SAP bets on blockchain for digital supply chains

SAP bets on blockchain for digital supply chains

German software company SAP is betting on blockchain’s distributed immutable ledger technology as a key enabler for disseminating information around digitally tracked business networks and supply chains.

SAP has used its TechEd Europe 2017 conference and exhibition held in Barcelona this week to explain its approach to blockchain and how it will push forward key use cases into the IoT.

As a technology, blockchain is best described as a system of creating a distributed immutable ledger of data (that can be a record of any data type) that spans multiple computers and so has extremely high levels of robustness by virtue of the fact that it is resistant to modification.

In terms of news, SAP has detailed new work that sees 27 customers and partners now join SAP’s blockchain co-innovation initiative. The initiative seeks to integrate the blockchain digital ledger system into IoT within manufacturing and digital supply chain software deployments using the SAP Cloud Platform Blockchain service.

Read more: Opinion: Why blockchain matters for the IoT

Blockchain breadth of adoption

SAP is upbeat about the breadth of adoption currently being seen with blockchain. Executives at the company say that customers participating in its co-innovation initiative come from verticals including consumer products development, telecoms, retail, logistics, agriculture, aerospace and defense, industrial machinery, energy and utilities.

“At Deutsche Telekom, we see a big potential for blockchain technology in the telecommunication business” said Hartmut Mueller, senior vice president of business solutions at Deutsche Telekom IT. “Our cooperation with SAP will speed up digitization to the benefit of our customers.”

SAP also said that it will join Spain’s Alastria consortium and the blockchain-in-trucking alliance BiTA to expand the adoption of blockchain to customers in a range of industries and geographies.

Alastria brings together banks, telecom providers, energy companies, universities, smart-city organizations and developers. As a member of the Blockchain in Trucking Alliance, an organization promoting the development of blockchain standards and education, SAP will also expand its reach in freight and transportation management.

Read more: Cargo shipping tech specialist MTI completes blockchain pilot

Co-innovation network

SAP is co-innovating with customers and partners to establish use cases for blockchain that can be standardized to enable wide adoption in digital supply chain and SAP Leonardo IoT installations including:

  • SAP Asset Intelligence Network – A cloud-based business network and global registry of equipment providing a digitization platform for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) used to share asset information with operators and service providers to improve service targets and increase asset uptime.
  • SAP Distributed Manufacturing – A network-based application providing a private platform for customized manufacturing and collaborative manufacturing with suppliers (for example, 3D printing service suppliers, material providers, OEMs and technical certification companies).
  • SAP Transportation Management – A blockchain case for international trade. Sellers, buyers, banks and authorities would be able to share, review and sign documents electronically, tracking process statuses and hand over ownership of the e-Bill of lading. A secure container release process is intended to reduce frauds and stolen freight.

Read more: IBM leads consortium promoting blockchain in food supply chains

Transparency and collaboration

“Our customers and partners are eager to join SAP in embracing blockchain as a distributed ledger that can increase transparency and collaboration,” said Tanja Rueckert, SAP’s president of IoT & digital supply chain. We are equally eager to co-innovate with the world’s leading companies to reimagine a future where blockchain is woven into the fabric of the digital value chain.”

Rueckert spoke in breakout sessions after the SAP TechEd event keynote to suggest that the future of IT with specific regard to the IoT might be a space where competitors start to work together in far closer collaborative relationships. When might this be? Any number of technologies could service to bring us all closer together, but blockchain could be a key facilitator. With the United Arab Emirates having already announced its intentions to be a blockchain-based government by 2020, this is a technology set to rise.

Read more: Is it time to protect IoT data with blockchain?

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An old insurance firm bets on data with new startup

So far Arity has logged and analyzed data on 8.5 billion miles over the past year, and has about 28 billion in total. In March Tesla said it had 4 billion miles of driver data.

The dream of charging insurance based on the mile has been a reality for a while. But now insurers can charge based on the weather when you drive, the terrain and the type of car you’re in. The goal is to eventually do this in real time for consumers, corporate fleets and companies like Lyft or Uber.

A year ago Allstate spun out a company that could provide the underlying data for this future. Arity began with customers in the Allstate family (Esurance, Allstate) and this month scored its first customer outside the fold. National General is using data from Arity to offer personalized insurance to customers in North Carolina.

Gary Hallgren, the CEO of Arity, says that the company’s wide access to driving data and the subsequent claims data from accidents gives its algorithms an edge over data from some of the other companies offering similar data. From there it can offer quotidian analysis, such as left turns made at a specific intersection tending to cost significantly more than left turns at another intersection.

