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When I spoke in Oman last November, I spent a little bit of my time on stage talking about artificial intelligence. It caught the attention of the folks from Gulf Construction, the most prestigious publication in the Middle East when it comes to the construction industry. They asked if I might put down my thoughts on the role, impact and timing of A.I. and robotics within the industry.

AI in construction? It’s simply the next step in the digitisation of the industry. As we go down the technology path, we follow its inevitable result.

 


AI In Construction – Massively Transformative
In an exclusive article for Gulf Construction, JIM CARROLL, futurist, trends and innovation expert, highlights the far-reaching impact of artificial intelligence on the construction industry.
Gulf Construction News, January 2019 (link)

Artificial intelligence (AI), the very phrase conjures up images of futuristic mechanical brains doing all kinds of intelligent work. Scare stories abound – AI and robots are going to take away all of our jobs! Science fiction scenarios paint a picture of enslaved humans being subjected to the evil whims of smart computer technology.

What’s driving the push to AI in the construction sector? Ongoing labour shortages due to a hot global economy is certainly one of the key issues. The marriage of robotics has been a pathway to dealing with this challenge, but the marriage of AI to robotics take us to the next step in this complex voyage. In addition, it’s simply the next step in the digitisation of the industry. As we go down the technology path, we follow its inevitable result.

So let’s put into perspective what’s been happening, and where AI fits in.

Digitisation of PM

As in many other industries, the construction sector has already been on a path to digitisation with the acceleration of technology. Computer-aided design (CAD) and building information modelling (BIM) concepts have accelerated the design and build process, but these have been but baby steps in a complex voyage.

AI takes us into a world in which we can apply automated, intelligent routines in the many calculations, assumptions, testing and analysis of the ideas we are using in the architecture and design process, as well as detailing the methodologies that will be used to put those designs into actionable steps.

Consider, for example, what we have been doing with efforts involving the digitisation of the project management (PM) process. We need to carefully manage the ordering and procurement, fabrication and assembly of millions of individual components, and manage extremely complex projects. What if we could automate some of this, kick out the exceptions for analysis, and ignore the rest?

Some companies are already exploring this idea. Canada’s Fluor Corp is working with IBM’s Watson AI system to explore how to take existing digitised projects and analyse the data within for insight on rising costs, schedule delays, supply chain problems, or errors in estimates, forecasts and project risks. Consider it BIM on steroids!

Robotic methodologies

It’s when we marry AI concepts with robotics that things become really interesting in the construction sector. Robotics is already making its way felt in the sector in a very significant way.

We have been busy automating the building process itself. Certainly the entire process of the automation of the construction process has been moving quickly within the residential sector.

The UK-based Legal & General, for instance, has been aggressively working to disrupt the business of home construction through the ability to manufacture homes on high-tech production lines that when completed, are ready to live in, with carpets, curtains and white goods already in place. What they are really doing is disrupting the concept of construction by moving away from building in sites with blocks, to building utilising robots in factories with subsequent assembly on site.

This isn’t just ‘pre-fab’; it’s the arrival of disruptive methodologies.

And therein lies the rub. Much of this construction process involves a regular series of iterative processes, repeated over and over again. If we can automate this with some type of intelligent process management capability, and then examine the quality of our work, we have achieved something of significance – and that is where AI is taking us to. As in project management, we utilise AI to provide for better automation of the process, and examine the exceptions.

These new methodologies will be driven by the fact that they provide significant productivity gains. In Australia, Fastbrick Robotics has developed technology that can build a home in three days using a sophisticated, automated bricklaying system – forever changing the way the industry operates.

Other companies around the world are working on similarly sophisticated methodologies, and it is inevitable that these advances will leak into the industrial and commercial construction space.

3D printing

Add to this mix recent advances in 3D printing capabilities in the construction sector, particularly with concrete and other materials. In Dubai, we’ve seen the 3D printing of an office facility. It took but 17 days to print a building that was 20 ft high, 120 ft long, and 40 ft wide.

Key fact? The project was overseen by a single engineer, and saw a cost reduction of 50 per cent compared to traditional methods.

3D printing is another example of a routine, iterative process, and you can expect to see AI capabilities brought to this fast-moving sector as well. But it’s not just 3D printing.

