IoT Enabling Intelligent Retail
IoT Enabling Intelligent Retail

4.8/5 (5)

4.8/5 (5)

The Retail industry faces constant disruption because of unpredictability and seasonality for reasons ranging from economic uncertainties to festive seasons. Technology adoption has emerged as a key differentiator between the success stories and the also-rans in the industry. The biggest example of this would probably be eCommerce heavyweights in China, that were revolutionised by digital technology, forcing global Retail counterparts to transform to compete. Emerging technologies are helping organisations drive customer loyalty and improve their supply chain for better cost efficiency.

 

Drivers of Technology Adoption in Retail

There are several factors that have made the Retail industry one of the leaders in technology adoption.

  • Evolving Customer Preferences. Understandably, customers are kings in the Retail industry and their preferences drive the industry. For many years, customer loyalty was implemented through ‘loyalty programmes’ but today’s customers are not bound by cards and points, and factors such as same-day delivery, multiple payment options, on-the-spot problem resolution, and even invitations for exclusive events have a role to play in customer retention. The focus has shifted to better customer experience (CX). Retailers have access to immense data on their customers (which in turn raises concerns around data handling and compliance – requiring further investments in cybersecurity solutions), which is collected at every point of interaction and can be analysed for personalised and just-in-time offerings.
  • Maturity of the Omnichannel. Omnichannel retailing has been gaining grounds since the advent of eCommerce. However, the proliferation of mobile apps enabled not only easy access and monitoring of loyalty programmes, but also advanced capabilities such as the real-time view of inventory, and incorporation of virtual assistants for CX – and are pushing traditional players in the Retail industry to innovate and adopt the technology. However, as omnichannel has become the norm, retailers are evaluating the channels they want a presence on. While experts predicted that a brick-and-mortar presence would become redundant, retailers are realising that while consumers do research on the Internet and apps, many prefer to inspect and buy at a physical shop. This requires better integration and supply chain visibility across all touchpoints.
  • Globalisation of the Market. No longer can a retailer be sure of where the actual competition lies. One just has to look at the number of platforms and websites originating from Japan that have a presence across the globe to understand that competition can come from outside your country and very easily. Nor can they be sure of the best place to source their products as the world becomes one global market. In this global world, it is very important for retailers to have complete visibility of their supply chain, whether for a brick-and-mortar store or for eCommerce.

The global Ecosystm AI study reveals the top priorities for retailers (and etailers), focused on adopting emerging technologies (Figure 1). It is very clear that the top priorities are driving customer loyalty (through initiatives such as market segmentation and pricing optimisation) and supply chain optimisation (including demand forecasting and fraud detection, as procurement widens). Top Technology Priorities for the Retail Industry

 

IoT as an Enabler of Retail Transformation

The Retail industry is particularly leveraging IoT as they are faced with the overwhelming need to transform. The global Ecosystm IoT study reveals the areas that organisations are looking to benefit from IoT implementations (Figure 2). Retail organisations are essentially looking to creating a competitive edge – cost savings are not high on the list of benefits they are looking at.Drivers of IoT Implementation in the Retail Industry

 

Several Retail organisations are deploying customer management IoT solutions such as payment systems, customer identity authentication (especially in eCommerce), Digital Signage, customer satisfaction measurement through smart buttons, and location-based marketing. Asset management IoT solutions such as IoT-based inventory and warehouse management are also gaining traction.

 

Examples of IoT Use in Retail

IoT for Customer Experience
IoT for Marketing
  • Digital Signage. Digital Signage has proved to be an effective way of target marketing, eliminating the need for employees to put up physical signs and enabling dissemination of the latest product news and promotions to the consumers. Advanced Digital Signs include heat-mapping to upsell items based on high-traffic areas. Prendi, an Australian design agency created an interactive retail experience that is intended for store managers to showcase the most popular products, provide information, and simplify the overall sales and purchase process. Customers can take time to easily navigate through store inventory on a single screen, order for items digitally, which is then sent to a salespersons’ handheld devices, allowing them to take the items over to the customers.
  • Location-Based Marketing. Many retailers are collaborating with financial institutions and location-enabled apps to send push notifications on latest deals and offers straight to the customers’ devices, once they enter a demarcated location. This provides just-in-time data that increases app engagement and retention. Ukrainian hypermarket, Auchan, started a beacon pilot in Dec 2016 and kept adding new campaigns to strengthen the offerings in 2017. The hypermarket makes use of beacons to enable customers to receive notifications on navigation and promotions as they move through the store.
IoT for Supply Chain Optimisation
  • Smart Shelves. Shelves have turned out to be more than just a surface for displaying and storing objects. Retail stores are utilising RFID readers, weight sensors, proximity sensors, and 3D cameras for real-time visibility on inventory, layout, and shopper preferences. For FMCG products, monitoring the shelf life of perishable goods and proactive reorder alerts are extremely useful. Kroger Smart shelves are designed to offer digital support – they show ads, digital coupons that consumers can easily add to their mobile devices and changed prices as stores calibrate their product pricing. The shelves are built on top of sensors that keep track of products and real-time in-store inventory counts.
  • Remote Supply Chain. Retailers are looking to create a competitive edge and grow profits by optimising and digitising their supply chain management through IoT. Tive helps users keep real-time tabs on the condition of their shipped goods, notifying them about shock, vibration, tilt and other factors that might detrimentally affect those goods. Doing so allows retailers to expedite a replacement shipment and give customers a heads-up, and also tells when and where the delay occurred so future shipping routes can be adjusted if necessary.
  • Warehouse Automation. Devices, sensors and RFID tags help warehouse managers to know the exact details, location, and progress of any product at any time. This gives higher visibility into the inventory and the entire supply chain. UPS is using smart glasses in test programmes to reduce the amount of labelling on packages. Robots are used by the worldwide shipping company DHL in some of the company’s more modern facilities to reduce labour costs and improve order fulfillment speed and accuracy, all without disrupting ongoing warehouse operations.

