Avanseus-Predictive-Maintenance-in-the-Data-Age
Ecosystm VendorSphere: Avanseus – Predictive Maintenance in the Data Age

4.8/5 (5)

4.8/5 (5)

Authored by Ullrich Loeffler and Kaushik Ghatak

Technology has been identified as a key enabler of innovation and transformation with great potential to disrupt and reshape entire industries. At the same time, the technology industry itself has been at the forefront of disruption with thousands of promising start-ups emerging in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), Blockchain, cloud and cybersecurity to name a few.

In February 2020, Ecosystm had the opportunity to meet the executive team of Avanseus, an AI solution provider that promises to reshape traditional maintenance processes by leveraging AI-based algorithms for predictive maintenance and failure detection.

Avanseus is not the newest kid on the block having been launched in June 2015 with headquarters in Singapore. The founding team has extensive experience in the telecommunications sector from executive careers in both the operator and the network provider segments. The problem statement and value proposition that Avanseus was founded on is to support telecom companies to tackle the costly challenge of maintaining their increasingly complex networks and to ensure network performance and customer satisfaction. Ecosystm research finds that predictive maintenance is a key priority for telecom providers looking to invest in newer technologies (Figure 1).

The solution Avanseus offers aims to be simple in the way that its proprietary AI-enabled algorithms can assess and predict network performance and network failures with as little as 6 months of network data history to achieve a high degree of prediction accuracy across telecom networks. The simplicity of the solution further allows cost-effective proofs of concept (PoCs) which lets telecom prospects experience first-hand its potential to drive down maintenance cost and ensure network performance.

Avanseus had secured seed capital of US$2.5 million till the middle of 2017. At the end of 2018, Avanseus secured funding via convertible notes of US$1.3m – main noteholders being TNB Spring and SEEDS Capital (Enterprise Singapore). A global network equipment manufacturer and managed services provider became its first commercial customer in 2016. From there Avanseus has demonstrated steady growth achieving revenue of US$1 million in 2018 and US$2.3 million in 2019. 2020 is forecast to be a milestone year with predictions to become cash-flow positive and to achieve revenue growth of 150% over 2019.

As of February 2020, Avanseus employs 41 staff across multiple international locations including its headquarters in Singapore, its development centre in Bangalore and sales offices in Delhi, North and Latin America and Italy to grow its global presence. The team is complemented by 8 part-time consultants and a growing partner ecosystem which includes major consulting firms as well as technology partners such as Dell, Splunk and Siemens. Expanding its partnerships globally is a key part of its strategy in order to scale up on the opportunities it can contest.

 

Avanseus’ Potential Growth Path

Considering its young history, Avanseus has shown an impressive growth path which can be credited to staying true to its game plan and its original value proposition and solution design. A new fund-raising round had been kicked off at the end of 2019 with the aim to secure sufficient capital to accelerate growth over the coming years. Half of the anticipated funding will be invested into on-site consultants and sales teams while the other half will be invested in R&D to expand automation into APIs and other machine learning technologies. R&D has been a key focus from its early days which has led to the filing of 8 patents, 2 of which have been granted.

In order to accelerate growth further, Avanseus is also re-assessing the industries that could benefit from its predictive maintenance solutions. As with many startups and growth companies, innovation is often not a straight path and new opportunities and ideas arise as the market and customers are engaged. Several industries face similar challenges and benefit from reduced maintenance cost, reduced downtime, extended equipment lifecycles and improved services quality. To transfer the value proposition across use cases and industry applications Avanseus is looking to leverage approximately 80% of its existing solution and apply 20% of industry-specific domain expertise. This has opened up new growth opportunities in a number of areas such as Industrial IoT, Utilities, Manufacturing and supply chain. There are also opportunities in customer-focused industries such as Banking in niche areas such as maintenance of data centre operations.

 

Ecosystm Comments

As companies collect and manage an exploding amount of data assets within their operations or from their customers, there is an increasing opportunity for innovative technology vendors to support these companies in driving value from their data assets. Avanseus has demonstrated a clear vision and execution in addressing one of these opportunities by focusing on a clear problem statement and offering a ‘simple’ solution that presents a strong business case. As with every growth company, the challenge is to leverage this opportunity and secure the right funding and resources to scale up as quickly as possible.

Partnerships will be critical in its growth path but signing up partners alone may not translate to creating value. The challenge for Avanseus will be to achieve partner commitment and enablement across different geographies. This will require time and a dedicated channel strategy beyond opportunistic partnerships that are born out of specific client engagements.

Another opportunity that could turn into a challenge is the new range of solution applications that Avanseus has identified. Being a high growth company, the greater challenge is often to decide what not to do rather than what can be done. Avanseus is well advised to carefully select which industries it wants to expand into and focus on. Each new solution set will present a magnet for additional resources and funding and may well be a distraction.

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Google Cloud Continues to Add Breadth and Depth to their Portfolio

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Talking about the top 5 global cloud players – Microsoft, AWS, Google, Alibaba and IBM –  in the Ecosystm Predicts: The Top 5 Cloud Trends for 2020, Ecosystm Principal Analyst, Claus Mortensen had said, “their ability to compete will increasingly come down to expansion of their service capabilities beyond their current offerings. Ecosystm expects these players to further enhance their focus on expanding their services, management and integration capabilities through global and in-country partnerships.” Google Cloud is doing just that. The last week has been busy for Google Cloud with a few announcements that show that it is ramping up – adding both depth and breadth to their portfolio.

