Distinguished Microsoft Engineer, James Whittaker, on IoT

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There’s a lot of talk about the internet of things (IoT) these days and savvy businesses are jumping on the IoT bandwagon. And for good reason: IoT is a competitive differentiator that can add real value. But understanding what IoT is, what the opportunities are, and how to get started can be a stumbling block.

In this Q&A article, distinguished Microsoft engineer and IoT enthusiast James Whittaker shares his perspective. Meet him in person at the IoT in Action event in San Francisco on February 13th.

In a nutshell, what is IoT?

We’re all familiar with the internet of computers and how they are all connected. They talk to each other and they do useful things with data. It’s the same with our things. Think of IoT like the internet of refrigerators, the internet of buildings, or the internet of thermostats. It’s all about ordinary, everyday objects that communicate and do useful things with data.

Take my hot tub, for instance. My hot tub is now able to self-maintain: it manages and orders its own chemicals, it adds water, it opens and closes its own lid. So, it’s really about machines becoming responsible for themselves. Self-aware, task-aware, human-aware machines.

What are some commercial IoT opportunities?

The number of commercial opportunities is stunning. These opportunities center on figuring out what people need simply based on their daily lives. As machines get smarter, they’re going to be able to pick up our intent from our location or other data. They’ll be able to interact with other machines and ask, “how do I help my user?”

The key to taking advantage of commercial IoT opportunities is approaching consumer needs differently. Instead of creating an app that needs to be found and downloaded, companies must figure out how to meet consumer needs seamlessly, without using a browser or a search engine or other human intervention.

Which opportunities are there for the Microsoft partner ecosystem to expand with IoT?

The partner opportunity centers on owning the data and knowing what data will solve problems for customers. Let’s use the travel industry as an example. Right now, the travel industry is waiting for a consumer to visit their website or download an app to look at flights and hotels. But they shouldn’t have to do that. A partner should be able to pick up that intent to travel immediately wherever it happens and then be able to do something about it at that very moment. And that comes down to data. Getting the data in the cloud and then picking up the intent where it where it occurs in the real world is where partners are critical.

What advantages does Microsoft offer IoT partners?

From a data standpoint, Microsoft has an end-to-end solution: a place to store data and a place to analyze it. Microsoft has a massive amount of experience with data. Bing is one of only two indices of the world’s information. We’re used to serving it at scale, and we’re used to dealing with it scale.

And then of course, there’s Azure. Because Azure offers built-in artificial intelligence (AI) and built-in machine learning (ML), a partner doesn’t have to write machine learning or be an expert in AI. Meanwhile, behind the scenes at Microsoft, we’re constantly making improvements. We’re experimenting, tinkering, and solving our own problems and then using our learnings to keep advancing our offerings.

Finally, Microsoft is partner-oriented. Partners build stuff on our platforms and when they succeed, we succeed. We’ve always made our money after someone else has already gotten paid. That’s what I like about this company.

How can we learn more about IoT?

Right now, Microsoft is hosting a fantastic series of IoT in Action events. These free, one-day events are all about making connections between companies and partners and helping companies get started in IoT. Attendees will get to see an IoT solution emerge from concept to reality in real time. They’ll gain insights into market opportunities and scalable IoT solutions. They’ll also get expertise from other IoT pioneers.

The next IoT in Action is set for February 13, 2018, in San Francisco, CA. View this short video, take a look at the agenda, register today, since space is limited.

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6 Reasons Why IoT Leaders Are Focused on Tampa

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Recently leaders from technology and the multifamily gathered in Tampa, Florida for an event called “Building Cities of the Future”, A CRE and Urbantech Summit.

Tampa is already on its journey to becoming a smarter city, and thus was the perfect setting for this event. The one day event was designed to bring together executives and founders who are reshaping the Built Environment was produced by Bisnow and Dreamit.

Some of the featured speakers from technology included Dan Doctoroff Chairman and CEO of Sidewalk Labs and  Felicite Moorman, CEO and co-founder of STRATIS. As well as business leaders like Jeff Vinik Chairman of the Tampa Bay Lightning and partners of Strategic Property Partners, LLC, James Nozar, CEO of Strategic Property Partners, Steve Barsh, CIO of Dreamit and more.

The event featured 35 speakers and 4 keynotes speeches aimed at driving development in commercial real estate through innovative means.

“No great city was ever completely and truly planned,” Doctoroff said. “The neighborhood of the future can look a lot like the city of the past – teeming with life. Safe, defense, diverse places with a hyper-dynamic sense of community.”

