IoT & Edge Transforming Financial Services

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In this Insight, guest author Anupam Verma talks about how a smart combination of technologies such as IoT, edge computing and AI/machine learning can be a game changer for the Financial Services industry. “With the rise in the number of IoT devices and increasing financial access, edge computing will find its place in the sun and complement (and not compete) with cloud computing.”

Anupam Verma, Leadership Team, ICICI Bank

The number of IoT devices have now crossed the population of planet earth. The buzz around the Internet of Things (IoT) refuses to go down and many believe that with 5G rollouts and edge computing, the adoption will rise exponentially in the next 5 years.

The IoT is described as the network of physical objects (“things”) embedded with sensors and software to connect and exchange data with other devices over the internet. Edge computing allows IoT devices to process data near the source of generation and consumption. This could be in the device itself (e.g. sensors), or close to the device in a small data centre. Typically, edge computing is advantageous for mission-critical applications which require near real-time decision making and low latency. Other benefits include improved data security by avoiding the risk of interception of data in transfer channels, less network traffic and lower cost. Edge computing provides an alternative to sending data to a centralised cloud.

In the 5G era, a smart combination of technologies such as IoT, edge computing and AI/machine learning will be a game changer. Multiple uses cases from self-driving vehicles to remote monitoring and maintenance of machinery are being discussed. How do we see IoT and the Edge transforming Financial Services?

Before we go into how these technologies can transforming the industry, let us look at current levels of perception and adoption (Figure 1).

Adoption and Perception of Emerging Technology in Financial Services

There is definitely a need for greater awareness of the capabilities and limitations of these emerging technologies in the Financial Services.

Transformation of Financial Services

The BFSI sector is increasingly moving away from selling a product to creating a seamless customer journey. Financial transactions, whether it is payment, transfer of money, or a loan can be invisible, and Edge computing will augment the customer experience. This cannot be achieved without having real-time data and analytics to create an updated 360-degree profile of the customer at all times. This data could come from multiple IoT devices, channels and partners that can interface and interact with the customer. A lot of use cases around personalisation would not be possible without edge computing. The Edge here would mean faster processing and smoother experience leading to customer delight and a higher trust quotient.

With IoT, customers can bank anywhere anytime using connected devices like wearables (smartwatches, fitness trackers etc). People can access account details, contextual offers at their current location or make payments without even needing a smartphone.

Industries of the Future

Use Cases of IoT & Edge in Financial Services

IT and Digital Leaders in Financial Services are aware of the benefits of IoT and there are some use cases that most of them think will help transform Financial Services (Figure 2).   

Top Use cases of IoT in Financial Services Industry

However, there are many more potential use cases. Here are some use cases whose volume will only grow every day to fuel incessant data generation, consumption and processing at the Edge.

  • Smart Homes. IoT devices like Alexa/Google Home have capabilities to become “bank in a speaker” with edge computing.
  • In-Sync Omnichannels. IoT devices can be synced with other banking channels. A customer may start a transaction on an IoT device and complete it in a branch. Facial recognition can be used to identify the customer after he/she walks in and synced IoT devices will ensure that the transaction is completed without any steps repeated (zero re-work) thereby enhancing customer satisfaction.
  • Virtual Relationship Managers. In a digital branch, the customer may use Virtual Reality (VR) headsets to engage with virtual relationship managers and relevant experts. Gamification using VR can be amazingly effective in the area of financial literacy and financial planning.
  • Home and Auto Purchase. VR may also find use in home and auto purchase processes with financing built into it. The entire customer journey will have a much smoother experience with edge computing.
  • Auto and Health Insurance. Companies can use IoT (device installed in the vehicle) plus edge computing to monitor and improve driving behaviour, eventually rewarding safety with lower premiums. The growth in electric mobility will continue to provide the basis for auto insurance. Companies can use wearables to monitor crucial health parameters and exercising habits. The creation of real-time dynamic rewards around it can change behaviour towards a healthier lifestyle. Awareness, longevity, rising costs and pandemic will only fuel this sector’s growth.
  • Payments. Device to device contactless payment protocol is picking up and IoT and edge computing can create next-gen revolution in payments. Your EV could have an embedded wallet and pay for its parking and toll.
  • Branch/ATM.  IoT sensors and CCTV footage from branches/ATMs can be utilised in real-time to improve branch productivity as well as customer engagement, at the same time enhancing security. It could also help in other situations like low cash levels in ATMs and malfunctions. Sending live video streams for video analytics to the cloud can be expensive. By processing data within the device or on-premises, the Edge can help lower costs and reduce latency.
  • Trading in Securities. Another area where response time matters is algorithmic trading. Edge computing will help to quickly process and analyse a large amount of data streaming real-time from multiple feeds and react appropriately.
  • Trade Finance. Real-time tracking of goods may add a different dimension to the risk, pricing and transparency of supply chains.

