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by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

eNaira: Is It Here to Stay or Are Nigerians Going to Say ‘Nay’?

Although Nigeria boasts about its digital currency launch, there are contradictory opinions about eNaira’s subsequent adoption. The eNaira has the potential to impact Nigeria’s economy positively, however, it is not possible without its widespread acceptance.

CBDC – A global picture

Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) is virtual currency or money issued and controlled by a country’s central bank. According to the Atlantic Council, a leading US-based think tank, 130 countries were considering a CBDC as of September 2023, while only 35 countries were exploring a CBDC as of May 2020. This steep rise in the number of countries considering CBDC in a span of just over three years shows an increasing interest in CBDC across the globe. Even more so, some 64 countries are already in an advanced phase of exploration of the currency (development, pilot, or launch phase).

Among the G20 countries, 19 are in the advanced stage of developing CBDC, and 9 out of these 19 G20 countries are in the pilot phase. There are some 11 countries that have launched a CBDC. China’s CBDC is in the pilot stage and is presently reaching 260 million people taking part in this pilot while being tested in more than 200 scenarios, including e-commerce, public transit, and stimulus payments. In Europe, the European Central Bank is currently on course to start its pilot for CBDC, the digital euro.

More than 20 other countries are stepping towards piloting their digital currency in 2023. Countries such as Australia, Thailand, and Russia plan on continuing pilot testing. Brazil and India intend to launch their CBDC in 2024.

eNaira – A choice or compulsion?

eNaira is Nigeria’s digital currency, issued and regulated by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for retail use. It is a liability of the CBN, similar to coins and cash.

Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum are similar to eNaira in terms of the underlying Bitcoin technology. Apart from this, both cryptocurrencies and eNaira are stored in digital wallets and can be used for payments and digital transfers across the globe to anyone with an eNaira account at no cost.

However, what makes eNaira different from Bitcoin or Ethereum is that the CBN has access rights controls over the Nigerian digital currency. Secondly, the eNaira is not a financial asset but rather a digital form of the physical naira, to which it is pegged at parity.

With the release of eNaira in October 2021, Nigeria became the first country in the African continent and second in the world after the Bahamas to launch a CBDC. Major motivations behind launching CBDC in Nigeria included encouraging financial inclusion, improving cross-border transactions, complementing the current payment systems, and enabling diaspora remittances. However, the adoption of eNaira has been low, with only 0.5% of the Nigerian population using CBDC within a year of its launch.

In a rather desperate move to compel its people to adopt eNaira, the government caused cash shortages in the country. This resulted in protests, riots, and unrest among Nigerians. As a result of the currency shortages in early 2022, Nigeria witnessed a 12-fold increase in the number of e-Naira wallets to 13 million since October 2021.

As of July 2023, the value of transactions had also seen a 63% rise to N22 billion (US$48 million) since its launch in October 2021. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), 98.5% of the eNaira wallets were inactive one year after the launch of the CBDC, meaning 98.5% of eNaira wallets have not been used even once during any given week. These low levels of activity mirror the low public adoption of eNaira.

eNaira Is It Here to Stay or Are Nigerians Going to Say ‘Nay’ by EOS Intelligence

eNaira Is It Here to Stay or Are Nigerians Going to Say ‘Nay’ by EOS Intelligence

Motivations to launch eNaira: Strong enough to sustain adoption?

CBN conceived multiple advantages of adopting eNaira, such as fostering financial inclusion, facilitating remittances, and minimizing informality in the economy. These serve as motivations for launching eNaira and are expected to take shape with the eNaira becoming more widespread along with strong support of the regulatory system.

Fostering financial inclusion

Currently, eNaira can be used by people with bank accounts, but the idea is to expand the coverage to anyone with a mobile phone, even if they do not have a bank account. Around 38% of the adult population in Nigeria do not have bank accounts. If this section of the adult population could be provided with access to eNaira through mobile phones, Nigeria could potentially achieve 90% financial inclusion.

Facilitating remittances

Nigeria is one of the Sub-Saharan African countries that receives considerable remittances. In 2019, Nigeria received US$24 billion in remittances, which are usually made through international money transfer operators. These operators charge around 1-5% of the value of the transaction as their fee. One of the motivations for launching eNaira is to reduce the costs associated with remittance transfers.

Minimizing informality in the economy

With more than half of the economy being informal, it becomes imperative for the Nigerian government to introduce a digital currency across the country to reduce the informality in the economy and increase the country’s tax revenues. Therefore, eNaira was launched in Nigeria to strengthen the tax base along with obtaining higher transparency in informal payments.

Can Nigeria overcome implementation challenges to spur eNaira adoption?

It comes as no surprise that Nigeria is facing a range of adoption barriers on its journey to eNaira’s widespread implementation. Apart from perceptual barriers such as considering eNaira wallets as deposits at the central bank, which might decrease the demand for deposits in commercial banks, there are cybersecurity risks and operational barriers linked to eNaira. These adoption barriers to Nigeria’s CBDC include a combination of factors such as lack of required tech infrastructure, lack of training of bank personnel managing the process, trust issues, and electricity and internet issues.

Lack of tech infrastructure

The CBN is looking to revamp the technological platform used for eNaira and was in talks for that with a company called R3 in early 2023. CBN is contemplating having complete control over the platform, while eNaira was initially developed in collaboration with a fintech multinational called Bitt. The change of technology platform vendor in less than two years might suggest a lack of vision of CBN regarding the technological infrastructure necessary for the seamless adoption of eNaira.

Lack of training

The CBN is expected to oversee the ledger and manage the system, while other financial institutions, such as banks, are to provide users with access to CBDC wallets. The bank staff is required to onboard users to the eNaira platform. However, it is observed that the bank staff is not sufficiently trained to be able to seamlessly bring users on board. This, in turn, negatively impacts the adoption of CBDC.

Trust issues

Nigeria has been considered a country with high money laundering and terrorist organizations funding risk (ML/TF). In February 2023, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global money laundering and terrorism funding inspection organization, put Nigeria on its grey list owing to Nigeria not having adequate measures to curb such activities. Similarly, Basel Institute of Governance, a non-profit organization focused on improving governance and preventing corruption and other financial crimes, in its 2022 global ranking on ML/TF risks, placed Nigeria 17th out of 128 countries, a high spot indicating a significant risk of ML/TF.

In the current design of CBDC in Nigeria, the CBN is equipped to monitor all users’ transactions using eNaira, potentially allowing it to detect and curb ML/TF activities and improve Nigeria’s standing in the risk rankings. However, this has turned out to be a double-edged sword in implementing eNaira. The high level of supervision of all transactions has brought apprehension amongst potential users in Nigeria, most of whom believe that eNaira was developed by the government to monitor the monetary transactions, breaching their right to privacy and potentially giving the government a tool to control them. This lack of trust significantly hampers the adoption of the CBDC in Nigeria.

Electricity and internet issues

With around 92 million people not having access to power in a population of 200 million, Nigeria has one of the lowest electricity access rates globally, as per the Energy Progress Report 2022 published by Tracking SDG 7. At the same time, the internet penetration in Nigeria stands at 55.4% in 2023. Seamless internet connectivity and power access are some of the critical prerequisites for the smooth implementation of the eNaira in Nigeria.

What would give eNaira adoption a much-needed push?

As the challenges to widespread adoption of the eNaira are multipronged, finding solutions to overcome the implementation challenges is not easy or quick.

One of the main infrastructural challenges, inadequate power and internet access, should be among the first to be addressed. One way to approach it is to create offline access to the eNaira platform. To achieve this, the CBN launched the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) code for eNaira, meaning that Nigerians without internet-enabled phones can perform transactions with eNaira.

To facilitate rapid and seamless adoption of the eNaira, the CBN must make the CBDC available to everyone with a mobile phone. More and more people should be encouraged to use eNaira by incentivizing them through rebates while paying income tax. Another incentive example dates back to October 2022 when CBN offered discounts if people used eNaira to pay for cabs.

EOS Perspective

The eNaira has the potential to have a significant impact on the Nigerian economy. As transactions using eNaira are fully traceable, more widespread adoption of eNaira is expected to expand the country’s tax base by bringing higher transparency in payments, especially in informal markets. It will undoubtedly result in higher tax revenue, a development welcomed by the government.

With US$24 billion in remittance receipts in 2019, Nigeria is considered one of the key remittance destinations in Sub-Saharan Africa. As remittances are currently burdened with a 1-5% charge of the transaction value, removing these costs through the adoption of eNaira would bring more remittance income to the population and, indirectly, more capital to the Nigerian economy.

With the expanded tax base, cheaper and higher inflows of remittances, facilitated retail payments, welfare transfers, etc., the impact of the eNaira on the Nigerian economy is likely to be quite considerable. Indeed, at the time of launch, the CBN estimated that the eNaira should increase Nigeria’s GDP by US$29 billion over the first 10 years, contributing to the country’s economic growth and development. With the implementation challenges encountered so far, it is clear that these estimations were overly optimistic. Still, how well the CBN can do its homework and undertake well-directed steps to navigate the challenges remains to be seen.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

Future of Animal Medicine Will Be 3D-printed

Additive manufacturing, better known as 3D printing, attracted the attention of various healthcare sectors, as it has wide applications and provides beneficial results due to its extensive flexibility and customization. 3D printing is becoming more popular in veterinary medicine owing to its revolutionary ability to build a 3D model of many objects using computer-aided design (CAD) software and successfully utilizing it in animal health ranging from implants to prostheses to tissue replacements. The 3D printing market in animal medicine is therefore projected to witness considerable growth, predicted at 15.24% CAGR during the forecast period of 2023-2031. Like almost all technologies, 3D printing in veterinary medicine has its advantages and a few challenges that need consideration.

3D printing technology is rapidly growing, including in veterinary medicine, as it continues to improve and become more accessible. Veterinarians are largely utilizing 3D printing technology because of the transformative approach it offers, while the decreasing cost of printers makes it feasible to develop the most desired model easily within a relatively short period of time.

