Driving New Business Value with IoT An Interview with IoT Expert Maribel Lopez

IoT hasn’t lived up to its hype but that doesn’t mean it can’t deliver value. The question for most organizations is how to use IoT for more than delivering better data and minor efficiency improvements. This requires rethinking business processes. Recently, SAP asked me to share my thoughts on this topic for their SAP Insider audience. Below is a link to the podcast that describes how equipment manufacturers can use IoT strategies to deliver new business value.

Driving New Business Value with IoT

Interview with IoT Expert Maribel Lopez

 

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If you’d rather read the podcast, the transcript is below.

Transcript

Hello and welcome to the SAPinsider podcast. I am excited to be joined by Maribel Lopez. Maribel is the founder of Lopez Research, a market research and strategy consulting firm. She’s also the co-founder of the Emerging Technology Research Council, a community of business and technical leaders in Fortune 1000 companies focused on driving innovation and business value with mobile, cloud, IoT, and advanced analytics solutions such as machine learning. Maribel is the author of the Wiley book “Right-time Experiences” and a contributor to Forbes. Her clients range from start-ups to global firms, including 5 of the Fortune 20. Prior to founding Lopez Research, Maribel gained her expertise by working at Motorola, International Data Corp., Shiva Corporation and Forrester Research. Follow her on
Twitter @MaribelLopez and on Forbes.
Maribel: Thank you for having me.

Matt: What is the internet of things?

Maribel: Great question. The internet of things can be really any connected device. The importance of IoT is that it is connected and it can transmit data. It could be as simple as a thermostat in your home or as complex as the instrument board in mining equipment. They are really all about connectivity and delivering data.
Matt: How are manufacturing companies and other businesses using these connected devices to generate data?

Maribel: I think the move to an IoT connected device strategy really provides a lot of great opportunities for manufacturers and businesses in general. One of the things we are seeing is that if you are a manufacturer, you can gain operational insights and improve your product quality by connecting your hardware.

A second thing we see happening is you can improve the customer experience with connected services. I think that is across all kinds of companies. This could be in terms of the pure looking at connecting something that is in the home, if you’re connecting equipment that is for business, or just in terms of building applications and connecting to things that happen in your cell phone. Really, this concept of improving the customer experience, whether it’s a consumer facing product or a B2B facing product.

Then, I think the third opportunity is deriving new revenue opportunities by serving customers in new ways. I think this quite applicable in the manufacturing and equipment space because instead of just building a product and selling it, you have the opportunity to now offer a set of services around it.

Matt: For equipment manufacturers, what are some specific use cases for what they can gain from an IoT evolution?

Maribel: For equipment manufacturers, there really quite a few things they can gain, but I think it comes down into a couple of categories that are really super important.
The first one is being able to baseline equipment performance and improve the future product design. In the past, it was very difficult to collect feedback on how the products were working and how the customers were using them. Now, you can sensor enable a product, you can understand its performance, you can understand its utilization. That can allow you to create a baseline of future iterations of that product. It can be better in terms of cost of repair, it can be better of terms of making it easier for the customer to use.

I think the second thing everyone is quite concerned with is you need to have a quality product in this day and age. Quality is one of the key factors of customer experience and basically product repurchases. In order to do that, you need to create some lead indicators that can indicate failures. You want to understand if a piece of equipment is going to fail before it fails and be able to alert the customer, be able to order a part, send them some information. Whatever needs to happen so that customer doesn’t experience any downtime. I think creating these lead indicators to prevent equipment failures is a very important aspect that IoT can help with.

The third part is combining your data with third party data to enhance your products. Let’s say you an air conditioning manufacturer and you can actually hook into weather data and in a building you can help control the environment based on if its hot or cold, based on how the heat is hitting different parts of the building. Connecting the third party data and using your sensor data combine to deliver a better, more enhanced experience for your products.

Matt: You mentioned how IoT can change the customer experience for manufacturers. Is there any chance in how, with IoT data, manufacturers are changing their supply chain model, with regard to their customers?

Maribel: When we look at the supply chain and IoT, they are a match made in heaven. One of the things that is really important for an equipment manufacturer is to understand how parts are performing and if they are performing poorly and they need to get a new part, understanding where those parts are in the supply chain and how to actually integrate that so you can have just in time repairs or even just in time manufacturing. So understanding perhaps the history of what that part has been performing at. If you have tires, what’s the actual wear and tear, the real mileage on those tires, how often you would have to change things out. All of these are very important to making sure your supply chain runs extremely efficiently and you have the right goods in the right location when you need them.

