The IoT Matures With Solutions Like SAP’s Leonardo

Image of the SAP Leonardo platform that includes The platform include modules such as IoT, analytics, machine learning and blockchain

The platform includes modules such as IoT, analytics, machine learning and blockchain

The IoT market is an ill-defined, nebulous space. While the industry refers to it as the IoT, it isn’t a single product. In reality, the IoT refers to numerous use cases and products that vary across different industries. For example, a mining company and a hospital can both benefit from predictive maintenance, but the problems and implementations are completely different.

A successful IoT implementation requires a coordinated technology and business process transformation strategy. The business process improvement strategy is often overlooked as the technology teams jump into the nuts and bolts of deploying a set of IoT tools. Technology-first thinking is precisely what leads to failed implementations. Companies, fearing they’ll be left behind, have rushed to purchase various IoT components — such as sensors, hubs, and platforms–before the business has defined the problem it’s trying to solve. Leaders in the space have sought out use cases where IoT will improve employee productivity, deliver operational efficiencies and enable new revenue opportunities.

The IoT requires more than one technology change

Once a company defines a set of potential business outcomes, the real fun begins. IoT deployments are anything but simple. Information and operational technology leaders face a morass of vendors, products and integration issues. At a minimum, an IoT solution requires multiple layers that include:

  • Connected devices and communications. The IoT vision requires connecting existing and new equipment with sensors. Additionally, there are many wireless connectivity options such as 3G, WiFI, BlueTooth and LPWAN. A complete list of IoT protocols can be found here. Most organizations get hung up on this first stage of defining the proper devices and connectivity options.
  • A set of connection platform tools. The first iteration of IoT platform solutions was a hub that could connect to data from multiple devices that used different protocols to communicate. Today a broad set of IoT software platforms solutions exist that include items such as device management that focus on configuring, provisioning, troubleshooting and operating the endpoint devices. Like mobile device management, IoT device management supports monitoring, testing, updating software, and troubleshooting connected devices. Wired and wireless connection management must be part of this suite. API management is necessary for connecting to device data and linking this data to applications and system of record/engagement. This layer continues to evolve rapidly.
  • Big data storage and analytics. IoT creates a multitude of new information that varies in volume type and frequency. Connecting and collecting sensor data is useless if you don’t have the right solutions to manage, analyze and create meaningful insights from all this data. Business must decide what data needs to be analyzed in near real-time versus batch processed. The tech team must also define what data will be analyzed centrally versus locally. In some cases, companies will need to balancing marketing’s desire for personalization with the need to maintain the privacy and confidentiality of a user’s data. Once you’ve corralled all of this data, a company also needs to design a long-term machine learning strategy to understand patterns.
  • Security. In a recent Lopez Research study, security topped the list of IoT technology concern for 2017. Companies need a security strategy that extends from the IoT devices through the application layer. This will require multiple software solutions. In some cases, the endpoint IoT devices can’t run security, such as embedded encryption, and companies will need an edge gateway to act as a security intermediary.
  • Applications that use the data & analytics insight. Once companies have collected and analyzed IoT, this data needs to be integrated into a company’s existing systems of record and engagement to create need insights and opportunities for action. For example, a cold supply chain solution can be redesigned to use IoT data such as temperature and humidity to have fact-driven information on product health through its distribution. Many IoT deployments fail because application integration strategies were an afterthought.

SAP aims to help companies run IoT simply with Leonardo 

As you can see, there is a mixture of business and technology decisions that need to be coordinated for an IoT solution to deliver value and market differentiation. On the technology front, vendors are racing to deliver more comprehensive IoT solutions to minimize customer’s implementation woes. Enter SAP’s Leonardo. At the company’s annual SAP SAPPHIRE and ASUG group meeting, a variety of executives took the stage to help SAP’s customers understand how AI, IoT and cloud computing were changing the company’s products and the future of computing.

The company’s CEO, Bill McDermott defined digital business as intelligently connecting people, things and businesses. The conference keynotes showcased how SAP was making efforts to live up to the corporate tagline “Run Simple”. While SAP made many announcements, the bell of the ball was the Leonardo system, which it defines as a digital innovation system. SAP’s Leonardo, not to be confused with the famous polymath Leonardo da Vinci, was clearly chosen as a name to invoke visions of a multi-disciplinary platform that can help its customers achieve IoT success.  The sheer volume of products in SAP’s Leonardo highlights the growing complexity of designing an IoT solution.

Apple’s iOS 11 Fights A Battle Between Innovation And Simplicity

A relentless drive for simplicity made Apple a powerhouse consumer electronics vendor. In a world of fully-featured yet complex products, simplicity is a differentiator and Apple can charge a premium for it. Over a decade ago, the iPhone changed the world by removing buttons for one home button and adding a touch screen. It brought a simple, human element to technology with software that responded to your touch. This new operating system, combined with the move to an app-centric mobile experience, revolutionized the smartphone and eventually the entire computing industry.