Cloud vs Edge

The decision to use cloud or edge will depend on multiple considerations. At the same time, all the data from IoT devices need not go to the cloud for processing and choke network bandwidth. In fact, some of this data need not be stored forever (like video feeds etc). As a result, with the rise in the number of IoT devices and increasing financial access, edge computing will find its place in the sun and complement (and not compete) with cloud computing.

The views and opinions mentioned in the article are personal.

Anupam Verma is part of the Leadership team at ICICI Bank and his responsibilities have included leading the Bank’s strategy in South East Asia to play a significant role in capturing Investment, NRI remittance, and trade flows between SEA and India.

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5G and the Edge Extend Prescriptive Maintenance into the field

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The rollout of 5G combined with edge computing in remote locations will change the way maintenance is carried out in the field. Historically, service teams performed maintenance either in a reactive fashion – fixing equipment when it broke – or using a preventative calendar-based approach. Neither of these methods is satisfactory, with the former being too late and resulting in failure while the latter is necessarily too early, resulting in excessive expenditure and downtime. The availability of connected sensors has allowed service teams to shift to condition monitoring without the need for taking equipment offline for inspections. The advent of analytics takes this approach further and has given us optimised scheduling in the form of predictive maintenance.

The next step is prescriptive maintenance in which AI can recommend action based on current and predicted condition according to expected usage or environmental circumstances. This could be as simple as alerting an operator to automatically ordering parts and scheduling multiple servicing tasks depending on forecasted production needs in the short term.

Prescriptive Maintenance - Leveraging AI in the field

Prescriptive maintenance has only become possible with the advancement of AI and digital twin technology, but imminent improvements in connectivity and computing will take servicing to a new level. The rollout of 5G will give a boost to bandwidth, reduce latency, and increase the number of connections possible. Equipment in remote locations – such as transmission lines or machinery in resource industries – will benefit from the higher throughput of 5G connectivity, either as part of an operator’s network rollout or a private on-site deployment. Mobile machinery, particularly vehicles, which can include hundreds of sensors will no longer be required to wait until arrival before the condition can be assessed. Furthermore, vehicles equipped with external sensors can inspect stationary infrastructure as it passes by.

Edge computing – either carried out by miniature onboard devices or at smaller scale data centres embedded in 5G networks – ensure that intensive processing can be carried out closer to equipment than with a typical cloud environment. Bandwidth hungry applications, such as video and time series analysis, can be conducted with only meta data transmitted immediately and full archives uploaded with less urgency.

Prescriptive Maintenance with 5G and the Edge – Use Cases

  • Transportation. Bridges built over railway lines equipped with high-speed cameras can monitor passing trains to inspect for damage. Data-intensive video analysis can be conducted on local devices for a rapid response while selected raw data can be uploaded to the cloud over 5G to improve inference models.
  • Mining. Private 5G networks built-in remote sites can provide connectivity between fixed equipment, vehicles, drones, robotic dogs, workers, and remote operations centres. Autonomous haulage trucks can be monitored remotely and in the event of a breakdown, other vehicles can be automatically redirected to prevent dumping queues.
  • Utilities. Emergency maintenance needs can be prioritised before extreme weather events based on meteorological forecasts and their impact on ageing parts. Machine learning can be used to understand location-specific effects of, for example, salt content in off-shore wind turbine cables. Early detection of turbine rotor cracks can recommend shutdown during high-load periods.
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Data as an Asset

Effective prescriptive maintenance only becomes possible after the accumulation and integration of multiple data sources over an extended period. Inference models should understand both normal and abnormal equipment performance in various conditions, such as extreme weather, during incorrect operation, or when adjacent parts are degraded. For many smaller organisations or those deploying new equipment, the necessary volume of data will not be available without the assistance of equipment manufacturers. Moreover, even manufacturers will not have sufficient data on interaction with complementary equipment. This provides an opportunity for large operators to sell their own inference models as a new revenue stream. For example, an electrical grid operator in North America can partner with a similar, but smaller organisation in Europe to provide operational data and maintenance recommendations. Similarly, telecom providers, regional transportation providers, logistics companies, and smart cities will find industry players in other geographies that they do not naturally compete with.