Matt: For a customer facing IoT strategy, what should manufacturers focus on to ensure their customers benefit from the better data?

Maribel: Obviously when manufacturers are gathering data, they want to make sure that this data is useful to the customers. One of the things they are trying to do is improve the operational visibility, understanding with things such as remote monitoring how they would have to do repairs and services. How they might help the customer optimize the use of the equipment.

This is data that really didn’t exit for the customer before. It was either on/off or break/fix. Now there is an opportunity to have a partnership with the customer where you are actually advising the customer on how to make more use of their assets, on how to make sure their assets have better uptime, and how to basically prevent things such as unscheduled maintenance or downtime. What you can really do is effectively schedule things so that the customer is always operating at its most efficient. This really creates this type of partnership where you want to do more business and work to building new business models with the customer.

Another thing I think is really important in terms of this operational visibility is that if you do have a service call, you want to make sure that these service calls are done efficient way. You want to send somebody out for repair, they don’t have the right part, they don’t know what’s wrong with the equipment, and they are spending a great deal of time just figuring out what the problem is. You want to eliminate that understanding of what the problem is and just say “Ok, we already know what the problem is, we know how to fix it. We are here to help, we are going to get you up and running as fast as possible.” That is the type of service call someone wants to have., which is very different than what we’ve had in the past. That helps in terms of minimizing unnecessary downtime, but it also really helps in that partnership with your client to say “We understand your needs, we are servicing your needs in the most effective way.”

Matt: What are some ways manufacturers can leverage IoT strategy to increase sales?

Maribel: Right now, when you look at manufacturers, they are selling a product. They might be selling that product one time and they might sell it with consumables, think of the razor blade model. You need razor blades with a razor. We can actually go a lot farther with IoT. One of the examples of that is moving from just building and selling a product to delivering equipment as a service to compliment your existing product sales. Its not just the concept of leasing equipment, it’s the concept of delivering something as a service. It’s not just a railroad car, but it is train service. Its not a jet engine, it is hours of flight uptime. You are working with the customer to figure out what is their actual need, how are they going to utilize this, and how can you provide them with ongoing service which gives you an ongoing revenue stream.

The other thing that is interesting about this is, it also means you are constantly updating and evolving the product, so that they get new features. That creates a stickiness with your customer. Instead of just selling them something once and then maybe five years later they come back and they are in a competitive bid and its you against someone else and it comes down to price. You’ve now created a relationship. You’ve created a service cadence. They are invested with working with you and you are invested in making sure their products are always up to date.

Matt: Are there any opportunities to generate revenue from the data that IoT devices are generating?

Maribel: You’ve actually amassed a great deal of data and that data in aggregate can be very valuable and you can start to look at data as services offering. So, for example, if you are in farming equipment, you might look at a connected products strategy that says I’m going to take the data from the farming equipment, I’m going to take all this information about soil, I’m going to take information about yield, and I’m going to put that all together and that delivers a piece of insight. That insight can help farmers understand how to have better yield with their crops. That is valuable insight and that is insight that people will pay for. That is the goal of taking the IoT data and perhaps integrating some of that third party data that might have been weather, soil conditions in specific areas. Pulling all that together and saying “OK, I’ve now analyzed this, I have some insight about how you can have better performance in your business” and that’s a data as a service offering.

I think you start by connecting equipment, I think you then move into a remote management monitoring and as a service strategy as a second stream of revenue, and then your third stream of revenue is delivering actionable insights to your customers that use big data and analytics tools, that leverage the power of cloud computing to deliver dashboards and visibility and control. These are some of the new models that I think equipment manufacturers can benefit from if they embrace an IoT plus cloud strategy.

Matt: You mentioned the cloud. Is this one the technology upgrades that are needed to prepare for a move to IoT?

Maribel: I think every company, regardless of whether or not they are a manufacturer, needs to think about how cloud computing can impact their strategy. Cloud offers many things. It offers a way to have highly scalable infrastructure. It offers a way to have new platform as a service that can deliver new skills into your cloud services, maybe this is some of that third party data we talked about. It could be calculators, development tools, middleware, machine learning services, there is just a wealth of platform as a service that is on top of the infrastructure that you can access and those two things combined create a tremendous amount of agility in your business and in your backend infrastructure. That agility in your backend infrastructure is going to allow you to think more creatively about how you deliver products and services.

Its also going to provide you with the ability to provide a front end to your customers and connection to these new services that we talked about, where’s their data going to go, how’s it going to be analyzed, how are you going to provide them dashboards. All of that is something that can be impacted positively by a robust cloud strategy.