It can also offer data about specific cars that could be valuable beyond the insurance world. Halogen believes the Arity data can tell auto manufacturers about how their vehicles are performing across a wide range of conditions. Volvo would love to know that its brakes are replaced at a higher rate in cars that are sold in Montana, for example. Jiffy Lube might want to know that too.

This raises the question of how consumers will view real-time pricing for insurance data. On one hand, it’s nice to think of not paying for car insurance when you’re not on the road, but many companies already take that into account by asking questions about your commute. And as pricing gets more accurate for individuals it feels less like the insurance of old, which was defined by pools of risk.

Now the pool of risk is one. In that situation, a good driver or an infrequent driver will likely pay significantly less than someone who has to drive often, in risky geographies or even in all kinds of weather. Likely this will place a burden on those who make less money to begin with because they tend to live further from their jobs, have less choice about driving into work during a freak weather event and also have less leeway about when they come into the office. It could also penalize those who have less reliable cars.

Outside of class concerns there are positives. Granular data, if it is truly correlated with accidents, might help us reduce them simply by helping consumers or automakers avoid problematic behaviors. It could ascribe a financial cost to poor decision-making that might only have a social cost.

That becomes really interesting as the automotive industry changes. For example, as the driver of an electric car, I don’t buy gas, which means I’m not paying taxes that go to fund roads. As more and more people drive such vehicles this decreases a potential source of revenue that pays for a resource those vehicles still use. Using data on miles driven and the repercussions on roadways could become a new way to assess taxes.

In another example, a decision to drive during an ice storm could cost someone a lot more. If they were to lose their job if they didn’t go out, they likely would eat the cost, while someone simply trying to run an errand might elect to stay home. At a time when fewer drivers will mean fewer accidents, this incentive is probably good.

Finally, and Arity is actually doing this, the data it has can be used to provide safety scores for company drivers or even your Uber ride. Today an Uber star rating is almost worthless from a safety point of view. People dock drivers for smelly cars or talking too much. Imagine knowing that in addition to your driver’s ride count, you could also see that they drove well. That also could help those drivers get the insurance they need.

As a business, Arity competes with other data collection efforts including those from other insurance providers. They also will compete with companies like Waze and HERE which offer mapping and real-time traffic data.

Stacey on IoT | Internet of Things news and analysis

T-Mobile US bets on NB-IoT, completes Vegas live tests

T-Mobile US bets on NB-IOT

Wireless network operator T-Mobile US has announced the completion of what it is claiming is North America’s first live network tests of Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) technology.

T-Mobile, the US’s third largest carrier after Verizon and AT&T, ran the tests across multiple sites in Las Vegas, in conjunction with equipment manufacturers Qualcomm and Ericsson. It also unveiled a partnership with the city’s municipal government to deploy smart city services.

“Narrowband IoT is no longer a thing of the distant future – T-Mobile is lighting it up this year,” said T-Mobile chief technology officer Neville Ray. “By investing in Narrowband IoT now, we’re ensuring our customers will be able to bring their products to market faster with better performance, vastly improved battery life and big cost savings – all on a dedicated highway that’s purpose-built for connected devices.”

Read more: Frost & Sullivan highlights five IoT growth areas for 2017

NB-IoT versus LTE-M

T-Mobile’s adoption of NB-IoT stands in direct contrast to the IoT strategies of rivals Verizon and AT&T, which have both thrown their weight behind LTE-M, another connectivity technology that, like NB-IoT runs on licensed spectrum. NB-IoT has typically been the more popular choice of low-power, wide area network (LPWAN) for operators in Europe and Asia, rather than the US.

AT&T, for example, recently launched its LTE-M IoT network in the US and is planning to extend it to Mexico by the end of the year. But it was beaten to the punch by some months by Verizon, which launched the first nationwide commercial LTE-M network in late March. Both companies are expected to look at NB-IoT next, however, possibly with a focus on very light-touch sensors requiring longer battery life.

Read more: AT&T set to deploy LTE-M network across North America and Mexico

Viva smart Vegas

T-Mobile also announced that it is working with the City of Las Vegas on several projects in the city’s Innovation District, an area just off the Las Vegas strip dedicated to testing and developing emerging technologies.

These include fitting sensors to flood and storm drainage, in order to provide early warnings of flood situations and fault detection; smart city LED-based lighting; and sensors placed on streetlights to measure temperature, humidity and pollution for environmental monitoring purposes.

“The Las Vegas Innovation District was created to bring the most exciting emerging technologies right to our doorstep,” said Michael Sherwood, director of technology and innovation at the City of Las Vegas. “We are excited about partnering with T-Mobile to bring these technologies to the core of our city in a way that will benefit residents and tourists.”