Expanding Data Centre Footprint

This year Google Cloud is set to expand the number of locations to 26 countries. Earlier in the year, Google CEO Sundar Pichai had promised to invest more than US$ 10 billion in expanding their data centre footprints in the USA and they have recently opened their Salt Lake City data centre. Last week Google announced four new data centre locations in Doha (Qatar), Toronto (Canada), Melbourne (Australia), and Delhi (India). With Australia, Canada and India, Google appears to be following the same policy they followed in Japan – where locations in Osaka and Tokyo give customers the option to have an in-country disaster recovery solution. Doha marks Google Cloud’s first foray into the Middle East. While the data centre will primarily cater to global clients, Google has noted a substantial interest from customers in the Middle East and Africa.

Mortensen says, “Google’s new data centres can be seen as an organic geographical expansion of their cloud services but there are a few more factors at play. With data privacy laws getting stricter across the globe, the ability to offer localised data storage is becoming more important – and India is a very good example of a market where keeping data within the geographical borders will become a must.”

“The expansion will also help the development of Google’s own edge computing services going forward. As we noted in our Ecosystm Predicts document, we believe that Cloud and IoT will drive edge computing (which is tightly tied to 5G). Edge computing will function in a symbiotic relationship with centralised data centres where low latency is important. The geographical expansion of Google’s data centre presence will thus also help their push towards edge computing services.”

Google offers their cloud infrastructure and digital transformation (DX) solutions to customers in 150 countries. Not only are they expanding their data centre footprint, but they are also creating industry differentiation. They have targeted industry-specific solutions that deliver new digital capabilities in 6 key verticals – financial services; telecommunications media and entertainment; retail; healthcare and life sciences; manufacturing and industrial; and public sector.

Partnering with Telecom Providers

Last week also saw the unveiling of the Global Mobile Edge Cloud (GMEC) aimed at the telecom industry’s need to transform and the challenges it faces. The telecom industry – long considered an enabler of DX in other industries – stands at a crossroads now. It is time for the industry to transform in order to succeed in a challenging market, newer devices and networking capabilities, and evolving customer requirements – both consumer and enterprise. Talking about the impact of 5G on telecom providers, Ecosystm Principal Advisor, Shamir Amanullah says, “5G is an enterprise play and leading tech giants, carriers and the companies in the ecosystem are collaborating and inking partnerships in order to create solutions and monetise 5G opportunities across industries.”

Google Cloud announced a partnership with AT&T, which is meant to leverage AT&T’s 5G network and Google Cloud’s edge compute technologies (AI and machine learning, analytics, Kubernetes and networking) to develop a joint portfolio of 5G edge computing solutions. This is part of Google’s larger strategy of supporting telecom providers in their efforts to monetise 5G as a business services platform. Through the GMEC, Google Cloud will partner with carriers to offer a suite of applications and services at the edge via 5G networks.

The telecom industry is a key focus as Google aims to help operators take 5G to market, by creating solutions and services that can be offered to enterprises. This includes better customer engagement through data-driven experiences, and improvement of operational efficiencies across core telecom systems. Telecom providers such as Vodafone and Wind Tre are leveraging Google to improve customer experience through data-driven insights.

Amanullah says, “Google Cloud already has thousands of edge nodes inside the carrier networks which will be enabled for use by enterprises, providing access to data analytics, AI and machine learning capabilities. Carriers can offer enterprises these data-driven solutions, to transform the customer experience they offer. Google will also create solutions which will enable carriers and enterprises to improve infrastructure and operational efficiencies through modern cloud-based Operations Support Systems (OSS) and Business Support Systems (BSS).”

Mortensen also thinks that the data centre expansion should be seen in the light of Google’s GMEC push. “Both India and the Middle East are big potential markets via the local telecom providers.”

 

 

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Why CEOs Should Care about IoT

4.8/5 (5)

4.8/5 (5)

Industry 4.0 has been driving technology adoption and innovation. Technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) are being evaluated by Operations and IT teams especially in manufacturing, primary industries and logistics. As we stand on the threshold of widespread 5G rollouts, the industry expects a larger uptake of IoT. However, organisations have found IoT implementations daunting for various reasons – concerns around security, technology integration challenges, customisation, system requirements and so on.  The Global Ecosystm IoT Study finds that more than 70% of organisations implementing an IoT solution do not have an IoT strategy team. This has been the key barrier to successful IoT deployments. What is required is a separate IoT solutions team within organisations that reports to the CEO – either directly or through the COO or CFO.

Why should a CEO get involved in and have visibility into an organisation’s IoT projects? There are a few important reasons.

#1 IoT benefits go deeper than process automation

If we look at the top 5 drivers of IoT adoption, we realise immediately that organisations want to do more than automate processes through their IoT deployments (Figure 1). They want to innovate and are looking at IoT adoption to give them an edge over their competition – whether through cost optimisation or through improving the brand image. This cannot be done if organisations look at IoT as a one-off implementation to address one organisational issue – it often becomes a key component of their Digital Transformation (DX) journey.

This will require organisations to have conversations that go beyond process automation. The conversation should be about IoT as an enabler of broad corporate initiatives and should be tied back to an overall long-term strategy. The discussions cannot be asset-driven alone, focusing on enabling assets or devices to generate data with no long-term plan on how to use the data. The metrics have to shift to a ‘business outcomes’ group that includes data scientists, corporate marketing, and operations – with the direct involvement of the CEO. The outcomes can be innovative solutions, faster time to market, value-added services or competitive differentiation.