Matt: Why do IoT deployments fail?

Maribel: There are so many reasons IoT deployments can fail but I think a couple are at the top of the list. The first is connecting is not enough, you can connect your equipment, but you really need to think what is the business goal and outcome I’m trying to generate by that connection. What data am I going to collect, how am I going to analyze that data, what new services am I going to provide as a result of that data. Once you have what I call the “what”, the what or the why. Why am I connecting this and what am I going to do once its connected. Then you have to figure out the how.

A lot of people fail with the what, they spend all this time thinking about how to get devices connected as opposed to what am I going when I connect them. Then, if you know what you’re going to do when you connect them, its only then that you select the right services. Trying to figure out what products and services you need before you understand what services you’re going to deliver makes it very challenging to pick the right solution. You might pick the wrong platforms if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing.

I think having that coordinated strategy of understanding what you’re trying to deliver and then, making sure that you can actually connect that with your existing infrastructure. You got supply chain management, you got enterprise resource planning, you got finance, you have all these systems in your organization that you also need to make sure integrate into your new IoT stack. How do you do that? These are questions that I think people have to be very conscious of when they are selecting.

The other thing is that IoT is really an ecosystem, so you don’t just roll up to the market and buy IoT. You actually have different pieces and you have lead vendors that work together to provide you a solution. It could be your cloud computing provider with your SCM ERP provider combined with a specialized fast software company that does building automation and industrial controls, for example. So these all need to come together and be integrated to deliver an end solution.

Matt: As we finish the podcast, what advice would you like to give customers when creating an IoT strategy?

Pick a business problem that matters, something around generating revenue or improving the product quality and customer experience or reducing the cost. You could have a scenario where your equipment is failing all the time and a connected product strategy could help you find out what’s wrong with that and how to fix it before there are critical issues.

So job one is to pick a problem that matters and then job two is to design solutions and technologies around that problem and expand from there. You need to land with one strong key project, get a quick win, and evolve into multiple things that could transition your business.

Manufacturers in every organization are struggling with the concept of innovation and not just innovation for innovation’s sake, but innovations that matter. How do you get to innovations that matter? Well you could sit in a room or you could gather customer feedback. How do you gather that customer feedback in a way that is quantifiable and fast so that you can act on it in a quick and meaningful way? One of the things that’s great about a connected product strategy is it gives you that data and insight into what’s happening with the customer, what happening with the product, and then you can match that against the market to figure out if you’re competitive or not and what might be the next thing that you move in your innovation cycle, how do you prioritize that innovation cycle, and this data that you get can help you do that.

Matt: Thank you for your time today Maribel. Listeners, you can learn more about this topic by reading the new report by Lopez Research, “Driving New Business Value with Connected Equipment” .

Maribel: Thank you so much for having me.

Maribel Lopez Speaks On MWC Panel For Delivering New Business Value With Connected Equipment

Image of Maribel Lopez of Lopez Research to speak on Business Value of Connected Equipment at Mobile World Congress 2018

Sensor-enabling equipment promises new efficiencies such as predictive maintenance and asset tracking. However, IoT can do much more if a manufacturer designs a strategy to deliver new services based on the data and/or moves from delivering a product to delivering equipment as a service. Come visit me at Mobile World Congress 2018 where I’ll speaking on panel with several other industry analysts on strategies to deliver new business value with connected equipment.

For more updates and insights from Lopez Research, please sign up for my newsletter here and follow me on Twitter here.

 

Webinar: Digital Transformation and the Modern App Factory

Join us on February 21, 2018 at 11:00am ET for a webinar on digital transformation and application modernization

Highly responsive applications are the foundation of a successful digital transformation, leading to better business processes, increased sales and deeper customer engagement. Join Lopez Research founder and Forbes contributor Maribel Lopez, to see how market leaders are redesigning their existing apps and processes for a mobile, cloud-native world. She will discuss how a modern app factory speeds both development and updates for apps that lead the industry in user adoption and engagement. Topics include:

  • How to decrease the time it takes to develop and update applications
  • How to improve adoption and engagement by delivering better performing apps
  • How to reduce the cost and complexity of mobilizing enterprise data

Sign up here

Maribel Lopez, founder of Lopez Research

Maribel Lopez, Founder of Lopez Research and Data For Betterment

About Maribel Lopez
Maribel Lopez is a technology industry analyst and strategic advisor at Lopez Research. She is the author of “Right-Time Experiences: Driving Revenue with Mobile and Big Data” and the co-founder of the Emerging Technology Council. Maribel helps companies understand and navigate digital transformation by analyzing today’s most powerful tech trends, including mobile, cloud big data analytics and IoT. Her clients include firms of all sizes, from startups through Fortune 500 companies.