 

The Retail industry already has several IoT use cases and AI-enabled IoT will further transform the industry. What are some interesting use cases that you can think of for the Retail and allied industries?  Let us know in your comments below.

3
3
Is AI Subsuming IoT?

5/5 (1)

5/5 (1)

Some of you may be familiar with the famous Goya painting, ‘Saturn Devouring His Son ‘, which belongs to his series of ‘Black Paintings’. It is the best comparison I can make after returning from the TechXLR8IoT World Europe Summit in London.

In the painting we see the god Cronos/Saturn, who immutably governs the course of time, devouring one of his sons. I see Cronos as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and his son as the Internet of Things (IoT). The analogy can be carried further – there are other brothers waiting their turn to be devoured by this hungry father. Soon it will be Augmented Reality /Virtual Reality (AR/VR), Blockchain and Digital Twins.

If we look at the Ecosystm global IoT Study, we find that adopters of IoT are developing their capabilities in related technologies, with AI, Machine Learning and Predictive Analytics being the most significant. Very soon the IoT that is part of our lives will have AI embedded in them.

So, if you are still waiting for the IoT boom, this event is a confirmation that IoT is not throwing up many new things at least in Europe. The few IoT companies that exhibited their products and services at Excel London showed nothing that could overshadow the big winner, the ubiquitous father AI.

I have been finding it more difficult to justify coming to these IoT events. However, my role as a speaker and moderator allows me to maintain my influence and keep my followers on social networks, informed. The organisation this year has sought speakers that mix vendor presentations with success stories of clients. But this year neither of them was able to raise the tone of the event. The few large IT firms present such as Microsoft, SAP and Oracle are on the AI bandwagon and their demos on pure-play IoT are oft-repeated.

The larger systems integrators did not have adequate presence either. Many of them should have implemented IoT solutions for years but never really risked investing in IoT, and continue to focus on digitalisation projects, cloud migration projects, products updates and customised developments.

The discussions of the first years of the IoT boom revolved around connectivity, security, IoT platforms, and even business models. Now, nobody is interested in these matters anymore.

There was no significant IoT news during the event. Perhaps the most important announcement was made by Marc Overton who took advantage of his presentation to announce the recent collaboration agreement between Sierra Wireless and Microsoft to claim industry’s first full-stack IoT offerings.

As for my sessions, they mixed IoT and Blockchain, something that would have guaranteed success for attendees two years ago or even last year but that did not arouse great enthusiasm this year. It is evident that both technologies are becoming a commodity. Something that is not bad, since we would stop speculating about possible use cases and actually implement the technology in our lives and businesses.

Do not worry, the life of IoT events continues, and so this week there are three more just in Europe:

Here is what I think event organisers and Tech vendors should keep in mind:

  • Organisers need to find a way to facilitate meetings between vendors and attendants – and focus on how to create indirect lead generation opportunities. This would be mutually beneficial for all concerned.
  • Organisers and exhibitors need to try to reinvent these IoT events where we see IoT present in every corner of the floor, in every stage, in every service (cafeteria, rest rooms, transportation….). We need to breath IoT every minute.
  • IoT vendors need to demonstrate that they are working with partners and not present isolated use cases or demos. We need to see that “intelligent things” from different vendors in the exhibition area are interconnected.

Otherwise the IoT events will continue to drive away both visitors and exhibitors. What would you like to get out of future IoT events? Let me know.

 

3
3
Global-Initiatives-to-support-AI-governance-and-Ethics
Global Initiatives to Support AI Governance and Ethics

5/5 (3)

5/5 (3)

Any new technology that changes our businesses or society for the better often has a potential dark side that is viewed with suspicion and mistrust. The media, especially on the Internet, is eager to prey on our fears and invoke a dystopian future where technology has gotten out of control or is used for nefarious purposes. For examples of how technology can be used in an unexpected and unethical manner, one can look at science fiction movies, Artificial Intelligence (AI) vs AI chatbots conversations, autonomous killer robots, facial recognition for mass surveillance or the writings of Sci-Fi authors such as Isaac Asimov and Iain M. Banks that portrays a grim use of technology.

This situation is only exacerbated by social media and the prevalence of “fake news” that can quickly propagate incorrect, unscientific or unsubstantiated rumours.