Recommendations

  • Employing multiple sensors. Baseline conditions and failure signatures are improved using machine learning based on feeds from multiple sensors, such as those that monitor vibration, sound, temperature, pressure, and humidity. The use of multiple sensors makes it possible to not only identify potential failure but also the reason for it and can therefore more accurately prescribe a solution to prevent an outage.
  • Data assessment and integration. Prescriptive maintenance is most effective when multiple data sources are unified as inputs. Identify the location of these sources, such as ERP systems, time series on site, environmental data provided externally, or even in emails or on paper. A data fabric should be considered to ensure insights can be extracted from data no matter the environment it resides in.
  • Automated action. Reduce the potential for human error or delay by automatically generating alerts and work orders for resource managers and service staff in the event of anomaly detection. Criticality measures should be adopted to help prioritise maintenance tasks and reduce alert noise.
Artificial Intelligence Insights
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The Winning Formula – Achieving Success with AI

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Last week I wrote about the need to remove hype from reality when it comes to AI. But what will ensure that your AI projects succeed?

It is quite obvious that success is determined by human aspects rather than technological factors. We have identified four key organisational actions that enable successful AI implementation at scale (Figure 1).

Keys to Unlock AI Nirvana - Enabled by Upskilling

#1 Establish a Data Culture

The traditional focus for companies has been on ensuring access to good, clean data sets and the proper use of that data. Ecosystm research shows that only 28% of organisations focused on customer service, also focus on creating a data-driven organisational culture. But our experience has shown that culture is more critical than having the data. Does the organisation have a culture of using data to drive decisions? Does every level of the organisation understand and use data insights to do their day-to-day jobs? Is decision-making data-driven and decentralised, needing to be escalated only when there is ambiguity or need for strategic clarity? Do business teams push for new data sources when they are not able to get the insights they need?

Without this kind of culture, it may be possible to implement individual pieces of automation in a specific area or process, applying brute force to see it through. In order to transform the business and truly extract the power of AI, we advise organisations to build a culture of data-driven decision-making first. That organisational mindset,  will make you capable implementing AI at scale. Focusing on changing the organisational culture will deliver greater returns than trying to implement piecemeal AI projects – even in the short to mid-term.

#2 Ingrain a Digital-First Mindset

Assuming a firm has passed the data culture hurdle, it needs to consider whether it has adopted a digital-first mindset. AI is one of many technologies that impact businesses, along with AR/VR, IoT, 5G, cloud and Blockchain to name a few. Today’s environment requires firms to be capable of utilising a variety of these technologies – often together – and possessing a workforce capable of using these digital tools.

A workforce with the digital-first mindset looks for a digital solution to problems wherever appropriate. They have a good understanding of digital technologies relevant to their space and understand key digital methodologies – such as Customer 360 to deliver a truly superior customer experience or Agile methodologies to successfully manage AI at scale.

AI needs business managers at the operational levels to work with IT or AI tech teams to pinpoint processes that are right for AI. They need to make an estimation based on historical data of what specific problems require an AI solution. This is enabled by the digital-first mindset.

#3 Demystify AI

The next step is to get business leaders, functional leaders, and business operational teams – not just those who work with AI – to acquire a basic understanding of AI.

They do not need to learn the intricacies of programming or how to create neural networks or anything nearly as technical in nature. However, all levels from the leadership down should have a solid understanding of what AI can do, the basics of how it works, how the process of training data results in improved outcomes and so on. They need to understand the continuous learning nature of AI solutions, getting better over time. While AI tools may recommend an answer, human insight is often needed to make a correct decision off this recommendation.

AI Research and Reports

#4 Drive Implementation Bottom-Up

AI projects need alignment, objectives, strategy – and leadership and executive buy-in. But a very important aspect of an AI-driven organisation that is able to build scalable AI, is letting projects run bottom up.

As an example, a reputed Life Sciences company embarked on a multi-year AI project to improve productivity. They wanted to use NLP, Discovery, Cognitive Assist and ML to augment clinical proficiency of doctors and expected significant benefits in drug discovery and clinical trials by leveraging the immense dataset that was built over the last 20 years.

The company ran this like any other transformation project, with a central program management team taking the lead with the help of an AI Centre of Competency. These two teams developed a compelling business case, and identified initial pilots aligned with the long-term objectives of the program. However, after 18 months, they had very few tangible outcomes. Everyone including doctors, research scientists, technicians, and administrators, who participated in the program had their own interpretation of what AI was not able to do.