3D printing finds application in a range of animal care areas

3D printing is a promising technology used to improve animal health and life span by treating disabilities developed due to events such as accidents or other medical conditions. Given its versatility, 3D printing in veterinary medicine is used for a broad range of applications.

Animal prosthetics and orthotics

In veterinary prosthetics and orthotics, 3D printing is used mainly for the development of bone structures, complex implants, and surgical guides. One of the first cases of 3D-printed prosthetics used in an animal was noted in the USA, where Derby, the dog, was born with short forelegs and no front paws, making him unable to walk. In December 2014, with the use of 3D scanning software, Derby was equipped with 3D-printed prosthetics, allowing him to start running and walking freely. Other notable cases of successful 3D-printed prosthetics applications in animals include Romina, a whippet who lost her leg in an accident in 2016. Her leg was fitted with a 3D-printed limb by specialists at Mexico City’s Veterinary Hospital, allowing the dog to walk again.

3D printing in surgical models planning

3D printing technology is ideal for surgical model planning since it allows surgeons to examine and determine bone structures based on a visual examination as the initial stage in surgical planning. Vets can directly quantify the deformity by doing preoperative assessments, however, sometimes, visual inspection of complex bone conformation might be challenging. Furthermore, 3D printing technology in surgical planning is a useful resource to help pet owners better understand their animals’ health issues and planned treatment options.

Future of Animal Medicine Will Be 3D-printed by EOS Intelligence

Future of Animal Medicine Will Be 3D-printed by EOS Intelligence

Education and training

3D printing is one of the most practical and efficient methods for the production of exact anatomic models needed at learning and training facilities across all levels of the veterinary education system. Students can examine and practice on realistic models, gaining a better understanding of complex anatomical structures and surgical techniques. This technology enhances the learning experience and prepares future veterinarians for various scenarios. The list of universities that use 3D printing in their veterinary medicine program is long and expanding and currently includes US-based institutions such as Ohio State University, University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania State University, Cornell University, North Carolina State, University of Tennessee, as well as University of Nottingham and University of Derby in the UK, Satbayev University in Kazakhstan, Indian Veterinary Research Institute and Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University in India, University of Ghent in Belgium, Utrecht University in the Netherlands, University of Bern in Switzerland, University of Glasgow in Scotland, and University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna in Austria, to name a few.

3D printing implants

Implants developed using 3D printing technology are customized to enhance the quality of an animal’s life and are particularly useful in oncological cases, where massive excision requires implant structures to replace removed tissues and restore their functions. A wide range of implants has been created utilizing common biocompatible materials such as titanium and nylon, which have demonstrated a considerable success rate in a variety of complex procedures ranging from skull flap and limb replacement to tibial tuberosity advancement implants. To create medical implants, veterinarians employ powder bed fusion, a metal 3D printing method, which allows them to create implants in a variety of desirable shapes and structures.

3D-printed masks

3D-printed masks are useful and essential to cure wounds from surgery and help to recover from fractures and bone destruction. The 3D-printed mask helps animals recover from injuries without the risk of reopening a wound or dislocating their bones. In August 2017, a female black-breasted leaf turtle in Tennessee suffered a wound on one of her nostrils and was having difficulty eating. To permanently repair the damage, a 3D-printed face mask was created to cover the whole wound region without blocking eyesight or limiting her ability to move her head.

Dynamic drivers power global 3D printing market growth in animal medicine

The global 3D printing in veterinary medicine market size is expected to increase from USD 2.8 billion to USD 11 billion and is estimated to grow by 15.24% CAGR during the forecast period of 2023-2031.

The North American market is expected to be the leading market due to high animal adoption rates, increased pet expenditures, and the abundance of veterinary facilities and clinics in the region. The European market is expected to be the second most prominent, with an increase in the number of experienced veterinarians and R&D investment, particularly in animal health, factors that are likely to drive market expansion. The Asia Pacific market is experiencing a moderate growth rate and is expected to continue showing promising growth in the coming years. This can be attributed to the increasing trend of pet adoption, particularly in countries such as Japan and Australia, where owning a pet is viewed as a symbol of social status. Australia has the highest pet ownership rate in the world, with 63% of the population owning a pet.

The major growth factors that are globally boosting 3D printing in veterinary medicine include wide applications in animal care as the technology enables the creation of patient-specific solutions and a cost-effective approach that varies from a few hundred to around a thousand dollars, which is less than traditional manufacturing methods for veterinary implants. Rapid prototyping is another major growth driver for 3D printing since it allows veterinarians and researchers to quickly prototype and test ideas, resulting in more efficient development procedures. 3D printing also improves patient outcomes by providing personalized solutions that result in better-fitting prosthetics, implants, and devices, which can improve an animal’s quality of life and overall health.

Extensive R&D efforts contribute to the market players’ growth

The global 3D printing market in veterinary medicine is competitive and includes a diverse range of established and startup companies that are actively contributing to advancements in veterinary care. Among the companies providing 3D printing solutions in animal medicine, some of the few leading players include Formlabs, Materialise, Med Dimensions, VET 3D, BTech Innovation, M3D ILAB, DeiveDesign, and Cabiomede. Given the relatively early stage of development that the market is currently at, it is not surprising that R&D plays a vital role in most players’ operations and growth. Many players work toward offering more comprehensive solutions to end-user entities through strategic agreements, partnerships, and acquisitions.

3D Systems Corporation, headquartered in the USA, is considered the leading manufacturing company in this market. It provides medical and dental solutions, as well as veterinary applications. 3D Systems provides a diverse array of products and services that have been used to produce anatomical models, implants, prosthetics, and surgical guides for animals. The company uses various 3D printing technologies such as film-transfer imaging, SLA, SLS, and direct metal printing. It outsources certain printer assembly, printer production, and refurbishment activities to selected organizations and suppliers. With the advancing technological changes in 3D printing, the company claims to have been focusing on ongoing R&D programs to develop new and enhance existing printers and printing materials.

Another market leader is Stratasys, an American-Israeli manufacturer with a global presence in the 3D printing industry for animal medicine. The company offers a range of 3D printing solutions, including 3D printers, materials, Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), and PolyJet technologies. These technologies have been effectively utilized in veterinary medicine to create patient-specific models and surgical guidance for preoperative planning. Stratasys is another player that claims to put investment in R&D to the forefront, to broaden its capabilities and offerings in the veterinary field. The company collaborates with hospitals and universities, such as Colorado State University’s veterinary hospital and AniCura, a European network of animal hospitals and clinics, to advance the use of 3D printing in animal care and creating patient-specific implants. They have been actively integrating this technology into their veterinary practices.

Materialise is a provider of 3D printing software solutions and complex 3D plastic printing services for animal medicine. It employs technologies such as FDM, Multi-Jet Modeling (MJM), and vacuum casting. The company provides custom implants, 3D visualization, and orthotics surgical solutions. Materialize supplies to veterinary research institutes, hospitals, and major medical device manufacturing companies. The company’s software section offers software-based applications and related technology, such as CAD packages and 3D scanners. It has a strong presence in the Americas and offers worldwide coverage to its clients.

Another two companies worth mentioning are VetCT and Wimba. VetCT, a US-based company, specializes in veterinary imaging and has developed expertise in producing 3D reconstructions from a variety of imaging modalities. The company provides 3D modeling and printing services to veterinarians to improve treatment knowledge and planning. Wimba, headquartered in Poland, provides a variety of personalized animal 3D and 4D printed orthopedics items by applying unique measuring techniques and specialized software, resulting in products that are more durable and lightweight.

All these players in the 3D printing market for animal care continue to develop and advance in their specialized product offerings. It can be expected that this specialization will continue and deepen, with the companies trying to carve a unique niche for themselves, especially as the competitiveness in the market is likely to intensify.

A range of challenges continues to put a brake on 3D printing’s mainstream use

3D printing technology has made remarkable advancements in animal medicine, offering immense potential to transform veterinary practices. However, several challenges must be overcome before 3D printing may successfully become main stream in animal treatment.

One of the significant barriers to the adoption of 3D printing technology in clinical practice is its time-consuming nature. The process of creating a replica model and the printing itself are all complicated procedures that can take anywhere from three days to several weeks. This can be a significant challenge for veterinarians who need to provide prompt and effective treatment for their patients.

Creating precise 3D models for printing often relies on medical imaging techniques such as CT scans or MRIs. However, generating high-quality images of animals, especially exotic and small species, can be challenging. Movement during scanning, anesthesia risks, and imaging artifacts can affect the quality of the 3D model. This can lead to inaccuracies in the printed model, leading to ineffective treatment and potential harm to the animal.

The integration of 3D printing into the existing veterinary medicine process presents a significant challenge. The use of 3D printing technology involves a multi-step process, including imaging, model generation, and printing to create anatomical models. Coordination between veterinarians, radiologists, and 3D printing experts is essential to ensure that the process runs smoothly.

The selection of appropriate materials, such as plastics, living cells, titanium, resins, glass, nylon, and metals, is critical for 3D printing in animal medicine, as the availability of materials that offer the required properties, such as biocompatibility and durability for model development is limited and not all materials can be temperature controlled enough to allow 3D printing. Furthermore, many of these printing materials cannot be recycled and are quite unsafe.

The field of animal medicine has greatly benefited from the advancements in 3D printing technology, particularly in the development of personalized implants and prosthetics. However, the diverse anatomies of animals present unique challenges in designing and printing these specialized products. Animals vary greatly in size, shape, and structure, which makes it more complex to create products that fit well and function optimally. This requires specialized skills and software tools such as CAD, as well as a deep understanding of animal anatomy.

In addition to the design and implementation challenges, regulatory authorization is required for the use of 3D-printed products and implants in animal medicine, which includes approval or clearance process, clinical data, post-market surveillance, international harmonization, labeling, and instructions. The safety and efficacy of these products must be thoroughly tested and verified before they can be used in clinical settings.