As AI is evolving, it is raising some new ethical and legal questions. AI works by analysing data that is fed into it and draws conclusions based on what it has learned or been trained to do. Though it has many benefits, it may pose a threat to humans, data privacy, and the potential outcomes of the decisions. To curb the chances of such outcomes, organisations and policymakers are crafting recommendations about ensuring the responsible and ethical use of AI. In addition, governments are also taking initiatives to take it a step further and working on the development of principles, drafting laws and regulations. Tech developers are also trying to self-regulate their AI capabilities.

Amit Gupta, CEO, Ecosystm interviewed Matt Pollins, Partner of renowned law firm CMS where they discussed the implementation of regulations for AI.

To maximise the benefits of science and technology for the society, in May 2019, World Economic Forum  (WEF) – an independent international organisation for Public-Private Cooperation – announced the formation of six separate fourth industrial revolution councils in San Francisco.

The goal of the councils is to work on a global level around new technology policy guidance, best policy practices, strategic guidelines and to help regulate technology under six domains – AI, precision medicine, autonomous driving, mobility, IoT, and blockchain. There is participation of over 200 industry leaders from organisations such as Microsoft, Qualcomm, Uber, Dana-Farber, European Union, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and the World Bank, to address the concerns around absence of clear unified guidelines.

Similarly, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)  created a global reference point for AI adoption principles and recommendations for governments of countries across the world. The OECD AI principles are called “values-based principles,” and are clearly envisioned to endorse AI “that is innovative and trustworthy and that respects human rights and democratic values.”

Likewise, in April, the European Union published a set of guidelines on how companies and governments should develop ethical applications of AI to address the issues that might affect society as we integrate AI into sectors like healthcare, education, and consumer technology.

The Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) in Singapore presented the first edition of a Proposed Model AI Governance Framework (Model Framework) – an accountability-based framework to help chart the language and frame the discussions around harnessing AI in a responsible way. We can several organisations coming forward on AI governance. As examples, NEC released the “NEC Group AI and Human Rights Principles“, Google has created AI rules and objectives, and the Partnership on AI was established to study and plan best practices on AI technologies.

 

What could be the real-world challenges around the ethical use of AI?

Progress in the adoption of AI has shown some incredible cases benefitting various industries – commerce, transportation, healthcare, agriculture, education – and offering efficiency and savings. However, AI developments are also anticipated to disrupt several legal frameworks owing to the concerns of AI implementation in high-risk areas. The challenge today is that several AI applications have been used by consumers or organisations only for them to later realise that the project was not ethically fit. An example is the development of a fully autonomous AI-controlled weapon system which is drawing criticism from various nations across the globe and the UN itself.

“Before an organisation embarks on the project, it is vital for a regulation to be in place right from the beginning of the project. This enables the vendor and the organisation to reach a common goal and understanding of what is ethical and right. With such practices in place bias, breach of confidentiality and ethics can be avoided” says Ecosystm Analyst, Audrey William. “Apart from working with the AI vendor and a service provider or systems integrator, it is highly recommended that the organisation consult a specialist such as Foundation for Responsible Robotics, Data & Society, AI Ethics Lab that help look into the parameters of ethics and bias before the project deployment.”

Another challenge arises from a data protection perspective because AI models are fed with data sets for their training and learning. This data is often obtained from usage history and data tracking that may compromise an individual’s identity. The use of this information may lead to a breach of user rights and privacy which may leave an organisation facing consequences around legal prosecutions, governance, and ethics.

One other area that is not looked into is racial and gender bias. Phone manufacturers have been criticised in the past on matters of racial and gender bias, when the least errors in identification occur with light-skinned males. This opened conversations on how the technology works on people of different races and genders.

San Francisco recently banned the use of facial recognition by the police and other agencies, proposing that the technology may pose a serious threat to civil liberties. “Implementing AI technologies such as facial recognition solution means organisations have to ensure that there are no racial bias and discrimination issues. Any inaccuracy or glitches in the data may tend to make the machines untrustworthy” says William.

Given what we know about existing AI systems, we should be very concerned that the possibilities of technology breaching humanitarian laws, are more likely than not.

Could strong governance restrict the development and implementation of AI?

The disruptive potential of AI poses looming risks around ethics, transparency, and security, hence the need for greater governance. AI will be used safely only once governance and policies have been framed, mandating its use.

William thinks that, “AI deployments have positive implications on creating better applications in health, autonomous driving, smart cities, and a eventually a better society. Worrying too much about regulations will impede the development of AI. A fine line has to be drawn between the development of AI and ensuring that the development does not cross the boundaries of ethics, transparency, and fairness.”

 

While AI as a technology has a way to go before it matures, at the moment it is the responsibility of both organisations and governments to strike a balance between technology development and use, and regulations and frameworks in the best interest of citizens and civil liberties.

4
4
The New Zealand Agritech Story – Fieldays, Waikato

4.2/5 (5)

4.2/5 (5)

The largest agricultural event in the southern hemisphere has just come to a close in Waikato New Zealand, across 114 hectares, with over 1,050 exhibitors, more than 125,000 visitors, including delegates from over 40 countries, and total sales revenue of around half a billion over the four days. Fieldays, an idea from the late 1960s  focused on connecting farmers with innovative products and services, was officially opened by the Rt. Hon. Jacinda Ardern who spoke of the strength of New Zealand’s primary industry and its importance to the people of New Zealand. Of specific interest to me as I joined the crowds on day two, was the emerging technology innovations in agriculture on show at the Innovation Centre.

