Zebra CTO Tom Bianculli and TWIN Global founder Robert Wolcott
By Tom Bianculli | March 5, 2024

The Future of All Business: Proximity, Scale and Business Model Innovation

What do 3D printing, Nikola Tesla, pharmaceutical production, the future of healthcare, and farming on Mars all have in common? Check out the podcast below to find out!

When I say the word proximity in the context of business, what do you think of? Physically moving your business as close to your customer as possible? Closing the geographic gap? Meeting them where they are? Seems logical considering the extensive efforts made these last few years to deliver value ever closer to the point of demand – to bring goods and services to customers’ doorsteps or even past the doorway.

As you’re going to hear the founder of TWIN Global, Rob Wolcott, explain when you listen to our conversation below, proximity is about delivering product and service value ever closer to the moment of need in time and space. It’s about “business modes and technology platforms that encourage us to procrastinate.”

The idea is that we wait as long as possible, until the last possible but reasonable moment to take action, whether that’s waiting to produce something, move something, mark the price down, even make it available.

We’re not talking about reimagining a supply chain model. We’re talking about completely rethinking how business is conducted and, in many cases, doing the opposite of what we’ve always thought was best practice. We’re talking about moving actions closer to the very moment they’re needed – changing the proximity in terms of time and not just space.

If this concept of proximity seems far out – too futuristic or just too far-fetched – know that it’s not only real, but it’s the notion driving many organizations’ success right now. We live in an on-demand world. Yet, we’re largely operating as we did before; we are using past paradigms to execute new business models. But what got us here won’t get us there. In fact, these are among the main reasons innovation efforts and investments may not be having the impact you desire. It may be why you feel like it’s getting harder to keep up with customers, competitors, and market expectations. Digital technologies have pushed the production and provision of value — these products, services, and experiences that our companies offer — nearly to the moment of demand. Not forecasted demand… real, ready-to-pay-for-it demand.

But has your thinking changed to keep up with these changes in how we must work? What kind of change are we even talking about?

Check out this discussion Rob and I had recently – consider it a preview of our MODEX keynote session next week and Rob’s book entitled Proximity coming out in May. Then reach out to let us know your thoughts. 

In addition to exploring this notion of proximity, how Rob came to realize its impact on business success, and some real-world stories of those who have embraced proximity, we also dig into a host of topics:

  • Why we, as a society, still seem to need to build a business case for innovation (even though we know it’s a requirement for survival).
  • The reason innovation efforts and investments don’t always have the desired impact you want.
  • What you can make with just a pencil and an egg, and how a military doctor’s understanding of proximity has made it possible for one company to produce pharmaceuticals on demand – as in, the moment they’re needed.
  • How proximity comes into play in the supply chain, regardless of your industry.
  • How your embrace of proximity – or lack thereof – plays into your survival in the on-demand economy.
  • What defines great leaders.
  • How proximity pushes healthcare from curing things to preventing things (and the other ways proximity transforms how we eat, work, produce, and more).
  • How to know if you’re solving the right problems – and how to know which problems are the right ones to solve.

But if you tune in for no other reason, I encourage you to hear Rob’s thoughts about the importance of proximity in today’s on-demand economy as well as from a forward-looking perspective. There are long-term implications here, especially when it comes to competitive differentiation.  And there is an urgent, immediate need for companies to be aware of current demand and respond accordingly. This is where many companies seem to struggle. All too often, they don’t see what’s happening right in front of them, and when they think bigger picture, the sizeable changes required – both from a mindset and functional perspective – seem unmanageable.

Find out why this is something that people should take seriously and embrace right now as a survival strategy.

Tune into our conversation above or download the MP3 to listen when you have 45 minutes. You can aIso downIoad the transcript here.

What Is Proximity? And Why Is It the Future of AII Business?

Zebra CTO Tom Bianculli and TWIN Global founder Robert Wolcott speak at MODEX 2024

Register now to join our MODEX discussion on March 12, 2024, 12:45 PM - 1:30 PM:


Proximity: How Just-in-Time Everything Transforms Business, Society, and Our Lives


Editor’s Note:

Want to pre-order Rob’s booking that is coming out in May? Grab a copy here

Podcast, Interview, Inside Zebra Nation, Digitizing Workflows, New Ways of Working, Field Operations, Public Sector, Healthcare, Manufacturing, Retail, Transportation and Logistics, Warehouse and Distribution, Hospitality, Banking, Energy and Utilities, Podcast,
Tom Bianculli
Tom Bianculli

Tom Bianculli serves as the Chief Technology Officer of Zebra Technologies. In this role, he is responsible for the exploration of emerging opportunities, coordinating with product teams on advanced product development and Internet of Things (IoT) initiatives. The Chief Technology Office is comprised of engineering, business, customer research and design functions. 

Tom began his career in the tech industry at Symbol Technologies, Inc. (later acquired by Motorola) in 1994 as part of the data capture solutions business. In the following years, he held positions of increased responsibility including architectural and director of engineering roles. 

Tom has been granted over 20 U.S. patents and is a Zebra Distinguished Innovator and Science Advisory Board associate. He was recently named one of the Top 100 Leaders in Technology 2021 by Technology Magazine.

Tom holds bachelor of science and master of science degrees in electrical engineering from Polytechnic University, NYU and serves on the board of directors for the School of Engineering at the New York Institute of Technology.

Zebra Developer Blog
Zebra Developer Blog

Are you a Zebra Developer? Find more technical discussions on our Developer Portal blog.

Zebra Story Hub
Zebra Story Hub

Looking for more expert insights? Visit the Zebra Story Hub for more interviews, news, and industry trend analysis.

Search the Blog
Search the Blog

Use the below link to search all of our blog posts.