The high volume of real-time data generated by IoT devices can be analysed to develop customised services and solutions. IoT Analytics is driving decisions not just in inventory management and logistics – but in departments such as HR and marketing. Certainly, the CEO would want visibility of that intelligence and should be able to define the intelligence that will help him do his job better.

 

#2 In some industries at least, IoT will become mainstream

In some industries, IoT solutions have become mainstream – even if there has not been widespread adoption, the discussions about the impact of IoT certainly have (Figure 2). There are early adopters in these industries who have already seen a shift in organisational priorities and benefits derived.

It is the CEO’s job to track the developments and disrupters in their industries. It is the CEO’s job to decide whether the organisation will adopt IoT or not – but it has to be an informed decision. It has to take into consideration the organisation’s culture and capabilities – again that falls under the purview of the CEO.

CEOs in primary industries have to be aware that there are organisations in the industry that are leveraging AI-enabled IoT for cost savings through process automation and for greater visibility of the entire supply chain. Not only are these companies benefitting financially but are also being able to increase the traceability of their products. In agriculture ‘farm-to-fork’ has become a best practice that has the potential to disrupt the industry. Similarly, healthcare CEOs must know that IoT empowers the clinicians immensely, through asset performance management, workforce optimisation and also through the ability to deliver better health outcomes. Again the role of IoT in value-based healthcare is something that CEOs should familiarise themselves with.

 

#3 Technology disruption will continue to be part of the conversation

No CEO can only focus on business and leave technology to the CIO in today’s disruptive world. There are many technologies that will be part of the larger conversation – and many of these will work in sync with the IoT systems. IoT implementations do not end with installing sensors. While devices, protocols and networks will be handled by CIOs, there are areas where CEOs will have to be consulted, for example, adoption of 5G. Smart Manufacturing and Industry 4.0 initiatives will look to use 5G to gain real-time information to address demand, supply and customer requirements. However, telecom operators are also expected to evolve their existing business models when engaging with enterprises. Changes such as this will require the attention of the CEO.

Another area that will require the CEO’s attention is cybersecurity – millions of devices producing massive data are not only difficult to manage but would also be prone to hacking, network security issues, security breaches and attacks. IoT and other technologies, and the cyber risks associated require the Board and the CEO to evaluate the organisation’s risk exposure including financial remediation. Many organisations have a dedicated responsibility for their cybersecurity practice – the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) is the key data protection lead and reports directly to the CEO and not to the CIO to avoid a conflict of interest.

As has been mentioned earlier, organisations looking to derive intelligence from their IoT data will need the CEO to play an active role in deciding the nature of the intelligence that is likely to benefit the organisation best. Another area that CEOs will need to have oversight on is the wide range of social, ethical and legal issues that could arise due to the sheer volume of the data collected and the organisation’s data handling practices. Governments across the globe have implemented strict data security and privacy compliance laws. CEOs should be aware of the implications of the data they collect, store, process and use.

 

#4 IoT projects are not always successful

Implementing and harnessing the true potential of IoT is a big challenge from a CEO’s perspective. Investing in technology and not deriving any benefits could be disastrous for a company in terms of time, effort and cost. CEOs should understand the technology, its integration with the processes and ways to optimise the implementation.

Once the organisation has evaluated the need for an IoT system, it should look at the common reasons why IoT projects fail in other organisations. One of the main reasons is that 98% of organisations have IT teams lead their IoT projects. When you compare this to the 38% of organisations that involve Operations – and that is the function that benefits most from IoT implementations currently – it becomes apparent that key stakeholders are not often involved.

The biggest challenge that IoT implementations face is change management and user adoption. This often gets overshadowed by predominant concerns on technology and cost challenges. The involvement of the CEO and the business functions at an early stage of any IoT deployment helps mitigate that challenge. It would help in not only identifying the right use cases and a better business case but also in higher user adoption because of their involvement (and buy-in) from an early stage. This organisation-wide mandate has to be led by the CEO.

 

No longer can the CEO focus merely on the business and leave technology to the office of the CIO. Today’s CEO has to be aware of the benefits of technology, the implications for the organisations and the challenges associated with the implementation.

 


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Governments-Should-Focus-Coronavirus-Stimulus-on-Digital-Initiatives-COVID-19 virus
Governments Should Focus Coronavirus Stimulus on Digital Initiatives

4.7/5 (3)

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The last week or so has seen a numbers of central banks (such as the US and Australia) ease their monetary policies – lowering interest rates in order to stimulate investment and economic activity. But this alone won’t be enough to slow down economic growth – the generally accepted wisdom is that governments will need to quickly roll out stimulus packages to get money into the economy faster. Some countries, like Hong Kong, have already kicked off this process – others are likely be announce packages over the next few weeks.

Typically, these stimulus packages are designed to get the economy moving again – bringing forward existing spending plans or creating new spend. Good stimulus packages will have a broad impact but also drive improved business and employment outcomes. Some are targeted towards the sectors most impacted (e.g. in Australia the seafood export market has been impacted heavily by China’s decision to stop importing any seafood; in Thailand the tourism sector is hit hard by the slowdown in arrivals from China – that makes up a large percentage of the tourists in an economy where tourism is a significant sector).

But often they are not targeted. Some governments might just let businesses write off any investment faster than usual (such as within a single financial year instead of depreciating the spend over a number of years) or will just send a cheque to every income earner. The issue with these stimulus packages is that they don’t drive a specific outcome apart from getting spend into the economy faster. Stimulus packages have an opportunity to drive change – and the COVID-19 virus has shown that some businesses are not well equipped for the digital era. They are finding it hard managing the distributed workforce when they ask their staff to work at home. There are also many challenges that governments and businesses are facing in serving customers across digital channels.