Discussion revealed that the doctors and researchers felt that they were training AI to replace themselves. Seeing a tool trying to mimic the same access and understanding of numerous documents baffled them at best. They were not ready to work with AI programs step-by-step to help AI tools learn and discover new insights.

At this point, we suggested approaching the project bottom-up – wherein the participating teams would decide specific projects to take up. This developed a culture where teams collaborated as well as competed with each other, to find new ways to use AI. Employees were shown a roadmap of how their jobs would be enhanced by offloading routine decisions to AI. They were shown that AI tools augment the employees’ cognitive capabilities and made them more effective.

The team working on critical trials found these tools extremely useful and were able to collaborate with other organisations specialising in similar trials. They created the metadata and used ML algorithms to discover new insights. Working bottom-up led to a very successful AI deployment.

We have seen time and again that while leadership may set the strategy and objectives, it is best to let the teams work bottom-up to come up with the projects to implement.

#5 Invest in Upskilling

The four “keys” are important to build an AI-powered, future-proof enterprise. They are all human related – and when they come together to work as a winning formula is when organisations invest in upskilling. Upskilling is the common glue and each factor requires specific kinds of upskilling (Figure 2).

Upskilling needs vary by organisational level and the key being addressed. The bottom line is that upskilling is a universal requirement for driving AI at scale, successfully. And many organisations are realising it fast – Bosch and DBS Bank are some of the notable examples.

How much is your organisation invested in upskilling for AI implementation at scale? Share your stories in the comment box below.

Written with contributions from Ravi Pattamatta and Ratnesh Prasad

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Fueling Asia’s Innovation Ecosystem

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Since the start of this millennium, no region has transformed as much as Asia. There has been significant paradigm shifts in the region and the perception that innovation starts in the US or in Europe and percolates through to Asia after a time lag, has been shattered. Asia is constantly demonstrating how dynamic, and technology-focused it is. This is getting fueled by the impact of the growing middle class on consumerism and the spirit of innovation across the region. The region has also seen a surge in new and upcoming business leaders who are embracing change and looking beyond success to creating impact.

What is Driving Innovation in Asia?

The “If you ain’t got it, build it” attitude. One of the key drivers of this shift is the age of the average population in Asia. According to the UN the Asia Pacific region has nearly 60% of the world’s youth population (between the age of 17-24). With youth comes dynamism, a desire to change the world, and innovation. As this age group enters the workforce, they will transform their lives and the companies they work in. They are already showing a spirit of agility when it comes to solving challenges – they will build what they do not have.

The Need to enable Foundational Shifts. The younger generation is more aware of environmental, social and governance issues that the world continues to face. Many of the countries in the region are emerging economies, where these issues become more apparent. COVID-19 has also inculcated an empathy in people and they are thinking of future success in terms of impact. The desire to enable foundational shifts is giving direction to the transformation journey in the region. The wonderful new paradigm that is the Digital Economy allows us to cut across all segments; and technology and its advancements has immense potential to create a more sustainable and inclusive future for the world. 

Realising the Power of Momentum. The pandemic has caused major disruptions in the region. But every crisis also presents an opportunity to perhaps re-imagine a brighter world through a digital lens.  The other thing that the pandemic has done is made people and organisations realise that to succeed they need to be open to change – and that momentum is important. As organisations had to pivot fast, they realised what I have been saying for years – we shouldn’t “let perfect get in the way of better”. This adaptability and the readiness to fail fast and learn from the mistakes early for eventual success, is leading to faster and more agile transformation journeys.     

Where are we seeing the most impact?

Industries are Transforming. There are industries such as Healthcare and Education that had to transform out of a necessity and urgency brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. This has led to a greater impetus for change and optimism in these industries. These industries will continue to transform as governments focus significantly on creating “Social Safety Nets” and technology plays a key role in enabling critical services across Health, Education and Food Security. Then there are industries, such as the Financial Services and Retail, that had a strong customer focus and were well on their digital journeys before the pandemic. The pandemic boosted these efforts.

Ecosystm Industry Optimism Index

But these are not the only industries that are transforming. There are industries that have been impacted more than others. There are several instances of how organisations in these industries are demonstrating not only resilience but innovation. The Travel & Hospitality industry has had several such instances. As business models evolve the industry will see significant changes in digital channels to market, booking engines, corporate service offerings and others, as the overall Digital Strategy is overhauled.

