Enabling Digital Transformation: IoT

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The internet was created by the US military to create a seamless self-repairing almost indestructible connection of computers and to maintain critical communications capability in the event of nuclear attacks on cities and government infrastructure.  It wasn’t until the invention of the world wide web (www) that the internet became widespread. Since then, the evolution of digital and network technologies has made it possible to connect almost any device to the Internet. The Internet of Things (IoT)  can include a wide range of machines, sensors, smart objects, unique identifiers (UIDs) – provided they are connected to the Internet and have the ability to send and receive data without human intervention.

There are a plethora of ‘things’ today that can be connected to the internet and are not restricted to devices and sensors alone. Anything with an IP (Internet Protocol) address can now be connected. Wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and 4G/5G have created more possibilities for devices to be individually connected. With the advent of IoT, remote connectivity has become the norm bringing several advantages across all industries. The global Ecosystm IoT study reveals that organisations are looking to leverage IoT not only for asset management but also to fuel innovation.

Drivers Benefits of IoT Adoption

 

The key to IoT is connecting any physical ‘thing’ to the Internet, allowing remote control and monitoring functionalities over the network. The power of the technology comes from the fact that these devices can then be used to monitor and get data from virtually any other device or application. This opens immense avenues for the connectivity of various applications and expands the overall potential of the Internet dramatically.

 

The simplest way to appreciate how IoT can benefit organisations is to see its operations in some industries. The list below is not exhaustive and includes:

 

  • Medical and Health: The key technology enabling eHealth is IoT. IoT has enabled remote diagnostics and patient monitoring even beyond the walls of the hospital. Remote monitoring has a deep impact on improving health outcomes and enables community-based healthcare and aging in place practices.
  • Construction: IoT enables almost all home and office devices to be virtually connected allowing remote activation and control based on specific data gathered from the environment. This application is being utilised in ‘smart homes’ and commercial buildings, allowing the automation of security, lighting, HVAC and other systems. IoT applications have made their way into Building Information Management (BIM) systems even at the design and construction phases.
  • Energy and Environment: In one of the early use case in energy efficiency and distribution, IoT is used to monitor the energy requirements of homes and industries with the help of ‘smart grids’. The technology is also helping meteorologists to predict storms, earthquakes and other natural disasters with the help of smart sensors to monitor environmental changes.
  • Transportation: Autonomous Vehicles or driverless cars have become the popular face of IoT application. More significant than the vehicles or the technology itself, are the parameters that are involved in providing the right infrastructure for these vehicles. IoT is already bringing substantial improvement in the industry with connected transportation systems and controls in the applications for trains, smart cars, and airplanes
  • Manufacturing: The Manufacturing industry is where the concept of process automation originated. Needless to say, the industry is seeing an uptake in IoT as automation reaches a whole new level. The adoption of IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) is allowing manufacturers better visibility of the supply chain, more efficient inventory management, and proactive asset management through predictive maintenance. This impacts both the productivity of the plants and the quality of the products.
  • Agriculture: IoT has numerous use cases in making Agriculture more productive and efficient, such as automated irrigation systems, crop monitoring, pest control, driverless tractors, and other smart farming solutions. Smart Farming practices will ensure a better outcome for environment management and promote trust in agricultural products as the entire ‘food to fork’ supply chain becomes traceable.
  • Smart cities: ‘Smart city’ is an often-used term that can have different meaning depending on the maturity of the country. What is common however is the widespread deployment of IoT applications, devices, and sensors to handle various activities providing citizen services and infrastructure monitoring such as traffic management, street lighting, citizen security and monitoring, and more.

 

The early use cases of IoT have been in automation and asset management. As technology and connectivity evolve, the applications will be more widespread and impact every aspect of our lives.

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Industrial applications of drones

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In an industrial backdrop, drones are forming a core part of automation. Drones are Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) that can be controlled remotely or can fly autonomously with defined coordinates working with onboard GPS and sensors. The basic functionality of drones is to collect specific information about an environment and relay it back to the controller.

