Never mind the tech, it’s all about the money

An increasing number of companies across many industries are adopting IoT, but their reasons for doing so are very different, writes Peter Dykes. One of the primary reasons, it seems, is making cost savings through efficiencies such as monitoring remote plant or tracking assets as they move around the world. But should they be focusing more closely on generating new revenues?

A lot of people seem to think so. So far as digitalisation in general is concerned however, many companies do seem to be aware of the need to think in terms of revenue growth through investment in technology, but a significant proportion are having problems in achieving that end. While there are distinct advantages to using a new technology to make a business more efficient, it’s important to make sure the initial investment can be recouped. This is particularly important with IoT because, so it would appear, it is not widely understood by its potential beneficiaries.

Peter Coleman, a partner at consulting firm Simon-Kucher, says a recent cross-industry survey conducted by the company, which included IoT deployments, found that 81% of those questioned had made investments in digitalisation in the last three years. When asked what they were trying to achieve, 21% said they were trying to reduce costs, a similar number said they were looking to increase revenues and 54% said it was a combination of both. However, taking all those who said they were trying to increase revenues to some degree – 75% of respondents in total – only 23% said they had seen any degree of top-line impact. Coleman puts this down to a lack of adequate planning.

Jonquil Hackenberg, the head of Advisory Practice at Infosys Consulting.

“It may well be that someone has set themselves a goal without clear targets,” he says. “But we know from the same survey that unit cost reductions are not realistic and that they will stay the same or increase. So we’ve got a dichotomy where they know the opportunity is on the revenue side, they know the cost position isn’t likely to get better and may even get worse, they know they want this stuff to affect the top line, but what they’ve done so far hasn’t been sufficient.”

Of course, the situation that Coleman describes could just be because many IoT deployments are just at the proof of concept stage. Jonquil Hackenberg, the head of Advisory Practice at Infosys Consulting believes that many companies are just dabbling in new tech, just to see how it can be used in different scenarios, although there is a good case for profitability in the future. This is especially true in things like proactive, automatic stock reordering ordering where a company may make more sales as a result. “There is a massive opportunity for a return on investment, increasing revenues and introducing new lines of business,” he says. “However, once they stop dabbling with proof of concepts and start working out the end-toend consumer journey they’re trying to create, that’s when it will stop being […]

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Ralph Lauren deploys wearable tech for Team USA’s Winter Olympics uniform

Ralph Lauren deploys wearable tech for Team USA's Winter Olympics uniform

Fashion giant Ralph Lauren and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) have unveiled athlete uniforms for the opening and closing ceremonies at this year’s Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. The jacket includes adaptable heat technology that can be controlled using a smartphone app. 

Even as temperatures in PyeongChang plunge to an expected 15 degrees Fahrenheit next month, Team USA’s athletes will manage to stay warm and look good while doing so.

The team’s opening and closing ceremony uniforms have been put together by Ralph Lauren to harness wearable technology, all while paying homage to some of American fashion’s most iconic symbols.

Beyond the jeans, mountain boots and brown suede gloves is a parka that contains in its lining heat-conducting ink, meaning it can warm up, on demand, just like an electric blanket.

Read more: British Athletics deploys digital pacemakers for Rio Olympics

Conductive inks to keep athletes warm

“Ralph Lauren is excited by the convergence of fashion and function, and we are committed to supporting Team USA athletes by outfitting them with the latest innovative technology. We’re proud that we’ve worked so closely with the athletes, as well as the U.S. Olympic Committee, to keep evolving and improving,” said David Lauren, chief innovation officer at Ralph Lauren.

“The uniform celebrates the American spirit, with iconic pieces updated with modern details and technical fabrications.”

Ralph Lauren deploys wearable tech for Team USA's Winter Olympics uniform

(Credit: Ralph Lauren)

Because the temperature conditions on the ground could change by the hour and athletes will be moving between indoor and outdoor environments during both ceremonies, the Ralph Lauren design team needed to avoid a temperature-specific jacket.

Instead, the heating system is made from electronic printed conductive inks – handily made into the shape of the American flag – that are sewn into the interior of the jackets. These conductive inks are flexible, stretchable and connect to a power pack with three thermal settings.

Each jacket offers 11 hours of heating time at full charge. Athletes can adjust the heat setting through an accompanying smartphone app.

Read more: US government to fund research into smart clothing for emergency staff

Ralph Lauren looks to technology once again

Despite being a fashion brand associated with the importance of tradition, this isn’t the first time Ralph Lauren has used technology to take its sports clothing to the next level.

In the past, the company has unveiled solar-powered backpacks and base layers with biometric tracking for ball boys and girls at the US Open. For the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, Ralph Lauren upped Michael Phelp’s blazer game with illuminated panels spelling out ‘USA’.

This won’t be the last time that, as USOC chief marketing officer Lisa Baird says, “Ralph Lauren effortlessly weaves style and functionality into the opening ceremony uniform.” After all, one team’s fashion is another’s marginal gains.

Read more: IoT gets tops scores from sports teams worldwide

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Tech that cares: CES 2018

At the world’s biggest gadget show, there were a few projects that stood out for me. Not because they were the biggest, baddest or even the most brightly-coloured, but because they offered simple, practical solutions for those who need them most. This is technology that addresses the realities of disability, improves quality of life, and promises accessibility for all. Here’s a quick round-up of the tech that cares, as seen at CES 2018.

#Accessible Olli

We were delighted to welcome self-driving shuttle bus Olli back to CES. This year, he has a new and exciting mission: ‘Autonomous for all of us’. The #Accessible Olli project is something we’re very proud of at IBM. It’s the culmination of a crowd-sourced effort to help those with mobility difficulties get around more easily.

IBM joined the Consumer Technology Association Foundation, Local Motors and innovators all over the world to develop an autonomous solution to transportation. The result could be life-changing for the 15 percent of us who are living with disabilities. And when you consider that this figure rises to 25 percent for those aged 50 and over, the possibilities are even further-reaching. This blog has the full story.

Accessible Olli, as seen at CES 2018

#AccessibleOlli on the Las Vegas Convention Center floor at this year’s CES

Xenoma e-skin pajamas

Japanese smart apparel firm Xenoma displayed a prototype pair of smart ‘e-skin pajamas’ for hospital patients at CES. The main focus is on dementia patients, who need close observation but might be understandably distressed by being the focus of constant attention, or worse, confined to their rooms. Instead, these pajamas can do part of the observation work themselves.

They’re fitted with cloth sensors, customized to interpret specific feedback in order to monitor movement and vital signs. For example, those on the trouser hips and legs are motion-sensors, while sensors on the shirt monitor breathing. If a patient is distressed, unmoving or agitated, the pajama sensors will relay that information to hospital personnel.

Most importantly, the sensors are unobtrusive, and don’t negatively impact the wearer’s comfort. They can also survive a washing machine, making them more or less as hardy as regular clothing. They’re not in general use yet, though there’s a clinical trial planned with a (unannounced) hospital in Germany.

UV Sense: the false fingernail that detects sun damage

Also on show was a rather interesting offering from L’Oréal: the UV Sense. This diminutive UV sensor is small enough to wear on a fingernail, and connects to a smartphone through contactless chip. It detects ultra violet rays and sends an alert to the wearer’s smartphone when they’ve been out in the sun for too long.

A similar product, in the form of a patch, has already had positive results. The company reported that 34 percent of those who wore the patch applied sunscreen more frequently than they would have done without it. The UV Sense should be available in the UK in 2019, priced at £30 (around $ 40.)

UV Sense

UV Sense: Photo courtesy of http://www.lorealusa.com/media/press-releases/2018/january/uv-sense

SignAll: the world’s first automated sign language translator

This is one of my favourites: an automated sign language translation solution from SignAll, that bridges the communication gap between deaf and hearing people. It uses computer vision and Natural Language Processing to track hand gestures, and convert them to English text displayed onscreen. The cool thing about this solution is that is doesn’t require expensive, fancy hardware. Ordinary web cams and a bog-standard PC will do, though you will need a depth sensor too. The depth sensor goes in front of the person signing at chest height, while cameras surround them. They all sync up to a PC that processes the images taken from different angles to produce a translation in close to real time.

The Internet of Caring Things: beyond CES 2018

Of course, CES 2018 isn’t the only place to find caring technology initiatives. At IBM we’re always looking for ways to improve people’s quality of life with the help of technology. Recently, we’ve been investigating how the Internet of Things can aid an aging population. Take a look at this piece to discover more.

Another example of IBM’s work in healthcare is our research with Melanoma Institute Australia. Together, we’re using cognitive technology to analyse dermatological images of skin, to identify specific clinical patterns in the early stages of melanoma. We hope that this important work will help clinicians understand skin cancer better and reduce unnecessary biopsies. You can read more about this ongoing effort in our press release, or visit our website to learn about our wider work in healthcare.

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Is Your Company’s Tech Reliable?

Is Your Company's Tech Reliable?

Is Your Company's Tech Reliable?

An article by Marc, Editor at IoT Business News.

It’s probably not news to tech-savvy business owners that outdated technology can cost a loss of revenue and drive away customers in droves. In fact, according to Microsoft, over 90 percent of consumers said they would consider taking their business elsewhere rather than work with a company that uses outdated technology. However, what customers consider outdated, including antiquated online shopping carts, just scratches the surface of a company’s technology problem.

Your business also needs to look at the reliability of your entire technology strategy. Chances are if your technology hasn’t been refreshed in a few years, is slow, or is prey to frequent hacking, then your employees are struggling to compete and costing your bottom line. Here are some areas to consider on whether or not your technology is reliable enough.

Are You Hyperconnected?

The foundation for reliable tech is staying hyperconnected to customers, team members and vendors alike. Without quality devices that deliver seamless reliability, your company won’t make it in the marketplace.

You may have already invested in the best smartphones and collaboration apps like Slack to keep teams connected while they’re on the go, but your employees also need the right laptops. Equip your team with the latest 4G LTE laptops featuring long-lasting battery life and always-on connectivity that can endure throughout the workday. This will ensure they stay connected when visiting a client, traveling to the office, or working remote.

Do You Work in an Employee-driven Environment?

Once your core tech, like devices and collaboration apps are in place, take a look at how your technology improves the employee experience and reduces overhead. For example, ISS World uses sensors and data-driven workflows to figure out what their workspace needs on a daily basis from desk seating to available conference rooms. IoT sensors collect data points to figure out who those people are meeting with, what kind of conference rooms they will need and how to ensure employees have the available meeting space they need.

This type of data-driven learning technology dramatically reduces the need for shuffling around calendars and meetings and eliminates needless meeting space. Ultimately companies can focus on what they’re working on and who they’re meeting with instead of what rooms are open for a meeting.

Are You Proactive About DoS Attacks?

Now that we’ve taken a look at how IoT can improve your workplace and learn the habits and needs of your employees, it’s time to think about how to protect yourself at the same time. Despite its ability to learn and adapt to consumer habits, IoT can also open the door to malicious activity like DDoS attacks. And we’re not just talking about small-scale hacking. TechRepublic reported that in Q3 2017, DDoS attacks increased 91 percent thanks to IoT.

With the help of Internet-connected devices, cybercriminals can easily access vulnerable, outdated portals and aggressively scale up their attacks. The end result is a surge in malicious traffic that can take companies completely offline. However, the real issue isn’t so much using IoT, but ensuring that your devices are up to date with the latest patches and software updates and access to sensitive data is restricted to a need-to-know basis by specific employees.

Leverage Cloud-based Platforms

Migrating to cloud-based technology was once a cutting-edge business practice, but today’s trends are all about using platforms. Leveraging IoT and smart technology requires managing applications, running analytics and securing your data.

Cloud-based platforms not only reduce the cost of maintaining applications but can help solidify your IoT strategy to streamline your technology needs and improve your bottom line.

At the end of the day, your company’s tech may only be as reliable as your IT department. Hiring a knowledgeable Chief Technology Officer or outsourcing your technology needs to a security vendor that can update, maintain and monitor your technology and IoT strategy can help your company stay competitive and protect your bottom line.

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Samsung unveils IoT tech for pop-up retail spaces

Samsung unveils IoT technology for pop-up retail spaces

Samsung aims to help retailers deliver a connected experience to customers, even in temporary ‘pop-up’ stores.

Pop-up stores enable retailers to test out new markets and take advantage of short-term availability of retail space, often in the run-up to busy periods or as a way to maximize exposure around a new product launch.

But what remains, once the pop-up store has been packed up and put away? For smart retailers, the answer is data – and electronics giant Samsung is aiming to help them collect as much of it as possible with its Connected Spaces solution.

Launched National Retail Federation’s BIG Show 2018, taking place this week in New York, Samsung Connected Spaces focuses on kitting out pop-up stores with connected technologies and providing bricks-and-mortar retailers with data collection and analysis capabilities. In this way, according to Samsung executives, retailers can deliver “an enhanced, more intelligent customer experience.”

Read more: Alibaba showcases vision of ‘retail store of the future’

What makes a pop-up ‘connected’?

Samsung Connected Spaces should help retailers better understand the customer journey in a pop-up, from the time a customer enters to the purchases that they make before leaving. This comes from collecting data on customer traffic, dwell times and demographics (such as age and gender).

By analysing this for specific times of day or for specific areas in a store, says Samsung, retailers could gain valuable insights that help inform store layouts, product placement, staff scheduling and inventory management.

The company cited research from analyst company Forrester Research that shows that in 2017, almost half (47 percent) of retail decision-makers invested in in-store analytics.

The solution uses Samsung Nexshop software – the company’s cloud-based digital store platform with real-time behavioural sensing – along with IP (Internet Protocol) cameras and Samsung mobile devices. In addition to analysis capabilities, the solution allows shop assistants to interact with shoppers using organized cloud-based content via Samsung tablets or interactive displays.

Read more: Shoppermotion uses “previously unavailable” IoT data to transform retail

Shedding light on darkness

According to Ian Son, senior vice president of the Mobile B2B division oat Samsung Electronics America, it’s about getting “real-time insight” into shoppers’ needs. “Bringing digital best practices to in-store environments enables retailers to shed light on data darkness and create a model for smarter business decisions,” he claimed.

Samsung Connected Spaces is available in collaboration with shopper conversion specialist Barrows, and includes pop-up elements such as ideation, location scouting, logistics and fulfilment.

A ‘retail-as-a-service” approach is said to allow rentals of the technology for set timeframes, organised into small, medium or large configurations, depending on the size of the pop-up space. 

Read more: Online-only retailers win on tech adoption, says ASOS/Wiggle chairman

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