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Intel’s big bets on autonomous driving unveiled: “Unwavering confidence” in success

Intel has opened the doors to its Silicon Valley Innovation Center for Autonomous Driving and, with a slew of partners in tow, gave further insight into its push towards the connected car space.

Among the announcements was a reveal of one of the first highly automated vehicles developed in partnership with BMW and Mobileye, which Intel acquired for $ 15.3 billion in March, alongside demonstrating with Ericsson. over the air data moving across a 5G network between the car and the cloud.

The company also opened its Advanced Vehicle Lab, which alongside labs in Arizona, Germany, and Oregon will research the requirements and technologies needed to power self-driving vehicles, from artificial intelligence (AI) to supporting cloud services, while the Autonomous Garage Labs will focus more on the tools and testing side.

Doug Davis, senior vice president and general manager of the automated driving group at Intel, penned an editorial outlining his passion for the project, saying he postponed his retirement to lead the initiative.

“The chance to solve one of the most complex technology challenges of our time, the opportunity to help the auto industry reinvent transportation, the potential to save a million lives every year – those things are unlike anything I’ve done before,” he wrote.

“I have unwavering confidence that Intel will succeed in autonomous driving”, he added. “We have an astounding breadth and depth of experience and the world’s finest technology toolkit to apply to this challenge. We have tapped resources from across the company and have added experienced talent from the automotive industry. Our teams are operating in high gear and will deliver the necessary technology breakthroughs.”

In July last year, BMW, Intel and Mobileye announced plans to bring self-driving vehicles onto the road by 2021 through a common platform. The companies outlined their strategy to come up with solutions which continually went up the scale of automation, from level 3 (‘eyes off’), to level 4 (‘mind off’) and then eventually to level 5, ‘driver off’, when a human is not required inside the vehicle. Davis added that plans were afoot to bring the platform to market for other OEMs and tier one suppliers.

Davis also riffed on the importance of AI in autonomous vehicle development. “Mastering AI both inside the car and in the data centre will be essential to the autonomous driving data challenge,” he wrote. “Here it’s important to remember that autonomous driving isn’t a game. When cars are thinking and acting without human intervention, they must be able to do so in a safe and trustworthy way.”

Plenty of research is taking place, and plenty of data is being collected to gauge what autonomous cars should do in certain situations. The MIT’s ‘moral machine’ program, which gives participants the choice between “the lesser of two evils”, such as killing two passengers or five pedestrians, is an example of this. As Davis noted: “If all we needed was a supercomputer to handle the autonomous driving data challenge, our work would be done.”

Intel’s acquisition of Mobileye showed how seriously the firm was taking this sector, particularly, as this publication pointed out, the difference in price compared to the $ 8.9bn Samsung is paying for Harman. “The faster we can deliver autonomous driving technology and take humans out of the driver’s seat, the faster we can save lives,” wrote Davis. “It’s that’s simple – and that important…and I am confident Intel will not only succeed in helping our partners put self-driving cars on the roads, we will do so in the fastest, smartest way possible.”

You can take a look at the full list of announcements here.

Picture credits: Intel

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Honeywell bets big on India’s smart city growth

smart cities

American technology giant Honeywell is boosting its focus on the growing smart cities segment in India.

The Times of India recently featured comments by Honeywell executives that highlighted India’s increasing role in the N.J.-based company’s future strategy.

Specifically, India is a prime target for Honeywell’s newly formed Home and Building Technologies (HBT) division.

The HBT wing manufactures connected devices for commercial, residential and industrial buildings. The devices perform an array of functions including tracking and controlling systems covering fire, air and security.

According to HBT’s CEO Terrence Hahn India is creating growth in two key related segments: digitization and smart cities. He says a key factor in the emergence of these two segments is the ongoing urbanization trend across the entire subcontinent.

“As a global company, we want to be supportive to driving growth,” said Hahn. “As the urban population continues to grow, we are excited about opportunities in India.”

Honeywell’s strategy involves boosting its existing presence in India, which generates $ 1 billion a year in domestic sales and exports. Honeywell’s revenues are produced by the 15,000 workers it employs in its seven manufacturing centers and five R&D labs around India.

“We are building the ability to develop solutions locally for local applications and then be able to grow,” said Hahn.

Honeywell has smart cities’ projects already

A recent showcase project for Honeywell in India was its 2016 installation of an IoT-enabled surveillance and emergency response system in Ujjain.

The crowd management and crime prevention capabilities of the local police were aided by the project’s automatic number plate readers and CCTV cameras.

Honeywell is also using its technology to address pollution issues for residential and commercial customers through an air purifier controlled by a mobile app.

Vikas Chadha, president, Honeywell India, said the air purifier system has been tweaked specifically for the Indian market, which suffers from air pollution levels much higher than the West.

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