This is the opportunity for governments to stimulate the economy and help businesses improve the digital experiences of customers and employees. The world is going digital – we all know what good digital experiences look like as we have them on our smartphones in our pockets. But we also know that most companies and government agencies we deal with are not offering great digital experiences… And while we all hope that virus outbreaks such as COVID-19 don’t happen that often, we know that something like this will happen again – so it would be great if businesses were prepared for such an outcome.

Therefore now is the chance to target the stimulus packages towards both the impacted sectors of the economy as well as the areas of spend that will drive better digital experiences for customers and employees. There could be incentives to spend more on software and cloud services, spend more with consultancies or spend more with digital marketing agencies. It will also help small businesses compete with larger businesses on an equal playing field (for example, the large takeaway food outlets have an app that lets you pre-order food, but many small ones do not).

In 2009, the Australian government rolled out a stimulus package – one that was ultimately one of the major reasons the economy came through the global financial crisis without falling into recession. They gave an immediate cash stimulus to taxpayers which helped get an immediate spend in the economy. They also had a housing insulation spend which promised roof insulation for 2.7 million homes – this provided stimulus to the economy in the mid-term. They then provided new school halls, social housing and roads – which provided the stimulus in the longer term. While it can be argued that the programs were not effectively administered, the stimulus got the economy moving and also helped the government hit some longer term goals – such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions (through better housing insulation therefore less use of electricity to heat and cool homes) and also upgrading aging infrastructure in schools across the country. For many businesses, the focus today is on providing great customer experiences – and many of those experiences will be digital. Governments have the chance to use their stimulus p to accelerate that outcome.

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BA Trials Autonomous Vehicles for Improved Customer Experience

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There have been several pilots and implementations of autonomous vehicles, mostly with the focus on asset management and supply chain efficiency. However, the recent trial by British Airways (BA) at the JFK airport is a good example of autonomous vehicles being used to improve customer experience. The trial involved using fully autonomous, electric mobility devices to assist their passengers with mobility challenges. These vehicles are equipped with anti-collision measures as well as map functions to take the passengers to their preferred destinations.

Businesses across all industries and sectors are looking to improve their customer experience. These initiatives are primarily meant to drive return business – but when done well, they can also drive down costs and drive up brand perception. This initiative from BA is a great example of a company looking to put the customer at the centre of their business and solve customer pain points – particularly one as sensitive as providing equal access to services regardless of physical ability.

Serving customers with mobility challenges is a minefield for airlines – it is difficult to know exactly when people with mobility challenges will arrive at the airport and need to check in – and in a low margin business like the airlines industry, you cannot afford to have staff deployed just to assist passengers to the right gate or location. Even keep track of the location of the mobility assets – such as wheelchairs – at any given time can be challenging. Taking a staff member off check-ins or baggage handling to transport the customer with mobility challenges to their gate can impact the experience of other customers too. Often it can turn out to be lose-lose outcome, despite the best intentions.

And the BIG risk is when you get it wrong, there is a high likelihood that you will be crucified on social media – you can be certain of many retweets and angry emojis of inconvenienced passengers missing flights, left stranded at gates or stuck in security. So even if you tried to do a good job, it has the potential to backfire.

BA has thought out of the box here with this solution, starting with the challenge of getting people with mobility issues to their flights on time. But the added benefit they will likely see is the ability to do this quickly. These wheelchairs being autonomous and equipped with map functions should be easier to track and requisition just-in-time. This means customers will have to wait less for their wheelchairs and also be less concerned they might miss their flights – it may even mean that mobility challenges customers can even have the same airport experience as other customers – without the need to allow extra time to arrive at the gate. These vehicles free staff to serve all customers without having to divert attention to the one passenger whose needs are greater. This is also likely to get a lot of good PR and social media activity – helping the brand and showing their willingness to invest to ensure equal access to services regardless of ability. I know if I saw such a device in an airport I would ask the person in the chair if I could snap their picture to put it on social media – and credit BA for being an inclusive airline. While they cannot control bad social media coverage – BA has thought of a service than can help strengthen their brand. And again – at the centre of this is a happy customer.

By focusing on solving a real customer problem, BA should be able to win more business from those with mobility issues – a market which is growing rapidly –  and also strengthen their position as an inclusive air travel provider.

 

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Understanding Your Customer’s Journey

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In the ‘Top 5 Customer Experience Trends for 2020’  that I authored with Tim Sheedy, we had spoken about the need for businesses to understand the end-to-end journey of each customer and to evaluate how to personalise it. To be able to personalise customer experience (CX), organisations need to get feedback from their customers. However, today’s customers are experiencing survey fatigue! Surveys are always the best way to measure how customers feel after they have interacted with a brand. Already, many will not participate unless there is a discount or incentive, which eats into future margins. Smart businesses will begin to use AI to detect emotions and mood, and analytics to measure experiences.

The challenge for years has been that customer teams have focused on the traditional inbound and outbound customer interactions. Ecosystm research finds that while organisations are investing in improving customer self-service, not all of these organisations focus on customer journey mapping and analysis (Figure 1).

Brands now need to understand and personalise the experience before the customer interacts with the brand and after they are done interacting with the brand. The ability to apply machine learning and AI to offer insights to predict the movement and journey of the customer will be a significant focus – and challenge – for customer teams. Customer Journey Analytics will allow brands to deliver that “frictionless” service.