A preview of the New Zealand Agritech Story, developed along with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE), was kicked off on a foggy Waikato morning on day two of Fieldays, providing insights into the country’s competitive advantage in Agritech along with perceptions of key global players. This was then followed by the New Zealand government announcing a new $20 million Agritech investment venture fund.

NZ Tech reports that the tech sector in New Zealand is the third largest and fastest growing export sector, worth $6.3 billion in 2015, and according to the TIN100, the Waikato, has had the fastest growing tech sector in the country two years in a row. New Zealand Agritech exports stand at $1.4 billion in 2018 and is growing – and together with a strong tech sector overall, the investment will help position New Zealand at the forefront of Agritech innovation globally.

Day two also revealed Fieldays Innovation Award winners across a range of categories including Modusense who took out the Gait International Innovation Award for Product Design and Scalability. Modusense, developed here in the Waikato, is a secure, scalable and reliable Internet of Things (IoT) device platform that provides everything needed to deploy remote data collection. In the primary industries sector, Modusense enables complete apiary health monitoring.

Gait International Innovation Award for Product Design and Scalability presented to Modusense

Another IoT enabled solution, RiverWatch, was awarded the AWS Innovation Award in Data for their “Fitbit for water” – an inexpensive water quality monitoring device. RiverWatch is currently running trials in the upper Waikato River in partnership with Te Arawa River Iwi Trust to look at the impacts of industry and farming on water health.

The RiverWatch IoT solution

Agritech will transform the industry, and innovations such as those mentioned will further advance New Zealand’s position in the agriculture industry. The true value of Agritech will be realised when AI-enabled IoT is leveraged for cost savings through process automation, and for greater visibility of the entire supply chain. And leading organisations in the industry are aware of it. In the global Ecosystm AI study, Resource & Primary industries (including Agriculture) emerged as a leader when it comes to current and future deployments of IoT Sensor Analytics.

Innovations in IoT

Shipping and logistics in the agricultural sector present unique challenges including a lack of transparency, something that Sparrows.io is working to solve with a hardware and software solution that provides actionable insights using custom sensor modules and live tracking to enable visibility over the supply chain.

The recently launched TRex – IoT, Telemetry, Data and Messaging I/O Transceiver, was also being showcased in the Innovation Centre. Designed to be used for long range monitoring and control, the solution enables two-way messaging and is customisable to meet the needs of applications across various industry sectors including agriculture and farming.

Another innovation that caught my attention at the Innovation Centre was a water monitoring and management device designed to be connected to the irrigation system to enable effective management of water through a mesh network. Hailing from the deep south Next Farm has developed two solutions, with their Remote Irrigation Mesh (RIM) product utilising integrated farm sensor technology together with cloud-based dashboards allowing farmers to maximise the efficiency of water usage while minimising runoff.

Innovations in AI

One of my favourites from last year, Halter, were in the Mystery Creek Pavillion this year and after raising $8 million in funding to refine and further trial their solar-powered collar, for herding cows and monitoring their health, in the Waikato they are close to hitting the open market. Head of Data Science at Halter, Harry She, previously employed by NASA, oversees the development of what the team calls “cowgorithms” which form the basis of the AI underpinning much of the product functions. The collars, which can receive signals up to 8 kms away, is available free and farmers then subscribe on a monthly basis, at a cost per cow, to enable the features they require.

Another product back for another year was the PAWS® Pest Identification Sensor Pad from Lincoln Agritech which is able to identify pests, differentiating these from native species, and transmit the result to the Department of Conservation staff. Utilising machine learning and AI, amongst other technologies, the device greatly reduces surveillance workload and enables staff to detect and respond to re-invasion more rapidly.

PAWS Pest Identification Sensor Pad
PAWS® Pest Identification Sensor Pad

However, as exciting as the idea of a Fitbit for cows and innovation in the pursuit of a predator-free New Zealand is, I must admit the highlight of my Fieldays visit was a team of Agribusiness students from Hamilton’s St Paul’s Collegiate school who were awarded the Fieldays Innovations Young Innovator of the Year Award for their floating electro unit “Bobble Trough” designed to keep animal water troughs clean by preventing the growth of algae and microorganisms through the release of copper ions into the water.

Agribusiness students from Hamilton’s St Paul’s Collegiate school

I am now working to secure the team’s innovation as a display in a Smart Space being launched in July as part of the Hamilton City Council’s smart cities initiative, Smart Hamilton. A space designed to provide an opportunity for the wider community to engage with technology innovation and be involved in co-creating solutions that enhance the wellbeing of Hamiltonians.

For information on emerging technology innovation in the agriculture sector in New Zealand access my other reports on technology in agriculture in New Zealand.

4
4
Singapore-Government-Promoting-Tech-Adoption-in-the-Legal-Industry
Singapore Government Promoting Tech Adoption in the Legal Industry

5/5 (2)

5/5 (2)

Singapore is encouraging the adoption of technology in the legal sector for higher efficiencies. In May, the Ministry of Law (MinLaw), Enterprise Singapore, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and the Law Society of Singapore (LawSoc) announced the launch of a new SmartLaw Guild to encourage law firms to adopt technology.