Technologies are Evolving. Organisations depended on their tech partners to help them make the fast pivot required to survive and succeed in the last year – and tech companies have not disappointed. They have evolved their capabilities and continue to offer innovative solutions that can solve many of the ongoing business challenges that organisations face in their innovation journey. More and more technologies such as AI, machine learning, robotics, and digital twins are getting enmeshed together to offer better options for business growth, process efficiency and customer engagement. And the 5G rollouts will only accelerate that. The initial benefits being realized from early adoption of 5G has been for consumers. But there is a much bigger impact that is waiting to be realised as 5G empowers governments and businesses to make critical decisions at the edge.

Tech Start-ups are Flourishing.  There are immense opportunities for technology start-ups to grow their market presence through innovative products and services. To succeed these companies need to have a strong investment roadmap; maintain a strong focus on customer engagement; and offer technology solutions that can fulfil the global needs of their customers. Technologies that promote efficiency and eliminate mundane tasks for humans are the need of the hour. However, as the reliance on technology-led transformation increases, tech vendors are becoming acutely aware that they cannot be best-in-class across the different technologies that an organisation will require to transform. Here is where having a robust partner ecosystem helps. Partnerships are bringing innovation to scale in Asia.

We can expect Asia to emerge as a powerhouse as businesses continue to innovate, embed technology in their product and service offerings – and as tech start-ups continue to support their innovation journeys.


Ecosystm CEO Amit Gupta gets face to face with Garrett Ilg, President Asia Pacific & Japan, Oracle to discuss the rise of the Asia Digital economies, the impact of the growing middle class on consumerism and the spirit of innovation across the region.

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New Zealand’s First Hyperscale Data Centre

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New Zealand’s cloud landscape is looking to change drastically with the arrival of its first hyperscale data centre platform in Invercargill, a city in the southern tip of New Zealand’s South Island. The focus on digitalisation (in both the private and public sectors), growing data localisation mandates, the need for big data storage, and the demand for scalable apps and innovations are driving the demand for hyperscale data centres and more undersea cables in the region.

In December 2020, Meridian Energy, New Zealand’s fourth-largest electricity retailer, and Datagrid New Zealand, run by Hawaiki Cable announced the launch of the project to develop a 60MW, 25,000 sqm facility near the town of Makarewa at a cost of nearly USD 500 million. The project is due for a commercial launch in 2023, and a major part of the investment will involve the laying of two new submarine cables. The first subsea cable will connect Invercargill to Sydney and Melbourne in Australia and the second will connect with Hawaiki Cable’s landing point at Mangawhai Heads, north of Auckland which will further extend to Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch.

The country clearly recognises the need for a robust infrastructure to accelerate innovation – Microsoft has also received approval from the New Zealand government in September last year to open a data centre region. To support the future of cloud services and to fulfil New Zealand progressive data centre demands, CDC Data Centres have also planned to develop two new hyperscale data centres in Auckland, New Zealand.

Ecosystm Comments

The introduction of the Datagrid New Zealand data centre in Invercargill will be a welcome asset to the Southland region of New Zealand. With primary industries being farming, fishing and forestry, the region has done well throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. This initiative will further benefit the local economy by delivering opportunities for economic prosperity for local businesses.

With long-term growth at the data centre expected to consume up to 100MW of renewable energy, Meridian Energy is well equipped to provide renewable energy generated at the Manapouri hydroelectric power station, capable of generating 850MW. The potential closure of the 550MW Tiwai Point Aluminium Smelter is expected to put the country in a position of oversupply.

The data centre will be a critical piece of New Zealand’s infrastructure, supporting the roll-out of 5G networks by telecom providers and the need for low-latency cloud compute and data storage. Datagrid will provide a competitive alternative to the likes of Microsoft’s new data centre.

While the construction and opening of the data centre will possibly add more stress to New Zealand’s under-resourced construction sector, it will also create tech jobs in the Southland region, in the long term. Unique to the region is the Southern Institute of Technology that has a Zero Fees Scheme that has been confirmed until the end of 2022. The data centre will help to keep skilled tech workers in the region.


Identifying emerging cloud computing trends can help you drive digital business decision making, vendor and technology platform selection and investment strategies.Gain access to more insights from the Ecosystm Cloud Study.

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Hitachi Acquires GlobalLogic

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Hitachi announced their plans to acquire US based software development company GlobalLogic for an estimated USD 9.6 billion, including debt repayment. The transaction is expected to close by end of July, after which GlobalLogic will function under Hitachi’s Global Digital Holdings.

GlobalLogic was founded in 2000, and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Swiss investment firm Partners Group have 45% of ownership; with the remainder owned by the company’s management.