Industry 4.0 sees several use cases for drones. UAVs are the next-generation technology for industrial sensors and IoT. Industrial drones operate under difficult conditions – in regions where humans cannot physically inspect the environment such as in hazardous or hard to reach areas. While they are primarily sensors, they are also being programmed to act of the information gathered.

 

So what are the industrial applications of drones?

 

Some industries are more enthusiastic about the application of drones. In the global Ecosystm IoT Study, organisations that have implemented or plan to implement IoT in the next 12 months were asked about the adoption of drones for asset management.

Current-&-Planned-Adoption-of-Drones-Top-Industries

 

Construction

Industrial IoT is opening up opportunities for construction organisations. IoT devices have the potential to increase efficiency of construction sites and drones are one of the devices that can enhance safety and site operations. Instead of deploying heavy machinery and expensive tools, drones offer the capabilities to survey industrial sites to providing greater accuracy to building maps, QC processes, documenting project details – while reducing costs and project duration.

KIER, a construction and property group in UK is utilising drones to capture project progress, take 360 photographs and use it for photogrammetry (using photographs to model real-world objects and scenes). The benefits that the company reports include digital asset management and data insights, which in turn lead to cost reductions.

Drones will become an integral part of the Construction industry, to a large part because of safety and compliance requirements – and the industry needs to be prepared for it. UK’s Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) has launched a training course and program for industrial drone operators to attain and develop the skill to safely fly drones and operate industrial equipment that has specific operational hazards and constraints.

 

Energy and Utilities

This is another industry group that can benefit in a similar way from drones.  Drones can perform hazardous jobs otherwise performed by humans such as surveying transmission lines, inspecting plant boilers, monitoring the health of solar panels, assessing storm damages and even repair faster. The industry has been traditionally using helicopters but drones are a lower-cost alternative – both for procurement and maintenance.

It is easy to see why Laserpas, one of the largest Utility Asset Management Companies in the EU is using drones for their workflow automation initiatives. Laserpas surveys power grid infrastructure, including power lines, transmission towers, adjacent areas and so on, with the help of drones. The drones are gathering data for AI-driven data analysis to increase the efficacy of their high-precision monitoring solutions

Laserpas is by no means alone –  AT&T is using drones to avoid service disruption through aerial monitoring of towers, replace faulty parts and create portable cell towers in mission-critical areas.

 

Government

Perhaps the earliest adopters of drones were a military defence in several countries. However, the use cases in Government are not restricted to that – it involves public safety and logistics in several Government agencies. They have become the means for agencies to gather data – both for situational awareness and scientific purposes – in a more efficient manner.

The ability of UAVs to cover large areas in a short time is helping emergency teams in search and rescue operations. The example from UK where a man involved in a crash was rescued from freezing temperatures by police drones, is a case in point. The emergency unit equipped a drone with a thermal camera that was able to locate the man in a six-foot deep ditch more than 500 feet from the crash site. There are examples of Public Health as well.  In a municipality in Spain, mosquito control programs are using drones to conduct surveillance in likely breeding sites that are hard to reach. Once larval habitats are identified, drones are also programmed to spray pesticides to the area. Transport drones are also being used by Public Health agencies. Ghana’s government uses drones to supply blood and other critical medical supplies to remote areas. It has had a positive impact on the nation’s overall medical supply chain and the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority have plans to create an air corridor for the drones to prevent collisions with larger aircraft.

Perhaps the biggest use case for drones in Government will come from public safety measures. The Washington State Patrol has built up a fleet of 100 drones and using them for maintaining law and order in the state and for wide range of purposes including surveillance of armed and barricaded suspects and search and rescue operations. This will probably see a higher uptake than other solutions in Government.

