At the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Samsung Electronics America presented an outline of IoT vision and strategy by revealing the fact that by 2020 all its connected devices will be infused with intelligence.
Also at the event, Samsung announced plans to advance adoption of IoT via an open, consistent and intelligent platform. In the spring of 2018, the company will merge all its IoT applications into the SmartThings app allowing users to manage and connect any SmartThings-enabled device right from their cell phone, car, or television from a single application. Samsung is also planning to connect HARMAN Ignite to the SmartThings Cloud to give consumers the liberty to control their connected home from the vehicle and vice versa.
Hyunsuk Kim, President, Head of Samsung’s Consumer Electronics Division and Samsung Research, said: “At Samsung, we believe IoT should be as easy as flipping a switch. With the new products and services announced today, we’re making IoT easier and more seamless. We’re committed to accelerating IoT adoption for everyone and making all Samsung connected devices intelligent by 2020. These advancements will help consumers realize the benefits of a seamless and simple connected life.”
As part of Samsung’s intelligence infusion initiative, voice control function will be enabled in a select range of Smart TVs and Family Hub refrigerators via Bixby in 2018. Operating on the SmartThings Cloud, the Smart TVs and Family Hub refrigerators will act as a smart dashboard to monitor and manage connected devices.
The products and services highlighted at CES show how Samsung is moving forward in its mission to create seamless IoT experiences at office, home and vehicles.
Cloud computing giant Salesforce.com is currently on its World Tour, which will see it meet with thousands of customers and partners. Stopping off at ExCel in London yesterday, the company laid out its vision for the future of enterprise software.
Speaking to an audience of roughly 10,000, on a stage decorated to resemble a campfire at a US National Park, Salesforce.com chief marketing officer Simon Mulcahy announced that the day was all about what he called ‘trailblazers’.
For Salesforce, Mulcahy explained, that means anyone who is using Salesforce technology to do something innovative. But Salesforce is no slouch itself in the trailblazing stakes: it posted revenues of $ 8.4 billion for its 2017 fiscal year, up 26 percent year-on-year, and can claim to be the fastest growing of the top five enterprise software companies globally.
Five areas of transformation
Mulcahy spoke of five areas of enterprise software transformation on which Salesforce is focused, the first four being speed, productivity, mobility, and connectivity. The fifth area, and the one where Salesforce obviously wants to lead the pack, is artificial intelligence. “Welcome to the age of AI,” Mulcahy told attendees.
As the walls of every industry are broken down by AI, Mulcahy wants Salesforce to be at the forefront of that change. To do so, the company hopes to spread the use of Einstein, its intelligent CRM system, announced in September last year at its Dreamforce conference in San Francisco.
Einstein works in tandem in with IBM Watson, following the Salesforce/IBM partnership announced in March of this year. “Salesforce brings predictive insights around customer data, partnering with IBM to bring predictive insights into third-party data,” Mulcahy said. The end result should be an intelligent transformation of customer interactions, the company claims.
In a live demo, Salesforce staff showed off the technology’s capabilities. Simulating a storm hitting ExCel, the team illustrated how Einstein, in tandem with IBM Watson, which is able to analyze weather patterns through IBM’s 2016 acquisition of the Weather Company, could predict the inclement weather and determine how this might affect its business users in, say, the insurance industry.
Detecting that the storm may cause damage to vehicles, the AI determined which of the insurers’ customers were likely to be affected and how best to contact them, allowing insurers to offer a proactive warning to customers before any damage could be done to their cars.
Don’t forget IoT
But it’s not just through AI that Salesforce hopes to deliver a quality customer experience. Despite receiving much less attention at the show, Salesforce IoT Cloud encapsulates another one of the company’s five areas of enterprise software transformation: connectivity. Salesforce recognizes that its customers want closer and better relationships with their customers; they want smarter products with cognitive intelligence; and they want to make processes between smart product makers and smart product consumers more efficient and reliable.
“Customers and consumers are starting to expect Uber-like experiences from business services,” Bo Mangels, who works in product marketing for IoT Cloud, told the audience. “The trend right now is that people are trying to understand how they can get their devices to communicate with each other, but not enough focus is on business applications, which is where the value comes from.”
The business applications side is where Salesforce wants to lead, Mangels noted, and the company is currently engaged in building partnerships with companies that are experts in IoT to improve its offering. Currently, the IoT Cloud connects all device data to customers’ Salesforce apps. This data is then routed to the Service Cloud, where it allows them to better communicate with customers and automate processes, such as a thermostat provider issuing homeowners with alerts when their heating is too high.
Energy management and automation company Schneider Electric, for example, was said to be improving its customer satisfaction by increasing the operational efficiency of its buildings with IoT Cloud. The company is essentially monitoring its heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems to determine when staff use them the most. Schneider feeds this data into its building service plans in order to reduce energy consumption and ultimately save on costs.
