Dell makes good on $20bn R&D investment

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Patricia Florissi, VP and global CTO for sales at Dell.
Patricia Florissi, VP and global CTO for sales at Dell.

Dell Technologies’ $20 billion (R284 billion) investment in its global research and development (R&D) initiatives, to accelerate innovation in education, healthcare and agriculture, is paying off.

Doug Woolley, GM of Dell EMC SA, told ITWeb on the side-lines of the Dell Technologies Forum in Johannesburg yesterday, that the technology and computing hardware giant injected billions of dollars over the last five years into its artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of things (IOT), data management and machine learning research projects.

Many of these initiatives have resulted in the development of world-class infrastructure, to help organisations create technologies that provide solutions to some of the world’s most pressing socio-economic challenges.

“Dell’s R&D initiative is aimed at not only creating technologies that will bring fundamental change in business strategies and increase revenue, but in also making a difference to humanity,” noted Woolley.

“There are about 25 000 global engineers driving this innovation in different parts of the globe, of which 20 000 of them are software developers.”

In the 2019 financial year, Dell spent about $4.6 billion on research and development, as the company pushed to move away from primarily being a hardware PC manufacturer to becoming an IT services and solutions provider.

In the agricultural sector, the technology giant partnered with agricultural firm AeroFarms to use its IOT solutions and expertise to unearth data to drive insights, increasing agricultural production to gain greater yields.

Last year, Dell collaborated with local firm IoT.nxt to develop an ‘IOT in a box' solution, to fast-track companies’ ability to deploy IOT solutions.

Dell also invested in AI and machine learning (ML) initiatives, aimed at driving consumers’ behavioural patterns, creating solutions to give organisations a competitive-edge.

“We are also working with aircraft manufacturer Boeing to train their engineers in augmented reality, 3D hands-free, interactive wiring diagrams which are used when installing electrical wiring in an aircraft.

“In addition, our PC desktop business recently launched a feature that aims to make our notebooks more intuitive and self-managed. This is done through self-diagnosis technology integrated into our devices, called self-healing, which predicts faults, repairs and does maintenance on the notebook motherboard, without human intervention.”

In the past, South African consumers had to wait for a minimum of six months for the technologies entering the global market to make their local debut.

“But today that timeframe has been shortened down to weeks or less. But SA’s regulation and policy framework remains a hindrance to accelerating innovation locally, with things like uncertainty around spectrum and lack of policy on newly introduced technologies.

“Policy will unlock so much potential for local businesses. One example is what we can do around augmented reality in education and healthcare.”

Increasing life expectation

During her presentation at the event, Patricia Florissi, VP and global CTO for sales at Dell, highlighted the impact of Dell’s R&D initiatives.

“In the last couple of decades, Dell has made significant progress in increasing life expectation and reducing the infant mortality rate, through our ability to deliver basic healthcare through medical innovations.

“We have also contributed significantly to global literacy programmes, and science and technology innovations, contributing massively to the global gross domestic product.”

Dell is working with the Translational Genomics Research Institute to apply big data technology to neuroblastoma, a rare form of paediatric cancer. The solution helps doctors accelerate cancer treatments, helping to save lives.

In the education sector, Dell's 2020 Legacy of Good Plan aims to provide direct technology access to underprivileged students in communities where technology infrastructure is limited, including SA.

Dell has also partnered with Draper, a US-based research and engineering firm specialising in biomedical solutions and space systems.

“Draper has thousands of scientists and engineers who are harnessing the power of technology to solve social and economic problems. They have developed, for example, satellite technologies aimed at increasing productivity on the agricultural fields, increasing the supply chain.

“We also now have a solution that is able to estimate the total reservoir of oil, using AI and ML, and also predict how long it will last. Other solutions include predicting retailers’ monthly revenues in a mall, based on the number of shoppers.”

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