 

Hospitality, Retail and Logistics

Though the adoption of drones in these industries is not yet as widespread as in others, there is tremendous potential in inventory and supply chain management. Walmart has conducted pilots on drones for warehouse management which has now been moved to implementation. Using drones reduces the need for heavy assets such as forklifts and conveyor systems.

UAVs are the best new way of tracking inventory using tracking mechanisms such as RFID and QR-codes UPS has set up a subsidiary that uses drones for delivery.  Companies such as DHL, Amazon, and Google are developing and experimenting with drones to speed up delivery, especially for lightweight consumer goods. Drones not only help with inventory management but also ensures last-mile delivery.

The Hospitality industry has gone beyond logistics in their business application of drones. Examples are broad including creating marketing videos for properties, aerial site maps to help guests and staff members navigate sprawling grounds and surveillance. Drones make it possible to create a 3D virtual environment for security teams to monitor hotel perimeters, parking lots and outdoor venues effectively. This is more economical than hiring a full-time security crew for surveillance cameras and 24/7 monitoring. The Seadust Cancun Family Resort has a lifeguard drone that helps real lifeguards by supplying safety equipment and emergency floatation devices.

 

Agriculture

Drones are a major component of smart farming techniques and operations where farmers can benefit from real-time information about large tracts of land.

“An ‘eye in the sky’ by way of a drone, can save days for farmers and help them in checking stock, crops, and fences, battling weeds, and even mustering cattle. Simultaneously, they can provide data to help farmers make more informed decisions around applying fertilizer, disease detection, and about managing health and safety on farms,” says Jannat Maqbool, Principal Advisor Ecosystm(Read Jannat’s Report on IoT in Agriculture: Drivers and Challenges)

Yamaha is working with farming communities in several countries to use UAVs to spray weed killers. Drones are utilised to spray the crops applying small quantities of pesticide or fertilizer to crops, orchards and forested areas. GPS coordinates create flight paths to aim for maximum coverage.  This is leading to process automation in Agriculture – an essential component of smart farming.

 

Drone have started to prove their worth in various industries across applications and organisations across the globe are working to integrate drones into their operations. As laws mandating them to become clearer, more industries will look to leverage drones for automation.

Which are the other industries that will see a steady uptake of drones in the near future? Tell us your thoughts.

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Is Construction the Future Opportunity for IoT?

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The construction industry employs about 7% of the world’s working-age population and although many people think that robots will take away their work, construction workers should not be worried at this time.

In 2017, McKinsey Global Institute published a surprising report: labour productivity in construction has decreased by 50% since 1970. In addition, McKinsey believes that productivity in construction has registered zero increases in recent years. While other industries have been transformed, construction has stalled. The effect is that, when adjusting to inflation, a building today costs twice as much as 40 years ago.

And although the construction industry is a growing market, there are still some problems that need to be handled to increase profitability and productivity. The main problems facing the construction industry in 2019 are:

  • Shortage of skilled labour
  • Rising cost of steel, aluminium, wood and other materials.
  • Decline in growth
  • Low performance projects
  • Sustainability
  • Security
  • Inconsistent use of technology

The construction sector has been positive for the past four years, mainly due to the recovery of residential construction. However, the growth can still be erratic. For example in Europe, after the precedence of the previous decade, a scenario is being predicted where 2020 still shows  positive growth (3.5%) but 2021 may not (-3%).

Adoption of Technology in Construction

The construction industry is notoriously slow in adopting technologies such as IoT that could boost productivity and, ultimately, profitability.

And although it is believed that construction companies that adopt this technology would also be able to attract new labour force to work for them over others and, in general, have a significant advantage over competitors, the reality is that it is not happening. The general vision insists on a reality: construction and engineering companies see the need for change, but in one way or another they resist.

One of the biggest opportunities of the construction sector is its enormous capacity to reinvent itself. Building Information Modelling (BIM), 3D printing and Virtual Reality (VR) can help architects and builders in creating a construction model. These technologies, along with drones and IoT can be of enormous help to construction workers, increasing their efficiency and ensuring their safety. Materials science is also developing newer material that can impact the industry.  The integration of technological trends such as IoT, will facilitate many of the tasks of the sector, optimising resources, improving compliance with deadlines and quality in projects and works.

