weigh on global shares generally.”

For the APAC region, recent trade deals will likely invigorate and deepen economic integration over the coming few years. In late 2020, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement after eight years of negotiation.

When fully implemented in 2022, RCEP will represent the world’s biggest trading bloc, covering about 30% of global GDP and trade. In addition, China concluded a Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) with the EU on the last day of 2020. The EU is China’s second-largest trading partner and the CAI will cover broad market access, including to key sectors such as alternative energy vehicles and medical services.

Although these trade deals will not have an immediate economic impact, in the medium term the treaties should cement Asia as the world’s most dynamic economic bloc embracing free trade, investment and globalization. They should also help to counter the disruptive geopolitical tensions and encourage the post-pandemic economic recovery in Asia.

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Critics:
The economy of Asia comprises more than 4.5 billion people (60% of the world population) living in 49 different nations. Asia is the fastest growing economic region, as well as the largest continental economy by both GDP Nominal and PPP in the world. Moreover, Asia is the site of some of the world’s longest modern economic booms, starting from the Japanese economic miracle (1950–1990), Miracle on the Han River (1961–1996) in South Korea, economic boom (1978–2013) in China, Tiger Cub Economies (1990–present) in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, and Vietnam, and economic boom in India (1991–present).
 
As in all world regions, the wealth of Asia differs widely between, and within, states. This is due to its vast size, meaning a huge range of different cultures, environments, historical ties and government systems. The largest economies in Asia in terms of PPP gross domestic product (GDP) are China, India, Japan, Indonesia, Turkey, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Thailand and Taiwan and in terms of nominal gross domestic product (GDP) are China, Japan, India, South Korea, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Taiwan, Thailand and Iran.
 
East Asian and ASEAN countries generally rely on manufacturing and trade (and then gradually upgrade to industry and commerce), and incrementally building on high-tech industry and financial industry for growth, countries in the Middle East depend more on engineering to overcome climate difficulties for economic growth and the production of commodities, principally Sweet crude oil.
 
Over the years, with rapid economic growth and large trade surplus with the rest of the world, Asia has accumulated over US$8.5 trillion of foreign exchange reserves – more than half of the world’s total, and adding tertiary and quaterny sectors to expand in the share of Asia‘s economy.

References

 

 

 

 

 

How Entrepreneurs Are Capitalizing on Digital Transformation in the Age of the ‘New Normal’

How Entrepreneurs Are Capitalising on Digital Transformation in the Age of the 'New Normal'

The Covid-19 pandemic has carried a significant impact on the rate in which businesses are embracing digital transformation. The health crisis has created an almost overnight need for traditional brick and mortar shopping experiences to regenerate into something altogether more adaptive and remote. While some businesses are finding this transition toward emerging technology a little tricky, it’s proving to be a significant opportunity for entrepreneurs in the age of the “new normal.”

Astoundingly, data suggests that digital transformation has been accelerated by as much as seven years due to the pandemic, with Asia/Pacific businesses driving forward up to a decade in the future when it comes to digital offerings.

With entrepreneurs and new startup founders finding themselves in a strong position to embrace modern digital practices ahead of more traditional companies, we’re likely to see a rise in innovation among post-pandemic businesses. With this in mind, let’s take a deeper look into the ways in which digital transformation are benefiting businesses in the age of the new normal:

Fast, data-driven decisions.

Any digital transformation strategy needs to be driven by data. The emergence of big data as a key analytical tool may make all the difference in ensuring that startups take the right steps at the right time to ensure that they thrive without losing valuable resources chasing the wrong target audience, or promoting an underperforming product.

Enterprises today have the ability to tap into far greater volumes of data than ever before, thanks largely to both big data and Internet of Things technology. With the right set of analytical tools, this data can be transformed into essential insights that can leverage faster, more efficient and accurate decisions. Essentially, the deeper analytical tools are embedded in business operations, the greater the levels of integration and effect that may have.