Hitachi’s Business Portfolio Expansion

The acquisition of GlobalLogic is a part of Hitachi’s move to focus and extend the range of Hitachi’s digital services business. As Hitachi aims to expand from electronics hardware to concentrate on digital services, they are looking to benefit from GlobalLogic’s range of expertise – from chips to cloud services. Silicon Valley-based GlobalLogic has a presence in 14 countries with more than 20,000 employees and 400 active clients in industries including telecommunications, healthcare, technology, finance and automotive. This will also expand Hitachi’s network outside Japan by providing them access to a global customer base and will boost their software and solutions platforms, including Hitachi IoT portfolio and data analytics.

The GlobalLogic deal follows another big acquisition of ABB’s power grid business by Hitachi in July 2020 to focus on clean energy and distributed energy frontiers. This makes Hitachi one of the largest global grid equipment and service providers in all regions.

Hitachi is also planning to divest parts of their portfolio such as Hitachi Metals, their chemical unit and their medical equipment business.

Ecosystm Comments

Hitachi’s move to acquire GlobalLogic is very interesting and is in line with the growing trend of global Operation Technology (OT) vendors riding the wave of Industry 4.0 and ‘Product as a Service’ models – essentially, to move up the margin ladder with more digital services added on to their already established equipment business. Siemens, Schneider Electric, Panasonic, ABB, Hitachi and Johnson Controls are some of the prominent vendors who have taken pole positions in their respective industry domains, in this race to digitally transform their businesses and business models. Last year, Panasonic made a very similar move, taking a 20% equity stake in Blue Yonder, a leading supply chain software provider.

With rapid advancements in computing and communications (5G), it is now possible to converge the IT (Information Technology supporting enterprise information flows), the OT (Operational Technology – machine level control of the physical equipment), and the ET (Engineering Technology in the Product Design and Development space such as CAD, CAM, PDM etc.) domains. Three worlds that were separate till now. The convergence of these three worlds enables high impact use cases in automation, product, process, and business model innovation in almost all sectors, such as autonomous vehicles, energy efficient buildings, asset tracking and monitoring, and predictive and prescriptive maintenance. For the OT vendors therefore, it becomes critical to acquire IT and ET capabilities to become successful in the new cyber physical world. Most OT vendors are choosing to acquire these capabilities through strategic partnerships (such as Siemens with Atos and SAP; Panasonic with Blue Yonder) or acquisitions (such as Hitachi and GlobalLogic) rather than develop such capabilities organically in completely new domains.


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Role of 5G in the Acceleration of Remote Learning

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The last year has really pushed the Education sector into transforming both its teaching and learning practices. The urgency of the situation accelerated the use of networking to extend the reach and range of educational opportunities for remote learning.

Education technology has rushed to embrace opportunities to facilitate a new normal for Education. This new normal must enable and support education access, experiences, and outcomes as well as aid in developing strong relationships within Education ecosystems.

Education technology, commonly known as EdTech, focuses on leveraging emerging technologies like cloud and AI to deliver interactive and multimedia coursework over online platforms. This also requires a state-of-the-art network to support. 5G provides instantaneous access to cloud services. Use of 5G – as well as network function virtualisation (NFV), network slicing, and multi-access edge computing (MEC) – has the capability of delivering significant performance benefits across these emerging educational applications and use cases.

At present, many educational institutions are aware of the possibilities, but are not active users of 5G network infrastructure (Figure 1).

Adoption of 5G in Education

Educational institutions plan to do some near-term investments but are not clear in what areas to apply the enhanced capabilities (Figure 2).

Education Industry 5G

Role of the Network in Adaptive Learning

In their recent whitepaper, network provider Ciena talks about “the concept of an adaptive learning strategy – a technology-based teaching method that replaces the traditional one-size-fits-all teaching style with one that is more personalised to individual students. This approach leverages next-generation learning technologies to analyse a student’s performance and reactions to digital content in real-time, and modifies the lesson based on that data.”

To create an adaptive learning strategy that can be individualised, these learners need to be enabled by technology to be immersed in a learning experience, complete with multimedia and access to a knowledge base for information. And this is where a solid 5G network implementation can create access and bandwidth to the resources required.

Example of 5G and Immersive Learning

An example of adaptive learning where the technology not only supports but challenges the learner can be found in a BT-led new immersive classroom developed within the Muirfield Centre in Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire, using innovative technology to transform a classroom into an engaging and digital learning environment.

