Verizon carries successful data session on new NB-IoT Guard band network

Verizon carries successful data session on new NB-IoT Guard band network

Verizon carries successful data session on new NB-IoT Guard band network

Complementing Verizon’s robust nationwide IoT network offerings, new Narrowband IoT network will provide more choices for customers.

Businesses and global brands can look forward to an expanded lineup of network offerings thanks to the collaboration between Verizon and Ericsson who today completed their first successful Narrowband IoT Guard band data session.

The trials used the latest Massive Internet of Things Ericsson software on Verizon’s 4G LTE network.

Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) is a technology providing scale, coverage and security for customers seeking scalable and cost effective wireless access solutions for IoT. Verizon maintains a strong leadership position in IoT technology and solutions with a history of firsts, including the first nationwide deployment of 4G LTE, LTE Cat 1, and LTE Cat M1 networks.

While CAT-M1 is targeting a wide range of applications for business customers such as wearables, fleet and asset management, NB-IoT Guard band focuses on applications needing data rates below 100 kbps. NB-IoT Guard band technology occupies a dedicated frequency of 180 kHz bandwidth designated for IoT applications which does not share spectrum resources with commercial smartphone traffic.

Bill Stone, Vice President – Network Planning at Verizon said:

“We are committed to providing more customer options to the IoT ecosystem by leading with new technologies and capabilities such as NB-IoT Guard band that efficiently use dedicated spectrum and target different customer requirements for throughput and battery life.”

“The IoT ecosystem has tremendous potential for further growth and development,” said Kevin Zvokel, Head of Networks for Ericsson in North America. “With our IoT commercial software in combination with Verizon’s network, we are pleased to pave the way for future growth in this important segment.”

Nationwide deployment of Verizon’s Narrowband IoT Guard band network will be fully complete across Verizon’s nationwide network covering 2.56 million square miles in 2018.

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IoT Business News

The Top Eight Questions to Build a Successful IoT Strategy

The Top Eight Questions to Build a Successful IoT Strategy

The Top Eight Questions to Build a Successful IoT Strategy

As 61% of enterprises have already deployed an IoT solution, or are planning to in the next year, it is essential that both enterprises and providers ask the right questions early to maximize their IoT ROI.

ABI Research, has identified eight questions that innovative companies need to ask to turn their IoT visions into reality.

“When these solutions work, they work well,” says Ryan Harbison, Research Analyst at ABI Research. “However, these solutions can have detrimental effects if any area was overlooked in the development of these systems. If execution, technology, or supplier choices are poor, rest assured that the results will be poor. Poor solutions can negatively affect sales of existing products and services, disrupt internal organizational workflows, and damage relationships with customers—all results enterprises want to avoid.”

So, how can enterprises avoid deploying a poor solution?

First, potential IoT end-users need to ensure that they have properly identified the strategic business objectives they are trying to achieve before they create IoT use cases and align IoT use cases to customer needs and these objectives. Secondly, organizations need to achieve internal stakeholder alignment with all functional employee groups since IoT affects multiple layers of an organization to decide which parts of the solution to build in-house and which parts to buy. Lastly, enterprises need to assess partners for IoT enablement and lifecycle management operations keeping in mind that these decisions drive strategic and long-term success.

While it is essential for enterprises to consider these factors before building and deploying an IoT solution, it is also crucial that IoT suppliers understand these factors and guide their customers around the common pitfalls. Two of the biggest inhibitors of IoT adoption are aligning the solution within existing systems and the complexity and fragmentation of the supply chain. IoT suppliers need to understand that potential end-users are looking to partner with suppliers who have worked to ease the process of developing these solutions.

“As a result, we are seeing a surge in the market of companies that offer professional services—strategic consulting services, project management, and ROI analysis—in addition to their core competencies,” concludes Harbison.

“Companies like Dell, Digi International, and Bsquare are among those complementing their IoT solutions with additional value-added services. The number of suppliers offering these solutions will only continue to rise as business value shifts from output to outcome-based.”