By incorporating more AI-based technology into business models, it’s possible to gain access to huge volumes of big data that can drive key decisions. The pandemic has helped innovations in terms of data and analytics become more visible in the world of business, and many entrepreneurs are turning to advanced AI capabilities in order to modernise their existing applications while sifting through data at a faster and more efficient rate.

Leveraging multi-channel experiences.

Digital transformation is empowering customers to get what they want, when they want, and however they want it. Today, more than half of all consumers expect to receive a customer service response within 60 minutes. They also want equally swift response times on weekends as they’ve come to expect on weekdays. This emphasis on perpetual engagement has meant that businesses that aren’t switched on 24/7/365 are putting themselves at a disadvantage to rivals that may have more efficient operations in place.

The pandemic has led to business happening in real-time – even more so than in brick and mortar stores. Although customers in high street stores know they’re getting a face to face experience, this doesn’t mean that business representatives can offer a similar personalised and immediately knowledgeable service than that of a chatbot or a live chat operative with a sea of information at their disposal.

Modern consumers are never tied to a single channel. They visit stores, websites, leave feedback through mobile apps and ask questions for support teams on social networking sites. By combining these interactions, it’s possible to create full digital profiles for customers whenever they interact with your business – helping entrepreneurs to provide significantly more immersive experiences.

Fundraising via blockchain technology.

Blockchain technology is one of the most exciting emerging technologies today. Its applications are far-reaching in terms of leveraging new payment methods and brokering agreements via smart contracts, and while the use cases for these blockchain applications will certainly grow over the coming years, today the technology is already being widely utilised by entrepreneurs as a form of raising capital through Initial Token Offerings (ITOs), also known as Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs).

As an alternative to the use of traditional banks, venture capital firms, angel investors or crowdfunders, ITO tokens can be made available for exchanges where they can trade freely. These tokens are comparable to equity in a company, or a share of revenue for token holders.

Interested investors can buy into the offering and receive tokens that are created on a blockchain from the company. The tokens could have some practical use within the company where they can be spent on goods or services, or they could purely represent an equity share in a startup or project.

There are currently numerous companies that use blockchain technology to simply and secure its operations. From large corporations like HSBC’s Digital Vault, which is blockchain-based custody platform that allows clients to access details of their private assets to small education startups like ODEM, which aim to democratize education.

Another company that’s pioneering blockchain technology within the world of business is OpenExO, which has developed its own community-driven utility token EXOS, to help build a new transformation economy that helps companies to accelerate, democratise and internationalise their innovation.

Salim Ismail, OpenExO founder, is the former Yahoo technology innovator who developed the industry of Exponential Organizations. He has become a household name in the entrepreneur and innovation landscape, and now he launches the blockchain ecosystem that includes Fortune 500 companies, cities and even countries.

Reaping widespread rewards.

Although digital transformation could begin with a focus on just one facet of a startup, its benefits can be far reaching for employees, consumers and stakeholders alike. It could limit the mundane tasks required of workers, offer greater levels of personalisation for consumers and free up new skills to be developed in other areas of a business.

This, in turn, helps to build more engaged and invested teams that know the value of fresh ideas and perspectives. Although the natural adaptability of entrepreneurs makes the adoption of digital transformation an easier one to make than for established business owners, the benefits can be significant for both new and old endeavours.

The pandemic has accelerated the potential of emerging technologies by over seven years in some cases, the adoption of these new approaches and tools can be an imperative step in ensuring that your business navigates the age of the new normal with the greatest of efficiency.

Dmytro Spilka

By: Dmytro Spilka / Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP – CEO and Founder of Solvid and Pridicto

Source: How Entrepreneurs Are Capitalising on Digital Transformation in the Age of the ‘New Normal’

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Critics:

Digital Transformation (DT or DX) or Digitalization is the adoption of digital technology to transform services or businesses, through replacing non-digital or manual processes with digital processes or replacing older digital technology with newer digital technology. Digital solutions may enable – in addition to efficiency via automation – new types of innovation and creativity, rather than simply enhancing and supporting traditional methods.