Pupils at Carbrain Primary School, Cumbernauld, were the first to dive into the new experience with an underwater lesson about the ocean. The 360-degree room creates a digital projection that uses all four classroom walls and the ceiling to bring the real-world into an immersive experience for students. The concept aims to push beyond traditional methods of teaching to create an inclusive digital experience that helps explain abstract and challenging concepts through a 3D model. It will also have the potential to support students with learning difficulties in developing imagination, creative and critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. BT has deployed its 5G Rapid Site solution to support 5G innovation and digital transformation of UK’s Education sector. The solution is made possible through the EE 5G network which brings ultrafast speeds and enhanced reliability to classrooms.

Conclusion

5G is expected to provide network improvement in the areas of latency, energy efficiency, the accuracy of terminal location, reliability, and availability – therefore creating the ability to better leverage cloud capacity.

With the greater bandwidth that 5G provides, learners and instructors, can connect virtually from any location with minimal disruption with more devices than on previous networks. This allows students to enjoy a rich learning experience and not be disadvantaged by their location for remote learning, or by the uncertainty of educational access. This also provides more possibilities of exploration and discovery beyond the physical confines of the classroom and puts those resources in the hands of eager learners.


As educational institutions reopen, institutions are looking at ways to redesign the education experience. Connected devices are helping schools and universities expand the boundaries of education. Explore what the IoT-enabled future of education would look like

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AT&T & Fortinet Partner for a Managed SASE Solution

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Last week AT&T announced a partnership with Fortinet to expand their managed security services portfolio. This partnership provides global managed Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) solutions at scale. The solution uses Fortinet’s SASE stack which unifies software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN) and network security capabilities into AT&T managed cybersecurity framework. Additionally, AT&T SASE and Fortinet will integrate with AT&T Alien Labs Threat Intelligence platform, a threat intelligence unit to enhance detection and response. AT&T has plans to update its managed SASE service during the year and will continue to bring more options.

Talking about the AT&T-Fortinet partnership, Ecosystm Principal Advisor, Ashok Kumar says, “This move continues the trend of the convergence of networking and security solutions. AT&T is positioning themselves well with their integrated offer of network and security services to address the needs of global enterprises.”  

Convergence of Network & Security

AT&T’s improved global managed security service includes features such as secure web gateway, firewall-as-a service, cloud access security broker (CASB) and zero-trust access, which provides security teams and analysts with unified capabilities across the cloud, networks and endpoints. The solution aims to enable enterprises to create a more resilient network bringing the core capabilities of the two companies that will reduce operational costs and deliver a unified offering.

Last year AT&T also partnered with Cisco to expand its SD-WAN solution and to support AT&T Managed Services using Cisco’s vManage controller through a single management interface. Over the past years multiple vendors including Fortinet have developed comprehensive SASE solution capabilities through partnerships or acquisitions to provide a unified offering. Last year Fortinet acquired Opaq, a SASE cloud provider to bolster their security capabilities through OPAQ’s patented Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) cloud solution and to strengthen SD-WAN, security and edge package.

The Push Towards Flexible Networking

Kumar says, “The pandemic has created a higher demand and value for secure networking services. Enterprises experienced greater number of phishing and malware attacks last year with the sudden increase in work-from-home users. The big question enterprises need to ask themselves is whether legacy networks can support their evolving business priorities.”

“As global economies look to recover, securing remote users working from anywhere, with full mobility, will be a high priority for all enterprises. Enterprises need to evaluate mobile SASE services that provide frictionless identity management with seamless user experiences, and be compatible with the growing adoption of 5G services in 2021 and beyond.”


The Top 5 Telecommunications & Mobility Trends that will dominate the telecom industry to watch out for in 2021. Signup for Free to download the report.

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2021: The Year of the Customer

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In 2009 one of the foremost Financial Services industry experts was giving my team a deep dive into the Global Financial Crisis (GFS) and its ramifications. According to him, one of the key reasons why it happened was that most people in key positions in both industry and government had probably never seen a full downturn in their careers. There was a bit of a hiccup during the dot com bust but nothing that seriously interrupted the long boom that began somewhere in 1988. They had never experienced anything quite like 2008; so they never imagined that such a crisis could actually happen.

Similarly, 2020 was an unprecedented year – in our lives and certainly for the tech industry. The GFC (as the name suggests) was a financial crisis. A lot of people lost their jobs, but after the bailouts things went largely back to normal. COVID-19 is something different altogether – the impact will be felt for years and we don’t yet know the full implications of the crisis.  