Top Eight Questions to Build a Successful IoT Strategy according to ABI Research:

  • What Are Your Business Objectives to Better Serve Customers and Operate Profitably, and the Common Challenges toward Meeting Those Objectives?
  • What Are the Use Cases That Align with Your Value Proposition and Mitigate Business Challenges?
  • What Factors Need Consideration to Prioritize IoT Use Cases for Investment?
  • Who Are the Key Internal Stakeholders Impacted by a Connected Product, and How to Gain Internal Alignment on Risks and Benefits?
  • What Are My Internal Capabilities to Determine Build versus Buy?
  • What Is the IoT Data Governance Model?
  • How Should I Assess Suppliers and Partners for IoT Solution Enablement?
  • What Are the Life-Cycle Management Factors to Consider?

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IoT Business News

Vodafone, Ericsson and KCL claim first successful UK 5G test

Vodafone and Ericsson claim first successful 5G test in UK

British telecommunications company Vodafone and Swedish networking vendor Ericsson have collaborated with King’s College London (KCL) to perform what they claim is the first successful 5G test in the UK that works independently of existing 4G technology.

The three organisations used a prototype device in a central London 3.5 GHz spectrum field trial, as well as other technologies such as Massive MIMO, which uses multiple antennae to send and receive data with the aim of boosting capacity when a vast number of people try to connect to the network at the same time. Vodafone has already deployed this technology in its network as it believes MIMO will be crucial for the introduction of 5G.

Read more: 5G connections to reach 1.4 billion by 2025, says Juniper Research

Different bands

The project also involves the combination of different bands of mobile spectrums across the UK in a bid to increase capacity and boost data speeds. Vodafone said that combining four bands of spectrum has enabled the latest smartphones to achieve data speeds in excess of 500 megabits per second.

“These fast and ultra-reliable technologies are becoming essential for data-hungry video applications and as the Internet of Things (IoT) expands into people’s homes, vehicles and the workplace,” Vodafone said in a statement.

According to Ericsson’s annual Mobility Report, 5G will be able to transmit data about 10 times faster than 4G. In the report, the Swedish company said it expected 5G to first be deployed in metropolitan areas, and therefore IoT applications in smart cities such as smart streetlights would be some of the first use cases. Thereafter, the technology could be used as a more reliable connection for self-driving cars which would require a constant connection to the internet for safety reasons.

Read more: Wait for 5G? The IoT needn’t hold its breath

Still work to do

But while Vodafone, King’s College London and Ericsson were keen to notify the industry of their claim to a first standalone 5G test in the field, Kye Prigg, Vodafone UK head of networks emphasized that building a 5G network would take time.

“Right now, we’re also modernising our network by making smarter use of mobile technology to keep ahead of consumption demands and provide the mobile coverage our customers deserve,” he said.

5G also requires the use of fibre optic cables, and Vodafone’s next step will be to work with digital infrastructure provider CityFibre to install the necessary backhaul connection requirements.

Read more: UK government explains next steps towards 5G future

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Internet of Business

Developing Successful Strategic Partnerships With Universities

Collaborations between companies and universities are critical drivers of the innovation economy. These relationships have long been a mainstay of corporate research and development (R&D) — from creating the knowledge foundations for the next generation of solutions, to serving as an extended “workbench” to solve short-term, incremental problems, to providing a flow of newly minted talent. As many corporations look to open innovation to augment their internal R&D efforts, universities have become essential partners. Indeed, companies now look to universities to anchor an increasingly broad set of innovation activities, especially those grounded in engaging with regional innovation ecosystems. Silicon Valley, Kendall Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Block 71 in Singapore are among the most visible innovation ecosystems where universities are essential stakeholders in an innovation community that also includes corporations, government entities, venture investors, and entrepreneurs. Thus, in addition to serving as sources of people and ideas for corporations, university collaborations are an important mechanism for corporations seeking to open up new avenues of engagement with a broader innovation ecosystem.

Following corporate giants like General Electric, Siemens, Rolls-Royce, and IBM, which have collaborated with universities for years, a variety of younger companies including Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Uber are using universities as a key part of their early-stage innovation and new ventures strategy.1 Even smaller, more regionally oriented companies in diverse sectors such as mining and automotive have come to believe that universities are key ecosystem stakeholders in supporting and shaping their regional economies. For example, IQE plc, a compound semiconductor company based in Cardiff, U.K., supports a regional innovation ecosystem through its collaborative relationship with Cardiff University. The partners have developed a translational research facility to train scientists and technicians in compound semiconductor technologies and support an R&D facility to help U.K. businesses exploit advances in these technologies. Such collaborations between corporations and universities foster the innovation ecosystem.