Fast forward and the world is different. The rise of Android proved that many people were willing to sacrifice usability for more features and greater customization capabilities. Intense competition in the smartphone market has driven companies to focus on delivering, even more, features at a faster pace. Today’s mobile market suffers from bloated, often buggy operating systems and mobile app software with so many features that customers don’t even know what’s available anymore.

Apple is working hard to make powerful equal simple

 

Image of iOS 11 features improvements from WWDC 2017

Image of iOS 11 features improvements from WWDC 2017 Source: Apple

In its desire to broaden the customer base, Apple’s iOS releases have become behemoths. Last year we saw ten major announcements in iOS 10, this year felt equally significant with features that focused on iPad, messages, files, photos, music and redesigned app store experience. The drive for simplicity was not lost in iOS. In fact, it even won several battles in this latest release. For example:

  •  iMessage gets easier. iOS10 saw the launch of a richer iMessage but many have found the new functions difficult to discover and access. Use of apps and stickers in iMessages apps became easier in iOS 11 with a redesigned app drawer for App Store for iMessage making it easier to decorate messages. A small win but the company still has a way to go if it wants to rival WeChat while remaining the simplicity of Apple. The messages app also syncs across devices.
  • Device and app navigation gets a boost. Apple has worked on improvements in multi-tasking software for several releases now. This time, Apple delivers a more usable set of multitasking features such as a new customizable Dock that provides quick access to frequently used apps and documents from any screen, and a redesigned app switcher makes it easier to move between pairs of active apps in Split View and now Slide Over. The company also added a “drag and drop” function that makes it easier to move images and text across the apps you’re using. The redesigned Control Center quick access to frequently used controls all on one page.
  • A workable file system emerged. Ok, it’s only been ten years since Box and Dropbox redefined easier cloud file storage and file management. In truth, Apple has had both of these for some time, but it finally has brought it up to the latest modern practices. The new Files app provides visibility into all of your apps everything in one place, whether files are stored locally, in iCloud Drive or across other providers like Box, Dropbox.
  •  Siri gets more personal. The company, like others, has an intense focus on machine learning to improve its ability to deal with accents, colloquial phrases and other natural language processing issues. In addition to Siri to voice, Siri will now use on-device learning to deliver more personal experiences. The keynote highlighted an example where a person searched for information on Iceland in Safari and Siri remembered the context of this search in order to suggest information in News and add the correct spelling of cities such as Reykjavik when typing in other apps such as mail, messages. This is just one simple, useful example of how our devices can become more personal.
  • Maps go indoors. Wayfinding in malls, stores and airports is the next wave of location-based services, but it’s been difficult to deploy. Apple Maps is making it a little easier by adding indoor maps for certain airports and shopping centers. It’s not ubiquitous, but it’s a good start. The company also added lane guidance to avoid missing a turn or exit which is a much-needed feature in GPS systems.
  • The keyboard gets a boost. There are many third-party keyboards on the market for mobile devices, highlighting the limitations of existing mobile keyboards. Apple took a stab at eliminating the need for those with the one-handed keyboard mode on iPhone makes typing on the go even easier. Meanwhile, a QuickType keyboard on iPad delivers quick access to numbers, symbols and punctuation.

Apple’s iOS 11: should you be disappointed? No

Of course, there are many additional innovative features that push the experience forward in areas such as photos, person to person Apple Pay etc. You can see a full round up of those features here. Yet, for many, iOS 11 didn’t deliver a big “Wow” in the mobile arena. Samsung received a similarly mixed reception with its S8 launch as did Google’s I/O conference. There appears to be a general trend towards bashing a product if it doesn’t achieve breakthrough innovation.

As I said in last year’s piece on “Incrementalism or Innovation? A Perspective on Google’s IO and Apple’s WWDC” Mobility is a maturing market and you can’t reinvent an industry every year.  The pace of change remains rapid, but the type of change is very different. Software features that appear to be incremental innovations are positive upgrades for the industry. Companies are focused on the refinement of existing functionality.

Consumers and enterprises can only absorb a certain amount of change at any given time. Before we pan the latest releases from companies such as Apple Google and Samsung, we should ask ourselves if we will be happier with mobile products that are faster and more stable than the past.