Insights

Moorman had the following insights for the audience about IoT, Smart Cities, and software as a servicer (SaaS).

a)    IoT – The return on investment for technology investment is faster and more accessible than ever, oft times weeks, and the time to start is NOW!

b)  Smart Cities – The commercial residential footprint of NYC is nearly 60%. Anyone who thinks they’re going to create a Smart City without enabling MultiFamily Owners and Residents is missing half the puzzle!

c)  Access, Energy, and Automation software –
Access applications for Smart Cities are endless, and the privacy and security concerns must remain front of mind, but they are not insurmountable. Understanding when people are leaving residences is a tremendous data point from a city planning perspective.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, “Vinik outlined plans for create a venture capital fund with as much as $ 50 million or more to support startup entrepreneurs, some with direct grants. That, he believes, would make it the largest fund of its kind in Florida.”

The Times also reported that “Vinik outlined plans to build an “innovation hub” on the second floor of Channelside Bay Plaza. He expects it to occupy 40,000 to 75,000 square feet of space — or 20 to 40 percent of the building — and take 12 to 18 months to create.”

The UrbanTech Summit reflects the commitment of its participants to increase the adoption rates of technology, which currently stand at less than 10%, in an industry with over $ 40 trillion in the US alone.

“If STRATIS could flip a switch and install ubiquitously across the globe, we could immediately reduce energy savings by 15-20% and more, while providing a real and near immediate return on investment,” Moorman said. “Today. There should be a greater urgency in installing and embracing that which we know works today. The single digits of savings we’ll achieve as we continue to progress are minuscule compared to what we can do right now.”

Insurers & IoT

Moorman added that Insurers are finally getting interested in IoT.

“Insurers may be the biggest winners in the short term. Consider that in MultiFamily, if a Resident doesn’t immediately catch an incident of fire or water damage, that incident will affect other units,” she said. “Leak sensing and smoke detection are tremendous opportunities to mitigate those damages and reduce loss.”

Bisnow, the world’s largest commercial real estate news and events platform, and Dreamit Ventures, a top-10 global accelerator, have committed to leveraging their reach within the commercial real estate industry to impact change through driving collaboration across commercial real estate ecosystem.

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How can you impress your client by making a smart conference hall?

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Conducting a meeting in your conference hall, in earlier days, was considered as a hectic task. Arranging everything and turning the meeting into something fruitful, without using technology, was difficult. Almost every office has a conference hall where they can conduct their meetings. In the current scenario, technological advancements have gained success. It provided us the freedom, which compelled us to conduct conferences with much more perfection and in a computer-aided environment.

Clients, on the other hand, pose great value to any business. The happier they are with your services, more will be the business profit and success of your company; as simple as that. Moreover, you will interact with your clients in the conference hall, it serves as the front image for your company. In case you want to impress your clients, you should upgrade your conference hall from the traditional one to a smart one.

Since you are integrating all the latest technologies to ease your work, why not upgrade the conference hall, where you crack all your deals? It will have a more personified and effective impact on your clients. At an average, conference rooms are used for about four to five hours a week, but it is important that the overall design of your room does not hinder your business agenda.

Related Read: 4 Public Companies Investing Large Sums in IoT

Here are the ways by which you can impress your client by transforming your conference hall into a smart one.

  1. Make it simple to Connect

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Productivity always depends on time, therefore, use it effectively. The more you are productive in your business; the better will be the profit and success ratio for your business. In a conference hall, eliminate all the time wasting barriers and focus on things which will impress your client to the fullest level of satisfaction. Use a laptop or a Smartphone to connect the projector, it will not only save your time but will also give a positive effect on your clients.

Keep your conference meetings simple. Make sure everything is arranged properly and all the gadgets like laptops, smartphones, etc. are working properly. Upgrade your wired connections to wireless and reduce the chaos. Investing in wireless technology will simply enhance your working to an enormous extent.

  1. Sharing Visual information on Multiple Screens

By placing some visual screens in your conference halls, you can impress the clients with unbelievable boundaries. When we talk about the smart conference rooms, we think about how efficiently all the modern technological resources we can use. With multiple screens available in your conference hall, it is advisable to use them to get the most benefits. It may include the devices or displays present in your conference hall. Ideally, all the contents which you have made for the clients will be visible on devices as well as on the display.

Hence, doing this will create a context for the larger device and content being shared from each device. The more you visualize your content; better your company’s reputation and revenue will be.

  1. Use Smartphone’s and tablets

Gone are the days when company’s used the traditional whiteboard and pen to depict their ideas in the conferences or meetings. In this technology dominant world Smartphones, laptops and tablets have become the greatest tech giant as well as a boon to millions of business all over the globe. Allowing the use of such devices in conference hall can impress your client at the first go. Well, everyone wants simplicity and nothing can be better than holding a Smartphone and having each and everything at your fingertips.

It’s easy to work with the smartphones or tablets, instead of using a desktop or laptop. Any projector can connect to these devices for displaying your business proposals to the clients that too in an easy way. It eliminates the use of wires and cables which usually remains tangled most of the time. Apart from this, mobile app development company in India provides a range of apps for conference calls and other useful business purposes for making business meetings easier.