While the aspirations of university-industry partnerships can be easily described, many companies find it challenging to establish and run these partnerships effectively, even when key financial resources and human capital are available. The challenge is amplified in an ecosystem where the various stakeholders, all with their own ambitions, need to be properly aligned to achieve impact. In our research, we have found that both corporations and universities confront a general level of frustration and a mismatch in culture and governance when they collaborate. (See “About the Research.”)

Although many factors contribute to the frustration, the core reason is that university culture — characterized by high autonomy and distributed governance — maps poorly to corporate culture. Universities offer companies a wide and at times bewildering array of faculty, programs, and other modes of engagement. Even when the formats for interaction are established, there is often a profound mismatch in the expectations and goals for joint engagement.

Given both the promise and the challenge of university-industry interactions today, it’s important to explore the factors that make such collaborations successful. We have found that a systematic approach to university partnerships within innovation ecosystems requires both companies and universities to be well prepared before the engagement even begins. In particular, companies need to move from an ad hoc to a strategic approach to partnerships with universities.

From Ad Hoc to Strategic Partnerships

In an ad hoc approach, university collaborations are first and foremost established by individual researchers or engineers in the company and focus on specific R&D needs identified by those individuals. This means that collaboration partners are likely chosen based on personal experience and the networks of the researchers and engineers in the company. The rationale for university partner selection is familiarity between individual researchers, not between the two organizations as a whole. Although this may mean that many potentially valuable aspects of a university partnership are ignored, such approaches create what has been described as an “extended workbench.”2 Such collaborations, though small, are often agile. From the perspective of the corporation, the university collaboration is limited to the specific project (typically within a business unit), and thus there is no centralized organization. From the university’s perspective, individual researchers and their students gain a source of funding, insight into relevant problems, and opportunities to access novel assets or partners.

Ad hoc approaches often lead to a large number of collaborations (sometimes numbering in the hundreds) with little synergy. Each agreement is negotiated individually, which tends to put a heavy workload on legal departments, leading to delays. In addition, opportunities for broader engagement and impact are lost. Consequently, large companies and many leading universities have shown interest in more strategic programs.

As companies enter into strategic agreements with universities, they have begun to organize their relationships with universities into tiers. “Top-tier” relationships are no longer simply based on personal connections between an academic and a corporate researcher. Increasingly, companies select universities based on their expertise in an area of strategic importance and their familiarity to the company. In fact, companies have started to use company-wide master research agreements to create transparency in their collaboration activities, improve their negotiating positions, accelerate the deployment of projects, and encourage interfaculty collaboration on topics of shared interest. Such approaches are reminiscent of relationships established back in the 1980s between Harvard Medical School and Hoechst A.G., Washington University and Monsanto, and MIT and Exxon; and the longstanding relationship between the University of Oxford and Rolls-Royce.3 More comprehensive agreements are particularly attractive to universities because they enable individuals from corporate labs to be embedded on-site at the university, provide a more stable source of funding, and allow for more multifaceted interactions.

The change from incremental problem-solving to shared strategic work on grand challenges or deep exploration is important because it signals that universities are places not just to establish an extended workbench to solve predefined problems but also to tackle more ambitious challenges that have a more open-ended, exploratory emphasis.4 Within corporations, the creation of strategic programs has led to the institutionalization of specialized units for university relations, often situated in the corporate R&D organization with reporting lines to senior management. Such units play a leading role in defining the focus areas for collaboration, designing formats, selecting partner universities, offering advice regarding intellectual property rights, evaluating collaborations, and continually managing the interactions between the company and the universities. Universities have made fewer organizational changes, but the development of specific corporate programs for engagement with particular research centers, departments, or initiatives has become more commonplace, and the number of licensing and contract professionals has grown.

As a next step in the evolution of university partnerships, strategic programs are now increasingly seen as the fulcrum for broader innovation ecosystem engagement (in part because large corporations are seeking external input throughout the innovation process, from initial idea to impact). Companies may link to the ecosystem via a range of local entities (for example, local governments, school systems, and startup communities). However, particularly when companies are working with universities actively engaged in startup creation and research translation, familiarity with the university and its collection of innovation activities can become a natural entry point for companies to develop broader links into the innovation ecosystem. The shift also aligns with the ways in which universities today are participating in local and regional economic development and playing a part on a global stage. Conversely, it would be difficult to imagine innovation ecosystem engagement taking place without a deep connection to the local university.