Furthermore, ethical concerns about the use of animals in medical research must be addressed. It is important to ensure that the use of 3D-printed products and implants does not cause harm or unnecessary suffering to animals. Ensuring the long-term biocompatibility of 3D-printed implants and prosthetics in animals also requires thorough testing and monitoring. Animals have distinct physiological reactions and potential differences in healing processes that must be considered. The use of 3D-printed products must be carefully evaluated to ensure that they do not cause adverse effects or complications

EOS Perspective

3D printing technology has emerged as a promising area in veterinary medicine, providing customized solutions for a wide range of animal health issues. Despite facing some challenges, the technology’s ongoing advancements and increased accessibility are expected to drive significant growth in the market in the future.

With its ability to fabricate precise, patient-specific implants, prostheses, and tissue replacements, 3D printing has the potential to revolutionize veterinary medicine, enhancing outcomes and improving the quality of life for animals. Incorporating 3D printing into animal medicine requires collaboration among veterinary doctors, imaging specialists, 3D printing experts, regulatory authorities, and ethicists.

Nevertheless, there is still a significant amount of work to be done, and addressing these challenges will require substantial effort, innovative solutions, and thoughtful consideration. This is a dynamic and promising field that beckons thorough exploration, continued innovation, and the unwavering commitment of professionals to enhance the global standard of animal care. While the full extent of 3D printing’s impact on veterinary medicine remains to be seen as research and development continue, the initial outcomes are undoubtedly encouraging.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

Commentary: Microsoft-Activision Blizzard Deal – A Potential Game-changer in the Gaming Industry

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Gaming industry is booming, with a significant surge in growth occurring during the 2020-2021 pandemic, when millions of people turned to games during lockdowns. The industry is currently worth US$184 billion and is expected to reach over US$200 billion by 2025.

The market is very competitive, with a need for considerable investment and time for publishers to create successful games and for companies to develop consoles that offer advanced features and an attractive catalog of games. This is pushing players towards increased consolidation to achieve economies of scale and lower risks and to strengthen their position in the market. More than 650 gaming M&A or investment deals were announced or closed in the first six months of 2022.

Out of the numerous M&As that have recently occurred in the industry, Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard, the maker of the world’s most popular games such as Call of Duty, Warcraft, and Candy Crush, is anticipated to make a substantial impact on the market. Microsoft announced its intent to acquire Activision for US$68.7 billion in January 2022, which was going to be the largest acquisition in the gaming industry to date. The consolidation of two strong players in the industry – Microsoft being the manufacturer of the Xbox gaming console and Activision being the publisher of many popular games – could offer users a large catalog of games and improve gaming experience and cloud-gaming services. However, it has also raised a concern that this could suppress the competition in the market of consoles, gaming subscriptions, and cloud-gaming. Many regulators across the world have blocked the deal, including the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). Microsoft is currently trying to get approval from the regulators.

How does the deal benefit Microsoft?

If the deal gets approved, it will turn Microsoft into one of the top three video game publishers, right behind its rival Sony. This would enhance Microsoft’s games catalog with Activision’s games, making Xbox’s choice more attractive than Sony’s PlayStation. Microsoft would also be able to enter the mobile gaming market with Activision’s mobile games, such as Candy Crush and King. This opens a large market segment, previously unaddressed by Microsoft, a segment that accounts for 50% of the total gaming market. Microsoft is planning to open Xbox’s mobile game store to compete with Apple and Google game stores.

As users increasingly prefer gaming subscriptions and cloud gaming services over physical DVDs, it gives an added advantage for Microsoft to own some of the most popular gaming titles and offer attractive subscriptions on its platform. Currently, Microsoft holds 60-70% of the global cloud gaming services market and could further squeeze into the shares of other companies, such as Google, to dominate the market.

The company would also be able to venture into metaverse and Non-Fungible Token (NFT) games using technological and newly acquired game development capabilities.

What does this deal mean for gamers? 

The Xbox Game Pass subscribers would benefit from the added list of Activision Blizzard games, which would be incorporated into the existing catalog. However, it is unclear whether Microsoft could make future games developed by Activision unavailable on other consoles, such as Sony PlayStation and Nintendo Switch. There is also a possibility for Microsoft to increase the subscription prices if gamers are highly reliant on Xbox-exclusive games.

Cloud gaming technologies are likely to improve in the future to overcome high latency and lost frames issues faced currently. However, if Microsoft dominates the cloud gaming space, it may reduce the gaming choices for gamers.

What are the concerns over the deal?

The major concern put forth by the regulators is whether the deal could negatively impact the competitive landscape of the market. For example, Sony currently owns 21 in-house game studios, and Microsoft owns 23. If Microsoft manages to get the deal, the company will have 30 in-house game studios, making Microsoft’s Xbox a much better choice and also giving the power to decide where these games are to be played. If Microsoft makes Activision’s future games exclusive on its platforms, it will dominate the console, mobile, and cloud platforms, killing the competition. This can discourage competitors from developing high-quality games. It can also enable Microsoft to decide to reduce the quality of its games or increase the prices when it dominates the market. Even if the company makes these games available on other platforms, competitors fear that the company may offer low-quality versions or remove their marketing rights or support for other console features.

The biggest concern is over one particular game – Activision’s Call of Duty, the most-played video game in the world. Microsoft has already agreed to offer a 10-year licensing deal to console manufacturer Nintendo, however, Sony has refused to accept the offer. When Microsoft purchased Bethesda game studio in 2021, the company made its highly anticipated sci-fi game Starfield into an X-box and PC exclusive. This is one of the reasons why regulators are concerned about Microsoft’s promises to make its games available on other platforms.

The regulators also raised concerns about how the company could completely sabotage the cloud-gaming market by withholding Activision’s games from rival cloud-gaming services.

Status of the lawsuits

Microsoft is yet to receive approval from the US FTC and UK CMA. The company attempted to convince the CMA by entering into agreements with cloud gaming competitors to provide access to Xbox games. CMA remains unconvinced, which appears to be a major block for this deal. However, the company’s agreements with Nintendo and NVIDIA on providing a 10-year licensing deal for the Call of Duty game have convinced the EU regulators, and the company has won the EU antitrust approval. Regulators in Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Chile, Serbia, Japan, and South Africa have also approved the deal.

The case filed by FTC is still in the document discovery stage, and an evidentiary hearing is scheduled for August 2023. Even though the company has won FTC lawsuits before, it is to be seen if it can win the approval for this massive acquisition deal.

EOS Perspective

Considering how Nintendo managed to acquire a 30% market share in the video gaming console industry by owning just 2 studios compared to Microsoft’s 25% share with 23 owned studios, it might not be very concerning that Microsoft owning 7 more studios through the Activision deal could sabotage the competition in the market. The deal can make the rivals more competitive to develop better console generations and games.

However, it can be anticipated that Sony might lose some of its market share to Microsoft right after the deal. It can also affect Sony’s profit if the company has to take paid licenses of games owned by Microsoft. However, on the other hand, if Microsoft goes against its promises and makes the games exclusive on its platforms or does not support the other platforms’ gaming experience, it could seriously damage the competitors’ businesses. Looking at the brighter side, the marriage between two superpowers in the gaming industry could significantly transform the gaming experience for the users, open new possibilities such as Xbox mobile-game subscriptions or metaverse games, or improve cloud-gaming services.

 

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

Scarcity Breeds Innovation – The Rising Adoption of Health Tech in Africa

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Africa carries the world’s highest burden of disease and experiences a severe shortage of healthcare workers. Across the continent, accessibility to primary healthcare remains to be a major challenge. During the COVID-19 pandemic, several health tech companies emerged and offered new possibilities for improving healthcare access. Among these, telemedicine and drug distribution services were able to address the shortage of health workers and healthcare facilities across many countries. New health tech solutions such as remote health monitoring, hospital automation, and virtual health assistance that are backed by AI, IoT, and predictive analytics are proving to further improve health systems in terms of costs, access, and workload on health workers. Given the diversity in per capita income, infrastructure, and policies among African countries, it remains to be seen if health tech companies can overcome these challenges and expand their reach across the continent.

Africa is the second most populated continent with a population of 1.4 billion, growing three times faster than the global average. Amid the high population growth, Africa suffers from a high prevalence of diseases. Infectious diseases such as malaria and respiratory infections contribute to 80% of the total infectious disease burden, which indicates the sum of morbidity and mortality in the world. Non-communicable diseases such as cancer and diabetes accounted for about 50% of total deaths in 2022. High rates of urbanization also pose the threat of spreading communicable diseases such as COVID-19, Ebola, and monkey fever.

A region where healthcare must be well-accessible is indeed ill-equipped due to limited healthcare infrastructure and the shortage of healthcare workers. According to WHO, the average doctor-to-population ratio in Africa is about two doctors to 10,000 people, compared with 35.5 doctors to 10,000 people in the USA.

Poor infrastructure and lack of investments worsen the health systems. Healthcare expenditure (aggregate public healthcare spending) in African countries is 20-25 times lower than the healthcare expenditure in European countries. Governments here typically spend about 5% of GDP on healthcare, compared with 10% of GDP spent by European countries. Private investment in Africa is less than 25% of the total healthcare investments.

Further, healthcare infrastructure is unevenly distributed. Professional healthcare services are concentrated in urban areas, leaving 56% of the rural population unable to access proper healthcare. There are severe gaps in the number of healthcare units, diagnostic centers, and the supply of medical devices and drugs. Countries such as Zambia, Malawi, and Angola are placed below the rank of 180 among 190 countries ranked by the WHO in terms of health systems. Low spending power and poor national health insurance schemes discourage people from using healthcare services.

Health tech solutions’ potential to fill the healthcare system gaps

As the prevailing health systems are inadequate, there is a strong need for digital solutions to address these gaps. Health tech solutions can significantly improve the access to healthcare services (consultation, diagnosis, and treatment) and supply of medical devices and drugs.