The SmartLaw Guild brings together case studies from the legal industry and organises  knowledge sharing sessions. Speaking at the launch of SmartLaw Guild, Communications and Information Minister S Iswaran, said that the majority of legal practices in Singapore are catered to the SME sector given that 90% of organisations in Singapore fall under the category.  The Government is making an effort in the evolution of technology to support the SME legal practices. Mr. Iswaran also encouraged practicing lawyers to take advantage of the skills training provided by the IMDA’s Techskills Accelerator initiative in areas such as cybersecurity, AI and data science.

 

Why have Law Firms been Slow in Tech Uptake?

A LawSoc survey held in 2018 showed that the adoption of technology helps in the delivery of legal services but only an estimated 12% of law firms in Singapore appears to have adopted digital technology till date. Hence, to encourage digitalisation of the legal industry, legal firms in Singapore will benefit from the SGD 3.68 million fund that has been set aside, to provide them with funding support for adopting technology solutions.

Commenting on the announcement, Ecosystm VP & General Counsel, Nandini Navale said “Across jurisdictions, law firms are bound to licensing and regulatory conditions and have to follow strict standards of professional ethics, confidentiality, and care to clients. This could be a possible reason for their ‘abundantly cautious’ approach towards the adoption of new technology and digitalisation. A glitch or even a minor fault in the technology could result in the loss of license to practise, breach of regulatory obligations, reputational damage or can compromise the interest/privacy of clients. Therefore, AI and technology in systems and processes will have to be proven reliable and fail-safe as a condition for the implementation in the legal sector.”

Law has been a conservative industry. This is fast changing, however with the “BigLaw” in countries investing heavily in technology and looking to implement AI to help their legal staff perform due diligence and research, provide additional legal insights and in process automation in legal work.

Advanced technology solutions powered by AI are enhancing business capabilities and the adoption of AI in the legal industry can help in a quicker resolution of disputes and more consistent outcomes. “AI is capable of transforming the legal sector. The technology could be used to sift through volumes of case law and litigation history, and help lawyers to interpret, prepare and support their positions. Legal issues spotters are being utilised in the contract due diligence and review, legal-tech being deployed for routine and low-value work. Applications for time trackers, billing and invoicing, and legal data analytics are also being adopted” says Navale “The Singapore Government is indeed walking the talk – an example of this is the introduction of the Venture Capital Investment Model Agreements (VIMA) documentation.” The initiative was launched in 2018 by the Singapore Academy of Law (SAL) and the Singapore Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (SVCA) which comprises a set of standard documents that improve the process of structuring a deal and transactions for venture capital firms, start-ups, and SMEs. The core working group for the initiative adopted technology and created a questionnaire that guides through the documentation with auto-versioning and customisation to save time, cost and effort.

 

How have some Disruptive Technologies Impacted the Legal Industry?

Amit Gupta, CEO, Ecosystm interviewed Matt Pollins, Partner of renowned law firm CMS where they discussed the legal implications of AI as well as the uptake of new technologies in the legal industry.

What do you think are the implications of technology adoption in the legal industry?

Let us know in your comments below.

4
4
Salesforce acquires Tableau
Salesforce – Acquires Tableau, accelerates analytics as it plays a Customer 360 game

5/5 (4)

5/5 (4)

Salesforce announced on Monday, June 10th (US time) the acquisition of data visualisation leader Tableau for US$15.7B. Some jaws dropped at the purchased and the price and some at the purchaser. It was inevitable that Tableau would be acquired, Oracle, IBM, or SAP could have been the suitor, but Salesforce is no surprise.

In all honesty, anyone who has watched Salesforce closely should neither be surprised or concerned by this acquisition. Salesforce is not merely your cloud CRM provider anymore. It has not been for years, but for some outdated perception is the reality.

Salesforce is an increasingly broad and complex enterprise software behemoth. It’s recently reported numbers highlight this. It is on track for US$20B in revenue by 2022, with year to year growth in the most recent quarterly reported numbers just shy of 25%. Sales and Service Cloud represent 60% of quarterly revenues, but the fastest growth is in the platform and increasingly new investment areas. What Salesforce does so well is to identify adjacencies to an evolving core product. The acquisition of Mulesoft in 2018 set the path to solving integration problems that challenged Salesforce deployment for customers. The purchase of Map Anything in April 2019, highlighted this adjacency approach as well as the ability of Salesforce’s ecosystem to develop partners through the AppExchange then acquire into Salesforce.

 

So how does Tableau fit into Salesforce?

For nearly US$16B, it had better be a precise fit. Tableau is the leader in data visualisation. It is not an analytics platform as such; one does not go to Tableau for deep statistical insight; instead, it uses it to communicate data to as broad an audience as possible. Salesforce has analytics capability as a core pillar, but this has been one of the more disappointing offerings from Salesforce and has far from reached the potential required. Salesforce will only benefit from a functionality and capability perspective with Tableau inside rather than as a partner or third-party application.