Detecting the problem earlier in the CX loop or before the call is placed to the contact centre has significant benefits. The emotion of the customer at every part of their journey and not just when they call the contact centre needs to be captured in real-time and analysed to address the problem as soon as it arises. For example, if it can be identified prior to the customer calling the airlines to complain about a booking, the agent can call the customer preemptively to inform the customer the problem will be fixed and even go the extra mile to give the customer a discount or a good seat.  Another scenario is when a hotel customer has had a bad experience with the meal they ordered, their feedback to the frontline staff earlier in the loop can be passed on and before they check out of the hotel,  incentives such as free vouchers can be used to improve the CX. When such measures are taken earlier in the CX journey, the customer will go a long way to buy more products and services from the organisation. This can have an impact too on post-experience surveys or Net promoter scores (NPS).

As organisations design, customer feedback platforms for customers such as simple surveys through an app or as a prompt on the mobile device or laptop, the look and feel of the platform combined with simplicity cannot be ignored. The design has to be carefully thought about and should be intuitive and also easy for the customer to enter the feedback.

Niche Vendors will play a crucial role in connecting the missing dots in CX

There are niche vendors emerging in this space and we can expect more players to emerge that will develop applications that can address CX issues very early in the journey of the customer. For example, Australian vendor Local Measure’s solution is used to capture feedback during the different points of a customer’s journey, especially in the tourism, hospitality, retail and entertainment industries. One of their solutions, Pulse is a real-time feedback tool to help improve satisfaction while customers are still on site. The company works in collaboration with Cisco and when customers log on to wifi on a site, a pop up appears on their screen to ask customers how their experience has been so far. By rating the experience using emojis (happy, sad, etc), the front desk staff or personnel within the premises, can see the feedback in real time. This can send alerts that will trigger that something has gone wrong to frontline staff or the contact centre team. The idea is to drive a positive outcome for the customer, identify problems early in the journey and address the problems immediately for higher customer satisfaction.

Figure 2: Local Measure’s Real-Time Customer Feedback Tool

The company has clients such as Dubai-based Majid Al Futtaim that includes 13 major entertainment and retail-focused hotels, serving 1.6 million guests annually. Instead of giving feedback only at check-out, the Pulse feedback screen displays on guests’ computers or mobile devices as they log in to the hotel’s Wi-Fi, asking them to leave feedback on their experience. Novotel Bangkok Sukhumvit 20 has also implemented the solution so that staff can view feedback immediately as responses come through on their mobile devices, and after addressing the issues they can mark each response as ‘actioned’, providing visibility to the whole team.

The Local Measure solution integrates into Cisco’s Wifi offering and when the customer opts a pop up will appear on their screen to lead the customer to the Local Measure platform. Products such as this help fill the gaps where the complaint by the customer can be escalated to the contact centre very early in the journey of the customer. Contact centre vendors have not addressed this space in a dedicated manner and we can expect more niche vendors to make their mark in this space. The data collected include real-time feedback, social media alerts, post-event experience and location analytics. When this data is further integrated into CRM and with the data gathered from the contact centre channels, organisations will be able to gain a better understanding of the customer journeys and analyse what should be done better.

As larger contact centre solution providers realise the value of such niche offerings that help connect the CX dots, they will look to acquire some of these niche solution providers in the customer experience segment. Cisco’s acquisition of Cloud Cherry last year, is an example. The solution allows organisations to listen to their customers across 17 different channels (e.g. email, chat, web) along the entire journey and leverage the Cisco’s contact centre solution to drive better. NICE acquired Satmetrix two years ago, to further enhance its presence in the CX management space.

CX is becoming a company-wide initiative

Technologies across customer journey analytics and CX management have often been sold to the marketing and sales teams. As companies look to complete the full loop of understanding the customer journey, the solution must be integrated into the contact centre teams. Based on the global Ecosystm CX Study, the marketing, sales, product, customer service, digital and UX teams are becoming influencers in CX (Figure 3). The Board and CEO are starting to play an important role in decision making. As organisations look to further drive greater CX, more teams across the organisation are starting to realise the need to collaborate to deliver on the vision.

Moving the needle from being Reactive to Proactive in CX will be important

The traditional way of getting feedback after the customer has had the experience or after the customer has spoken to the agent is one of the reasons why organisations are finding it hard to deal with customer frustrations. Being proactive rather than reactive is how customer journey analytics and CX management technologies can help organisations address these issues. AI and machine learning will play an important part in this area moving forward as after the call is placed to the customer, data around customer emotions, sentiments, tone of the voice and keywords used in the discussion, can help in better understanding of how to provide a solution or solve the customers’ challenges.

 

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Deep Tech: Now and in the Future

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Deep Tech companies are aiming to transform the world through scientific, engineering and technological advances. As technology evolves, researchers are looking to apply engineering and technological advances in areas such as processing and computing architecture, semiconductors and electronics, materials science, vision and speech technologies, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, and so on – for the greater good. For example, finding a cure to a disease, developing new medical devices, sensors and analytics to help farmers increase yield, or developing clean energy solutions to reduce the environmental impact are some of the areas that Deep Tech is finding real-world applications.