Health tech solutions can significantly improve the access to healthcare services (consultation, diagnosis, and treatment) and supply of medical devices and drugs.

For instance, Mobihealth, a UK-based digital health platform founded in 2017, is revolutionizing access to healthcare across Africa through its telemedicine app, which connects patients to over 100,000 physicians from various parts of the world for video consultations. The app has significantly (by over 60%) reduced hospital congestion.

Another example is the use of drones in Malawi to monitor mosquito breeding grounds and deliver urgent medical supplies. This project, which was introduced by UNICEF in 2017, has helped to curb the spread of malaria, which typically affects the people living in such areas at least 2-3 times a year.

MomConnect, a platform launched in 2014 by the Department of Health in South Africa, is helping millions of expectant mothers by providing essential information through a digital health desk.

While these are some of the pioneers in the health-tech industry, new companies such as Zuri Health, a telemedicine company founded in Kenya in 2020, and Ingress Healthcare, a doctor appointment booking platform launched in South Africa in 2019, are also strengthening the healthcare sector. A study published by WHO in 2020 indicated that telemedicine could reduce mortality rates by about 30% in Africa.

The rapid rise of health tech transforming the African healthcare landscape

Digital health solutions started to emerge during the late 2000’s in Africa. Wisepill, a South African smart pill box manufacturing company established in 2007, is one of the earliest African health tech success stories. The company developed smart storage containers that alert users on their mobile devices when they forget to take their medication. The product is widely used in South Africa and Uganda.

The industry gained momentum during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the emergence of several health tech companies offering remote health services. The market experienced about 300% increase in demand for remote healthcare services such as telemedicine, health monitoring, and medicine distribution.

According to WHO, the COVID pandemic resulted in the development of over 120 health tech innovations in Africa. Some of the health tech start-ups that emerged during the pandemic include Zuri Health (Kenya), Waspito (Cameroon), and Ilara Health (Kenya). Several established companies also developed specific solutions to tackle the spread of COVID-19 and increase their user base. For instance, Redbird, a Ghanaian health monitoring company founded in 2018, gained user attention by launching a COVID-19 symptom tracker during the pandemic. The company continues to provide remote health monitoring services for other ailments, such as diabetes and hypertension, which require regular health check-ups. Patients can visit the nearest pharmacy instead of a far-away hospital to conduct tests, and results will be regularly updated on their platform to track changes.

Scarcity Breeds Innovation – The Rising Adoption of Health Tech in Africa by EOS Intelligence

Start-ups offering advanced solutions based on AI and IoT have been also emerging successfully in recent years. For instance, Ilara Health, a Kenya-based company, founded during the COVID-19 pandemic, is providing affordable diagnostic services to rural population using AI-powered diagnostic devices.

With growing internet penetration (40% across Africa as of 2022) and a rise in investments, tech entrepreneurs are now able to develop solutions and expand their reach. For instance, mPharma, a Ghana-based pharmacy stock management company founded in 2013, is improving medicine supply by making prescription drugs easily accessible and affordable across nine countries in Africa. The company raised a US$35 million investment in January 2022 and is building a network of pharmacies and virtual clinics across the continent.

Currently, 42 out of 54 African countries have national eHealth strategies to support digital health initiatives. However, the maximum number of health tech companies are concentrated in countries such as South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, and Kenya, which have the highest per capita pharma spending in the continent. Nigeria and South Africa jointly account for 46% of health tech start-ups in Africa. Telemedicine is the most offered service by start-ups founded in the past five years, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the most popular telemedicine start-ups include Babylon Health (Rwanda), Vezeeta (Egypt), DRO Health (Nigeria), and Zuri Health (Kenya).

Other most offered services include medicine distribution, hospital/pharmacy management, and online booking and appointments. Medicine distribution start-ups have an immense impact on minimizing the prevalence of counterfeit medication by offering tech-enabled alternatives to sourcing medication from open drug markets. Many physical retail pharmacy chains, such as Goodlife Pharmacy (Kenya), HealthPlus (Nigeria), and MedPlus (Nigeria), are launching online pharmacy operations leveraging their established logistics infrastructure. Hospitals are increasingly adopting automation tools to streamline their operations. Electronic Medical Record (EMR) management tools offered by Helium Health, a provider of hospital automation tools based in Nigeria are widely adopted in six African countries.

Medicine distribution start-ups have an immense impact on minimizing the prevalence of counterfeit medication by offering tech-enabled alternatives to sourcing medication from open drug markets.

For any start-up in Africa, the key to success is to provide scalable, affordable, and accessible digital health solutions. Low-cost subscription plans offered by Mobihealth (a UK-based telehealth company founded in 2018) and Cardo Health (a Sweden-based telehealth company founded in 2021) are at least 50% more affordable than the average doctor consultation fee of US$25 in Africa. Telemedicine platforms such as Reliance HMO (Nigeria) and Rocket Health (Uganda) offer affordable health insurance that covers all medical expenses. Some governments have also taken initiatives in partnering with health tech companies to provide affordable healthcare to their people. For instance, the Rwandan government partnered with a digital health platform called Babylon Health in 2018 to deliver low-cost healthcare to the population of Rwanda. Babylon Health is able to reach the majority of the population through simple SMS codes.

Government support and Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs)

With a mission to have a digital-first universal primary care (a nationwide program that provides primary care through digital tools), the Rwandan government is setting an example by collaborating with Babylon Health, a telemedicine service that offers online consultations, appointments, and treatments.

As part of nationwide digitization efforts, the government has established broadband infrastructure that reaches 90% population of the country. Apart from this, the country has a robust health insurance named Mutuelle de Santé, which reaches more than 90% of the population. In December 2022, the government of Ghana launched a nationwide e-pharmacy platform to regulate and support digital pharmacies. Similarly, in Uganda, the government implemented a national e-health policy that recognizes the potential of technology in the healthcare sector.

MomConnect, a mobile initiative launched by the South African government with the support of Johnson and Johnson in 2014 for educating expectant and new mothers, is another example of a successful PPP. However, apart from a few countries in the region, there are not enough initiatives undertaken by the governments to improve health systems.

Private and foreign investments

In 2021, health tech start-ups in Africa raised US$392 million. The sustainability of investments became a concern when the investments dropped to US$189 million in 2022 amid the global decline in start-up funding.

However, experts predict that the investment flow will improve in 2023. Recently, in March 2023, South African e-health startup Envisionit Deep AI raised US$1.65 million from New GX Ventures SA, a South African-based venture capital company. Nigerian e-health company, Famasi, is also amongst the start-ups that raised investments during the first quarter of 2023. The company offers doorstep delivery of medicines and flexible payment plans for medicine bills.

The companies that have raised investments in recent years offer mostly telemedicine and distribution services and are based in South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, and Kenya. That being said, start-ups in the space of wearable devices, AI, and IoT are also gaining the attention of investors. Vitls, a South African-based wearable device developer, raised US$1.3 million in funding in November 2022.

Africa-based incubators and accelerators, such as Villgro, The Baobab Network, and GrowthAfrica Accelerator, are also supporting e-health start-ups with funding and technical guidance. Villgro has launched a US$30 million fund for health tech start-ups in March 2023. Google has also committed US$4 million to fund health tech start-ups in Africa in 2023.

Digital future for healthcare in Africa

There were over 1,700 health tech start-ups in Africa as of January 2023, compared with about 1,200 start-ups in 2020. The rapid emergence of health tech companies is addressing long-running challenges of health systems and are offering tailored solutions to meet the specific needs of the African market.

Mobile penetration is higher than internet penetration, and health tech companies are encouraged to use SMS messaging to promote healthcare access. However, Africa is expected to have at least 65% internet penetration by 2025. With growing awareness of the benefits of health tech solutions, tech companies would be able to address new markets, especially in rural areas.

Companies that offer new technologies such as AI chatbots, drones, wearable devices for remote patient monitoring, hospital automation systems, e-learning platforms for health workers, the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), and predictive analytics are expected to gain more attention in the coming years. Digitally enabled, locally-led innovations will have a huge impact on tackling the availability, affordability, and quality of health products and services.

Digitally enabled, locally-led innovations will have a huge impact on tackling the availability, affordability, and quality of health products and services.

Challenges faced by the health tech sector  

While the African health tech industry has significantly evolved over the last few years, there are still significant challenges with regard to infrastructure, computer literacy, costs, and adaptability.

For instance, in Africa, only private hospitals have switched to digital records. Many hospitals still operate without computer systems or internet connections. About 40% of the population are internet users, with countries such as Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, Morocco, Ghana, Kenya, and Algeria being the ones with the highest number of internet users (60-80% of the population). However, 23 countries in Africa still have low internet penetration (less than 25%). This is the major reason why tech companies concentrate in the continent’s largest tech hubs.

On the other hand, the majority of the rural population prefers face-to-face contact due to the lack of digital literacy. Electricity and internet connectivity are yet to reach all parts of the region and the cost of the internet is a burden for many people. Low-spending power is a challenge, as people refuse to undergo medical treatment due to a lack of insurance schemes to cover their medical expenses. Insurance schemes provided in Africa only cover 60% of their healthcare expenses. Even though health tech solutions bring medical costs down, these services still remain unaffordable for people in low-income countries. Therefore, start-ups do not prefer to establish or expand their services in such regions.

Another hurdle tech companies face is the diversity of languages in Africa. Africa is home to one-third of the world’s languages and has over 1,000 languages. This makes it difficult for companies to customize content to reach all populations.

Amidst all these challenges, there is very little support from the governments. The companies face unfavorable policies and regulations that hinder the implementation of digital solutions. Only 8% of African countries have online pharmacy regulations. In Nigeria, regulatory guidelines for online pharmacies only came into effect in January 2022, and there are still unresolved concerns around its implementation.

