How is new technology and automation impacting business in the Midwest? This was the focus of discussion amongst CEOs and economic development experts at TrustBelt 2016, a conference in Chicago, IL in August.

To delve into the issue, TechRepublic spoke with Erin Grossi, director of strategy and market development for UI labs–which stands for university and industry labs. UI Labs is a consortia aimed at “accelerating digital manufacturing and smart cities across the nation,” Grossi said.

Grossi was interested in how digital technology is impacting verticals. “There’s a need for greater communication between traditional tech folks in their domain and traditional industry folks, whether it’s the built environment, manufacturing, transportation, etc.,” she said.

I asked Grossi about her view on how automation is impacting industries. She looks specifically at automation technology in buildings.

“Think about the ability to have a system that can absorb what’s happening in a building from an energy efficiency perspective,” she said. “How well are we managing energy? How well are we managing water assets in the building? How about air quality, can we get sensors loaded that can measure the quality of air we breathe? What else can we measure and express in a dashboard?”

Grossi said she wants to help change behavior to make buildings “more efficient and healthy for the people inside.” She also stressed the importance of training.

“If we’re championing the acceleration of the technology, we need to champion the acceleration of the education and learning of the people who work with the technology,” she said. “The promise of working with the technology is it makes your life easier.”

But, making the shift to automation requires a shift in thinking. For example, she said, look at traditional building operators. “They manage the buildings in a physical way,” she said. “But as this workforce gets replaced by technology natives, we need to see the adaptation to new technology, so the next generation can improve it over time.”

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