The Opportunity of IoT in Construction

The appetite of investors for start-ups in the construction sector is growing, although not many are in the IoT box. There are still few examples of companies in the sector that are adopting IoT. And although I have no doubt that IoT will positively impact this industry none of the productivity, maintenance, security and safety drivers seem to be convincing them at the moment.

In the global Ecosystm IoT Study, participants from the construction industry were asked about the key business solutions targeted for IoT uptake. While the industry is aware of the IoT solutions and the role they can have in asset and people management, the actual uptake of these solutions is far lower. Around a tenth of Construction companies have some sort of an IoT-enabled asset control and management solutions.

There are ample examples of innovation with IoT in Construction.

  • Machine control
  • Construction site monitoring (Examples include)
    • Anchor load monitoring from installation
    • Control of the deformation of the ground during the construction of a tunnel
    • Monitoring changes in pore water pressure during soil consolidation
    • Monitoring of the settlement process during the soil recovery works
  • Fleet management
  • Wearables with AR capabilities and safety measures

Some practical examples of IoT in Construction have been covered in the article and include

  • Remote operation
  • Replenishment of supplies
  • Equipment construction and monitoring tools.
  • Maintenance and repair of equipment.
  • Remote use monitoring
  • Energy and fuel savings

Key Takeaways

IoT and other emerging technologies can improve productivity, reduce costs and security in the construction industry. Construction companies, real estate and engineering firms should continue their investments in IoT.

They should not fall back into the same mistakes of the past and should not fear the loss of jobs due to the new technologies like IoT or Artificial Intelligence (AI). The adoption of IoT is unlikely to replace the human element in Construction. Instead, it will modify business models in the industry, reduce costly mistakes, prevent injuries in the workplace and make construction operations more efficient.

Smart Construction is key to building Smart Cities and is an element in Smart Building, Smart Transportation and even Smart Healthcare. The limits of using IoT in Construction is our imagination.

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IoT Enabling Intelligent Retail

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

 

Drivers of Technology Adoption in Retail

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

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

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

 

IoT as an Enabler of Retail Transformation

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

 

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

 

Examples of IoT Use in Retail

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

 

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

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The New Zealand Agritech Story – Fieldays, Waikato

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

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

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

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

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

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

The RiverWatch IoT solution

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

Innovations in IoT

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

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

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

Innovations in AI

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

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

PAWS Pest Identification Sensor Pad
PAWS® Pest Identification Sensor Pad

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

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

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

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

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How IoT and AI will transform the sports business?

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This is an abstract of my presentation in Dubai on 23rd April 2019. I want to convey my special thanks to Dr. Eesa Bastaki, President of the University of Dubai for inviting me on the occasion. It was a magnificent experience delivering at such a great University.

In the year 2016, I considered Rio as the first Internet of Things (IoT) Olympic games in my article “The future of “The Internet of Olympic Games”. In Rio, we saw how athletes, coaches, judges, fans, stadiums, and cities benefited from IoT technology and solutions which transformed the way we see and experience sports. Next year we will have another opportunity to validate my predictions for the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics. Therefore, we may designate Tokyo as the first Artificial Intelligent (AI) Olympic Games.

During my presentation at the University of Dubai, I explained to the audience how incredible IoT and AI technologies are and to what extent they are impacting our sports experience. I elaborated on IoT and AI’s significant role in health management, improving aptitude, coaching, and training. These technologies are enabling athletes to improve performance, coaching for better preparation, fewer judgment errors, and a better experience for spectators. I also commented on the importance of IoT and AI to enhance the security of teams, audience, stadium, and cities altogether.