Lack of public investment and comprehensive government support also discourage the local players. Public initiatives are rare in providing funding, research support, and regulatory approval for technology innovations in the health sector. Private investment flow is low for start-ups in this sector compared to other industries. Health tech start-ups raised a total investment of US$189 million in 2022, which is not even 10% of the total investments raised by start-ups in other sectors in Africa. Also, funding is favored towards the ones established in high-income countries. Founders who don’t have ties to high-income countries struggle to raise funds.

EOS Perspective

The emergence of tech health can be referred to as a necessary rise to deal with perennial gaps in the African healthcare system. Undoubtedly, many of these successful companies could transform the health sector, making quality health services available to the mass population. The pandemic has spurred the adoption of digital health, and the trend experienced during the pandemic continues to grow with the developments in the use of advanced technologies such as AI and IoT. Telemedicine and distribution have been the fastest-growing sectors driven by the demand for remote healthcare services during the pandemic. Home-based care is likely to keep gaining momentum with the development of advanced solutions for remote health monitoring and diagnostic services.

Home-based care is likely to keep gaining momentum with the development of advanced solutions for remote health monitoring and diagnostic services.

With the increasing internet penetration and acceptance of digital healthcare, health tech companies are likely to be able to expand their reach to rural areas. Right policies, PPPs, and infrastructure development are expected to catalyze the health tech adoption in Africa. Companies that offer advanced technologies such as IoT-enabled integrated medical devices, AI chatbots, drones, wearable devices for remote patient monitoring, hospital automation systems, e-learning platforms for health workers, and predictive analytics for health monitoring are expected to emerge successfully in the coming years.

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Is ChatGPT Just Another Tech Innovation or A Game Changer?

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ChatGPT, a revolutionary AI-based conversational chatbot, has been making headlines around the world. The AI-based tool can answer user queries and generate new content in a human-like way. By automating tasks such as customer support and content creation, ChatGPT has the potential to revolutionize many industries, resulting in a more efficient digital landscape and an enhanced user experience. However, the technology is not without its risks and poses a number of issues, such as creating malicious content, copyright infringement, and other moral issues. Despite these challenges, the possibilities for ChatGPT are infinite, and with the advancement of technology, the opportunities it presents will only continue to expand.

ChatGPT is an AI-based question-and-answer chatbot that responds to user queries in a conversational way, just like how humans respond. OpenAI, a US-based research and development company, launched ChatGPT in November 2022. Since then, ChatGPT has garnered increased attention and popularity worldwide. The tool surpassed over 1 million users within five days and 100 million users within two months of launch.

ChatGPT has become popular due to its capability to answer queries in a simple and conversational manner. The tool can perform various functions, such as generating content for marketing campaigns, writing emails, blogs, and essays, debugging code, and even solving mathematics questions.

OpenAI’s ChatGPT works on the concept of generative AI and uses a language model called GPT3 – a third-generation Generative Pre-trained Transformer. The AI chatbot has been fed with about 45 terabytes of text data on a diverse range of topics from sources such as books, websites, and articles and has been trained on a set of algorithms to understand relationships between words and phrases and how it is used in context. This way, the model is able to develop an understanding of languages and generate answers. ChatGPT uses a dialog format, asks follow-up questions for clarification, admits mistakes, and is capable of dismissing inappropriate or dangerous requests.

ChatGPT also has a simple user interface, allowing communication through a plain textbox just like a messaging app, thus making it easy to use. Currently, ChatGPT is in beta testing, and users can use it for free to try and provide feedback. However, the free version is often inaccessible and out of capacity due to the increasing traffic.

In February 2023, OpenAI launched a pilot subscription plan named ChatGPT Plus, starting at US$20 per month, which is available to its customers in the USA. The subscription plan provides access to ChatGPT even during peak times and provides prior access to any new features. OpenAI is also testing ChatGPT to generate videos and pictures using its DALLE image-generating software, which is another AI tool developed by OpenAI to create art and images from text prompts. OpenAI also plans to launch a ChatGPT mobile app soon.

How could ChatGPT help businesses?

One of the most impactful areas where ChatGPT can make a difference is customer support. The AI tool can handle a large volume of consumer queries within a short time frame and give accurate responses, which can boost work efficiency and reduce employees’ workload.

In addition, the tool can also be employed to answer sales-related queries. By training ChatGPT to understand product information, pricing, and other details, businesses can provide a seamless sales experience for customers. ChatGPT can also analyze user data and behavior and can assist customers to find the products they are looking for, and give product recommendations leading to a more tailored and enjoyable shopping experience. ChatGPT can be incorporated into websites to engage visitors and help them find the information they need, which can help in lead generation.

Another potential benefit of ChatGPT is its ability to automate content generation. ChatGPT can generate unique and original content quickly, making it an effective tool for creating marketing materials such as email campaigns, blogs, newsletters, etc.

ChatGPT could be used in a number of industries, such as travel, education, real estate, healthcare, information technology, etc. For instance, in the tech industry, ChatGPT can write programs in specific programming languages such as JavaScript, Python, and React, and can be very helpful to developers in generating code snippets and for code debugging.

In healthcare, the tool can be used in scheduling appointments, summarizing patient’s health information based on previous history, assisting in diagnostics, and for telemedicine services.

In the education sector, ChatGPT can be used to prepare teaching materials and lessons and to provide personalized tutoring classes.

These are just a few applications of ChatGPT. As generative technology continues to evolve, there may be many other potential applications that can help businesses achieve their goals more efficiently and effectively.

Is ChatGPT Just Another Tech Innovation or A Game Changer by EOS Intelligence

ChatGPT’s output may not be always accurate

While ChatGPT offers several benefits and advantages, the tool is not without limitations. ChatGPT works on pre-trained data that cannot handle nuances or other ambiguities and thus may generate answers that are incorrect, biased, or inappropriate.

Moreover, ChatGPT is not connected to the internet and cannot refer to an external link to respond to queries that are not part of its training. It also does not cover the news and events after 2021 and cannot provide real-time information.

Another major limitation is that the tool is often out of capacity due to the high traffic, which makes it inaccessible. There are also other potential risks associated with these generative AI tools. Some of the threats include writing phishing emails, copyright infringement, generating abusive content or malicious software, plagiarism, and much more.

ChatGPT is not the first or only AI chatbot

While ChatGPT has garnered most of the attention in the last few months, it is neither the first nor the only AI-based chatbot in the market. There are many AI-based writers and AI chatbots in the market. These tools vary in their applications and have their own strengths and weaknesses.

For instance, ChatSonic, first released in 2020, is an AI writing assistant touted as the top ChatGPT alternative. This AI chatbot is supported by Google, has voice dictation capabilities, can generate up-to-date content, and can also generate images based on text prompts. However, ChatSonic has word limits in its free as well as paid versions, which makes it difficult for users who need to generate large pieces of text.

Similarly, Jasper is another AI tool launched in 2021, which works based on the language model (GPT-3) similar to ChatGPT. Jasper can write and generate content for blogs, videos, Twitter threads, etc., in over 50 language templates and can also check for grammar and plagiarism. Jasper AI is specifically built for dealing with business use cases and is also faster and more efficient and generates more accurate results than ChatGPT.

YouChat is another example, developed in 2022 by You.com, and running on OpenAI GPT-3. It performs similar functions as ChatGPT – responding to queries, solving math equations, coding, translating, and writing content. This chatbot cites source links of the information and acts more like an AI-powered search engine. However, YouChat lacks an aesthetic appeal and may generate results that are outdated at times.

ChatGPT-styled chatbots to power search engines

While a lot of buzz has been created about this technology, the impact of AI-based conversational chatbots is yet to be seen on a large scale. Many proclaim that tools such as ChatGPT will replace the traditional search method of using Google to obtain information.

However, experts argue that it is highly unlikely. While AI chatbots can mimic human-like conversation, they need to be trained on massive amounts of data to generate any kind of answers. These tools work on pre-trained models that were fed with large amounts of data sourced from books, articles, websites, and many more resources to generate content. Hence, real-time learning and answering would be cost-intensive in the long run.

Moreover, ChatGPT’s answers may not always be comprehensive or accurate, requiring human supervision. ChatGPT may also not be very good at solving logical questions. For instance, when asked to solve a simple problem – “RQP, ONM, _, IHG, FED, find the missing letters”, ChatGPT answered incorrectly as “LKI”. Similarly, when provided a text prompt, “The odd numbers in the group 17, 32, 3, 15, 82, 9, 1 add up to an even number”, the chatbot affirmed it, which is false. Moreover, the AI chatbot does not cover news after 2021, and when asked, “Who won the 2022 World Cup?” ChatGPT said the event has not taken place.

On the other hand, Google uses several algorithms to rank web pages and gives the most relevant web results and comprehensive information. Google has access to a much larger pool of data and the ability to analyze it in real time. Additionally, Google’s ranking algorithms have been developed over years of research and refinement, making them incredibly efficient and effective at delivering high-quality results. Therefore, while AI chatbots can be useful in certain contexts, they are unlikely to replace traditional search methods, such as Google.

However, leading search engines are looking to incorporate ChatGPT into their search tools. For instance, Microsoft is planning to incorporate ChatGPT 4, a faster version of the current ChatGPT version, into its Bing Search engine. Since 2019, the company has invested about US$13 billion in OpenAI, the parent company of ChatGPT.

In February 2023, Microsoft also incorporated ChatGPT into its popular office software Teams. With this, users with Teams premium accounts will able to generate meeting notes, access recommended tasks, and would be able to see personalized highlights of the meeting using ChatGPT. These add immense value to the user.

In February 2023, China-based e-commerce company Alibaba also announced its plan to launch its own AI chatbot similar to ChatGPT. Similarly, Baidu, a China-based internet service provider, launched a chatbot named “Ernie” in its search engine in March 2023.