Consider the impact of rebar-tying robotic technology such as the TyBot from UK-based Brayman Construction and its subsidiary Advanced Construction Robotics. It’s an automated process that will change bridge construction.
Why is this significant? Because these accelerated methodologies are based upon a series of rules and patterns and AI is simply all about rules and patterns.

Virtualised construction

Let’s toss another trend into the mix – the acceleration of autonomous technology.
While everyone is focused on the opportunities of self-driving cars and trucks, they are missing the really big picture, and that is the forthcoming massive virtualisation of physical work.

A few years ago, while I was in Sao Paulo to keynote the global WorldSkills conference, I actually operated a welding machine 3,000 miles away while using a virtual headset. We know this type of technology is coming to the world of manufacturing, and it will come to the world of construction as well. So while the first phase of global outsourcing and offshoring saw the movement of office work to the Philippines and India, the next phase will see the virtualisation of construction and other work.

But let’s not stop there. Equipment manufacturers are aggressively developing autonomous capabilities. Audi and others have prototype vehicles without doors and windows that can be driven by someone thousands of miles away. Komatsu, following this same path, has a bulldozer that can be remotely controlled by an operator on site, linking to the physical facility through cameras, sensors and other data.

Is it farfetched to imagine the automation of the repetitive parts of this type of routine through AI? Should we get used to the concept of a future, unmanned construction site. Farfetched?

Not in my mind. What’s really happening is we are shifting the construction industry from one of construction, to one of manufacturing. AI is but a part of the mix of this new disruptive business model. AI can accelerate our capabilities in significant ways, including better inspection for faults and errors; more streamlined methodology, and all kinds of automation of routine work. The fact is, we are seeing rapid advances in the use of robotics in home construction, and it is inevitable that this fast pace of development will quickly come into the commercial and industrial construction sector.

Smart buildings

Last but not least, the arrival of intelligent, smart buildings concepts will accelerate opportunities for AI.

We are at early days yet when it comes to the concept of smart buildings. Yet the Internet of Things (IoT) is already having a significant impact on how we manage, deploy, operate and monitor various aspects of our facilities such as energy usage.

Once we add machine learning and AI to the mix, we will be able to streamline those activities even more.

Consider, for example, the concept of predictive diagnostics; the ability to determine in advance when a particular part of component is going to break down, and doing preventative maintenance to avoid the downtime that comes with it. Automotive and trucking companies, as well as medical device companies and jet engine manufacturers, have been implementing predictive diagnostics for quite some time.

And it’s now coming with rapid developments with IoT in HVAC and energy systems, security infrastructure and other aspects of smart buildings. If we enhance our ability to interpret and analyse the vast amounts of information coming from our intelligent building subsystems, we can reduce downtime and problems even further.

Impact of other industries

So clearly, we are on a high-tech voyage in the world of construction. So why will AI become real? Because advances in other industries will accelerate the leakage of AI concepts into construction!

And then there is the arrival of disruptive AI concepts such as the emergence of AI marketplaces.

One company in the medical AI space has launched a ‘storefront’ that allows for ‘one-stop shopping’ of particular AI capabilities or skills. Browse through the store and you will find algorithms that will help you analyse chest X-rays for a cancer diagnosis, calcium build-up in arteries or cornea images for eye disease.

The same type of thinking might lead to a virtual AI marketplace for analysis of construction faults or smart-building algorithm analysis!

When will it arrive?

The biggest challenge with all of these concepts is not ‘if’ they will happen, but ‘when’. And that is where the Gartner Hype-cycle comes in. How do you determine when to invest in AI trend?

Years ago, the global research company suggested that any new technology goes along a curve – it appears, hits the time of excessive hype and expectations. That is followed by the inevitable collapse of enthusiasm as people realise that it takes a lot of time and effort to implement the technology and determine the opportunity that comes from it. But inevitably, both the expectations and technology itself matures, and it becomes a key component for innovation and so much more.

You can take any technology and place it on the curve. Consider e-commerce: it appeared, and people got carried away with the potential during the dot.com era of the late 1990s. However, that involved a period of rather excessive and ridiculous hype, and so we had the inevitable dot.com collapse.