Deep Tech Impacting Industries Today

There are several industries that are benefitting from Deep Tech innovations today. Here are only a few examples of Deep Tech innovations in some industries:

Healthcare

The combination of computational and biotechnology is accelerating the development of new cures, augmenting R&D and improving health outcomes. Deep Tech in healthcare has multiple applications from the manufacturing of affordable medical devices to redefining healthcare. Vibrosonic, has designed what they call a “contact lens for the ear” which can be directly placed on the eardrum. Unlike other hearing aids speakers are not used to transport sound through the ear canal but the eardrums are stimulated through electric impulses. A Singapore-based biotech company X Zell has patented a “liquid biopsy”- detecting cancer from a 10ml blood sample by measuring the presence of tumour-derived Circulating Endothelial Cells (tCEC) – which reduces the need for invasive cancer detection processes.

Food and Agriculture

Food crisis is a reality today with factors such as overpopulation, urbanisation, decreasing land per capita, extreme climates and so on impacting the food and agriculture industry immensely. Deep Tech companies are working to bring us sustainable food options and building climate resilience. Cell-based meat options are being researched globally, and companies such as foodtech start-up Shiok Meats is producing meat by harvesting cells from animals with a view to be environmentally friendly and to reduce the impact on biodiversity. In agriculture, Deep Tech companies are working on technologies to develop better farming methods to improve yield and precision sensors for weather forecasting. Examples such as UbiQD, that has worked on a greenhouse quantum dot film that improves crop quality by optimising sunlight spectrum for plants to improve production, show how Deep Tech will continue to transform the industry.

Environment and Energy

Deep Tech continues to come up with solutions that will help us in climate change mitigation, development of sustainable energy and energy efficiency. Innovations include Carbon Upcycling Technologies’ solution to capture and neutralise carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide-enriched nanoparticles are used to make commercial construction materials and even consumer products such as jewellery. Celadyne Technologies has developed hydrogen fuel cells and electrolysers with nanocomposite membranes for a more efficient, cost-effective and eco-friendly energy source.

Advanced Computing

As technology evolves, there will be a need to support even greater compute and data-intensive tasks.  Deep Tech has impacted and will continue to impact advanced computing. The semiconductor and microchip industry is getting disrupted by cutting-edge global research, many by the top universities. MIT, for example, has developed a process called “remote epitaxy” to manufacture flexible chips. Potential use cases include VR-enabled contact lenses, electronic fabrics that respond to the weather, and other flexible electronics. Atom Computing is working on scalable quantum computing that will be able to scale millions of qubits using individual atoms – without scaling up the physical resources – in a single architecture.

Communication and Security

Communication and connectivity have seen a sea change in the last decade. As we wait for 5G to take off, this industry has become a playground for inventions. Aircision, is working on making 5G more accessible using its laser-based communications technology. The technology is developed to enable high-bandwidth communication and beam data between buildings thus aiming to eliminate the need for optical fibre installations and microwave. Another area that will keep getting a lot of attention from Deep Tech firms is communication security. Speqtral is working on space-based quantum networks to deliver secure encryption keys.

Examples such as these are an indication that Deep Tech is a reality today and has the potential to disrupt several industries and impact the lives of millions.

Where is Deep Tech Headed?

Government Interest in Deep Tech

Since Deep Tech is aimed at leveraging technology and engineering for sustainability and greater good, several countries are promoting Deep Tech R&D and initiatives. From emerging to mature economies, governments are supporting their Deep Tech industry. The New Zealand  Government has formed a Deep Tech Incubator program. The program is headed by the Government’s innovation agency to help Deep Tech companies and to create new tech jobs.

Singapore has created a strong Deep Tech ecosystem leveraging the funding ecosystem, the presence of global corporations, research and higher learning organisations and the Government that promotes innovation and entrepreneurship. Agencies such as SGInnovate and Enterprise Singapore are working with Deep Tech startups in advanced manufacturing, urban solutions and sustainability, and healthcare and biomedical sciences. Partnerships between universities, industry bodies and research organisations further fuel this ecosystem – the Critical Analytics for Manufacturing Personalised-Medicine (CAMP) is a partnership between Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) and A*STAR for cell therapy manufacturing. The Government also funds and incentivises Deep Tech startups. The 2020 budget announced additional funding to support Deep Tech companies under the Start-up SG Equity scheme.

As global governments get serious about the quality of their citizens’ lives and sustainability goals, they will invest in Deep Tech research.

Challenges of the Deep Tech Industry

While Deep Tech has enormous potential, mainstream adoption is still some way off. There are some unique challenges that the industry faces today. Future uptake will depend heavily on how fast the industry can circumvent these challenges. The key challenges are:

  • Securing Finances. Despite initiatives by several global governments, Deep Tech projects often find it difficult to secure funding. Very often the research duration can stretch without any real guarantee of success. Funding is likelier to go to organisations developing consumer products as the ROI are seen earlier and are easier to quantify, especially in the early stages.
  • Identifying Market Opportunities. Researchers who develop Deep Tech solutions and products might not be able to identify opportunities to present their development from a marketing as well as an economic perspective. Very often these companies rely on other channels or third-party services for a proper marketing and planning strategy. This is where working with incubators or government bodies becomes crucial – countries that give that opportunity through a well-defined ecosystem, will lead the Deep Tech revolution.
  • Scalable Development. Many Deep Tech innovations get stuck at the proof-of-concept stage – not because they are not innovative enough, but because they are not scalable to mass production. That requires the right infrastructure as well as a deep understanding of how the products and services can be commercialised.

 

There are several global companies trying to disrupt entire industries with their inventive offerings. We are witnessing some novel innovations in autonomous vehicles, foodtech, computer vision, AI, weather predictions, Clean Energy solutions  – the list continues – that we will benefit from in the future.

Let us know which Deep Tech companies have impressed you in the comments below.