While we would like to start 2021 with a clean slate and never talk about the pandemic again, the reality is that COVID-19 will shape what we will see this year. In the first place it looks like the disease will still be around for a substantial part of the year. Secondly, all the changes it has brought in 2020 with entire workforces suddenly moving to operating from home will have profound implications for technology and customer experience this year.

As we ease into 2021, I look at some of the organisational and technology trends that are likely to impact customer experience (CX) in 2021.

#1 All Business is Now eBusiness

COVID-19 has ensured that the few businesses which did not have an online presence became acutely aware that they needed one. It created a need for many businesses to quickly initiate eCommerce. Forbes reported a 77% increase in eCommerce infrastructure spending YoY. This represents about 4 years of growth squeezed into the first 6 months of 2020!

From a CX point of view there is going to be far more interaction with brands and products through online channels. This is not just about eCommerce and buying from a portal. It is also about using tools like Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms more widely. It is about learning to interact with the customer in multiple ways and touching their journeys at multiple points, all virtually using the web – mostly the mobile web.

Ecosystm research shows that almost three out of four companies have decided on accelerating or modifying the digitalisation they were undergoing (Figure 1). It is fair to expect that this gives a further boost to moving to the cloud. For the customer it will mean being able to access information in many new ways and connect with products, services, brands at multiple points on the web.

Impact of COVID-19 on Digital Transformation

Since interacting with the customer at multiple points is new for most services, I foresee a lot of missed opportunities as companies learn to navigate a completely different landscape. Customers pampered by digitally native organisations often react harshly to even a small mistake. It will become critical for companies to not just become a bigger presence online but also to manage their customers well.

New solutions such as Customer Data Platforms (CDP), as opposed to CRM will become common. Players who are into Customer Experience management are likely to see huge business growth and new players will rapidly enter this space. They will promise to affordably manage CX across the globe, leveraging the cloud.

#2 Virtual Merges with Real

Virtual and Augmented Reality are not new. They have been around for a while. This will now cross the early adoption stage and is likely to proliferate in terms of use cases and importance.

AR/VR has so far been seen mainly in games where one wears an unwieldy – though ever-improving – headset to transport oneself into a 3D virtual world. Or in certain industrial applications e.g., using a mobile device to look at some machinery; the device captures what the eye can see while providing graphical overlays with information. In 2021 I expect to see almost all industrial applications adopting some form of this technology. This will have an impact on how products are serviced and repaired.

For the mainstream, 2020 was the year of videoconferencing – as iconic as the shift to virtual meetings has been, there is much more to come. Meetings, conferences, events, classrooms have all gone virtual. Video interaction with multiple people and sharing information via shared applications is commonplace. Virtual backgrounds which hide where you are actually speaking from are also widely used and getting more creative by the day.

Imagine then a future where you get on one of these calls wearing a headset and are transported into a room where your colleagues who are joining the call also are. You see them as full 3D people, you see the furniture, and the room decor. You speak and everyone sees your 3D avatar speak, gesture (as you gesture from the comfort of your home office) and move around. It will seem like you are really in the conference room together! If this feels futuristic or unreal try this or look at how the virtual office can look in the very near future.  

While the solutions may not look very sophisticated, they will rapidly improve. AR/VR will start to really make its presence felt in the lives of consumers. From being able to virtually “try” on clothes from a boutique to product launches going virtual, these technologies will deeply impact customer experience in 2021 and beyond

In the immortal words of Captain Kirk, we will be going where no man has gone before – enabled by AR / VR.

#3 Digital CX will involve Multiple Technologies

AI, IoT and 5G will continue to support wider CX initiatives.

The advances that I have mentioned will gain impetus from 5G networking, which will enable unprecedented bandwidth availability. To deliver an AR experience over the cloud, riding on a 5G network, will literally be a game changer compared to the capabilities of older networks.

Similarly, IoT will lead to massive changes in terms of product availability, customisation and so on. 5G-enabled IoT will allow a lot more data to be carried a lot faster; and more processing at the edge. IoT will have some initial use cases in Retail, Services and other non-manufacturing sectors – but perhaps not as strongly as some commentators seem to indicate.

AI continues to drive change. While AI may not transform CX in 2021, this is a technology which will be a component of most other CX offerings, and so will impact customer experience in the next few years. In fact, thinking of businesses in 2025 I cannot believe that there will be a single business to customer (B2C) interaction which will not feature some form of AI technology.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the technologies which will impact CX in 2021 – Connect with me on the Ecosystm platform.


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