Moving from ad hoc to strategic to ecosystem partnerships places ever more demands on university-corporate interactions. On the corporate side, business units, global R&D, and venturing units all want seats at the table, with each party bringing its respective needs and values. On the university side, individual labs, centers and initiatives, and entrepreneurship programs all have an interest in the engagement. Our research is based on our interest in both understanding and learning how to optimize these naturally complex relationships. As part of that research, we have found that companies that work through six important questions are better positioned to develop an effective approach to interaction with a range of universities across different innovation ecosystems.

Preparing for Systematic Engagement With Universities

We recommend that companies consider these six fundamental questions:

  1. What business goals drive your university partnerships?
  2. What are the key focus areas of your university partnerships, and how are they selected to ensure alignment with your business goals?
  3. Who are your primary university partners, and by what criteria are they chosen?
  4. What collaboration formats match your focus areas and business goals?
  5. What people, processes, and organizational structures support your university partnerships?
  6. What key performance indicators are most useful for evaluating your university partnerships?

These questions are closely linked; when the answers are aligned, they provide a logic for engagement that is more strategic and, in our experience, more likely to be effective. The six questions can be divided into three groups. The first two are about the business goals — the strategic goals that university partnerships should deliver for the company. The next two questions emphasize the partners (who) and collaboration formats (how). Together, the first four questions form the core of a systematic approach to university partnerships. The remaining two questions are about ensuring that the right people, processes, organizational structures, and evaluation tools are in place so that the university and the company can ensure that the partnership is delivering value to both parties.

QUESTION 1: What business goals drive your university partnerships? Companies have various reasons for wanting to engage in university partnerships, and they often have difficulty articulating their goals in clear business terms. Working with companies with emerging best practices in this field, we found the business goals that drive university interactions can often be grouped into five categories:

Short-Term, Incremental Problem-Solving This often occurs within an existing product line and is, as already mentioned, sometimes referred to as an “extended workbench.”

Talent Identification and Hiring For many companies, talent acquisition at levels from undergraduates to Ph.D.s to postdocs is a primary business goal of partnerships with universities.

Long-Term Development of New Technologies These interactions are often referred to as “grand challenges” or “deep exploration,” and they involve companies seeking new technologies and solutions to broad-based customer needs that may lead to new product lines or new businesses.

Systematic Exposure to Startups For many companies, exposure to startups (either research- or student-driven) while the startups are still part of the university can be an important incentive for interacting with universities, often with the involvement of corporate venturing units. Although there is no agreed-upon term for this, we will refer to it as exposure to the “startup pipeline.”

Publicity and Political Influence A high-profile partnership with a prestigious university can lend luster to a company. In some regional innovation ecosystems, a partnership with a top research institution can provide access to high-level government officials.

Although each of these goals is distinct, they may be interrelated. For example, working collaboratively on grand challenges can serve as a pathway to talent identification and, at times, to a startup (to move a solution out of the lab and into the world). Likewise, short-term engagements focused on incremental problem-solving might drive the hiring of individuals with specific skills needed for the company’s R&D activities. Addressing this first question — something few companies do — creates an opportunity for a corporation to articulate a cohesive view of its business goals and how they relate to its university interactions.

QUESTION 2: What are the key focus areas of your university partnerships, and how are they selected to ensure alignment with your business goals? Within the business goals outlined, a company’s key focus areas for university partnerships must be specified in terms of particular innovation priorities. For a business goal such as talent identification, for example, the focus areas must be prioritized so that the “what” can be defined in terms of technical competence/capability (for example, bioprocess engineers); challenge areas (for example, new distributed power systems); or product domains (for example, more efficient turbine blades). To ensure that university collaborations are properly aligned with the company’s business goals, the selection process for such partnerships should be as rigorous as a comparable internal process would be.

For example, a large European automotive company has an innovation board comprising the heads of R&D, production, and marketing innovation — the three divisions most relevant to the business goals for university partnerships. The board makes decisions on which focus areas should be part of future projects with universities and monitors ongoing projects with partner universities. This process ensures that the focus areas of the current and future projects with universities are constantly aligned with the business goals that drive the university partnerships.