Amidst the increasing popularity of ChatGPT, Google has also started working on a chatbot named “Bard” based on its own language model, Lambda. The company is planning to launch more than 20 new AI-based products in 2023. In February 2023, Google invested about US$400 million in Anthropic AI, a US-based artificial intelligence startup, which is testing a new chatbot named Claude. Thus, the race to build an effective AI-enabled search engine has just begun, and things have to unfold a bit to learn more about how chatbots can modify web searches.

On the other hand, AI technologies such as ChatGPT are sure to leave an impact on how businesses operate. With the global economy slowing down, resulting in low business margins, many businesses are looking to cut down costs to increase profitability.

ChatGPT could be extremely beneficial to companies looking to automate various business tasks, such as customer support and content generation. The tool can be integrated into channels, including websites and voice assistants. While this sounds beneficial, there is also a likelihood of the technology displacing some jobs such as customer service representatives, copywriters, research analysts, etc.

However, ChatGPT will not be replacing the human workforce completely since many business tasks require creative and critical thinking skills and other traits such as empathy and emotional intelligence that only humans have. This technology is expected to pave the way for new opportunities in various fields, such as software engineering and data analysis, and allow employees to focus on more value-added tasks instead of routine, mundane tasks, ultimately boosting productivity.

EOS Perspective

With their remarkable ability to generate human-like conversations and high-quality content, generative AI tools, such as ChatGPT, are sure to be touted as a game-changer for many businesses. The advancements in generative AI are expected to have a significant impact on various business tasks such as customer support, content creation, data analysis, marketing and sales, and even decision-making.

Investors are slowly taking note of the immense potential the technology holds. It is estimated that generative AI start-ups received equity funding totaling about US$2.6 billion across 110 deals in 2022, which echoes an increasing interest in the technology.

The adoption of generative AI technologies is poised to increase, especially in business processes where a human-like conversation is desirable. Industries such as e-commerce, retail, and travel are likely to embrace this technology to automate customer service tasks, reduce costs, and increase efficiency. In addition, generative AI is likely to become an indispensable part of industries such as finance and logistics, where high levels of accuracy and precision are required. Media and entertainment companies can also benefit from this technology to quickly generate content such as articles, videos, and audio.

That being said, generative AI is not without its risks, and the technology could be used to create fake and other discriminatory information. Hence, there is an inevitable need to ensure that generative AI models are trained and deployed in an ethical and responsible manner. Despite these challenges, there is increased research and significant activity going on in the field of generative AI, especially with regard to combining the capabilities of chatbots and traditional search engines.

The current chatbots will continue to evolve and will lead to the creation of even more advanced and sophisticated models. The popularity of generative AI tools such as ChatGPT is unlikely to wane, and the technology is here to stay, with the potential to create better prospects for business and a brighter future for society.

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Automotive Industry Gearing towards Digital Transformation with AI

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Artificial intelligence (AI) has become an integral part of almost every industry, and the automotive sector is no exception. From self-driving cars to predictive maintenance, AI is evolving as a major disruptor in the auto industry, slowly transforming how automobiles are designed, manufactured, and sold. This digital swing is driven mainly by increased competition, consumer preferences for smart mobility, and the benefits of AI. However, AI adoption in the automotive industry is not mainstream yet, with the technology deployed only at the pilot level and in selective business segments. As the world gears toward an era of digital transformation and automation, AI is expected to be part of various business processes in the automotive industry in the coming years.

Artificial intelligence in the auto industry is typically associated with autonomous and self-driving cars. However, the technology has increasingly found its way into other applications over the last few years. Leading auto OEMs are showing an interest in deploying AI-driven innovations across the value chain, investing in tech start-ups, partnering with software providers, and building new business entities.

For instance, a venture capital fund owned by Japanese automaker Toyota, Toyota AI Ventures (rebranded as Toyota Ventures now), with US$200 million in assets under management, invested in almost 35 early-age startups that focus on AI, autonomy, mobility, and robotics between 2017 and 2020. Similarly, in 2022, South Korean automotive manufacturer Hyundai invested US$424 million to build an AI research center in the USA to advance research in AI and robotics. In the same year, CARIAD, a software division of the Germany-based Volkswagen Group, acquired Paragon Semvox GmbH, a Germany-based company that develops AI-based voice control and smart assistance systems, for US$42 million.

Changing consumer preferences, competitive pressures, and various advantages of AI are driving this transformation. According to a 2019 Capgemini research study, nearly 25% of auto manufacturers in the USA implemented AI solutions at scale, followed by the UK (14%) and Germany (12%) by the end of 2019.

There are numerous applications of AI in the automotive industry. Some of the more common and innovative uses of AI include virtual simulation models, inventory management, quality control of parts and finished goods, automated driver assistance systems (ADAS), predictive maintenance, and personalized vehicles, to name a few.

Automotive Industry Gearing towards Digital Transformation with AI by EOS Intelligence

AI-based virtual simulation models used for effective R&D processes

Due to changing customer preferences, increasing regulations concerning safety and fuel emissions, and technological disruption, OEMs are finding it more expensive to make cars nowadays. A 2020 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers says that conceptualization and product development account for 77% of the cost and 65% of the time spent in a typical automotive manufacturing process.

To make R&D cost-effective and more efficient, some auto manufacturers and tier-I suppliers are turning to AI. AI enables the simulation of digital prototypes, eliminating a lot of physical prototypes, thus reducing the costs and time for product development. One interesting concept that is emerging and catching attention in this area is the “digital twin”. The concept employs a virtual model mimicking an entire process or environment and its physical behavior. There are numerous uses of digital twins – in vehicle design and development, factory and supply chain simulations, autonomous driving simulations, etc. In vehicle design and development, digital twins make simulations easier, validate each step of the development in order to predict outcomes, improve performance, and identify possible failures before the product enters the production line.

For instance, in 2019, Continental, a Germany-based automotive parts manufacturing company, entered into a collaboration with a Germany-based start-up, Automotive Artificial Intelligence (AAI), to develop a modular virtual simulation program for its Automated Driver Assistance System (ADAS) application and also invested an undisclosed amount in the company. The virtual simulation program could generate phenomenal vehicle test data of 5,000 miles per hour compared to 6,500 miles of physical test driving per month, reducing both time and costs.

Many leading automotive companies are also looking to utilize this innovative concept in streamlining the entire manufacturing operations. For example, in early 2023, Mercedes-Benz announced that the company is partnering with Nvidia Technologies, a US-based technology company specializing in AI-based hardware and software, to build a digital twin of one of its automotive plants in Germany. Mercedes-Benz is hoping that the digital twin can help them monitor the entire plant and make quick changes in their production processes without interruptions.

General Motors, Volkswagen, and Hyundai use AI for smart manufacturing

Automation processes and industrial robots have been in automotive manufacturing for a long time. However, these systems can perform only programmed routine and repetitive tasks and cannot act on complex real-life scenarios.

The use of AI in automotive manufacturing makes these production processes smarter and more efficient. Some of the applications of AI in manufacturing include forecasting component failures, predicting demand for components and managing inventory, using collaborative robots for heavy material handling, etc.

For instance, General Motors, a US-based automotive manufacturing company, has been using AI-based design strategies since 2018 to manufacture lightweight vehicles. In 2019, the company also deployed an AI-based image classification tool in its robots to detect equipment failures on pilot-level experimentation.

Similarly, a Germany-based luxury car manufacturer, Audi, has been using AI to monitor the quality of spot welds since 2021 and is also planning to use AI in its wheel design process starting in 2023. In 2021, Audi’s parent company, Volkswagen, also invested about US$1 billion to bring technologies such as cloud-based industrial software, intelligent robotics, and AI into its factory operations. With this, the company aims to drive a 30% increase in manufacturing performance in its plants in the USA and Mexico by 2025.

In another instance, South Korean automotive manufacturer Hyundai uses AI to improve the well-being of its employees. In 2018, the company developed wearable robots for its workers, who spend most of their time in assembly lines. These robots can sense the type of work of employees, adjust their motions, and boost load support and mobility, preventing work-related musculoskeletal disorders. Thus, AI is transforming every facet of automobile manufacturing, from designing to improving the well-being of employees.

Companies provide more ADAS features amidst increasing competition

Automated Driver Assistance System (ADAS) is one of the powerful applications of AI in the automotive industry. ADAS are intelligent systems that aim to make driving safer and more efficient. ADAS primarily uses cameras and Lidar (Light Detection and Ranging) sensors to generate a high-resolution 360-degree view of the car and assists the driver or enables cars to take autonomous actions. Demand for ADAS is growing globally due to consumers’ rising preference for luxury, better safety, and comfort. It is estimated that by 2025, ADAS will become a default feature of nearly every new vehicle sold worldwide. ADAS is classified into 6 levels:

Level 0 No automation
Level 1 Driver assistance: the vehicle has at least a single automation system
Level 2 Partial driving automation: the vehicle has more than one automated system; the driver has to be on alert at all times
Level 3 Conditional driving automation: the vehicle has multiple driver assistance functions that control most driving tasks; the driver has to be present to take over if anything goes wrong
Level 4 High driving automation: the vehicle can make decisions itself in most circumstances; the driver has the option to manually control the car
Level 5 Full driving automation: the vehicle can do everything on its own without the presence of a driver

At present, cars from level 0 to level 2 are on the market. To meet the growing competitive edge, several auto manufacturers are adding more automation features to the level 2 type. Companies have also been making significant strides toward developing autonomous vehicles. For instance, auto manufacturers such as Mercedes, BMW, and Hyundai are testing level 3 autonomous vehicles, and Toyota and Honda are testing and trialing level 4 vehicles. This indicates that the future of mobility will be highly automated relying upon technologies such as AI.

Volkswagen and Porsche use AI in automotive marketing and sales

There are various applications of AI in marketing and sales operations – in sales forecasting and planning, personalized marketing, AI-assisted virtual assistants, etc. According to a May 2022 Boston Consulting Group (BCG) report, auto OEMs can gain faster returns with lower investments by deploying AI in their marketing and sales operations.