Quite simply across the product suite, and as a standalone offering, Tableau will significantly increase the visualisation, both automated and user-led capabilities of Salesforce. In terms of what it means for both companies, of course, there is good and bad. There is a very significant overlap in the customer bases of both products. It is not 100%, but there will be a balance of customer familiarity and the opportunity to cross-sell for Salesforce, and the extensive partner network that it oversees. There will be some cultural challenges, no doubt in the integration. Salesforce talks about Tableau as an independent organisation within Salesforce, and that will work until Mark Benioff believes it doesn’t. The internal but separate approach rarely works, and the Tableau logo will disappear at a point in time as a consequence.

There are a few differences between the integration of Tableau and the most comparable business Mulesoft. Mulesoft was literally up the street from Salesforce in San Francisco and culturally was based on many of the premises of Salesforce. For Seattle based Tableau, there will be a few differences culturally, although nothing that cannot be overcome with communication, honesty and much hard work on the cultural integration.

The on-premise and cloud capability of Tableau may disappear quicker than the road map that Tableau had, again, Salesforce places great import on the SaaS, no Software approach. Advanced analytics and AI capabilities of Tableau are not its fundamental value proposition so that Einstein will remain the lead there, with some added capability. The non-customer centric user of Tableau provides new client opportunities for Salesforce.

The final point of the acquisition is that it proves in 2019 and the future, you cannot be a one trick software firm. To remain relevant, you need multiple capabilities. Tableau struggled with this, VMware famously struggled until the “invention” of hybrid cloud to be more than virtualisation, and SAS Institute and ESRI remain the poster firms for relying on one old product suite.

 

Capture Point

Salesforce paid a premium for Tableau, even in a capital-rich 2019. In the world of Salesforce, that is rarely the point. One of the challenging aspects in the Salesforce 360 portfolio is fundamentally sharpened; it gains new users, new capabilities and opportunities for the core product to expand. As with all acquisition, the trick will be the integration, cultural alignment, and keeping developers and partners on board.

3
3
Ecosystm Snapshot: Salesforce Acquires Tableau

5/5 (2)

5/5 (2)

In a move that feels “back to the future”, Salesforce has agreed to acquire Tableau Software Inc for US$15.3 billion in a deal that is expected to close in the third quarter of 2019. It seems all independent BI and analytics companies (except SAS!) eventually get snapped up – Business Objects by SAP, Hyperion by Oracle, Cognos by IBM. The move comes less than a week after Google acquired BI and analytics provider Looker.

Today, many businesses use Tableau (over 86,000), including a lot of Salesforce customers. They have chosen Tableau because it is easy to deploy and use, and like Salesforce own applications, it targets the ultimate decision maker – the business user – and sometimes even the consumer. Recent research into the BI systems integrators in Asia Pacific shows that Tableau is one of the leading analytics platforms for the partner community in the region – the big SIs have many people focused on Tableau. But that dominance is being challenged by a re-energised Microsoft, whose Power BI is also witnessing strong growth – and who is typically the price leader in the market.

For Salesforce customers, there is some overlap between products – their own Einstein Analytics tools do much of what Tableau can do – although Tableau helps customers see insights from data stored both on the cloud and inside their own data centres. It also moves Salesforce closer to the Customer 360 vision – the ability to get a view of customers across the Commerce, Marketing and Service Clouds. Salesforce customers not using Tableau today will get a better user experience by using Tableau as the visualisation platform.

History has shown that it is hard to make such acquisitions successful. Tableau was a huge success because it was independent. The same was for Business Objects and Cognos before their acquisitions. History has shown that when the large BI and analytics vendors are acquired, others move into that space. While Salesforce has announced they will run Tableau as a separate business, it will no longer be independent. Partners will need to be maintained and provided a growth path – and partners are the cornerstone of Tableau’s success. Some of these partners might have strong ties to other software or cloud platforms too such as SAP, Oracle, AWS or Google. Customers of Tableau might feel sales pressure to move to a Salesforce environment – and will likely see Salesforce integration happen at a deeper level than on other platforms.

Tableau’s independence will disappear. However keeping Tableau as a separate business may not be the long term goal for Salesforce – it might be to offer the best application and analytics solution in the market – to make the entire suite more attractive to more potential buyers and users. It may be to take Salesforce beyond the current users in their customers to many other users who may not need the full application but need the analytics and visualisations that the data can provide. If this is the case, then the company is onto a winner with the Tableau acquisition.

BUT…

The long term goal is not analytics reports delivered to employees. It is not visualisation. It is automation. It is applications doing smart, AI-driven analysis, and deciding for employees. It is about taking the human out of the process. In a factory you don’t need a report to tell you a machine is down – you need to book a repair person automatically – or a service technician to visit before the machine has even broken down. And you don’t need a visualised report to show that a machine is beyond its life expectancy. You need the machine replaced before it fails catastrophically.

Too often, we are putting humans in processes where they are not required. We are making visualisations more attractive and easier to consume when, in reality, we just needed the task automated. While we employ humans, there will be a need to make decisions more effectively, and we will still require tools like Tableau. But don’t let the pretty pictures distract you from the main prize – intelligent automation.

If you would like to speak to Tim Sheedy or another analyst at Ecosystm about what the acquisition Tableau by Salesforce might mean to your business or industry, please feel free to schedule an inquiry call on the profile page.