QUESTION 3: Who are your primary university partners, and by what criteria are they chosen? Selecting university partners is no easy task. However, many leading corporations are making their selection criteria more explicit — in ways that universities often welcome. The most common criteria include the following:

  • Familiarity and fit (previous joint projects, personal relationships, many hires);
  • Location (if proximity, to headquarters or to an innovation ecosystem, is desirable);
  • Excellence (the reputation of the university, top-journal publications of a lab, or involvement of a particular researcher);
  • Legal framework (especially regarding issues such as intellectual property rights and access to university-based startups); and
  • Culture (especially regarding entrepreneurial culture, openness to industry, and interdisciplinary collaboration).

Our research indicates that successful companies continually define and refine their university selection criteria as their experience grows and their goals change. One large U.S. corporation, for example, has developed an online tool that tracks the productivity and impact of its university partnerships. The tool helps its R&D group make informed decisions about whom to partner with and ensures that projects are aligned with business goals of the company.

QUESTION 4: What collaboration formats match your focus areas and business goals? Choosing the right collaboration format is at the heart of a successful university partnership. While traditional formats have mainly taken the form of companies sponsoring research in one or many projects, the variety of formats has been expanding in recent years. Among the formats we see today are contract research with a single lab, individual corporate employees embedded in a lab or research center, consortia membership, large co-created research centers, open calls for grant proposals in a particular research area, student/ corporate hackathons and idea contests, collaboration on publicly funded projects, fellowship programs, and jointly sponsored conferences and workshops. (See “A Variety of Industry-University Collaboration Formats.”)

More novel and ambitious formats include the Cisco-University of British Columbia relationship, which aims to turn the university campus into a living lab for smart building systems,5 and the Global Innovation Exchange, funded initially by Microsoft and established in collaboration with Tsinghua University in Beijing and the University of Washington in Seattle, which provides a compelling example of more complex but increasingly relevant multiparty, multicontinent relationships.6

Of course, the collaboration format a company chooses will depend on the goals it wishes to pursue. For companies prioritizing short-term, incremental problem-solving, contract research with a single lab may be the best way to seamlessly extend the workbench. If the goal is talent acquisition, student-oriented activities such as hackathons, competitions, and fellowships are highly effective in that they enable the company to get to know a large number of talented students and evaluate their fit. Embedding employees within the university is a particularly effective way to identify talent, particularly at the Ph.D. and postdoctoral level. To meet grand challenges, several formats are emerging as best practices: targeted but open calls for research proposals (perhaps preceded by a hackathon to raise awareness and excitement) and the co-creation of research centers.

The opportunity to engage with the startup pipeline has emerged as another attractive business goal for university partnerships. Here again, there are various potential formats, all geared toward identifying and connecting to startups or even project teams that have yet to formally incorporate (which we refer to as “proto-startups”). Many proto-startups are associated with innovation and entrepreneurship programs in universities and in the wider innovation ecosystem. We found in our research that successful companies draw a distinction between engaging with student-led startups (for example, via business plan competitions or student accelerators) and lab-based startups, where interaction typically includes consideration of intellectual property, engagement with faculty, and sharing of expertise around scale-up and testing, along with sponsored research.

Companies that have expansive goals need to actively manage a complex portfolio of relationships and formats. The university-relations unit at one large pharmaceutical company, for example, continually evaluates and prioritizes its collaboration formats based on the evolving business needs and phases in the drug development process. The company uses fellowship programs to fund Ph.D.s and postdoctoral researchers and provide opportunities to bring them into the organization, both to drive know-how about grand challenges and for talent acquisition.

Ultimately, successful partnering with universities isn’t about choosing a particular collaboration format but about systematically prioritizing and reprioritizing different formats in response to changing business goals. Beyond that, it is about having the right people, processes, and organizational support to ensure success and to identify and manage sources of tension. In our last two questions, we will examine these issues.

QUESTION 5: What people, processes, and organizational structures support your university partnerships? Corporations with partnerships across a range of universities must create internal structures and processes to drive success. This raises questions about what structures will enable effective interactions, what competencies university-relationship managers need, and what processes are best suited to support internal alignment between the technical expert level and the management level in the company and also between the company and the university.