Now consider the explosion of new technologies around us today: 3D printing, IoT, virtual reality, self-driving cars, and AI. A key component is figuring out where they are on the curve, and hence, what you should be doing with them in terms of an innovation strategy.

But what will we be able to do with AI in the construction sector? While it’s early days yet, we are really only limited by the boundaries of our imagination.

Individually, any trend is disruptive. Combine them together, and suddenly, they’re massively transformative!

When four industries come together to pursue a trend, you’ve got something big happening. And that’s what’s going on as healthcare, the food industry, the agricultural and technology industries come together to pursue one of the biggest trends of our time.

A hot trend? We are seeing the birth of an industry of customizable, programmable, AI based, real time food planning based on instant health assessment!

Yup, that’s a thing, and it’s going to be a big thing.


Increasingly, you’ll be eating food that aligns to your particular DNA, and based on real time body insight. It will be highly customized. As I state on stage, my glycemic index for an apple might be different from yours.

I spoke at Benefit 2018 recently – it’s a conference dedicated to functional foods and more. In my pre-keynote video overview, I spoke about the significance of this trend.

Want to have some fun?

Watch the multi-billion dollar investments that major food, science, healthcare and tech companies are making within this new, fast exploding sector.

Here’s a hint – look up Nutrino. Go!

In the last few months, I’ve had two keynotes where I’ve put in perspective the marriage of the Internet of Things with blockchain as a trend. This is a pretty massive issue yet one with a lot of hype and hysteria. I’ll have lots to post and say in the coming months on it. Here’s a short clip from one of those talks:

The first of these events was a leadership meeting was for Columbus McKinnon, a manufacturer of overhead cranes used in manufacturing, entertaining, shipping and logistics; the second was for the Canadian Finance and Leasing Association. The first group asked me to outline for several hundred of their engineers and sales staff how the essence of what they build and sell will change as they become ‘smart and hypercpnnected;’ the other wanted a talk that put into perspective the fact that the very nature of what they lease will change through such connectivity.

Here’s the thing: most #IOT (Internet of Things) projects today are a complete failure – they are insecure, built on old outdated Linux stacks with mega-security holes, and ill-thought out architectures. My slide on that fact? Simple: a reality which is already happening today. This type of negligence will doom of the future of the products of many of the early pioneers.

So here’s the thing: if organizations are going to build a proper path into the hyperconnected future, they need to understand and follow my “11 Rules of #IoT Architecture.” Read it, print it, learn from it : this is what you need to do as you transition to becoming a tech company. Some of the biggest organizations in the world have had me in for this detailed insight – maybe you should.

My inspiration for how to build the future right comes from Apple’s robust Device Enrolment Program architecture, which lets an organization deploy, manage, upgrade and oversee thousands of corporate iPhones or iPads; and Tesla, which is not really a car company, but a hi-tech company.

And so in both of these talks, I put into perspective how Tesla has (without knowing it, LOL) been following my rules. First, think about what a Tesla really is – here’s my slide….

Going back to my list of the 11 Rules of IOT Architecture, you can see that Tesla has met a number of the conditions …

Go through my IOT architecture list and think about what has been engineered into the computer that is a Tesla.

Upgradeable: any device should have the ability to be upgraded from afar, automatically, either by user choice or centralized management”.

Got that. Consumer Reports didn’t like the braking distance on the Model 3. No problem: that’s a software update.

“Feature addition capable: the design should provide for the addition of future capabilities, some of which might not be imagined yet at the time of development.”

You can do that when you buy your Model 3.

“Prognostic, diagnostic: each device should be able to self-diagnose and report when it is not working correctly.”

Yup, built in.

“Self-repairing: better yet, it should not only know when things are going wrong, but have the capability to fix it once it is aware”.

Let’s fix it at night….

“Programmable: the device should be controllable by users, to the extent that is possible within a predefined robust security and privacy architecture.”

User/driver interactivity is at the heart of operator interaction.

“Self-reporting: the device should be able to report on a wide variety of information pertaining to operations, proximity, location, status, etc.”

Built in. And yes, there’s an app for that (above).

“Swarm data-generating: it should be able to generate types of information that, in concert with other similar devices, is able to be manipulated to provide some unique operational, predictive or maintenance-information data-set (or more)”.

It’s a data gathering machine.