  1. Better Security

One of the major key points in building any smart conference hall is security. Without adequate security, none of the business will achieve anything in the long run. You should levy tight security constraints upon every business policy for preventing any intruder to have access to your confidential data being shared in your conference hall.

It is important to seek out smart conference room technologies to attain the highest level of satisfaction regarding security. Information should be encrypted properly and should also meet the desired security guidelines. You should impose the security constraints in such a way that only those individuals who are in the conference hall can access it.

  1. Don’t ever forget the basics

With the upcoming technology devices, videos and audio still stand as the baseline for any smart conference meeting. Thus, it is advisable to invest in good audio, video resources for your conference room to meet the requirements. Visualizing and hearing have always been a key to every successful business meeting. With the latest Dolby Atmos sound coming into the limelight, you can use them in your conference halls to make a great and long-lasting impression on your client.

The main thing to keep in mind is to make your conference room smart yet effective. Making your client feel comfortable in your conference hall should be taken care of. It will help them in paying more attention towards your proposals. Hence, in modern day world where things are changing drastically, making of a smart conference hall should be the top priority for any business organization to attain new heights of success.

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Internet of Things in Retail: What’s in it for Retailers

Internet of Things in Retail

Internet of Things is transforming and revolutionizing every aspect of our lives. Be it leisure, business, retail or healthcare, almost every industry is settling to adopt new technologies and IoT is no exception. According to McKinsey an estimated of 20 to 30 billion connected devices will be available by 2020 with a total worth of $ 17 billion.

The above statistics clear all the doubts regarding the adoption of IoT in various industries. The growth seems to be undiminished and the overall adoption will be on par. With the competition on the rise, retailers are striving to take necessary steps to offer unique shopping experience and be more profitable, unique and efficient.

There is a lot to discuss on IoT in retail, but first, let’s have a brief overview of what Internet of Thing is all about.

What is the Internet of Things (IoT) and Use in Daily Life?

When we talk about the Internet of Things, it is the term used to describe Machine-to-Machine connectivity, where hardware devices and sensors interact with each other on their settings and whereabouts.

Knowingly or unknowingly, many of us have used IoT devices or seen it somewhere. For instance, Nest Thermostat is widely adopted by homeowners to set the temperature at the desired level. After reaching the set temperature, it will turn off automatically, saving you cost on electricity.

Moreover, IoT devices have been widely integrated into home appliances such as air conditioners, refrigerators dryers, ovens and what not.

Talking about the retail sector, IoT allows retailers to track customer behavior and collect data to use it in the future for business decisions. If you are looking forward to implementing IoT in your retail business, make sure to go through this article to know what IoT has to offer to the retailers.

IoT in Retail Industry

Before we discuss what is in IoT for retailers, let’s have a brief overview of benefits reported by early adopters.

  • 77% of retailers see IoT as a mean to change the customer’s experience
  • 89% of early adopters in retail benefited from the insights about customer preferences and behaviors from an Internet of Things.
  • 77% of early adopters of IoT in retail offered better opportunities to interact with new partners in delivering products and services to the customers.

Digital Signage to Reach Consumer Device 

With the rise in online shopping trend, retail has been largely affected by the way consumers are been affected. People tend to buy more online because the goods are offered at a cheap price. Moreover, comparison-shopping is also one of the reasons to shop online.

Due to this, the traditional retailers are prone to a number of challenges. With the ability to save some money, convenience, and comparison-shopping, people still need the help of sales assistant to save some time in researching the goods they tend to purchase.

The retail war is increasing at a rapid pace and brick and mortar shop owners have to set the prices to match online prices. This is quite a challenging task for traditional retailers to attract customers to the store.

IoT can rescue in resolving this issue. For instance, the traditional retailers can incorporate digital signage that connects with social networks and customers feedback for the customers in the store. It would help customers to view the information about the product instead of using a mobile device.

Digital signage as discussed before can also be helpful in displaying related goods, which might be of customer’s interest. Moreover, it can lead the customers in the direction of goods that would complement their purchase.

Another aspect of marketing is to understand the customers’ behavior. To attract more customers, an advertisement can be displayed in the mobile phone’s notification bar when they pass the store. Retailers can also use this feature for the customers who are present in the store by displaying the products in real life and introduce them in the best possible way through sales assistant.

Sales assistant, on the other hand, can check whether the product is available in stock and complete the transaction seamlessly. This is where IoT can be helpful, offering sales assistant to check the availability of product instore through their smartwatch.

The smartwatch is connected to the database of all the products connected to the sensor. Moreover, the sales assistant can also show how the product works using a tablet. In the end, sales assistant could use the same tablet to complete the transaction in no time.