5
5
VendorSphere: NEC’s Facial Recognition Capabilities

4.9/5 (8)

4.9/5 (8)

I was invited recently by NEC to attend their briefing where Walter Lee, their Evangelist and Government Relations Leader presented to analysts and journalists about how they are winning large contracts across various sectors in the areas of biometrics and surveillance. Biometrics is not just used as a way to drive greater security, but is also helping increase speed in processing times, reducing waiting period in queues and used as a way to drive efficiency and reduce costs which was highlighted by Lee through the various projects NEC had won recently.

NEC’s Artificial intelligence (AI) engine, NeoFace’s strength lies in its tolerance of poor-quality images. The NeoFace solution can match images with low resolutions down to 24 pixels between the eyes and this has allowed it to demonstrate the matching accuracy which is hard to achieve for most vendors offering Facial Recognition solutions. It is its ability to work across various challenges around low resolution, light and images that has allowed NEC to be one of the leading suppliers of Facial Recognition solutions globally.

Key Case Studies Presented

In 2018 Delta Airlines launched the first ‘biometric terminal’ in the US at the international terminal in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport. The biometric push according to Lee replaces tickets and customers now check in by using their face. The system recognises their face and they are checked in. Customers no longer need to use their passports to get through checkpoints around the airport.  Lee emphasised on how it takes 9 minutes to board an international flight. Apart from driving identification and security, this use case highlights how airports around the world can increase efficiency in their overall check in and boarding processes at airports. Other core benefits derived from this implementation include better security for border control, seamless service, speed of boarding (savings of 9 minutes per flight). Privacy issues were addressed with regards to where the data was residing and how long the data would be kept for and in this case the data was kept for only 24 hours.

According to the global Ecosystm AI study of current and planned Facial Recognition adoption by industry, the transportation industry is leading the number of deployments globally.

Adoption of Facial Recognition by Industries

Another case study presented is the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo., for which NEC will provide the Facial Recognition solution. The solution will be used to identify over 300,000 people at the games including athletes and officials. It is the first time that Facial Recognition technology will be used for this purpose at an Olympic Games. The NEC solution will allow the matching of tens of thousands of faces in a nano second according to  Lee.

The Tokyo 2020 implementation will involve linking photo data with an IC card to be carried by accredited people. NEC says that it has the world’s leading face recognition tech based on benchmark tests from the US’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Ecosystm Comment.

NEC has years of experience in biometrics and Facial Recognition. Not many vendors have solutions that can capture vast amounts of images in a nano second. Their solutions are used by some of the largest organisations in the world. NEC has also perfected the art of handling low resolution images which if not analysed accurately can lead to unintended consequences. The ability to process low resolution images with speed and accuracy is not something that is easily achievable. Security and the rise of terrorism are some of the needs as to why Facial Recognition is important. Additionally, speed and efficiency in administrating passenger boarding at airports whilst ensuring that the security and identity checks have been made is important. The Delta Airlines case study is a great example of how there can be a savings of 9 minutes per flight. NEC continues to gain traction in the market and the Ecosystm AI study has them as one of the top vendors being evaluated for planned implementations for Facial Recognition globally.

The benefits of Facial Recognition solutions are huge – however there must be greater scrutiny around the possible outcomes of AI. Whilst regulation on AI is still at its infancy, 2019 and 2020 will see greater scrutiny and regulation around AI implementations. These will be directed towards protecting individual’s data but also there will be greater emphasis on addressing issues around privacy, ethics and bias in AI implementations. Feeding the machine with the right data (unbiased and ethical) and measuring the various outcomes before the project goes live must be looked at with greater diligence.

2 weeks ago, San Francisco became the first US city to ban the use of Facial Recognition technology by the police and local government agencies. One of the reasons for the ban was with regard to bias. When designing the systems, if technology specialists feed the wrong information for example recognising only a certain skin colour, then the problem of making the wrong and unwanted assumptions start arising. The ecosystem of players in the AI industry ranging from government, academia right down to vendors have a greater role to play in ensuring ethics and bias issues are addressed from the onset of the project. There are consultants in the market as I highlighted in my recent Ecosystm report, that prepare companies for the impact of ethics, fairness and bias. We can expect more of such consultancies and specialist agencies to grow in the market.

NEC has taken this into consideration and published a set of principles for the application of biometrics and AI.  The “NEC Group AI and Human Rights Principles” will guide the company along the lines of privacy and human rights. These initiatives were led by the Digital Trust Business Strategy Division, in collaboration with several other divisions within the company, as well as industry stakeholders including industry experts and non-profit organisations.

 

6
6
Cloud Transforming the Education Industry

5/5 (2)

5/5 (2)

Over the last few years, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of educational institutions adopting technology to deliver solutions such as learning management, collaboration and support activities. The ubiquity of cloud solutions allows institutions to focus on enhancing the educational experience for students, teachers and administration through emerging teaching methods such as online platforms, interactive systems, and remote management of mission-critical projects and research.