Maribel Lopez to Keynote Innovation Summit Discussing AI and Data For Betterment

New technologies such as artificial intelligence, mobile app development, and better utilization of big data are key to any organization’s digital transformation. I’m excited to be speaking at the Vacaville Innovation Summit as part of the Data For Betterment’s non-profit mission to educate companies on the future of work. I hope to see you there. Please register at innovatevacaville.com

For other news, please follow me on twitter at @MaribelLopez and subscribe to my newsletter at http://eepurl.com/cfCrJY

Digital Transformation Requires a Modern App Factory

Man using tablet

Digital transformation means modernizing apps, enabling work anywhere

Digital transformation requires companies to reinvent business processes to support new work styles and leverage the power of new technologies such as mobile and IoT. At the same time, IT leaders must rethink their application development strategies to support a rapidly changing market. The development process has to shift from delivering a sizable code release on an infrequent basis to smaller updates delivered in shorter timeframes, such as weeks. A technology solution for application development must also support the development of cross-platform, transactional applications that work online and offline.

A flexible, continuous delivery model is difficult to achieve with today’s standard IT development tools, which take weeks to set up development and test environments and require significant maintenance. Market leaders are tackling this challenge by developing a modern application factory using new application development platforms. These platforms provide building blocks to create applications, connect these applications to backend systems and modify these applications quickly. The question is: How do you bridge the technology gap between today’s rigid enterprise stack, to what’s needed to support designing modern application experiences?

Cloud Enables Robust Modern App Factories

Cloud computing-based services have emerged as a critical component in delivering these new design experiences. At Lopez Research, we see companies using the cloud in three ways to modernize app development, including:

1)    Replacing an application with a SaaS app. This choice doesn’t address the overall challenge of designing a scalable application development environment, but it allows a company to modernize a handful of apps fast. The downside is that it doesn’t allow for any customization of the application and it’s a pay per user model.

2)    Do-it-yourself on the cloud. In this approach, a company assembles its own components in the cloud and creates a custom platform. The IT team gains the flexibility to design whatever it likes with better scalability delivered through cloud-enabled on-demand compute and storage. However, the company is still managing all of the hardware, software and DevOps aspects of its applications. The downside is that it’s costly, time-consuming and requires nearly as much management as building a platform on site.

3)    Purchase an integrated serverless platform. In this solution, the application development team can purchase a platform that offers a set of standardized, reusable components, such as backend integration, client-side development tools and authentication services. Instead of building and managing every aspect of the design from scratch, such as deploying VMs and patching software, a company purchases a pre-integrated set of platform services.

You can liken options two and three to building an automobile. An automaker can build a state of the art automotive plant where you continually add new hardware and software, and need to maintain the factory. In this case you get precisely what you want, but you have the time and expense of setting up the factory. Additionally, if you need to make modifications to the factory, it’s time-consuming and expensive. Or you can build the car from a kit, assembling the parts to speed up your manufacturing time while gaining options for customization.

Of the three options, the serverless platform provides a lower cost, faster time to market and easier maintenance. Like other cloud services, it provides scalability to support building a large volume of apps and rapid scaling to support spikes in usage. It also provides access to new features with dramatically new levels of productivity, and gives you the ability to focus on your app and user experience.

What Should You Look for in a Cloud-Based Serverless Platform?

A leading application experience requires a rich set of analytics to understand application crashes, performance and usage. An application needs access to backend systems to enable transactions. A platform should offer the ability to abstract and connect to information within legacy systems of record and systems of engagement such as ERP, corporate identity and CRM, using reusable services.  It also should incorporate data synchronization for offline access. In most cases, your company will have specific requirements around what IaaS cloud provider it wants to use, which means the platform should work on multiple clouds. These are just a few of the critical elements of a modern technology platform.

App development tools are always evolving.  A cloud-first development strategy has helped many companies’ digital transformation efforts thrive by enabling a modern app factory with access to new features and minimizing management challenges.

Please join me for my upcoming webinar related to this topic with Progress Software titled Digital Transformation Requires a Modern App Factory.   