Some automotive companies have already started to deploy AI in sales and marketing. For instance, since 2019, Volkswagen has been leveraging AI to create precise market forecasts based on certain variables and uses the data for its sales planning. Similarly, in 2021, a Germany-based luxury car manufacturer, Porsche, launched an AI tool that suggests various vehicle options and their prices based on the customer’s preferences.

Automakers integrate AI-assisted voice assistants into cars

Cars nowadays are not only perceived as a means of transportation, but consumers also expect sophisticated features, convenience, comfort, and an enriching experience during their journey. AI enhances every aspect of the cockpit and deploys personalized infotainment systems that learn from user preferences and habits over time. Many automakers are integrating AI-based voice assistants to help drivers navigate through traffic, change the temperature, make calls, play their favorite music, and more.

For instance, in 2018, Mercedes-Benz introduced the Mercedes Benz User Experience (MBUX) voice-assisted infotainment system, which gets activated with the keyword “Hey Mercedes”. Amazon, Apple, and Google are also planning to get carmakers to integrate their technologies into in-car infotainment systems. It is expected that 90% of new vehicles sold globally will have voice assistants by 2028.

Integration and technological challenges hamper the adoption of AI

The adoption of AI in the automotive industry is still at a nascent stage. Several OEM manufacturers in the automotive industry are leveraging various AI solutions only at the pilot level, and scaling up is slow due to the various challenges associated with AI.

At the technology level, the creation of AI algorithms remains the main challenge, requiring extensive training of neural networks that rely on large data sets. Organizations lack the skills and expertise in AI-related tools to successfully build and test AI models, which is time-consuming and expensive. AI technology also uses a variety of high-priced advanced sensors and microprocessors, thus hindering the technology from being economically feasible.

Moreover, AI acts more or less like a black box, and it remains difficult to determine how AI models make decisions. This obscurity remains a big problem, especially for autonomous vehicles.

At the organizational level, integration challenges make it difficult to implement the technology with existing infrastructure, tools, and systems. Lack of knowledge of selecting and investing in the right AI application and lack of information on potential economic returns are other biggest organizational hurdles.

EOS Perspective

The applications of AI in the automotive industry are broad, and many are yet to be envisioned. There has been an upswing in the number of automotive AI patents since 2015, with an average of 3,700 patents granted every year. It is evident that many disrupting high-value automotive applications of AI are likely to be deployed in the coming decade. Automotive organizations are bolstering their AI skills and capabilities by investing in AI-led start-ups. These companies together already invested about US$11.2 billion in these startups from 2014 to 2019.

There is also an increase in the hiring pattern of AI-related roles in the industry. Many automotive industry leaders are optimistic that AI technology can bring significant economic and operational benefits to their businesses. AI can turn out to be a powerful steering wheel to drive growth in the industry. The future of many industries will be digital, and so will be for the automotive sector. Hence, for automotive businesses that are yet to make strides toward this digital transformation, it is better to get into this trend before it gets too late to keep up with the competition.

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Sustainable Electronics Transforming Consumer Tech Companies

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Globally, electronics are discarded at alarming rates, generating unprecedented amounts of e-waste. On the other side, finite resources such as minerals and metals, which are used to make these electronics, are getting depleted. To foster sustainability across the electronics value chain, many tech companies are adopting strategies such as incorporating long-lasting product design, using recyclable and biodegradable materials, using clean energy for power generation, etc. However, the sustainable electronics concept is still in a nascent stage of adoption, and a lot of work needs to be done. Strict legislation, cross-sectoral collaborations, organizations facilitating networking and knowledge sharing, and changes in business models are needed to implement sustainability across various business units in the electronics industry.

Growing need for sustainability in electronics

Global consumption of electronics is rising exponentially and is expected to double by 2050. This increase is set to adversely affect the environment, leading to more mining of raw materials, an unprecedented increase in e-waste, and increased carbon emissions during manufacturing.

Globally, people are discarding electronics sooner than before due to the availability of new electronics, owning outdated models, obsolescence, etc. Over the last few years, nearly 50 million tons of e-waste has been generated annually. Only 17% of this e-waste is recycled globally, and the rest is transported and dumped in developing countries such as Pakistan, Nigeria, and India, which do not have adequate facilities for processing and handling e-waste. This e-waste ends up in landfills, accounting for approximately 70% of hazardous chemicals, and pollutes the air and water streams. Moreover, e-waste generated globally contains recyclable or reusable raw materials, scrap rare earth metals, plastics, and valuable elements, which are valued at US$62.5 billion per year.

Given the economic and environmental cost of e-waste, as well as responding to growing consumer preference for sustainable products, several companies are looking to transition to sustainable electronics. Sustainable electronics are products that are made using recycled or reusable and biodegradable materials, as well as products that generate low carbon emissions during manufacturing and distribution.

Sustainable electronics transforming consumer tech companies by EOS Intelligence

Sustainable Electronics Transforming Consumer Tech Companies by EOS Intelligence

Recycling, clean energy power, and modular design for sustainable electronics

Over the last few years, consumer tech companies have been adopting many strategies for manufacturing electronics sustainably. In 2021, tech giants Cisco, Dell, Google, Microsoft, Vodafone, and many others together formed a “Circular Electronics Partnership (CEP)” to accelerate the circular economy for electronics by 2030 and to help businesses and organizations overcome barriers to sustainable electronics.

Several companies are looking to increase the life span of their smartphones to make them more sustainable. Increasing the phone’s life span by two years can reduce carbon emissions to a great extent, as 80% of the carbon emissions come during manufacturing, shipping, and the first year of phone usage. Fairphone, a Dutch-based smartphone manufacturer, has introduced smartphones with a lifespan of approximately 5 years, higher than the average lifespan of 2.5 years. Similarly, Teracube, a US-based sustainable smartphone manufacturer, has launched phones that can last up to 4 years.

Many companies are also designing their products with modularity, which allows users to repair, upgrade, customize, and disassemble their gadgets easily. For instance, Framework Computer, a US-based laptop manufacturer, sells laptops that can be upgraded. The company offers upgrading kits that contain laptop main boards and top covers to customize the device as per the user’s need. Similarly, Fairphone manufactures modular smartphones, which are easy to repair and upgrade. These kinds of gadgets eliminate the user’s need to buy new ones, saving both costs and wastage.

There is also an increased interest among consumer electronics companies to use recycled materials in various products. Sony, a Japan-based multinational corporation, has developed a recycled plastic, SORPLAS, and has been using it in a range of its products, such as audio systems and televisions, since 2011. In 2022, Logitech, a Swiss-American manufacturer of computer peripherals and software, used recycled plastic in 65% of its mice and keyboards. Similarly, in 2021, Acer, a Taiwan-based electronics corporation, launched a series of PCs named Vero, which uses recycled plastics for the chassis and keycaps. Acer also launched the Earthion program, an eco-friendly initiative, in the same year and started working closely with suppliers and partners to bring various sustainability measures in product design, packaging design, and production. Tech giant Apple stopped selling chargers and headphones along with the iPhone in 2020 to cut e-waste. The company used 20% recycled material in all its products in 2021 and uses robots to disassemble or separate metals from e-waste. There is 40% recycled content in the MacBook Air with Retina display, and 99% recycled tungsten is used for the iPhone 12 and Apple Watch Series. Samsung, a multinational electronics corporation, is using recycled plastics in refrigerators, washing machines, air conditioners, TVs, monitors, and mobile phone chargers.

Due to this increased demand for recycled materials, recycling companies are receiving investments to a significant extent. In 2021, Closed Loop Partners, a US-based investment firm, invested an undisclosed amount in ERI, a US-based electronics recycler that supplies materials to companies such as Best Buy, Target, and Amazon, to extend the capacity for the collection and processing of electronics. Similarly, in 2022, the Australian Business Growth Fund (ABGF), an investment fund focused on small to medium-sized Australian businesses, invested US$7.5 million in Scipher, an Australia-based urban mining and e-waste recycling business.

Significant activity has been happening in the refurbished electronics market as well due to the rising consumer awareness of sustainability. Trade-in and refurbishment reduce e-waste piling up at landfills, as it limits buying newer gadgets and thereby paves the way for greater sustainability across the electronics industry. Back Market, a France-based marketplace of renewed devices (which provides refurbished devices with a one-year warranty), has raised over US$1 billion since its launch in 2014. In 2022, Verdane, a European specialist growth equity investment firm, announced an investment worth US$124 million in Finland-based Swappie, a re-commerce company that sells previously owned, new, or used smartphones. Vodafone also announced a major initiative to extend the life of new mobile phones and to encourage customers to trade in or recycle their old devices. The company is planning to provide customers in European markets with a suite of services, including insurance, support, and repairs for their devices, in 2022. Samsung collaborated with iFixit, an online repair community, for its self-repair program in 2022. The company said that under this program, Galaxy device owners in the USA can make their own repairs to the Galaxy Tab S7+, Galaxy S20, and S21 products using easy-to-repair tools available from iFixit.

Tech companies have also started transitioning to renewable energy and looking for ways to reduce their carbon emissions. Intel, a US-based technology company, uses green energy of up to 3,100,000 MWh annually in the manufacturing of processors and computer accessories. Samsung’s facility operations in the USA and China switched to 100% renewable energy in 2019. In 2021, Microsoft entered into a partnership with IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, to reduce carbon emissions in the organization’s supply chain. IFC is said to work with selected Microsoft suppliers in emerging markets, primarily in Asia, to identify technical solutions and financing opportunities to reduce emissions in the production process.