In terms of structure, the shift from an ad hoc approach to a strategic approach has spawned specialized units for university relations. But what are the best organizational structures to support the partnerships? If it makes sense for companies to establish units for university relations, should they be part of a centralized R&D function or operate as part of more decentralized business units? Our findings show that strategic partnerships do not have to be supported by a centralized unit that reports to the chief technical officer (CTO) or a senior vice president. Rather, it’s important that the primary business goals (and the particular choice of who, where, and how) shape the choices. If the problems you are trying to solve have been defined at the business-unit level, then partnership support should take place within the business units themselves. If the goal is to undertake something larger (for example, a grand challenge), then it makes sense for the university-relations unit to be centralized and to report to a senior manager such as the CTO.7

Regardless of organizational setup, company employees who serve at the university-corporate interface must be capable of acting as knowledge brokers between university partners and the company. We suggest that companies designate two roles for each university partner: a management sponsor (usually a top manager such as a board member or country CEO), who is assigned to a specific university; and a university-relationship manager for R&D, who supports the sponsor within the company.

Based on our experience, it works well if the university likewise appoints people to mirror those two corporate roles (ideally, a vice president or dean and an industry-partnership manager). On the corporate side, the core team drives the processes that are covered by our six questions. Of course, when considering the portfolio of university partnerships, the top executives and key managers involved with the relationships need to take part in the conversations and have an overview of the company’s engagement in various innovation ecosystems. But as noted above, the overall reporting structure needs to reflect the goals of the relationships. Beyond the internal organizational decisions, the corporate team and its university counterparts should explicitly address our six questions and use them to build a shared understanding of success.

QUESTION 6: What key performance indicators are most useful for evaluating your university partnerships? Evaluation is a critical element of an effective university-industry engagement. But as with any essential activity, the metrics of success must be carefully defined to ensure that what’s measured and tracked is closely aligned with the business goals. Both the key performance indicators (KPIs) you choose and the evaluation process are fundamental to ongoing effectiveness.

Some of the most commonly used KPIs for university partnerships are cash investment, number of joint projects initiated per year, number of students hired, number of patents or licensing agreements, amount of public funding leveraged, effectiveness and efficiency of projects, number of faculty members and students involved in projects per year, number of ideas that turn into product development, and number of investments in startups. Our research suggests that successful companies tend to use a variety of KPIs (both quantitative and qualitative), and they define and redefine them periodically in terms of how they fit with the business goals and the collaboration formats.

  • If the goal is incremental problem-solving, then the KPIs should prioritize the effectiveness, timeliness, and efficiency of the researcher, group, or lab in delivering a solution.
  • For talent identification and hiring goals, the metrics might include number of applicants for key roles, successful hiring ratios, retention, and, over time, the hires’ performance within the corporation.
  • For grand challenges, the KPIs might include the number of proposals submitted, the diversity of the proposals, the number of faculty engaged, the extent to which external funding is leveraged, and, later, the effectiveness and breadth of the solutions developed.
  • For goals involving access to the startup pipeline, the KPIs might include the number of new startups coming out of the university in fields of interest to the company, and the number and amount of the company’s investments in such startups.
  • Finally, if the goal is publicity and political influence, then the number of high-level meetings, media mentions, and the level of satisfaction on the media relations team are among the relevant KPIs.

As we have outlined, working through the six questions can help companies develop a strategic perspective on their partnerships, thus setting up both companies and universities for more effective interactions and more successful ecosystem engagement. To implement the process, we have created a form we call the “university partnership canvas,”8 which allows executives to represent the six questions visually. (See “Assessing Partnerships With Universities.”)

The University Partnership Canvas

As we have noted, many companies have recently shifted their focus in university and innovation ecosystem engagement from incremental problem-solving toward long-term development and systematic exposure to new startups. In doing so, however, our research shows that companies have not always done enough to reconfigure the other elements of their engagement approach.

In such instances, the university partnership canvas offers a tool to systematically help executives assess their existing approaches and identify inconsistencies between their business goals and, for example, the structure of their existing partnerships. Against this background, the canvas can help executives define possible solutions to overcome any mismatches or tensions. They can also use the canvas to explore the impact of changing business goals on their existing university partnerships and, against this background, make timely decisions on what to change.

A technology company used the canvas to assess a strategic university partnership program that had been under way for more than five years, the primary business goal of which was to drive the development of new product lines or new businesses. As a first step in the assessment, we asked the people responsible for university relations globally to fill out the canvas, answering the questions one by one and inserting red lines and/or remarks when they found mismatches or tensions — in other words, when their answers to the six questions didn’t reinforce each other.

The assessment highlighted four mismatches and tensions:

Format Selection

In spite of the business goal of driving long-term development of new product lines or new businesses, the company’s preferred collaboration format was contract research. Contract research is a good match for short-term, incremental problem-solving but not for driving long-term development of new business lines.

Focus Areas

The company had no central process for selecting focus areas that were aligned to its innovation priorities. Instead, the focus areas were selected at the business-unit level, which led to narrowly scoped projects that weren’t aligned with primary business goals.

Partnership Selection

Although the company was focused on long-term development of new product lines or new businesses, it gave low priority to “entrepreneurial culture” in its criteria for selecting university partners.

Partnership Evaluation

The company did not have a KPI that was useful for evaluating the impact of projects in the partnership and the creation of new product lines or new businesses.

We then asked the university-relations managers from the company to come up with tentative solutions to address the mismatches and tensions, and to write the solutions on the canvas. They prioritized sponsored research and hackathons, with the expectation that hackathons could inform new projects that could lead to new business creation. As for selection criteria, they decided to still give the top priority to “familiarity” but also decided to give “entrepreneurial culture” a higher priority than “scientific excellence.” In selecting focus areas, university-relations staff wanted to create a centralized call for proposals (funded, if possible, by the CTO) as a way to drive more sponsored research projects and hackathons within areas they thought would impact several business units. Finally, they decided to create a KPI measuring the number of new product lines or new businesses based on joint research projects (See “Tech Company A’s Completed University Partnership Canvas.”).

In another example, a global technology company wanted to reprioritize its business goals from primarily short-term, incremental problem-solving toward a focus on systematic exposure to new business ideas and research-based startups, talent acquisition, and long-term development of new business lines. The company first assessed its current approach to university partnerships by using the canvas. It then inserted the reprioritized business goals and against this background worked through the rest of the questions to explore the impact of the revised goals on its approach to university partnerships.

When working through the questions on the canvas, the company realized that the change in business goals had a profound impact on its approach to university partnerships. Executives saw that they would need to (1) set up internal processes to make sure that the focus areas for university partnerships are aligned to the overall R&D priorities of the company, (2) apply resources to startup scouting and hackathons, (3) expand their set of knowledge brokers embedded in their preferred regional innovation ecosystems, and (4) develop KPIs that measure investments in startups and the number of ideas (from sources such as hackathons) that lead to the development of new product lines (See “Tech Company B’s Completed University Partnership Canvas.”).

Unlocking More Value

Partnering with universities in innovation ecosystems can be challenging, but the university partnership canvas can help companies develop a systematic approach to their interaction with universities, thus enabling both parties to unlock more value and pursue a more strategic approach for ecosystem engagement. In our view, companies shouldn’t use the canvas just as an internal tool for assessing and developing their approach to university partnerships. They should also use it in their ongoing dialogues with universities. In this way, the canvas can be a tool that corporations and universities use together to create transparency about the goals, formats, KPIs, and organizational structures of the partnerships under consideration for further development.


MIT Sloan Management Review

The era of the IoT: How to make a successful entry

Today, the world is on the verge of mass introduction of the Internet of Things (IoT) into everyday life and business. It is expected that its serious development is inextricably linked to the new standard of mobile communication, 5G, which is at the final stages of development and testing.

With its help, a great number of smart devices connected to the network can be managed. However, today there are devices, the technical characteristics of which allow even administrating the operation of IoT-devices even within the capabilities of existing networks.

Smartphone explorer

As we remember, users could initially only go online through computers connected to it. But with the beginning of the era of smartphones, their owners got mobile access to the Internet. The development of wireless networks has become fertile soil for connecting any devices that can exchange information via a network interface, and receive the name ‘Internet of Things.’

According to BI Intelligence, in 2016, approximately 6.6 billion IoT devices were recorded, but by 2021 the number is expected to go up to no less than 22.5 billion. This suggests that in the next three to five years we will be able not only to see the active development of the Internet of Things, but also become direct participants and users of global IoT systems that will radically change our lives.

Recently, IoT has become an increasingly popular topic, especially in connection with 5G, which will expand the functionality and infrastructure of smart devices. According to industry calculations, their mass introduction will take at least five years. One of the main obstacles is the lack of uniform standards of work for a variety of devices included in the IoT system. However, developers are looking for the right solution, to find a way to facilitate ‘communication’ with ‘smart’ devices through a normal smartphone.

Perhaps for today it is one of the optimal solutions for communication between different IoT devices, and a kind of control panel for them. In other words, today the smartphone not only facilitates communication with ‘smart’ things, but, being a fully-fledged gateway, acts as an adapter, or basic platform for IoT. This is facilitated by a number of factors, one of which is the mass nature of its spread. According to IHS Markit, by the end of 2016 there were approximately four billion smartphones in the world, and by 2020 this number could reach six billion. In comparison, today there are approximately 7.4 billion people in the world, and according to UN forecasts, the number will not exceed 8 billion. The percentage of people who have smartphones will grow very significantly.

Most modern smartphone models are perfect technical devices. Their software and processor power make it possible to connect to and control a larger number of different IoT devices. And the basic set of sensors and other devices available in the smartphone makes it possible to build a network whose dimensions can far exceed the ‘human’ Internet. In addition, smartphones can be used as a hub on the way to the cloud, where all the necessary information for full interaction of IoT devices is stored. Thus, despite its ‘sophistication’, the smartphone remains easy to use, and most importantly, an affordable device, which performs the functions of data transmission and reception, management and configuration of IoT devices.

But still, the main link in communication remains human. In most cases, people initiate the interaction of devices in the IoT system. And this suggests that a person becomes a part of it and can control the flow of information, initiate or accept management commands. That is, with their participation, a new system is being formed called the ‘Social Internet of Things’ (SIoT).

Unification and interaction

With the arrival of the 5G connection, and the projected increase in the world of ‘smart’ devices to 50-100 billion, a qualitatively new level of IoT interaction will be needed. And for this, you need compatibility of their work protocols, since it is the possibility of uninterrupted communication of various ‘smart’ devices which adds significantly to their functions. This will be one of the drivers for the mass distribution of IoT systems. As an aside, as early as 2015, McKinsey found that about 40% of the total economic value of different IoT systems is derived from their ability to interact with each other’s incoming devices – i.e. compatibility. Limited compatibility sharply reduces the value and usefulness of such a system and leads to its lack of demand by users.

Therefore, to take full advantage of the IoT concept and the capabilities of 5G, today’s disparate systems must learn to interact and exchange information. The solution to this problem is a complex, time-consuming and expensive task, but application developers and device manufacturers, together with companies implementing IT systems, will have to agree on the necessary minimum of common standards and protocols. So in any case, solutions will be found that will lead to their unification, much like it was with the set of TCP/IP network protocols.

When this happens, ‘smart’ devices in huge quantities can be organised into a global network of physical objects that are connected to the Internet through gateways (hubs or specialised IoT platforms). The latter perform the necessary translation between the protocols used in the communication networks and in the devices themselves. At the same time, a lot of hardware platforms will be able to act as a gateway, starting from ordinary routers and ending with specialised ‘boxed’ solutions. This is mainly to provide connection and maintenance of such a large number of devices, as well as to provide the appropriate tools for processing and storing data from them.

Ideally, it should be multi-user and be able to combine not only IoT devices, but also people – and the most suitable option here is an IoT platform with billing, rating and mediation tools. With its help, users can not only managed the connected devices, but also create new device configurations and all possible scenarios for their use. Data will be stored in the cloud, and managed smart devices can be located at great distances from each other, even on different continents. This is a fantasy that will become a reality at some point in the near future.

At first glance, for the uninitiated, everything related to IoT can seem like something incredible. But this is literally tomorrow’s reality, the offensive of which is very desirable not to overstep. The world around us is changing, regardless of our will, and one day, for example, your TV suddenly becomes the control centre of anything and everything, as systems necessary for this have already been built in by the manufacturer. It has a display, a microcontroller, a network card, an operating system, and everything you need to communicate with other network devices. By registering the appropriate modules with the IoT designer and connecting your smart TV to the cloud, and user can interact with the new digital and wireless world surrounding them in full and with the right parameters. This interaction can be the most unexpected.

Recently, a young IT company started producing games and training consoles for dogs. A special bowl with a built-in Wi-Fi module, coloured buttons, and a speaker, gives the animal various tasks, rewarding for the correct pressing of buttons in sequence with a portion of food, and informs the owner about its actions. The device also allows owners to feed their pets at a set time. These examples show that the IoT is in fact a huge field for experiments – and despite the fact that the era of ‘smart’ devices is just beginning, there is plenty to say that the coming IT revolution will be connected with the Internet of Things.

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