One aspect of digital transformation is the concept of ‘going paperless‘ or reaching a ‘digital business maturity’affecting both individual businesses and whole segments of society, such as government,mass communications,art,health care, and science.

Digital transformation is not proceeding at the same pace everywhere. According to the McKinsey Global Institute‘s 2016 Industry Digitization Index,Europe is currently operating at 12% of its digital potential, while the United States is operating at 18%. Within Europe, Germany operates at 10% of its digital potential, while the United Kingdom is almost on par with the United States at 17%.

One example of digital transformation is the use of cloud computing. This reduces reliance on user-owned hardware and increases reliance on subscription-based cloud services. Some of these digital solutions enhance capabilities of traditional software products (e.g. Microsoft Office compared to Office 365) while others are entirely cloud based (e.g. Google Docs).

As the companies providing the services are guaranteed of regular (usually monthly) recurring revenue from subscriptions, they are able to finance ongoing development with reduced risk (historically most software companies derived the majority of their revenue from users upgrading, and had to invest upfront in developing sufficient new features and benefits to encourage users to upgrade), and delivering more frequent updates often using forms of agile software development internally.This subscription model also reduces software piracy, which is a major benefit to the vendor.

Digitalization (of industries and organizations)

Unlike digitization, digitalization is the ‘organizational process’ or ‘business process’ of the technologically-induced change within industries, organizations, markets and branches. Digitalization of manufacturing industries has enabled new production processes and much of the phenomena today known as the Internet of Things, Industrial Internet, Industry 4.0, machine to machine communication, artificial intelligence and machine vision.

Digitalization of business and organizations has induced new business models (such as freemium), new eGovernment services, electronic payment, office automation and paperless office processes, using technologies such as smart phones, web applications, cloud services, electronic identification, blockchain, smart contracts and cryptocurrencies, and also business intelligence using Big Data. Digitalization of education has induced e-learning and Mooc courses.

See also

How To Embrace The Post-Pandemic, Digital-Driven Future Of Work

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Digital will separate the winners from the laggards in the hypercompetitive, post-pandemic business landscape, says Ben Pring, Managing Director of Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work. We undertook a global, multi-industry study to understand how businesses are preparing for this future and here’s what we found.

COVID-19 changed digital from a nice-to-have adjunct to a must-have tool at the core of the enterprise. The pandemic forced businesses to reassess how they strategize and execute their digital ambitions in a world that has migrated online, possibly for good in many areas. Those that did not prioritize digital prior to the pandemic found that procrastination was no longer an option — the digital landscape is hypercompetitive.

The Cognizant Center for the Future of Work (CFoW), working with Oxford Economics, recently surveyed 4,000 C-level executives globally to understand how they are putting digital to use and what they hope to achieve in the coming years.

The CFoW found that digital technologies are key to success in the coming years and uncovered six key steps that all organizations can take to more fruitfully apply to gear-up for the fast unfolding digital future:

  • Scrutinize everything because it’s going to change. From how and where employees work, to how customers are engaged, and which products and services are now viable as customer needs and behaviors evolve rapidly.
  • Make technology a partner in work. Innovations in AI, blockchain, natural language processing, IoT and 5G communications are ushering in decades of change ahead and will drive new levels of functionality and performance.
  • Build new workflows to reach new performance thresholds. The most predictable, rote and repetitive activities need to be handed off to software, while humans specialize in using judgment, creativity and language.
  • Make digital competency the prime competency for everyone. No matter what type of work needs to be done, it must have a digital component. Levels of digital literacy need to be built out even among non-technologists, including specialized skills.
  • Begin a skills renaissance. Digital skills such as big data specialists, process automation experts, security analysts, etc. aren’t easy to acquire. To overcome skills shortages, organizations will need to work harder to retain and engage workers.
  • Employees want jobs, but they also want meaning from jobs. How can businesses use intelligent algorithms to take increasing proportions of tasks off workers’ plates, allowing them to spend their time creating value? This search for meaning stretches beyond the individual tasks of the job to what the organization itself stands for.