Directing Customers to Locate Goods

Retailers have to employ staff to assist customers with all that is present in the store. Supermarkets are flooded with products and searching for specific product is not an easy task. This means that customers will have to spend much of their time in the supermarket to search for products they need.

However, IoT can help save the time of customers as well as retail owners to save money by hiring extra staff. For instance, by equipping the store with sensors can assist sales person and customer to locate a specific product. Moreover, digital displays with the ability to read sensors can inform the customers about the product description, its benefits and in case of the food item, the nutritional level.

In case of food items, many of them have short shelf life. IoT can prove to be helpful by ensuring that the due date is correct before delivering it to the customer.

Ecosystem Opportunities

Most of the home improvement, general merchandise, and electronics retailers are opting for home automation or smart home sections in their store. Not only IoT is needed by enterprises, but open the opportunities for general consumer as well.

Retailers are already availing this opportunity to be players in the ecosystem with service support, sales support and automated orders generated by IoT sensors in consumers’ homes. For instance, Amazon is currently working on the order method of choice for anything you might ask Alexa.

Conclusion

In this technological era, retailers need to understand the importance of implementing the IoT to stay ahead of the competition, grow revenue and build customers base. However, if you are not well versed in the technology, many IoT Solution providers will help you devise the strategy, plan it and deploy it.

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Internet of Warnings: How Smart Technology Can Threaten Your Business’s Security

security is a concern with iot

Science fiction technology may not be as far off as we believe. The Internet of Things (IoT) uses the powerful combination of Wi-Fi and cloud technology to send information and perform actions through devices with Internet capabilities. This advance stems from the use of telemetry, decades-old machine-to-machine communication via wired sensors and transmitters. Now the wires have been replaced by radio waves that transfer a nearly infinite amount of data.

IoT technology ranges from entire smart cities that streamline traffic to fridges that detect when you’re low on milk and order it for you, among many other products and services. Devices such as Fitbit and Nest are growing in popularity due to their low price, practicality, and variety of automatic functions. Nearly any object you use regularly can be exchanged for a “smart” version that logs usage, performs tasks for you, or learns your schedule and changes the environment accordingly—rapidly making the ubiquitous dream of a “smart house” a present reality.

How can the Internet of Things be utilized in business?

The Internet of Things is becoming more prevalent, so it’s likely your business has considered a switch to some form of IoT device. Self-driving delivery trucks and self-monitoring security systems are industry-specific, but every business benefits from smart lighting and thermostats that reduce energy costs. Retail markets can use IoT to keep an accurate and immediate inventory, while devices like Square can turn your smartphone or tablet into a hassle-free cash register.

Though IoT technology is still relatively new, the potential economic impact looms on the horizon. Constant updates on the status and stock of households and workplaces means the average consumer is likely to purchase more products than they would buy on their own. All industries have the potential to use this technology to increase sales and efficiency wherever needed. IoT devices may eventually replace human counterparts who once performed the same function.

How can you secure your Internet of Things technology?

Security is the biggest risk factor when incorporating IoT technology into your business. Some factors you should take into consideration before committing to an IoT upgrade:

  • Hacking: The most widespread IoT fear also happens to be the most rampant. If there’s a security loophole in a device that stores your credit card number or other personal information, hackers will try to exploit this vulnerability, often without encountering firewalls or other obstacles. Your safety could be compromised further by hackers who take over the entire system and hold your devices at ransom or even use your hardware to launch attacks against others without your knowledge. Understanding how your data is stored and accessed is something you must be aware of when considering an IoT device for your business.
  • Surveillance: Any device with a microphone or camera can potentially be activated by a remote user with the right knowledge. That’s why sites that seek out the IP addresses of webcams with unprotected open ports stream millions of private video feeds to viewers willing to pay. Familiarize yourself with the terms and conditions of your device and the permissions its software may have to be sure no one can eavesdrop on you. Read the fine print!
  • Company Security Policies: How does the manufacturer manage the security of their devices? Device security is the responsibility of the individual company, and since there aren’t yet any laws protecting IoT security, most companies depend on self-regulation and self-reporting. What safeguards has the company put in place to protect you, the consumer? What happens to your device if the company goes out of business?
  • Education and Caution: People can become reliant on smart technology, so it’s important to know the hidden downfalls of using these devices in your business. Employees who come in contact with a company IoT device should be aware of the possible threats and security breaches they can cause.

Most of the security concerns with IoT technology have to do with the engineering of the devices themselves. For this reason, knowledge and discretion are the most important safeguards to take when considering the switch to an interconnected network of smart devices. Though it may be fun to imagine your work computer booting up when it senses your car pulling into the parking lot, the vulnerabilities of this technology cast a long shadow on its practicality.

This article is brought to you by Mark Anderson, CEO of Anderson Technologies, an IT Consulting firm in St. Louis.

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