“Intelligence-capable: it should have or be provided capabilities to make its own decisions based on input data.”

As in, a new AI based, neural network…..

“Grid-connectable:  it should be able to exist or participate within a connected series of devices to achieve some original or newly conceived purpose.”

Vehicle-to-grid connectivity is a huge trend!Tesla isn’t participating fully yet, but it will. Your car battery becomes a part of the energy grid….

Here’s the thing: Elon Musk understands the need for a great IOT architecture. Most CEO’s of Fortune 1000 companies don’t, and until they get someone who does, their project will be a fail. They’ll likely put the future of their company at risk through security and privacy failures, product failures and more.

Get with the program, folks!

I’ve had several keynotes recently where companies in the manufacturing, transportation, automative and financial industry have asked me to come in and help them sort of what is going on with Bitcoin, Blockchain, the Internet of Things, and business model disruption.

That’s typical of the type of highly customized keynote that I take on. What caught the attention of these clients, leading to keynote bookings in Las Vegas, Montreal, Vail and elsewhere, was my keynote topic, “Cryptocurrency, Blockchain, Bitcoin and the End of Money: Understanding the Ultimate Disruption“. Learn about the that topic here.

With that, here are two clips that give you the essence of what you need to know.

First, BitCoin. Seriously, it’s just funny.

Second, Blockchain and the Internet of Things? Massive. 10 years from now, we’ll look back and go, “Whoah!”

If you are in any industry, you need to understand how the Internet of Things and blockchain are coming together, and what it means. As I state at the end, “you don’t need to understand how it works – but you need to understand what it does” in terms of disruption of your industry.

The folks at Hiability decided they needed to share with their customers and their industry the fast trends which are disrupting their world. They are one of the world’s leading provider of on-road load-handling equipment, intelligent services, and digitally connected solutions.

And so they found me.

The result was this article, appearing the Hiability Magazine last month. Enjoy!

The intro? “The future belongs to those who’re fast,” says Futurist Jim Carroll, one of the world’s leading futurists and an expert on trends and innovation. As the line between technology companies and traditional companies blur, everything we know about business from retail to inventory all disappear. How can the logistics, transport and material handling sector cope with this eventuality? Let’s fine out.”

Read the PDF, or click on an image. The full text follows below.

 

The future Is Now!
Hiability Magazine, September 2018
by Payal Bhattar

The future belongs to those who are fast’, says Jim Carroll, one of the world’s leading futurist and trends & innovation expert. As the lines between technology companies and traditional companies blur, everything we know about business from retail to inventory will disappear. How can the logistics, transport and material handling sector cope with this eventuality? Find out.

—-

Imagine a world where production lifecycles are collapsing, where inventory is passé and where companies can mass customize products and send them immediately and directly to consumers. Imagine all this not a harsh reality but a huge opportunity that is knocking at the doors of businesses worldwide.

The logistics sector is the heart of this big disruption. Driven by new technologies like blockchain, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Artificial Intelligence, robotics, 3D printing and analytics. This ‘Amazon effect’ means that we are building a massive new logistics system to get goods directly to people’s homes from factories.

Why store a product when it can be mass customized and sent to the consumer right away through 3D printing and end-of-runway manufacturing? If inventory as a concept disappears, what happens to the very concept of logistics? We will also see neighbourhoods in the future with drone-delivery pads on the driveway. As retail disappears, logistics has taken on a new form and function that is unimaginable,” says Jim Carroll.

Data is King

Take the example of trucks. With technology related to battery storage and electric vehicles developing at a furious pace, moving goods form one place to another is becoming more cost-effective and efficient. Several companies are working on having their own automated fleets where trucks will be self-driven battery-operated electric vehicles that are smaller and compact. Built with just a few thousands auto parts versus the 40,000 to 50,000 parts today these smart vehicles will operate like hyper-connected computers generating several gigabytes of data every hour.

According to a report on the US truckload (TL) Industry by McKinsey, In the long run, autonomous vehicles will reduce the total cost of ownership in the TL industry by 25 to 40 percent, including fuel consumption by 10 percent. Delivery times could fall 30 to 40 percent. Capital expenditures could drop significantly because the number of crashes may decline by about three-quarters. As a result, the bill for insurance will also decline.’