Here are a few key findings from our research:

Redesigning the workplace is just the beginning: The virus will force enterprises to ask more strategic questions.

A mesh of machine emerges: While IoT is beginning to take hold, few respondents have piloted 5G projects. But over time , the mesh of machines created by IoT and 5G will serve as the foundation for news levels of functionality and possibility.

The 3As-AI , automation and analytics are the engines of digitization: To make the future of work happen, the 3As are emerging as a sophisticated and complex set of tools more deeply embedded in processes.

To learn more, read our whitepaper “The Work Ahead: Digital First (to Last)” or see the full Work Ahead study series.

Ben Pring leads Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work and is a coauthor of the books Monster: A Tough Love Letter On Taming The Machines That Rule Our Jobs, Lives, and Future, What To Do When Machines Do Everything and Code Halos: How the Digital Lives of People, Things, and Organizations Are Changing the Rules of Business. In 2018, he was a Bilderberg Meeting participant. He previously spent 15 years with Gartner as a senior industry analyst, researching and advising on areas such as cloud computing and global sourcing. He can be reached at Benjamin.Pring@cognizant.com

Source: How To Embrace The Post-Pandemic, Digital-Driven Future Of Work

.

Critics:

Digitalization  is the adoption of digital technology to transform services or businesses, through replacing non-digital or manual processes with digital processes or replacing older digital technology with newer digital technology. Digital solutions may enable – in addition to efficiency via automation – new types of innovation and creativity, rather than simply enhancing and supporting traditional methods.

One aspect of digital transformation is the concept of ‘going paperless‘ or reaching a ‘digital business maturity’ affecting both individual businesses and whole segments of society, such as government,mass communications,art, health care, and science.

Digital transformation is not proceeding at the same pace everywhere. According to the McKinsey Global Institute‘s 2016 Industry Digitization Index, Europe is currently operating at 12% of its digital potential, while the United States is operating at 18%. Within Europe, Germany operates at 10% of its digital potential, while the United Kingdom is almost on par with the United States at 17%.

One example of digital transformation is the use of cloud computing. This reduces reliance on user-owned hardware and increases reliance on subscription-based cloud services. Some of these digital solutions enhance capabilities of traditional software products (e.g. Microsoft Office compared to Office 365) while others are entirely cloud based (e.g. Google Docs).

As the companies providing the services are guaranteed of regular (usually monthly) recurring revenue from subscriptions, they are able to finance ongoing development with reduced risk (historically most software companies derived the majority of their revenue from users upgrading, and had to invest upfront in developing sufficient new features and benefits to encourage users to upgrade), and delivering more frequent updates often using forms of agile software development internally. This subscription model also reduces software piracy, which is a major benefit to the vendor.

Unlike digitization, digitalization is the ‘organizational process’ or ‘business process’ of the technologically-induced change within industries, organizations, markets and branches. Digitalization of manufacturing industries has enabled new production processes and much of the phenomena today known as the Internet of Things, Industrial Internet, Industry 4.0, machine to machine communication, artificial intelligence and machine vision.

Digitalization of business and organizations has induced new business models (such as freemium), new eGovernment services, electronic payment, office automation and paperless office processes, using technologies such as smart phones, web applications, cloud services, electronic identification, blockchain, smart contracts and cryptocurrencies, and also business intelligence using Big Data. Digitalization of education has induced e-learning and Mooc courses.

See also

 

Millions of Electric Cars are Coming What Happens To All The Dead Batteries

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The battery pack of a Tesla Model S is a feat of intricate engineering. Thousands of cylindrical cells with components sourced from around the world transform lithium and electrons into enough energy to propel the car hundreds of kilometers, again and again, without tailpipe emissions. But when the battery comes to the end of its life, its green benefits fade.

