The number of large-scale automation initiatives has nearly doubled in the past year, according to a new survey by Deloitte. Find out why in this week’s roundup of five quick reads to keep you up to speed on the latest news and notes about the technologies driving the momentum that’s ushering in a new era in field service. (New technologies like, you know, vinyl.)

  1. Intelligent automation is at a tipping point, driven by "a perfect storm of circumstances” including the COVID-19 pandemic. New research from Deloitte shows that almost three-quarters of all organizations they surveyed have or will develop an automation strategy. In fact, confidence in automation is so strong that these companies are committed to it despite not being sure how to calculate the payback on their investment, even among those already scaling beyond initial pilot projects. Interestingly, interest in automation from the C-suite is as strong as interest among functional and IT leadership in the organization. Among the key technologies driving the rising interest in automation: AI, process monitoring, cloud-based infrastructure, and low-code development.
  2. If you need a reminder about why predictive maintenance is a good idea, this video of the unfortunate recent collapse of the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico offers a reminder that the best time to repair damaged infrastructure is before it’s damaged beyond repair. (And if you need a reminder about what predictive maintenance is, here's a quick cheat sheet.)
  3. Anyone who’s been involved with computers for a while may remember the era when magnetic tape was a popular option for storage media. The big computers that often popped up in the screwball comedies and spy thrillers of the 1970s were instantly recognizable by those enormous reel-to-reel tape systems with their incessant beeps and boops, while many home PCs of that era relied on the same cassette tape machine that you might have picked up at Radio Shack to play your Abba: The Album cassette. But today, vinyl is making a comeback, and now that includes displacing tape as a peripheral storage device for your computer. If you’re patient enough, you can now play Commodore 64 messages or even boot up DOS directly from vinyl.
  4. Did you catch the news about Google’s DeepMind AI solving a fundamental problem in protein folding? If you need an overview of what exactly protein folding is – and why it’s a even bigger challenge for AI than folding fitted sheets is for humans  – you’re about to become an expert.
  5. “Sure, The Queen’s Gambit was pretty good – except for all those bits that weren’t about different approaches to formulating winning chess strategies.” If that’s something you might have said recently, you might appreciate this take from Microsoft about “the human side of AI for chess.”

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