Drivers of Transformation in Education

Education systems, depending on the country, face several problems ranging from achieving universal education goals, limited access to resources, student retention, student recruitment, to conducting cutting-edge research. Moreover, today’s students are millennials and post-millennials, who are digital natives – pushing educational institutions to adopt technology to attract the right cohort and provide an education that equips the students for the workplace of the future. The industry is being driven to transform to keep up with student expectations on delivery, access to the resource, and how they choose to communicate with their educators and peers. Cloud-based offerings are helping educational institutions to overcome these challenges.  The top drivers of Education are:

  • Personalised Learning. Modern pedagogy encourages personalised learning, where students can choose their own learning path. With the growth of virtual learning environments and eLearning technologies, institutions are able to change the ways they teach, tailoring the curriculum to individual needs, monitoring an individual’s learning journey and providing just-in-time feedback.
  • Collaborative Education. Collaborative education principles are based on the premise that many students learn better by communicating with their peer network and not in silos. Also, increasingly, especially at the primary and secondary levels, parents are regarded as a significant stakeholder in a child’s education.
  • Efficient Delivery. Most educational institutions are focused on efficient delivery, not only to be more financially sustaining but also so that students, teachers and administration have the ability to access information, including content and learning management systems, anytime and anywhere. The focus is on creating more a flexible work environment and increasing practicality and ease of use for students and educators.

The global Ecosystm AI study reveals the top priorities for educational institutions focused on adopting emerging technologies.

 

Cloud as an Enabler of Transformation

Cloud gives access to an immense knowledge base that students, educators, and institutions as a whole can leverage. The reach and availability of connectivity has increased the number of users of cloud-based education solutions for remote learning, which helps in the goal of personalised learning. Cloud solutions can also fulfil the demand for collaborative education with reliable and scalable infrastructure. It enables a more collaborative teaching and learning approach, with easy maintenance and management of monitoring and control solutions. Moreover, it promotes efficient delivery as educational institutions look to migrate legacy systems onto the cloud, and increasingly procure SaaS solutions. Cloud not only reduces the burden on an institution’s CapEx but is increasingly being seen as an essential enabler of digital transformation (DX).

In fact, the key benefits that educational institutions are realising from cloud adoption, according to the global Ecosystm Cloud study, are:

  • Increased work process efficiency. As the industry becomes more complicated with the advances in pedagogy and technology, cloud is helping institutions to streamline workflows and enabling the participation of multiple stakeholders, some on campus and some remote. One must not forget that education requires an immense amount of administrative work, by both teachers and allied workforce.
  • Improved service levels and business agility. The scalability that Cloud provides, especially during high-volume periods such as admissions and examinations, gives educational institutions the ability to be agile. Also, back-up and disaster recovery are key in education, and many institutions start their Cloud journey with storage and back up.
  • Simplified sharing of systems/information across departments. Information sharing across different departments becomes easier with the rising penetration of mobile devices such as phones, tablets, and laptops in the classrooms for both students and teachers. Cloud technology ensures that the data shared between devices occurs safely and efficiently.

 

Examples of Transformation in Education

 

Virtual Classrooms and Schools

Unlike traditional methods of teaching, virtual classrooms are enabling students to learn and access content without their presence in schools or universities and from anywhere across the globe. The benefit of virtual schools and classrooms is that they do not require any heavy infrastructure or technical equipment to run. In a virtual world, teachers and students can connect with each other in a fast, flexible, and cost-effective way. It enables teachers to host live chats, share lectures and videos, create interactive learning activities and receive instant student feedback.

For example, Florida Virtual School is a full-time online school providing virtual K-12 education to students all over the world. It is a recognised eLearning school and provides custom solutions to meet students’ requirements. This model is being replicated globally especially in remote areas where an actual school premise may not be feasible or is too expensive.

Research & Experimentation

The remote handling of projects and experiments is enabling education institutions to overcome the challenge of carrying them out in a controlled and safe environment. ChemCollective, a project of the National Science Digital Library in the US, enables students to interact with a flexible learning environment in which students can access online chemistry labs to apply formulas, perform experiments and learn in realistic and engaging ways, like working scientists.

Open Education Resources

Cloud is enabling the development of open source content for schools and colleges. The challenge with the existing books and lectures is that they get dated. Cloud is enabling a wealth of content through open repositories and legal protocols to allow a community to collaborate and update the information. Open educational resources (OERs) are developed and can be modified by the creators and administrators. The community can contribute to maps, slides, worksheets, podcasts, syllabi or even textbooks. The copyright is associated via legal tools such as Creative Commons licenses, so others can freely access, reuse, translate, and modify them.

As textbooks and course material can now be updated in real-time and offered through a cloud-based subscription model, this now opens up new streams of revenue for publishers. However, this then raises the conversation that textbook prices are increasing while students have no option to purchase second-hand books or sell books once they are done with them.

MOOCs

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) platforms both provide content to students in areas of personal interest and additional sources of revenue to renowned global institutions. A quick look at Coursera’s website shows online courses from reputed institutions such as MIT and Johns Hopkins University. There are still providers such as the Khan Academy that do not actively monetise the material they provide, but increasingly institutions look at MOOC to generate more revenues, by offering remote learning options to individuals, as well as by collaborating with local universities to make their courses available to overseas students – a previously untapped market.

 

 

Cloud computing is transforming the classroom and learning experiences the way educators, curriculum leads, and specialists recommend. The technology has a huge role to play in enabling transformation in Education – for national education systems, for educational institutions, and ultimately for the students.

How else do you think Cloud can transform the education industry? Let us know in your comments below.

4
4