Legislation to aid the shift toward the circular economy in electronics

For years, many countries did not have appropriate policies enforcing sustainability across the electronics industry. Nevertheless, the trend is reversing with several countries adopting legislation for the circular economy. For instance, in 2020, the European Commission announced a circular electronics initiative that would promote eco-design (a design that considers environmental aspects at all stages of the product development), right-to-repair rules, including a right to update obsolete software, and regulatory measures on universal chargers, to name a few. France became the first European country to pass the Anti-Waste for a Circular Economy Act (AGEC) in 2020, which requires producers of electronic devices to provide details on how repairable their products are. According to AGEC, manufacturers are required to scale their products at a rate of 1-10 based on the reparability index. France also plans to introduce a durability index by 2024, whereby manufacturers would be asked to describe the full lifecycle of their products. Moreover, the US government passed an order in 2021 to draft regulations that protect the consumer’s right to repair electronic devices and other tools.

It is not easy to manufacture sustainable electronics

While sustainable electronics are the need of the hour, and several leading players have already started promoting and investing in this space, the sector faces many challenges. Currently, there are no established standards, concepts, or definitions concerning sustainable electronics, and there is no strict legislation to enforce sustainability practices in the electronics industry. There are some rating systems that identify energy-efficient products followed in the USA and Europe (for example, the USA’s ENERGY STAR program). However, registering and complying with the ratings and their requirements is up to the manufacturer and is not mandatory. Moreover, e-waste regulations in several countries are poorly enforced due to low financing, and illegal practices such as dumping e-waste and incineration by the informal sector still persist.

Most electronics companies are also not transparent about their environmental performance, and the impact is often hidden. The term ‘sustainable’ is widely misused as a promotional tactic by companies targeting environmentally conscious consumers.

The electronic industry also operates on a linear established model, wherein products are manufactured (with planned obsolescence) and sold to consumers. Incorporating circular strategies for recycling and reuse requires a lot of remodeling and reconfigurations across the supply chain, and the rising consumption of electronic devices makes it difficult to adapt to any new changes. Challenges, such as complex recycling processes, costs of recycling, and consumer perception of green electronics, also hamper sustainability development. Most electronics are not designed for recycling and are made of a complex mixture of materials such as heavy metals, highly toxic compounds, glass, plastics, ferrous and nonferrous materials, etc. Recycling these materials is tedious and involves several steps such as dismantling, removing the hazardous waste, shredding into fine materials, and sorting the materials into various types. The process is also resource and cost-intensive, requiring human labor, more processing time, and adequate infrastructure such as various material screening types of equipment. Recycling e-waste could also be polluting, with potential exposure to toxic metal fumes.

Finally, the perception of consumers about sustainable electronics also needs to be changed, which is challenging. There is a notion among customers that the use of recycled, sustainable materials in electronics means products would be of lower quality. A lot of investment would be required to educate and convince consumers about the benefits of sustainable electronics and to address any concerns about quality. In most cases, it is difficult to pass on these costs to the consumers as they are unlikely to accept higher prices. Thus, this cost would be required to be absorbed by the companies themselves. Due to this, most current initiatives toward sustainable electronics can be best described as half measures.

EOS Perspective

The economic benefits of sustainable electronics are enormous. The resource scarcity and the price fluctuation of various minerals and metals make them necessary to recycle, recover, and reuse in the circular economy. Over the last few years, consumer electronics manufacturers have taken many sustainability initiatives, such as reducing energy consumption, eliminating hazardous chemicals, introducing biodegradable packaging, incorporating recycled and recyclable materials in products, and investing in renewable energy projects. Also, the refurbished electronics segment is growing fast, while interest is surging in introducing devices with built-in reparability. While several small initiatives are being taken by leading players, electronics manufacturers mainly do not know how to introduce sustainability across their products in a mainstream fashion.

Sustainability in electronics has still a long way to go. Several legislative initiatives are underway toward a circular (sustainable) electronics economy, and it is high time for electronics manufacturers to be proactive and rethink their business models. A complete business model transformation is required to integrate sustainability across every unit. Cross-sector collaborations with stakeholders such as product designers, manufacturers, investors, raw material producers, and consumers are crucial to understanding the technical know-how. It is essential to analyze the entire life cycle of products, from choosing raw materials to their disposal, and to prioritize circular strategies for such products. Electronic manufacturers also need to come up with creative and rewarding ways for consumers to be willing to choose sustainable products, as, in the end, the industry cannot flourish without consumer acceptability. The future of sustainable electronics can be bright, and manufacturers who see this as a potential business opportunity rather than a problem will benefit in the long term.

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Can 3D Printing Move Beyond Design Customization in the F&B Industry?

First conceptualized over 40 years ago, 3D printing is still rapidly developing. The technology has been used in various industries ranging from 3D-printed human organs for implants to printing numerous customized products as per the customers’ requirement. There are several interesting applications of this technology in the Food & Beverage (F&B) industry as well. While currently they mostly pertain to creating visually complex geometrical food structures, there are also ongoing innovations with regard to using 3D printing for nutritional controllability and sustainability. However, most of these projects are one-off and 3D printing still remains a niche application in the F&B space.

3D printing is an evolving technology, offering F&B industry players benefits such as efficiency and customization. 3D printers are mostly used by F&B producers to make foods using the extrusion technique. In this method, the edible is in the form of a paste and is extruded from syringe-like containers onto a plate based on a 3D computer model. The process is similar to icing a cake using a piping bag, except with robotic precision, as the printer layers edible filament in desired shapes.

Traditionally, 3D food printing has been used to architect intricate shapes and designs that are difficult to achieve manually. It has been mostly confined to desserts such as chocolates and sweets as 3D printing offers huge potential for customization.

That being said, there is a gradual shift to adopt this technology in preparing more complex foods such as 3D-printed pizzas, spaghetti, burgers, and meat alternatives. For instance, since January 2022, BBB, an Israeli food chain has been serving 3D-printed burgers prepared from a mix of potato, chickpea, and pea protein. Similarly, since 2021, companies such as Spain-based Novameat and Israel-based Redefine Meat have been preparing 3D-printed beef steaks and other products using unique plant-based compounds that taste like blood, fat, and muscle that make up traditional meat flavors.

Printing beyond customization

While currently the main advantage of 3D printing in food is its ability to customize complex shapes and designs (thereby making it popular for creating chocolates, cakes, and cookies), it is also extending to customizing the level of nutrients in a meal. 3D printing offers the possibility to produce high-quality food concepts such as developing personalized meals by adding specific nutrients or flavors, ultimately giving more control over the food’s nutritional and flavor value.

With this idea in mind, a Netherland-based Digital Food Processing Initiative (DFPI) is testing this concept and trying to come up with a flexible food production system using 3D printing technology that will allow personalizing food at any time based on individual dietary choices. The collaboration is an ongoing project between the Dutch institution, Wageningen University & Research (WUR), global food and beverage companies GEA Group, General Mills, Tate & Lyle, and pharmaceutical company Solipharma B.V., together with Ministerie van Defensie, and a Netherland-based research organization, TNO, whose aim is to bring commercially viable personalized food products to the market, especially for military personnel and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) patients.

Can 3D Printing Move Beyond Design Customization in the F&B Industry by EOS Intelligence

Another potential use of 3D printers is to reduce food wastage. The Netherland-based food-tech startup, Upprinting Food, which specializes in recycling organic food waste through 3D printing, has offered design services to various chefs and is also training restaurants to utilize their 3D printers to reduce food wastage. The company specializes in creating dishes out of any food left at restaurants and currently focuses only on high-end restaurants. They plan to expand their work towards retail and wholesalers in the future to reduce food wastage on a larger scale.

While 3D food printing seems to have a lot of unique uses, commercializing 3D-printed foods on a large scale has always been a challenge. For instance, printing a small piece (5x5x5 centimeter) of a food item takes around four to five minutes. Thinking about producing large-scale printed food would be difficult at this rate. In 2015, a project called the PERFORMANCE project (PERsonalized FOod using Rapid MAnufacturing for the Nutrition of elderly ConsumErs ) was shut down because it could not produce at a scale large enough to provide meals at nursing homes. The project focused on creating customizable meals for the elderly who had difficulties in chewing and swallowing. Thus, while customization of food products has immense use and strong growth potential in theory, it still needs a lot of work on improving speed and costs to facilitate its commercialization and feasibility.

Despite several advantages and functionalities, the market does not seem to use 3D printers for printing food as much as it could. It is mostly limited to confectionaries and very high-profile restaurants where quantities are small and prices are high. For instance, Natural Machines 3D printer, Foodini, is being used at Spain-based Michelin-star restaurant, La Enoteca, to prepare seafood, where food puree is printed into a flower-like shape, topped with caviar, sea urchins, hollandaise sauce, and carrot foam.

As per industry experts, 3D printing in F&B is still at an initial stage of development and will be more accepted once people see it being extensively adopted at restaurants. For now, 3D printing can be used to produce food with unique functionalities related to shape, taste, and texture such as printed pasta shapes of unique designs as offered by Italian food giant Barilla, through its spinoff business BluRhapsody as well as 3D-printed candy selfies by Magic Candy Factory, a spinoff of German candy manufacturer Katjes.

EOS Perspective

At present, 3D printing in food is largely limited to confectionaries. It is an evolving technology that offers considerable benefits of saving time and improving efficiency. It can potentially bring other advantages to the table, including reduction of food wastage, but such applications still require more research, investment, and trials, as well as attempts of expansion across food service formats, including small eateries and larger restaurants.

A 3D printing machine requires skill and appropriate training to print a meal. 3D food printing machines may not seem attractive for personal usage at this point but several food and beverage industry players have already moved in to adopt and exploit this innovative technology for various customized and attractive food options, although still largely at a pilot or experimental scale.

Most 3D food printers currently only cater to single restaurants or personal kitchens and are not very popular. For the technology to enter mainstream use and become attractive to broader audience, the printers need to be able print at large volumes. At the moment, there is a huge gap between what could be achieved with 3D printers in the F&B space and what has been actually tested and implemented. While several companies are working towards using this technology in innovative ways, there is a large space open for market disruption.

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