There are definite opportunities for legitimate breakthrough innovations such as full wireless charging, a two-day battery life, and foldable materials. However, without significant materials innovation, these are just theories and wishes. In lieu of this, companies like Apple, Google and Samsung are focused on making our existing technology experience more frictionless. We have a long way to go in areas such as natural language processing and image recognition. The types of experiences we’re receiving in our mobile phone software weren’t even possible three years ago. The latest wave of big data technologies and machine learning algorithms are delivering amazing breakthroughs in recommendations, image recognition and accessing information with natural speech. We’re seeing the fruits of that labor in iOS11.

My guess is that most consumers aren’t ready or willing to have their world reinvented with another new product category. What customers want is technology that easy and that delivers on its promises. What’s needed is a period of incrementalism that makes today’s innovations rock solid while gently pushing us forward into new features and usage patterns. On that front, I see Apple making progress by balancing innovation and refinements.

This post originally appeared on Maribel’s column at Forbes.com. Sign up for my free newsletter here so you’ll never miss a blog, video recording or research note.

Digital Transformation, Dell Technologies And The Return Of Mega IT Vendors

Dell Technologies Inc. faces high expectations and scrutiny after the epic $60 billion mega-merger of Dell and EMC in 2015. Thousands of people gathered in Las Vegas last week to hear the progress and vision of Dell Technologies at Dell EMC World. The conference theme, Realize, focused on IT strategies that enable companies to deliver digital transformation. The topic is top of mind for both business and IT leaders. While most business leaders have jumped on board with the concept of digital transformation, companies struggle to define what it means and how to enact change.

The formation of Dell Technologies is indicative of a major market transition. Instead of dealing with one major IT or business transition, companies face a multitude of simultaneous organizational and technology changes. At the same time, established companies face intense competition from new entrants that have cheap access to robust technologies such as cloud services. Organizations, regardless of size, must embrace mobility, cloud computing, IoT and new analytics solutions. Established companies must understand how, and where, these major technology trends will intersect. Successful IT efforts will focus on integrated strategies, not isolated technology islands. For example, cloud impacts your mobile strategy with access to scalable infrastructure and platform as a service (PaaS) solutions. Companies can also purchase SaaS apps or use cloud-based development tools to modernize existing applications.

Companies need strategic vendors that can aid navigating these tectonic shifts.  Dell Technologies, a series of seven companies integrated under one umbrella, aims to provide a more integrated suite of services. Yet, it’s not alone. Oracle, Microsoft and others are expanding portfolio offerings to include everything from applications through cloud computing infrastructure. At the time, the merger that seemed crazy.  Today the results of the merger seem on point because companies want to:

  •  Consolidate the vendor landscape. With a multitude of technology and business model changes underway, vendor proliferation and IT complexity have skyrocketed. Companies have been forced to become systems integrators that must integrate and coordinate development cycles from multiple technology providers. IT must find a simpler way to approach digital transformation. Business leaders are returning to the strategic partner model with the best of suite.
  • Modernize applications. Digital transformation requires changes to applications, processes and employee behavioral changes. Companies are looking to the cloud, open source PaaS and SaaS to update apps and improve workflows. Dell noted how important assets such as Pivotal are for creating apps at companies that range from the size of start-ups to Google. But Dell also highlighted how companies are building hybrid infrastructures to support app modernization and how it’s well positioned to provide those solutions.
  • Secure the entire IT stack more effectively.Companies like Dell have numerous touchpoints where it assists companies in building security into the hardware and infrastructure stack. For example, many companies have purchased specialized solutions from over 45 security vendors. While no company can offer a single suite to address all security challenges, Dell can ease some of these woes by delivering security that ranges from the laptops through to the data center.

The Dell Technologies vision promises simplicity but is it a reality? I had the opportunity to speak with and listen to cases studies from numerous Dell-EMC customers at the event. Thus far, customers claim it’s working. For example, Molina Healthcare told me the sales process has been simplified, and that unlike other IT vendors it works with, Dell is easy to do business with. Citi spoke on how they are using Dell infrastructure and virtualization solutions to provide business agility while simplifying complexity. Jaguar and Nike discussed how Dell Technologies was providing new ways for companies to design better products and deliver improved workplace services.

Dell Technologies shared its plans for integration and innovation across all of its units. While there’s a great deal of integration work to be completed, Dell’s private company structure affords the luxury of a reasonable cadence of change. Still one of the greatest ongoing challenges that Dell will face is the ability balance innovation with integration. It’s a challenge all mega vendors and their customer’s face. It will be interesting to watch the progress of traditional IT vendors as these providers engage in their own digital transformation.

Maribel is the founder of Lopez Research, a market research and strategic advisory firm. She’s the author of the Wiley book “Right-time Experiences” Twitter:@MaribelLopez   This article was originally posted on Maribel’s column for Forbes.com  https://www.forbes.com/sites/maribellopez/2017/05/16/digital-transformation-dell-technologies-and-the-return-of-mega-it-vendors/#6d66820e46aa