GE Digital CEO Shares Insights On Digital Transformation In Industrial Markets

Every company must be digital-driven to thrive

For publicly traded companies, it’s difficult to build a digital transformation strategy that spans years when investors are looking for quarterly results. To understand how large industrial companies are addressing these challenges, I spoke with Bill Ruh, the CEO of GE Digital. When asked how GE was approaching digital transformation, he replied with a simple, yet powerful statement. “If you can’t master the idea of digital inside your analog business you open the door to commoditization.” Therein lie the challenge and the opportunity for an established company in an increasingly digital era.

GE is widely credited with creating the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) term that describes how the industrial sectors could deliver new value by embracing digital components in a physical industry. The company has also been focused on making this vision a reality by building products in this sector for several years. For example, GE saw an opportunity to reimagine every aspect of the electrical value chain.

During GE’s recent Minds and Machines conference, the company described how its customers, such as the New York Power Authority, are changing their businesses by infusing digital technology into a physical product market such as utilities. The New York Power Authority, with the help of GE technology, now calls itself the world’s first digital utility. It has worked with GE to create a real-time digital replica of its assets and automate many back-office processes. New York Power Authority views itself as the orchestrator of a network of power generation. In other industries, such as aviation, Ruh said GE’s customer could rethink who repairs the engine, how to repair the engine and who will give advice on how to fly them. So not only are companies updating technology, GE’s customers are changing their businesses.

Your client’s business outcomes drive the transformation agenda

The previous examples led to an interesting discussion on how companies need to perceive the process of digital transformation. For GE, Ruh shared that creating an Industrial Internet product isn’t as simple as a vendor redesigning its products with new digital bells and whistles. Delivering new business outcomes for your customer is at the center of how any company should view its digital transformation efforts. For example, at GE designing technology that enables a zero-downtime environment can save a liquid natural gas plant owner up to $100M per day in lost revenue. This type of return on investment changes the value of the vendor within the network and the customer’s overall market opportunity.

For the business to business (B2B) markets, such as the industrial industries, it’s important to understand how your products will ultimately help your customer meet its end consumer’s need. A great example of this occurs in the solar market where you need to supply technology that allows the supplier to keep its costs low while providing features that deliver value to the end customer, such as information on energy consumption.

Another key take away from the conversation is digital transformation requires a catalyst because change for change sake is too hard. GE Digital has multiple business units, but its business units don’t necessarily all operate at the same pace of change. There are industries, such as energy, where the customers have an acute pain point such as falling product prices. In the areas where there is an industry catalyst, change happens faster. Find your catalyst and build solutions for that problem.

Maximizing and growing talent: A key component of any transformation strategy

To close our discussion, Ruh shared that digital transformation at GE isn’t simply a matter of just updating the technology within a company. The key to any company’s success, including GE’s, is creating the right culture and talent. A company must build a culture that brings its people along, making certain everyone makes the digital transition. It requires rethinking jobs, providing training and potentially advancing the company culture in new directions.

As Ruh said, every large company needs to be digital because established firms will never outrun startups. While a large business can’t easily compete on speed, it can compete on scale, assuming it can leverage the benefits of its size — such as brand and customer base. A company needs to bolster internal innovation by growing digital talent within the company, hiring where available and acquiring where necessary. Finally, digital transformation never ends, because leading organizations always strive to make their products easier and more efficient.

Digital Transformation: A View To 2020

Digital transformation (DX) initiatives are on the top of ever CIOs agenda. CEOs from four technology vendors shared their perspective on challenges and best practices in digital transformation during a panel session moderated by Bob Egan of The Sepharim Group at the most recent ET Exchange Summit. The panelists represented companies that provide solutions for IoT, mobility, application enablement and security. Several best practices shared during the session include:

  • Designing security from the outset to fuel DX growth. Security is a significant inhibitor of many transformation efforts. While securing the enterprise isn’t a new trend, it’s clear that security concerns have grown as companies run outdated software and connect new hardware. For example, 82 percent of the companies Lopez Research interviewed strongly agreed with the statement “security concerns have stalled our IoT deployments.” Eric Simone from Clearblade and Daniel Potts from Cog Systems highlighted the opportunity to minimize future security vulnerabilities by securing IoT hardware, middleware and software at the initial design of the solution. Sapho also noted that companies should evaluate their vendor’s security policies to prevent security breaches that could come from compromised systems at the vendor. Of course, it’s clear that companies should also be reviewing security at every layer of the technology stack from the devices through the application.
  • Modernizing and mobilizing applications and workflows for efficiency and differentiated experiences. PowWow Mobile and Sapho described how digital transformation requires companies to update existing applications and processes. Kia Benhia from PowWow Mobile said application strategies fit into one of four Rs that include retiring, refactoring, rewriting and replacing applications. First, a company should retire apps with limited utilization. Refactoring allows companies to modernize the front end without recoding the entire app. In other cases, delivering the best application experience requires rewriting the application to support new workflows and experiences. Companies should also consider replacing apps with more modern off the shelf solutions such as Software as a Service apps for CRM and finance. The challenge for every organization is to categorize, prioritize and design a plan that spans dozens to hundreds of apps.
  • Defining your DX journey. Fouad ElNagger of Sapho noted that DX means different things to different organizations but classified two broad approaches to transformation. The first class of transformation focuses on how to use technology to drive productivity gains. The second area focuses on how to build a modern enterprise for modern employees. Examples of the second type of transformation experience could include scheduling conference rooms with iPads, digital signage, improved collaboration and new customer-facing experiences. Both strategies allow a company to improve its bottom line. In fact, significant numbers are at stake even when focusing on productivity gains. For example, EINagger noted that a half a percentage increase in productivity could be worth as much as $800 million to Conoco Philips’ business.
  • Building bridges to the past. Successful DX strategies recognize that you can’t rip and replace all of the underlying systems that run the business. Modernizing applications and services requires a company to build new systems that can connect with legacy protocols and systems of record. Companies need tools such as APIs, Mobile Backend as a Service and specialized middleware platforms. DX has to incorporate standardization and integration of legacy systems. Cog Systems also noted that it’s important to lean toward automation to improve the user experience.
  • Rethinking the boundaries. Everyone agreed that successful companies must embrace change and define a broader vision of what the company than what it is today. The panel shared examples of how Ford Motor Company views itself as in the transportation business versus solely and automotive manufactured. Meanwhile, Dominos Pizza views itself as an IT company instead of simply a food purveyor.
  • Garnering executive support. Successful transformation requires change agents and evangelists at all levels of the organization. However, DX effort won’t be gain traction until the executive team commits to new projects, increasing the firm’s risk tolerance and ensuring there’s appropriate funding for transformation projects.

One thing is certain. To thrive in such a dynamic landscape, a company must have a strong digital discipline regardless of the industry they’re in.

 

This article was originally posted on Forbes.com

Intel Boosts Vision-based Contextual Computing With New Products

Intel's Movidus Myriad X Chip Source: Intel

Intel’s Movidus Myriad X Chip Source: Intel

Early examples of machine learning and artificial intelligence surround us today, yet we don’t think of it as such. It’s how our voice messages get transcribed. It’s the algorithms that surface the right information for internet searches. It’s the technology that fuels how Amazon and Netflix make recommendations for us. Machine learning and AI are the foundations for voice and digital assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, Apple’s Siri and Google’s assistant.

Vison-related machine learning is also prevalent in our day to day existence through features such facial recognition for tagging on Facebook and discovering funny cat videos on YouTube. While voice assistants garnered all the media attention recently, vision-related machine learning solutions have rapidly evolved. Intel’s AI group’s latest announcements highlight an example of this fast-moving progress.

Intel’s Movidius team, part of the new Artificial Intelligence Products Group, announced the third generation of its Vision Processing Unit (VPU) platform called the Myriad X family in late August. The Myriad X platform is a computer vision system on a chip (SOC). The architecture includes a neural network compute engine, which provides the onboard power necessary to support machine learning deep learning and artificial intelligence applications. The architecture offers imaging and vision accelerators to be used for items such as stereo depth, feature extraction and warp/dewarp.

The result of changes in the platform is an overall 10x improvement in the available floating-point performance on DNNs compared to the previous generation. These means faster, more granular and precise image recognition for applications where it matters such as autonomous driving.

This announcement follows quickly on the heels of its July launch of the Movidius Neural Compute Stick, a USB-based development kit for ultra-low power embedded deep neural networks. It a deep learning accelerator and development kit that enables deep learning inference and artificial intelligence (AI) applications at the edge. It can be used to add vision processing capability to low-end computing environments, such as Raspberry Pi. It’s nearly one year since Intel’s acquisition of Movidius, and it’s good to see the company launch two new products within this timeframe.

What does this mean for a company’s digital transformation efforts?

Faster, more accurate vision processing can improve multiple business cases. Remi El-Ouazzane, Intel’s Vice President of the New Technologies Group & General Manager of Movidius, said he believes vision can improve every industry but outlined four clear near-term use cases where VPUs can be deployed today that include drones, augmented reality, security and surveillance as well as robotics.