Detroit is no longer in charge – Silicon Valley is. Cars and trucks are essentially becoming hyper-connected intelligent-aware computers that are data-gathering and analysis platforms. They will eventually become an overall part of a massive new energy grid. That’s a big change”, explains Jim Carroll.

In Focus: Last-mile Delivery

It’s not just trucks, big data, robotics and artificial intelligence are already taking over inventory management and warehousing. Today high-vision fully automated forklifts and other robotic and automated guided vehicles are an integral part of the logistics sector. They not only offer more efficiency, higher speed, safety and accuracy in picking and boarding orders for delivery but are also helping companies radically bring down the high costs of fuel and labor.

Experts say that automation and last-mile delivery will lead to unbundling of tasks and create several new jobs which increase the complementarity between human tasks and machine work like supervisors, network managers, fleet managers, drone logistics managers, sensor cleaners, maintenance staff etc.

A report by PwC UK explains, ‘new technologies in areas like AI and robotics will both create some totally new jobs in the digital technology area and, through productivity gains, generate additional wealth and spending that will support additional jobs of existing kinds, primarily in services sectors that are less easy to automate.’

Beyond the Horizon / The Need for Speed

So what are the key trends for 2018 and beyond? Industry experts say that the Internet of Things, robotics, last-mile delivery solutions will continue to fuel the growth of the sector and reshape its landscape. Cobots or collaborative robots that interact with humans and work with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will replace robots that operate with limited guidance.

As direct-to-consumer manufacturing becomes dominant, the middleman will be eliminated or changed in significant ways. There’s a lot of hysteria about job loss, but few are taking about the new jobs and careers that are emerging, “ says Carroll.

In the year ahead, safety & cyber security will assume more importance for the logistics sector, mobile applications will play a big role and technologies to beat the weak spots in autonomous delivery and transport will emerge. It’s going to be a completely different world and only the nimble-footed will survive. Are you ready?

 

This morning, I have a situation where a client is considering me to headline an event in the road building industry.

I’m encouraging them to get on the phone with me to help them understand I’m the right guy for a highly customized keynote on the future of roads and highways, but while waiting on that, I thought I would simply write them a keynote topic description! Why not – I’ve been doing numerous customized keynotes in this area. Here’s a video clip from a recent one in which I talk about the impact of hyper-connectivity and the Internet of things on the future of roads and bridges – and the fact that none other than Amazon has this business in their sights!

Keynote: The Future of Intelligent Roads and Intelligent Highway Infrastructure

The pace of change with future road and highway technology is going, if you pardon the pun, from fast to furious!

We are witnessing the arrival of intelligent highway monitoring technology, embedded into roads, bridges and other aspects of our transportation system, accelerating the business of road technology to the speed of Silicon Valley. The arrival of V2I (“vehicle to infrastructure”) technology, which allows cars and vehicles to communicate with this embedded, intelligent infrastructure, providing for more robust, intelligent traffic routing. The emergence of the Internet of Things, which promises a new era of hyper-connectivity in the design of vehicles and everything that they interact with. The arrival of new construction methodologies and ideas involving 3D printing, advanced robotics and virtual construction capabilities. An acceleration in the very nature of the materials used in bridge and road construction, such as developments in the science of concrete that leads to new opportunities for tensile strength. The fact that  Amazon is now a harbinger for business model disruption in the ‘business of traffic’ – the organization actually owns a patent involving big data and analytics related to traffic flow, which might provide for a pay-per-access to intelligent highway routing capabilities! The era of self-driving cars, which will take the industry from a slow and simple world of innovation to one that parallels the speed of smartphone innovation! Advancements in battery technology, the rapid evolution with the electrical grid as a result of renewable energy and other trends — and the sudden arrival of roads which charge vehicles as part of the business model of transportation! Intelligent street lights which become an overall part of the transportation system, providing for monitoring, analysis and traffic management! Then there is the skills issue – as the build a more complex road and highway infrastructure of the future, the current range of skills might not be up to the task. Not to mention the arrival of the next generation who will arrive on the job site with their iPad, mobile device, with full expectations of a hi-tech, advanced and sophisticated future of road construction.