If it ends up in a landfill, its cells can release problematic toxins, including heavy metals. And recycling the battery can be a hazardous business, warns materials scientist Dana Thompson of the University of Leicester. Cut too deep into a Tesla cell, or in the wrong place, and it can short-circuit, combust, and release toxic fume.

That’s just one of the many problems confronting researchers, including Thompson, who are trying to tackle an emerging problem: how to recycle the millions of electric vehicle (EV) batteries that manufacturers expect to produce over the next few decades. Current EV batteries “are really not designed to be recycled,” says Thompson, a research fellow at the Faraday Institution, a research center focused on battery issues in the United Kingdom.

That wasn’t much of a problem when EVs were rare. But now the technology is taking off. Several carmakers have said they plan to phase out combustion engines within a few decades, and industry analysts predict at least 145 million EVs will be on the road by 2030, up from just 11 million last year. “People are starting to realize this is an issue,” Thompson says.

Governments are inching toward requiring some level of recycling. In 2018, China imposed new rules aimed at promoting the reuse of EV battery components. The European Union is expected to finalize its first requirements this year. In the United States, the federal government has yet to advance recycling mandates, but several states, including California—the nation’s largest car market—are exploring setting their own rules.

Complying won’t be easy. Batteries differ widely in chemistry and construction, which makes it difficult to create efficient recycling systems. And the cells are often held together with tough glues that make them difficult to take apart. That has contributed to an economic obstacle: It’s often cheaper for batterymakers to buy freshly mined metals than to use recycled materials.

Better recycling methods would not only prevent pollution, researchers note, but also help governments boost their economic and national security by increasing supplies of key battery metals that are controlled by one or a few nations. “On the one side, [disposing of EV batteries] is a waste management problem. And on the other side, it’s an opportunity for producing a sustainable secondary stream of critical materials,” says Gavin Harper, a University of Birmingham researcher who studies EV policy issues.

To jump-start recycling, governments and industry are putting money into an array of research initiatives. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has pumped some $15 million into a ReCell Center to coordinate studies by scientists in academia, industry, and at government laboratories. The United Kingdom has backed the ReLiB project, a multi-institution effort. As the EV industry ramps up, the need for progress is becoming urgent, says Linda Gaines, who works on battery recycling at DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory. “The sooner we can get everything moving,” she says, “the better.

Now, recyclers primarily target metals in the cathode, such as cobalt and nickel, that fetch high prices. (Lithium and graphite are too cheap for recycling to be economical.) But because of the small quantities, the metals are like needles in a haystack: hard to find and recover.

To extract those needles, recyclers rely on two techniques, known as pyrometallurgy and hydrometallurgy. The more common is pyrometallurgy, in which recyclers first mechanically shred the cell and then burn it, leaving a charred mass of plastic, metals, and glues. At that point, they can use several methods to extract the metals, including further burning. “Pyromet is essentially treating the battery as if it were an ore” straight from a mine, Gaines says. Hydrometallurgy, in contrast, involves dunking battery materials in pools of acid, producing a metal-laden soup. Sometimes the two methods are combined.

Each has advantages and downsides. Pyrometallurgy, for example, doesn’t require the recycler to know the battery’s design or composition, or even whether it is completely discharged, in order to move ahead safely. But it is energy intensive. Hydrometallurgy can extract materials not easily obtained through burning, but it can involve chemicals that pose health risks.

And recovering the desired elements from the chemical soup can be difficult, although researchers are experimenting with compounds that promise to dissolve certain battery metals but leave others in a solid form, making them easier to recover. For example, Thompson has identified one candidate, a mixture of acids and bases called a deep eutectic solvent, that dissolves everything but nickel.

Both processes produce extensive waste and emit greenhouse gases, studies have found. And the business model can be shaky: Most operations depend on selling recovered cobalt to stay in business, but batterymakers are trying to shift away from that relatively expensive metal. If that happens, recyclers could be left trying to sell piles of “dirt,” says materials scientist Rebecca Ciez of Purdue University.