Each of these applications employs multiple Convolutional Neural Network (CNNs) in parallel. CNNs mimic the biologic structure of human sight and use relatively little pre-processing compared to other image classification algorithms. The CNN network learns the filters that in traditional algorithms that previously had to be designed by data scientists.

The marketplace needed a new type of vision processing because real contextual services require companies to aggregate, analyze and act on new sensor information at the edge. For this to work, you need a low powered hardware, cameras, enhanced algorithms and cloud services. Technologies like Myriad X and Intel’s Nervana allow business to embrace vision as a contextual element.

What does it mean for Intel?

PCs and mainframes rule computing but as the IoT market unfolds the number and type of connected computing devices have proliferated. It’s not enough to just provide a connected device in this new world of Internet of Things (IoT) and AI. Devices need to be smart as well. Part of being intelligent requires the ability to process a certain amount of data at the edge where it’s created and integrate that data into business workflows. It makes sense that Intel would focus on this technology because VPUs, deep learning and AI are the foundations for the next generation of connected computing.

However, it’s still early days in this market, and Intel’s not alone. AMD and Nvidia have their take on the machine learning, deep learning and contextual computing landscape. This competition will keep innovation flowing in the space.

This article was originally posted on Forbes.com.

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Dell’s Premium Support Plus Brings Automated Support To Consumer PCs

New PC hardware, like the new Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming Laptop that Dell announced at IFA, generate buzz but what keeps consumers happy and returning to a PC vendor? Ease of use, maintenance and support. One offering that typically separates a business PC from a commercial PC is the ability to purchase a robust support contract. However, the difference between business and consumer PC use has blurred. Competition has intensified, and PCs are becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate. Dell has decided to add up the ante in the consumer market with a new top-tier of support called Dell Premium Support Plus.

It offers 24×7 phone support, onsite service after remote diagnosis and hardware and software support. At the heart of the offering is Dell’s SupportAssist software technology with key service aspects that include:

  • Automatic PC optimization. The software scans the hardware, cleans the files, gets drivers and downloads, and optimizes both network and device performance.
    Predictive and proactive alerts. The system predicts and informs the user of potential failures to minimize downtime. It also proactively alerts the user of issues and can automatically alert Dell support as well, saving the consumer time.
  • Automated virus and malware removal. With a wave of new security threats, consumers need an easy way to protect their PC. Dell’s support offering automatically scans the PC for viruses, quarantines the threat, alerts the user and removes it. It keeps a log in the SupportAssist history tab so the user can review the actions taken.
  • Accident recovery. This aspect of the service covers the fairly common occurrence of PC damaged from drops and spills.
  • Various levels and types of support. The service offers flexibility via email support or one-on-one personalized support with an agent or a combination of both.

According to Dell’s research, the service will be a significant time saver with up to 88 percent less time spent on issue resolution and up to 77 percent fewer steps in the support process when compared to other premium service offers.

There are several nice features of the service. First, it helps you understand if your current configuration is optimized for the right performance. When a PC is new, this feature doesn’t seem as important. After several months of use, it’s easy for a consumer to have a bloated suboptimal configuration. Transferring the contents of an old PC to a newer model also brings with it duplicate files, out of data applications and other areas that can be optimized.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a hot buzz word in the media but proactive and predictive alerts are real world applications of AI. It can predict items such as hard drive failure or send proactive alerts to let you know that your battery failed. A proactive alert can automatically contact Dell to log a support request and ask you to confirm your details for support.

Most consumer PCs are vulnerable to malicious software because security is a pain to deploy, update and manage. Dell’s new service aims to minimize security woes by ensuring the PC has the right security with minimal user intervention. To do this, Dell has automated virus scanning and removal. With ransomware and other threats on the rise, any support for eliminating security threats is welcome. The consumer service mirrors what Dell offers in the commercial market in many ways. The automation, predictive services, and security aspects have been field tested with enterprise deployments. It’s good to see the concepts of enterprise grade support filtering down to the consumer marketplace.

Clearly, PC support and maintenance has been a long standing consumer pain point in the industry. Apple successfully used customer support as a competitive differentiator. The Apple Genius Bar services are the hallmark of in-person care, but it doesn’t provide the same type of software-based predictive support and virus removal. Clearly, consumers need a simpler, proactive solution to deal with the mounting security threats and hardware management. It will be interesting to see what Lenovo, HP Inc. and others will offer next on the customer care front to compete with Dell’s offering.