Whoah! That’s a lot — and it’s all happening faster than any road and highway infrastructure executive realizes. What is today’s modern road and highway infrastructure executive to do? Align to the opportunities of tomorrow rather than just the challenges of today! Clearly we live in a time of massive challenge, and yet one of massive opportunity, with every industry and organization impacted by business model disruption, the emergence of new methodologies, the impact of technology, and an acceleration of all trends.  Those very things which might have worked for us in the past might be the very anchors that could now hold us back as the future rushes at us with ever increasing speed, particularly in the traditionally slow industry of road-construction

In the era of Uber, Tesla and Amazon, leaders must have the insight into unique opportunities for innovation and change. Everywhere we look, we can see acceleration, speed, and velocity: and in times like these, time isn’t a luxury.

In this keynote on the future of roads and highways, Futurist Jim Carroll takes you on a voyage into how the new rules of business and technology are providing for a reality in which the spirit of agility isn’t just an option – it’s the new normal!

 

 

Back in the fall, I was the opening keynote speaker for the Annual Coffee, Tea & Water show in Dallas, put on by the National Automatic Merchandising Association. Great feedback – one fellow wrote “Jim, it was just simply astounding. I go to a lot of events and see a lot of speakers, but you hammered home the point that change is inevitable with solid insight, indisputable facts and powerful motivation. Well done!

That’s my job – to take you in the future. It’s why organizations like NASA, Disney, BASF and hundreds of others have engaged me to come in for a talk to rattle their cages.

“Talk about disruption, in just 90 minutes, Jim Carroll, futurist, and trends and innovation expert, managed to terrify me, Miss geeky nerd!” Is this the right approach to the future? Read on!

And sometimes, fear is a great motivator!

Read this article which just ran in CoffeeTalk, the magazine for the industry association, which just ran. In the context of the quote above, at least I know I am getting through!

Transition and Relentless Disruption as the New Reality
by Kerri Goodman, CoffeeTalk, January 2018

While attending the recent NAMA Coffee, Tea & Water conference, I was impressed/terrified by the keynote speaker whose topic was Innovation, Disruption, and Our Industry. Now, I have always prided myself at being not at just the ‘leading edge’ of technology, but at the ‘bleeding edge’ blazing trails through trial and error, rather fearlessly. In fact, CoffeeTalk launched our website in 1994, quite some time before even Coca Cola!

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“Inaction in the face of opportunity is but an excuse!” – #Futurist Jim Carroll

Part of the role of a futurist is to provide people insight into the trends that will be a part of their future, but also to put into perspective the opportunities these trends present. A lot of people get excited when they see what I can offer in that regard.

But people are funny – and here’s a good story you can think about to see if you are suffering from a culture of inaction.

I recently had a call from a senior VP of a major company in the retail industry. She thought that it would be extremely helpful to bring me in to their upcoming corporate leadership meeting – with so much change in retail they need to be challenged in their thinking. With clients like Disney, The GAP, Pepsi, Godiva, and more, I certainly have a track record for doing just that – I spend a lot of time speaking to the massive and fast trends sweeping the world of retail. I even have separate keynote topics on retail and the Amazon effect.

Fast forward. She wrote back last week, indicating that their CEO didn’t think it was a good time to be doing this. As in, stay the course. Stick with the status quo. They didn’t need to be challenged right now ; they had a strategy and needed to see it through. They might think about doing a deep-dive future session next year. Something like that.

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In more industries than you think, Amazon is the elephant in the room. My experience has taught me that in every single industry, regardless of what you do and what you sell, you are or will soon be faced with a situation in which they will challenge your business model, and shake your belief in the future to the core.

Why not change that before it changes you?

What do you do as this situation comes about? Don’t wait for Amazon to disrupt you – disrupt yourself and disrupt Amazon first!

This particular photo is from an event with several hundred insurance brokers. Might Amazon disrupt the world of insurance? It’s certainly possible -the phrase used for this type of disruption carries the fancy term “disintermediation” – it simply means that that the middleman is cut out of a business relationship.

Let’s coin a new phrase for what is happening — the Amazonification of industries. Continue Reading

Disruption in the insurance industry is real – and the largest broker/agent association in the US (Texas) has booked me to come in and provide a path forward.

In January, I will keynote the 55th annual Joe Vincent Management Seminar in Austin, Texas. Watch the preview video now!

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