With the use of IoT and AI we are creating a world of smart things transforming sports business where every thousandth part of a second is crucial to predict the outcomes of a race, a match or a bet. I cited various examples on how different sports are utilising IoT and AI, and not in the least I shared a vision of the future that’s like 10-15 years onwards from the present – Can you envision a world of a real and virtual world of sports integrated together? Can you visualise robots and humans or super-humans playing together?

On the other side, speaking of the challenges involved with AI, IoT, and machine learning models for sporting, I conveyed the dark side of these technologies. We cannot forget the fact that the sports industry is a market and therefore enterprises, Governments, and individuals may make erroneous uses of these technologies.

In summary, it in this session I shared my point of view on-

  • How IoT and AI will transform coaches, athletes, judges, and fans.
  • How IoT and AI will attract the audience to the stadiums
  • How IoT and AI will transform the Industry?
  • How AI is changing the future of sports betting?

How IoT and AI will transform athletes, coaches, judges and fans?

Athletes

While the true essence of a sport still lies in the talent and perseverance of athletes, it is often no longer enough. Therefore, athletes will continue to demand increasingly sophisticated technologies and cutting-edge training techniques to improve performance. For example, we may see biomechanical machine learning models of players to predict and prevent potential career-threatening physical and mental injuries or can even detect early signs of fatigue or stress-induced injuries. It can also be used to estimate players’ market values to make the right offers while acquiring new talent.

Coaches

Coaches are consuming AI to identify patterns in opponents’ tactics, strengths and weaknesses while preparing for games. This helps coaches to devise detailed game plans based on their assessment of the opposition and maximise the likelihood of victory. In many leading teams, AI systems are used to constantly analyse the stream of data collected by wearables to identify the signs that are indicative of players developing musculoskeletal or cardiovascular problems. This will enable teams to maintain their most valuable assets in prime condition through long competitive seasons.

Judges

We tend to think that technology is helping us to make decisions in sports more accurate and justified. That´s why we look at the inventions such as from Paul Hawkins – creator of Hawk-Eye, a technology that is now an integral part of the spectator’s experience when watching sport live or more recently VAR in soccer.

The use of technology is allowing the decision makers to experience the game with multiple cameras angles in real-time combined with the aggregated data from various sensors (stadiums, things, and athletes) thus making them make more objective and accurate decisions.

We as spectators or fans need more transparency about the exercise’s difficulty, degree of compliance and final score. And we have the technology to do it.

The IoT and AI technology don’t claim to be infallible – just very, very reliable and judges also need to be adapted to new technologies.

Fans

Without fans, sports would find it difficult to exist. It is understandable companies are also targeting fans with IoT and AI to keep them engaged whether in the stadium or at home.

How IoT and AI will attract the audience to the stadiums?

The stadiums, sports clubs and many leagues across the globe are incorporating technologies both inside and outside the stadium areas to boost the unique experiences for fans and not only during the gameplay.

The challenge is how to combine the latest technologies with old-school stuff to please supporters from both newer and older gen. people looking forward to witnessing a game in a stadium?

How will the stadiums of the future be? I read numerous initiatives of big clubs and leagues, but I am excited about the future stadium of Real Madrid. I wish the club would allow me to advise them how to create a smart intelligent Global environment to provide each fan with an individual experience, know who is in the crowd, learn fan behaviors to anticipate their needs.

How IoT and AI will transform the Industry?

“As long as sports remain a fascination for the masses, businesses will always have the opportunity to profit from it. As long as there is profiting to be gained from the world of sports, the investment in and incorporation of technology for sports will continue.”

I went through an article warning about an entirely new world order that is being formed right now. The author explained how 9 companies are responsible for the future of AI. Three of the companies are Chinese (Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent, often collectively referred to as BAT), while the other six are American (Google, Amazon, IBM, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft, often referred as the G.Mafia). The reason is obvious, as far as AI is about optimisation using the data that’s available, these 9 companies will manage most of the sports data generated in the world.