3 Tips For Building A Software-Driven Enterprise

Delivering meaning digital transformations excites and torments IT leaders due to its constantly changing nature. Lopez Research is always on the lookout for insights on how to navigate this new IT paradigm, especially when the ideas come from a seasoned veteran of transformation. At the recent CA Technologies. “Built to Change” summit, I had the opportunity to meet with Otto Berkes, the company’s Executive and CTO. Mr. Berkes previously served as the chief technology officer at HBO, spent 18 years at Microsoft and was one of the four original founders of Xbox.

Otto Berkes, CTO of CA Technologies

Otto Berkes, CTO of CA Technologies

Berkes is also the author of Wiley & Son’s book Digitally Remastered – Building Software into Your Business DNA. (Coincidentally the same publisher as my Right-time Experiences book that describes how to approach building better customer and employee experiences in an increasingly connected world.) The conference and my interview with Mr. Berkes focused on the IT imperative to design a modern software factory. The book, whose proceeds support Code for America, describes the challenge and opportunity of redesigning software for the new world of digital engagement.

Digitally Remastered written by Otto Berkes

As you know, digital transformation isn’t new. However, the pace and extensive IT disruption caused by digitizing the business is more pronounced in this timeframe. Berkes make a prescient point when he states that “technology has moved from a supporting role in the firm to a driving force of growth and engagement.” Perhaps you could say that was always true, but I don’t believe it. Anyone looking at a software package designed in the late 1980s knows that these systems, while digital, aren’t the pinnacle of tools for driving engagement and growth.

When Right-time Experiences was released in 2014, I wrote about how social, mobile and cloud computing would change both employee and customer engagement. In 2018, these concepts are foregone conclusions. Yet many businesses haven’t built the systems to must support in real-time two-way engagement and business process completion for both consumers and employees. Why? I posit that difficulty moving to a modern software-driven organization is the cause of these woes.

Image of Right-time Experiences, written by Maribel Lopez of Lopez Research LLC and published by John Wiley and Sons

Right-time Experiences, written by Maribel Lopez of Lopez Research LLC and published by John Wiley and Sons

Agile development, organizational changes and APIs are key to a modern software-driven business. Agile, much like digital transformation, has been around for decades. However, most companies aren’t organized for agile development which requires small teams, which work in spurts. The team and process incorporate the whole application lifecycle from design to testing to maintenance in one group. It’s a complete shift from the waterfall, command and control model that IT organizations have built their existing practice on. Companies literally must change how the business organizes and operates. As we all know, change is hard.

But the need for speed is real. Software-driven enterprises, whether startups or established companies, can respond to changing market dynamics faster. If it takes multiple quarters to change a system, your company will fall behind the competition. Everyone knows this, yet why don’t we act? For some time, there was a belief that the technologies weren’t ready but that isn’t the case today. The Achilles’ heel of digital transformation isn’t technology adoption, it’s the company’s inertia to change.

Three Roadblocks IT leaders must overcome to build a software-driven enterprise

While I could delineate the various technology solutions and strategies IT should be evaluating (e.g., APIs, microservices and security), I think it’s more important to nail three basic concepts before getting mired in technology selection.

First, don’t toy with agile. The road is paved with good development model intentions but failed execution. Lopez Research has spoken with many companies that have used agile for a project or two, but never committed to moving the entire organization to a new development methodology. Without a strong commitment, your company won’t see the benefits because of its running different tools, processes and development schedules. Agile development can start small, but you have to commit to the organizational change.

Second, budgets need to be realigned for a continuous upgrades mindset. One of the benefits of waterfall development is that you lock the scope and theoretically the cost. While I don’t believe the cost estimates every match the actual expenses, companies need to think differently about budgets in an agile world. You’re actually budgeting for quarterly to bi-weekly upgrades. The job is never done. The software becomes a living breathing part of your organization that must constantly evolve as the market changes. There is no “set it and forget it” mindset in a software-driven organization. Refinement, reinvention and innovation are the goals of a software-driven organization.

Third, effective use of data is crucial to any organization’s success. One of the interesting differences in today’s software driven organization is the need to both consume from and share data with third parties. Businesses must break down internal data silos between groups but also look to developing strategies for sharing data with partners. This may require you to rethink data protection, expiration of content, data storage and analytics strategies. For example, It’s unreasonable to expect you’ll create one repository for all of your data so how do you create a consistent and accurate view of a customer across various data sources? How do you anonymize customer data for sharing with a third party? What data can be shared and for how long? What third-party data would improve your products (e.g. reviews, shipping information, weather)? These are the types of questions companies need to answer before selecting various technology solutions.

Digital transformation is a journey, but if you build a solid strategy for the items mentioned above, you’ll build the foundation for the software-driven enterprise.

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