Similarly, German robotics company Kuka is using IoT Cloud for predictive maintenance. Kuka’s robots are commonly used to build cars. If one of those robots in a production line goes down, however, the entire line must be switched off. Naturally, this costs time and money for the customer. Kuka is monitoring its robots with IoT Cloud and routing that data to Service Cloud to predict when the robots need maintenance before they go offline.
Both Einstein and IoT Cloud feed into what Salesforce calls its Intelligent Customer Success Platform, which places all Salesforce applications in one place with the aim of enabling business to deliver a quality customer experience. It’s about “giving you a big hug all the way through the technology journey,” as Raj Mistry, senior vice president of solution engineering at the company, told Internet of Business. “I still see so many people struggling with other platforms and how they embed IoT or AI,” Mistry said, “[but] all of the technology is here today.”
One thing that was clear throughout the presentations yesterday is that Salesforce is not sitting back and resting on its laurels, and with the success the company had last year, that ‘trailblazer’ title is well within its grasp.
Comcast Cable Communications, the cable television division of global media and telecoms company Comcast, has acquired smart home platform provider Icontrol Networks’ Converge IoT business.
Completion of the deal, which was first made public in June 2016, was announced in a blog post by Daniel Herscovici, SVP and GM of Xfinity Home – a Comcast security application that consolidates all smart home devices, such as alarm systems and video monitoring, into one personalized platform to monitor and protect the home.
Icontrol’s Converge platform already powers Xfinity Home, so according to Herscovici, by owning the part of Icontrol that powers its core security technology platform, Comcast now has full control over its research and development roadmap.
“We can invest more strategically for the future and accelerate the pace of innovation for Xfinity Home, particularly in the area of connected home security,” he wrote.
Plans for IoT ‘Center of Excellence’
Herscovici also revealed the company’s plans to establish an IoT ‘Center of Excellence’ in Austin, Texas.
He said this would act as a hub for engineers and developers to build out Comcast’s IoT product offerings across the US.
Austin was chosen in part because Icontrol is already based there, but also because it is home to talented engineers. The city is home, for example, to the University of Texas at Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering. Back in 2010, Forbes attributed the Cockrell School as one of two “secret weapons” (along with IBM’s Austin research lab) in ranking Austin the second most innovative city in the US, after San Jose, California. Tech firms including Dell, National Instruments and IBM all actively recruit Cockrell School graduates each year.
In a further separation of its business units, Icontrol confirmed it has sold its Connect and Piper business units to smart home security platform provider Alarm.com for approximately $ 140 million.
Connect is an interactive security and home automation platform; Piper designs, produces and sells an all-in-one video and home automation hub.
In a company statement, Alarm.com said the new business units “will add new technology infrastructure, talent, key relationships and hardware devices that are expected to help accelerate Alarm.com’s development of intelligent, data-driven services.”
Commenting on the deal, Martin Garner, SVP at analyst house CCS Insight, described it as “complicated”.
“The sale of Icontrol to Comcast addresses one awkward issue for Icontrol, which was that its Piper product was competing with its customers,” he said. “However, the Icontrol Converge platform powers a number of large smart home service providers who compete with Comcast, so the acquisition means Comcast now has the same issue – it will need to manage this carefully.”
“The smart home market has a large number of small players, and is ripe for consolidation of the key suppliers and technologies into some of the bigger companies active in the market. Comcast’s acquisition of Icontrol is a good example of this.”
Enterprises need to undertake business transformation through the Internet of Things (IoT) in three stages of maturity to increase the value from their investments, according to a missive from HCL Technologies.
The IoT maturity framework, which can be found in MIT Sloan Management Review, has as its first level of maturity increased process efficiency using IoT-enabled data, building new revenue streams as stage two, and business transformation leveraging IoT data-led insights as stage three.
The framework comes off the back of a study released by HCL which found almost half of 250 survey respondents – who had been subjected to a ‘rigorous multi-level screening process’ to ensure they were serious about the IoT – feared an uncoordinated and siloed approach was keeping their organisation from progressing beyond a pilot stage.
As this reporter found out when speaking to Sukamal Banerjee, HCL’s CVP and head of IoT WoRKS – the company’s arm for emerging technologies – at Mobile World Congress, generating the ‘snowball effect’ of one process following another can only go so far. “At the process level, it is definitely the snowball effect, and yes it keeps accelerating,” he said.
“At the end of the day, we also have to understand [that] we’re not just trying to do the same things better. We’re also trying to question some of the things…if you think about how you can change business models, those kind of things I don’t think can be left to the snowball effect.”
“Realising value through the Internet of Things may begin with simple goals, but it can catapult a business towards new horizons,” said Stephanie Woerner, research scientist for MIT Sloan Center for Information Systems Research. “Full IoT maturity depends on cross-organisational commitment to identify new revenue sources, spurring innovation, investing in supporting technology and nurturing relevant skills.
“The level of commitment to completing the journey depends on organisations’ willingness to translate threats into opportunity by finding new sources of revenue in the face of changing industry trends, turning to innovation, investing in partnerships or acquisitions in case there is lack of capabilities in any specific area, and finally ensuring organisational readiness,” added Woerner.