Collaboration is needed now to stop this threat and to address the democratisation of AI in sports. It is important that companies and Governments around the globe work together to create guiding principles for the development and use of AI and not only in Sports. This means we need regulations but in a different way. We do not want AI power to lie only in a handful of lawmakers, renowned and smart people who lack skills in IoT and AI.

Will AI change the future of sports betting?

The impact of technology on sports cannot be specifically measured, but some technological innovations do raise questions about fairness. Are we still comparing apples with apples? Is it right to compare the speed of an athlete wearing high-tech running shoes to one without?

Whether we like it or not, technology will continue to enhance the athlete’s performance. And at some point, we will have to put specific rules and regulations in place about which tech enhancements are allowed.

There is a downside to advanced technology being introduced to sports. Nowadays, Machine Learning models are routinely used to predict the results of games. Sports betting is a competitive world itself among fans, but AI can substantially tilt that playing field.

I am afraid that IoT and AI companies may spoil the result predictions but more concerned about the manipulation of competitiveness that AI algorithms could bring with the Terabytes of data collected with IoT devices and other sources like social media networks, without the permission of the users.

The sports industry is already generating billions of dollars every year and without control and awareness, we could find the future generation of ludopaths and a small number of service providers controlling the game.

Let me know what else would you like to see in my future posts. Leave your comments below.

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Hannover Messe 2019 gives a Glimpse of Future IoT-Based Digital Exchanges

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Is the IoT fueling a Digital Ecosystem to enable widespread Digital Transformation?

Ready or not, digital transformation (DX) is here and is already revealing its impact on every aspect of our lives. In some cases, the transformation is obvious. Take the way we call for a ride-share or taxi, find a room to stay, or chat to a robot for your favourite song – these are all part of mainstream DX. More subtle examples, with a Digital Ecosystem working behind the scenes, can be found in things like checking out at the retail store without ever opening your wallet or jumping into the latest automobile and getting your directions mapped out for you.

DX is often described as the integration of digital technology into all areas of business while changing how you operate and deliver value to customers. Advancements involving cloud computing, analytics, social and mobile technologies are reshaping the customer experience (CX) and opening the door for innovation and new business services. DX is also a cultural change that requires organisations to continually experiment with new ideas while being comfortable with failure and accepting that speed has become a business imperative for everyone.

DX will fundamentally change the way we think about creating a product and how we take it to market. Gone are the days of ‘make and sell’— that is, finding a market (after the fact) for the latest bright and shiny invention or innovation and forgetting about the “thing” that’s left behind with the customer. We have flipped from building stagnant technology-for-technology’s sake, as well as having little or no real-time information about most of the product’s lifecycle, to now creating customer-centric solutions teeming with data about everything at all times.

What’s fueling this major shift? The widespread connection of things to the Internet that had never been connected before, including machine-to-machine connectivity. All thanks to embedded smart sensors making IoT an omnipresent phenomenon. By 2025 there will be over 80 billion ‘things’ connected to the Internet which in turn will provide input to feed digitally transformed companies. Industrial business models everywhere will also flip to a ‘sense and respond’ environment where customers and suppliers will know almost everything there is to know about the service or product being sold and delivered to us (within the realms of data privacy regulations).

The Emergence of the Digital Exchange

In the midst of this DX there is vast opportunity: a new customer engagement model to make things better and easier for everyone. Digital businesses cannot be built and serviced by a single supplier – it’s just too complex. There are too many new sources of IoT data that are used to feed business systems and to drive outcomes. Instead, we are seeing businesses that serve the same set of customers from consortia or digital ecosystems or digital exchanges made up of a wide range of participants with an equally wide range of talents and needs.

As more companies become digital, we expect that there will be thousands of ecosystems in existence across every industry. In this collaborative environment, companies with a mutual interest in a particular industry — sometimes crossing traditional industry lines — will join a digital exchange whereby they can openly innovate and scale their business by tapping in to a global community. