Tag: Internet of Things

IoT Analytics: Living on the Edge or Sailing in the Cloud? | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

The technology vendor landscape of IoT edge analytics is heating up, with providers such as Cisco and IBM collaborating in an edge partnership, GE Digital’s Predix augmenting its edge capabilities, HPE boosting the capabilities of its Vertica portfolio, and PTC adding muscle to ThingWorx.

They and all the leading IoT analytics vendors, including AWS IoT, Microsoft IoT Suite for Azure, and SAP HANA Cloud IoT Service, are adding or enhancing their edge analytics capabilities, as there is a growing realization that cloud-centered analytics may not be able to deliver the necessary run time “action” expected of the IoT.

At the same time, the market realizes that edge analytics does not add meaningful value in terms of detailed insights into a system, and is generally suitable for small-sized projects. Moreover, many enterprises believe that though edge analytics reduces the entry barrier to the IoT, it does not provide meaningful value if not enhanced with a cloud-based data crunching system.

Enterprises that deal with a very large set of IoT data will normally have requirements for both real-time analytics and detailed insights. Thus, they may consider splitting their analytics lifecycle into two parts, running analytics models on the edge and performing detailed IoT analytics and model development in a cloud. However, this is easier said than done, and will require creative thinking from the architects, application developers, and device makers. It will also require enterprises to have different efficacy models for edge analytics and cloud-based analytics. For edge analytics, it’s about driving real time decisions or device-specific analysis, while cloud-based analytics is most suitable for fundamentally enhancing the IoT value chain.

IoT architects understand the underlying limitations they will face to run analytics on edge devices (e.g., memory, capacity, and power consumption), yet they are being pushed by the business to be as close to the data as possible. Smart architects will quickly realize that crunching data at the edge can be counterproductive, expensive, and many times just impossible. They can smartly address business requirements by delivering a “centralized + edge” analytics scenario. They should also segregate analytics operations and execution, and creatively deploy these at the edge or in the cloud as needed.

However, with all this confusion running amok, enterprises are finding the IoT landscape technologically overwhelming. Everest Group’s digital research suggests that though ~50 percent of global enterprises have piloted some type of IoT projects, less than 20 percent consider IoT to be in their top three investment priorities. The key reason is that enterprises are unable to accept that they are ready for the IoT, and thus continue to be fence sitters. While there are headline-grabbing case studies, especially in the industrial IoT space, most enterprises are still figuring out the IoT jigsaw puzzle.

Technology vendors, system integrators, and other market participants need to play a constructive role in shaping the IoT, a once-in-a-generation opportunity, into reality. It will be a great pity if they continue to focus on a short-term agenda of selling new technologies to enterprises, rather than meaningfully helping them deploy IoT solutions in their business.

Enterprises will have to be cautious in creating the most suitable IoT architecture for each project. Beyond the technical feasibility, they will be well-served by understanding the vast landscape of IoT technology, and getting a good grasp on the leading IoT technology vendors’ offerings.

A Key Factor in the CIO’s Ability to Drive Change | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

I recently met with a major player in the Internet of Things (IoT) space, and the company is incredibly frustrated with how developments are evolving. They pointed out the promise of the IoT but said it’s not evolving much beyond the use case of predictive maintenance. It seems people are In Denial (ID). Why aren’t use cases and revenue opportunities in the IoT exploding? I believe the hindrance is the same as it is when trying to drive change through any new technology: the change is cross-functional.

The fact that it’s not evolving much beyond predictive maintenance types of use cases is frustrating to any CIO looking for the next big thing in technology-enabled competitive advantages.

Read more at CIO online.

“My Digital is Bigger Than Yours” and the Technology Pulp Fiction | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

It’s the middle of the week and despite all the caffeine-induced stimulation I am in a cynically contemplative mood.

Reason? The past 6 weeks have been spent attending analyst events and conferences, listening and debating with business leaders and thought leaders on what will make the global services industry click. There has been a flood of “paradigm-changing” buzzwords, new solutions on the horizon, and yes, the predictions that claim to change the world in the next 24-36 months. I’ll not go into the details but if you have managed to find your way to this blog, you probably have already heard these terms – Innovation, Robotics, Automation, Digital, and Internet of Things! (And are probably thinking – “here goes another blog on digital transformation. Yawn!”)

That “yawn” is a symptom of the problems facing the technology industry. Gone are the days when you would look at a new product or an interface and say – “Wow!” I think the last time I exclaimed wow was more than a decade ago when I first saw a GPS map and the smooth voiceover guiding me to my destination. Since then there indeed have been some “Aha” moments but nothing that made me fall off my chair. The reason probably is this – most of our attention has been on innovation rather than invention.

  • Innovation is putting together working concepts and turning them into industrialized mass adoption successes
  • Invention is creating a new concept altogether and make it work

Frankly, all the innovation that we talk about today is a mishmash of just three inventions – computing, internet, and devices. Robotics – check. Automation – check. Digital – check. Internet of things – check! True, we are working on miniaturizing, increasing processing speed, writing hugely complex analytics code, and building beautiful interfaces. Reality check – we are still just exploring the “art of the possible” with the Legos.

What is wrong with that? Absolutely nothing. Incremental invention (or innovation) is a great thing. My issue is with paradigms that are dime a dozen these days. Here is the problem – We are in the age of the “moolah.” Theoretical or conceptual innovation has lesser weight since anything that is not investor-funded and cannot be in hands 18 months down the line, is meh. And that is why the less than smart pursuit to reset and invent terminologies instead of true touch and feel invention. Due to lack of true innovation, buzzwords and bubbles are what keep investors excited and money mobile. And these buzzwords are finally leading to madness.

Each industry event I went to saw analysts and leaders beating each other up with their own definitions of what “Digital” meant – for some it was “business transformation using digital,” for some it was “SMAC,” for some it was “driving growth and efficiency using digital,” while some lazy ones were resigned to “anything that is not analog”! Frankly, this debate made me cringe. It is only when industries lack true innovation that they resort to chest thumping using buzzwords. Global automotive industry is a case in point. Till Elon Musk came along, it was all about lines and curves, three-year warranties, and miles per gallon.

Hence, while I take another sip of my café Americano, I hope a maverick comes along and says, it’s time for telepathic computing, time travel, and an invisibility cloak. Gulp!

The Internet of Things and the March of the As-A-Service Economy | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

The irresistible force paradox asks, “What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?” I think it’s the opposite when it comes to the Internet of Things (IoT) and the already booming as-a-service economy: “What happens when an unstoppable force befriends an unstoppable object?”

Most of the discussion to date around the as-a-service economy has been focused on cloud services, SaaS, and the likes of Uber. At the heart of this economy are the fundamental premises that customers – either business or consumer – can “rent” rather than own the product or service, and can do so, on demand, when they need it, paying as they go.

Although wishing for the utopian as-a-service model may be a futile exercise, the IoT can initiate meaningful models for heavy investment industries and quite a few consumer-focused businesses, and as technologists we should continue to push the envelope.

Let’s step back and think about how the IoT can push the sharing economy to its potential. Can product manufacturers leverage IoT principles, and create a viable technical and commercial model where idle assets are not priced, or are priced at a lower rate, thus saving customers millions of dollars? This would, of course, require collaboration between customers and product manufacturers to enable insight into how, when, and how much a customer consumes the product. But consider the possibilities!

One example is the car-for-hire market. Could a customer’s wearable device communicate with a reserved car, notifying it of approximate wait time until it’s required, enabling the vehicle to be productively deployed somewhere else, in turn enabling the business to offer lower prices to the customer and reduce the driver’s idle time? I think the technology is there, and although the task is humongous and with uncertain returns, I am sure someone, (ZipCar?) will experiment with this model at scale in the near future.

Another example is the thousands of small healthcare labs that cannot afford to own a blood analyzer. Innovative manufacturers of these machines could leverage IoT principles to analyze the blood test patterns of individual labs, and offer them a subscription model by which they are charged per blood test executed, or offered a bundled price of $X per 100 blood tests (much like HP’s Instant Ink offering.)

The IoT has the potential to really bring upon us the power of a sharing economy. In the near-term, businesses face challenges in developing a viable commercial and support model. However, they must overcome this in order for society at-large to truly benefit from this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. They must remember that most industry disruption these days comes from outside the industry. If they don’t cannibalize themselves, someone else will. Thus, as the traditional competitive strategy levers are fast losing relevance, the IoT most definitely should be an integral part of their strategy.


Photo credit: Flickr

HCL vs. Wipro Soccer Matchup & the Digital Services Hullabaloo | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

In the last 10 days, analysts tracking digital services across the world woke up to highly savvy India-heritage service providers lapping up marquee digital deals in the world of sports. These new partnerships include HCL and Manchester United (soccer), Wipro and Chelsea (also soccer), and Infosys and the ATP World Tour (this one in tennis.)

These deals are prized because of the impact they create.

  • Strong digital services pedigree for these service providers: Because of their brand association with offshoring, labor arbitrage, and pure-play services focus, the India-heritage providers have traditionally been frowned upon when they entered the discourse on digital and technology products and platforms. Such deals will go a long way in changing this pedigree and association
  • Brand recall and stakeholder connect: Digital services are a different ball game. As you are not necessarily selling to the CIO, you need to reach stakeholders unreachable through the traditional sales route. These deals are excellent in that regard. For instance, Manchester United has 659 million followers across the world, second only to Facebook. Imagine the kind of global reach and exposure the deal creates for the HCL brand!

Sponsorship deals under the garb of services?

As an industry analyst, I am used to analyzing deals for their profitability and total contract value, i.e., the impact they create on the books in upcoming quarters. Looking at the above deals through this lens, I immediately saw that these are not traditional services deals. In fact, something tells me they will not figure similarly on the accounts as other services deals do. Indeed, Infosys candidly called out that it will be a “Global Technology Services Partner and Platinum Sponsor” of the ATP World Tour. Hence, it does not take a Sherlock Holmes to deduce that these three deals are essentially sponsorship arrangements (with an inbuilt services component) that the service providers have entered into under the garb of a services construct. A very easy way to decipher this is to compare the positioning of HCL’s and Wipro’s logos on the Manchester United and Chelsea websites, respectively. It makes it very clear which provider “spent” more on their “sponsorship.”

Take a look at the Manchester United website and you’ll see HCL’s logo is at the top of the page, right on top of ManU’s.

Manchester United

But when you check Chelsea’s website, you have to scroll all the way down to discover Wipro’s logo sitting in a corner sulking with Singha Beer for company.

Chelsea FC

So what?

Am I contemptuous of this sponsorship-deals-under-the-garb-of-services construct? Not at all! In fact, I am pleasantly surprised by the gumption shown by HCL, Infosys, and Wipro in taking this leap of faith to build a strong brand connect and pedigree. It shows they are willing to challenge the traditional constructs and meet the digital market head on. In a highly consumer-oriented world, new business will not come by just being efficient nerds. India-heritage companies are up against the likes of VC-funded start-ups, reforming technology majors (Google, IBM, Microsoft) and niche enterprise software firms (NetSuite, Workday, etc.,) all of which have stronger credentials in digital constructs. Given the buzz these deals have created, there is enough market validation for the tactical approach taken by these service providers. What is even better is that these are not typical paid sponsorship deals – these service providers will actually be providing services that will be touch and feel for millions of fans of these sporting giants. If they successfully manage it, this will create an exponentially stronger brand recall compared to what they have achieved in decades – being efficient service providers to enterprises, working in black boxes.

Hence, do not be surprised if TCS, which sponsors the New York Marathon (and many other races), turns around tomorrow and says that it is sponsoring managing all IoT (health sensors, speed sensors), platforms, and analytics of the race.

Keep watching this space for more on these developments!


Photo credit: Flickr

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