 


For more about Deep Tech and enabling technologies, please visit Ecosystm TV.
SGInnovate and Ecosystm Event, ‘Looking into 2020 – Opportunities in Deep Tech’


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How Will the Coronavirus Impact Tech Spending in 2020

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2020 was originally forecast as a good year for technology spend. Many categories took a hit in 2019 – hardware, telecommunications, datacentres – even the software and IT services segments came down from their high growth rates of previous years. The consensus for growth in IT spend in 2020 was somewhere between 3-4%. But that growth is now under threat by the COVID-19 virus that is spreading across the globe. The 26th  February was a significant day, as the number of new infections outside of China is now greater than those in China. Furthermore, the growth in infections is not isolated. Iran, Italy and South Korea all have experienced significant growth and the virus has hit Brazil, directly from Italy.

With the situation changing every day it is hard to have a firm view on how it will impact broader economic growth as well as the technology spending. Much will depend on the ability of countries to control the spread of the virus along with the fiscal stimulus packages of governments across the globe. Some countries are in a better position than others to push money into economies to keep them growing.

But even with the uncertainty, it is worth noting some feedback we are getting from tech buyers, vendors and economists. While much of this feedback is anecdotal, we believe it is indicative of trends across the market. The next few weeks are critical. If China shows that they can stop the transmission of the virus, that will help global confidence which has been hurt by the newer outbreaks in Italy, Iran and Korea.

Overall Economic Spend is Slowing

Businesses across the globe – particularly those in heavily impacted economies (such as China, Italy, Japan & South Korea) and those impacted by the slowdown in China (Thailand, Australia etc) – are putting the brakes on spending across the board. And there are not too many initiatives in businesses today that don’t involve technology. We are seeing projects delayed and – more rarely – cancelled. Several central banks, such as those in Thailand and Singapore, have lowered their growth forecasts, as has the IMF and OECD. Ratings agencies and economists have also reduced their growth forecasts for heavily impacted economies. The USA is avoiding much of the slowdown although the Nasdaq High Tech Index was down around 8-9% on the 28th February – the market has priced potential future slowdown into share prices already.

Limited Face-to-Face Collaboration Will Slow Tech Spending

We are also seeing the projects that are underway slowing down: more staff are required to work from home; experts can’t fly in to help drive projects; and without teams meeting physically, collaboration has become harder than ever before.

This doesn’t mean the projects aren’t happening – the timelines are slipping. Will this impact the overall spending in 2020? Yes! But not by much at all, as many projects these days are delivered in 3-6 months – not 24 months like years gone by. So, delivery will mostly happen in 2020, but more in the second half than the first half. But again, with the situation changing every day, the scenario might change. As soon as growth in the number of infections slows down and the travel bans are lifted, we can expect activity to slowly return. But the further out that is, the more projects will decrease scope, be cancelled or be shelved for another day.

Another factor impacting innovation and the resulting technology projects is the lack of face-to-face collaboration between management teams. Some businesses have already put into place initiatives to ensure their board and executive management do not meet face-to-face. This is because they are considered the most valuable assets to the business – and are often likely to be in the age group most heavily impacted by the coronavirus (over 50). While not suggesting that collaboration cannot happen in virtual environments, it is sometimes a shared experience or non-business interaction that might drive a new idea for the business. And that idea might end up driving tens of millions of dollars of technology spending.

Cash Flow is Impacted – Which Slows Business Investment

Cash flow is already being impacted. Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are already feeling the pinch, and they don’t have access to the funding tools that many large businesses use to get through tough times. SMEs really represent the biggest threat to spending: if a large business has to lay off some staff, they can then get a project going as soon as the economy or their sector recovers and employ the people they need, as required. But in countries like Australia and the US, small businesses represent almost 40-50% of economic activity. If SMEs shut down or even restrict spending, it takes some time for new businesses to start up and fill in the gap they leave. SMEs don’t tend to buy software or services from the large vendors – they tend to use small and medium services and software providers – so it is these smaller technology businesses that are immediately threatened if the coronavirus spread continues. The multiplier effect quickly comes into play here to reduce consumption, employment and economic activity.

We are also aware that some businesses that are directly impacted by the virus (such as those in the travel sector) have informed their suppliers that they won’t be paying any bills until mid-year. This could also put a small technology provider under – whereas a larger one should be able to survive the cash-flow crisis. Despite most economies having a low interest rate environment, the access to capital is not easy, particularly given the risk to the overall economy. A further challenge to global expenditure and an accelerated recovery is the US elections which provide distraction to businesses in the US and globally.

Cancellation of Customer Events Will Limit Technology-Led Innovation

Many vendors have cancelled or postponed their customer events, even in relatively unaffected markets such as Australia. And nearly every vendor will attest to the spike in opportunities and deals that get signed after these events. The coming together of potential and existing customers with thought leaders, tech evangelists, bleeding edge customers and the partner ecosystem drives new ideas. Individuals get inspired to act – they hear about best and next practice and kick off conversations within their businesses. They see how technologies can impact other businesses and use those assumptions within their own business cases. Sceptical customers become converts, and those already considering projects sometimes accelerate them.

With these events cancelled tech spending will not collapse. Companies still have budgets and these budgets will be, for the most part, spent. But it is the innovative initiatives that will suffer – the exploration of new technologies or services, the experimentation and testing that won’t happen because people simply won’t know about it. This is the spending that is typically not budgeted for – the new spend that often has a big impact on business results and customer outcomes. These customer events are learning opportunities – without the events the learning will be harder and slower to push out. So, this will likely have more of an impact on spending in calendar Q2-Q4. But without other assets in the market or other chances to educate clients and prospects, this spend simply won’t happen.