The ideal is direct recycling, which would keep the cathode mixture intact. That’s attractive to batterymakers because recycled cathodes wouldn’t require heavy processing, Gaines notes (although manufacturers might still have to revitalize cathodes by adding small amounts of lithium). “So if you’re thinking circular economy, [direct recycling] is a smaller circle than pyromet or hydromet.”

In direct recycling, workers would first vacuum away the electrolyte and shred battery cells. Then, they would remove binders with heat or solvents, and use a flotation technique to separate anode and cathode materials. At this point, the cathode material resembles baby powder.

So far, direct recycling experiments have only focused on single cells and yielded just tens of grams of cathode powders. But researchers at the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory have built economic models showing the technique could, if scaled up under the right conditions, be viable in the future.

To realize direct recycling, however, batterymakers, recyclers, and researchers need to sort out a host of issues. One is making sure manufacturers label their batteries, so recyclers know what kind of cell they are dealing with—and whether the cathode metals have any value. Given the rapidly changing battery market, Gaines notes, cathodes manufactured today might not be able to find a future buyer. Recyclers would be “recovering a dinosaur. No one will want the product.”

Another challenge is efficiently cracking open EV batteries. Nissan’s rectangular Leaf battery module can take 2 hours to dismantle. Tesla’s cells are unique not only for their cylindrical shape, but also for the almost indestructible polyurethane cement that holds them together.

Engineers might be able to build robots that could speed battery disassembly, but sticky issues remain even after you get inside the cell, researchers note. That’s because more glues are used to hold the anodes, cathodes, and other components in place. One solvent that recyclers use to dissolve cathode binders is so toxic that the European Union has introduced restrictions on its use, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determined last year that it poses an “unreasonable risk” to workers.“In terms of economics, you’ve got to disassemble … [and] if you want to disassemble, then you’ve got to get rid of glues,” says Andrew Abbott, a chemist at the University of Leicester and Thompson’s adviser.

To ease the process, Thompson and other researchers are urging EV- and batterymakers to start designing their products with recycling in mind. The ideal battery, Abbott says, would be like a Christmas cracker, a U.K. holiday gift that pops open when the recipient pulls at each end, revealing candy or a message. As an example, he points to the Blade Battery, a lithium ferrophosphate battery released last year by BYD, a Chinese EV-maker. Its pack does away with the module component, instead storing flat cells directly inside. The cells can be removed easily by hand, without fighting with wires and glues.

The Blade Battery emerged after China in 2018 began to make EV manufacturers responsible for ensuring batteries are recycled. The country now recycles more lithium-ion batteries than the rest of the world combined, using mostly pyro- and hydrometallurgical methods.

Nations moving to adopt similar policies face some thorny questions. One, Thompson says, is who should bear primary responsibility for making recycling happen. “Is it my responsibility because I bought [an EV] or is it the manufacturer’s responsibility because they made it and they’re selling it?” In the European Union, one answer could come later this year, when officials release the continent’s first rule. And next year a panel of experts created by the state of California is expected to weigh in with recommendations that could have a big influence over any U.S. policy.

Recycling researchers, meanwhile, say effective battery recycling will require more than just technological advances. The high cost of transporting combustible items long distances or across borders can discourage recycling. As a result, placing recycling centers in the right places could have a “massive impact,” Harper says. “But there’s going to be a real challenge in systems integration and bringing all these different bits of research together.”

There’s little time to waste, Abbott says. “What you don’t want is 10 years’ worth of production of a cell that is absolutely impossible to pull apart,” he says. “It’s not happening yet—but people are shouting and worried it will happen.

By Ian Morse

Source: Millions of electric cars are coming. What happens to all the dead batteries? | Science | AAAS

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References

Best, Paul (19 November 2020). “GM doubles down on commitment to electric vehicles, increases spending to $27B”. FOXBusiness. Retrieved 20 November 2020.

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