The COVID-19 virus is also impacting the technology supply chain. Many technology products are manufactured in China – or rely on components manufactured in China. Factories across China have been shut down – and while some are coming back online, it is hard to know how long it will take them to get back to full capacity. Transport services in China are impacted –globally 200,000 flights have been cancelled since the public emergence of the coronavirus. Some products are waiting but just cannot be shipped. A number of vendors have flagged the impact of the slowdown to the supply chain on their revenues, including Apple and Microsoft. With limited supply, prices are rising, which slows down demand. While this may show some short-term opportunity for the cloud providers, the hardware companies and the software providers that rely on the availability of hardware will feel the impact. In the longer term, it may lead to business reviewing their supply chain and risk analysis. This presents an opportunity for India, Vietnam and other potential manufacturing hubs.

The Overall Impact of the COVID-19 Will be Real and Measurable

Ultimately, we believe that the coronavirus will wipe up to 1.5% off the total tech spending for 2020 – bringing the overall average down to between 1.5% and 2.5%. Part of this is based on the fact that technology spending is coming off a poor year. Confidence was just starting to climb with some of the hardest hit segments expected to return to growth in 2020. This confidence will disappear – and could lead to further price competition. Which is good for the buyer but bad for the whole vendor supply chain!

But again, this depends on the response of central banks and the ability of countries to control the spread of the virus. The development of a vaccine would be ideal but appears to be highly unlikely. The sooner it is brought under control – along with effective targeting of fiscal stimulus packages – the lower the impact on overall economies and the technology spending of businesses.

Some sectors will witness growth – telecoms providers, collaboration software and tool providers, remote and online education providers, cloud providers and healthtech will all witness growth – in fact many are already! Digital spending will increase as face-to-face opportunities plummet – this will drive opportunities for advertisers, digital agencies and developers.

Now is the time to make contingencies – vendors need to get better at digital marketing and selling and simpler implementation. Tech buyers and implementers need to put in place best practices for remote working – many companies witness an increase in productivity when they get remote working right.

Please let us know your feedback or thoughts in the comments section – we look forward to keeping the analysis going – and stay healthy!

This post was authored by Tim Sheedy, with valuable assistance from Phil HasseySash Mukherjee and Claus Mortensen.

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Dell Sells RSA to a Private Equity led Consortium

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In the Top 5 Cybersecurity and Compliance Trends for 2020, Ecosystm predicted that 2020 will witness a significant uplift in mergers and acquisition (M&As) activities in the cybersecurity market. Like the consolidation activity in previous booms (such as digital media and web services in the early 2000s), the cybersecurity market is booming globally and creating opportunities for cashed up vendors and private equity firms. The fragmented security market has thousands of vendors and consultancies globally. Every day a swathe of new start-ups announces their ground-breaking new technology. Coupled with significant investments globally in tertiary education and industry certifications for a growing workforce, the next generation of cybersecurity entrepreneurs are entering with force.

Earlier this month, a consortium led by private equity firm Symphony Technology Group (STG) entered into an agreement with Dell Technologies to acquire RSA for an estimated amount of USD 2 billion. Dell Technologies had expressed interest in selling RSA in November 2019, and industry sources say that the deal will be finalised at more than their initial expectations.

Dell has been focusing on their partner program and on simplifying their product portfolio offerings. The Dell Technologies Partner Program announced last year, allows enterprises to seamlessly access partner products and solutions. Regardless of the partner, all solutions under the Dell portfolio count toward the tier status and tier revenue requirements for clients. Selling RSA allows them to streamline their product portfolio and by their own assertion, Dell has not lost focus on the significance of cybersecurity. They reinforced their commitment to build automated and intelligent security into infrastructure, platforms and devices. Claus Mortensen, Principal Analyst Ecosystm says, “Dell never really figured out what to do with RSA or how to position RSA’s products relative to Dell’s and VMWare’s own products. For example, Dell has its own endpoint protection product with SecureWorks and this has a great deal of overlap with RSA.”

RSA has been one of the pathbreakers in the cybersecurity market with their SecurID offering. They also host the largest security conference. RSA Conference gets together leading experts from across the industry to discuss the current trends and challenges, as well as shape the industry through innovations. Talking about the impact of the acquisition on RSA’s brand image, Mortensen says, “It depends on what STG intends to do with the company going forward. Arguably, RSA has been a bit in the shadows of previous owners – EMC and Dell – but if the new owners have a distinct plan for RSA, the brand will benefit”.

The members of the consortium acquiring RSA is interesting in its diversity. It includes the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board (Ontario Teachers’) and AlpInvest, another private equity firm. STG’s recent acquisitions include RedSeal, a security risk management provider. Mortensen predicts that the key player in this consortium will be STG, who will bring the know-how as well as money to the table. “Ontario Teachers’ and AlpInvest appear to primarily be financial backers. In fact, less involved these two partners are in the management of RSA, the easier it will be to secure a steady future focus for the company.”

As Ecosystm has observed previously, private equity firms will play a role in consolidating the cybersecurity market. “RSA is an almost textbook candidate for an equity firm or an investment bank takeover – a company with a good line of products but with a lack of strategic focus or leadership,” says Mortensen. “If STG can provide that focus – and from that USD 2 billion payment, one would assume that they can – they should have a good chance of increasing the value of RSA. If not, chances are that RSA’s products will be sold off piecemeal in the years to come.”


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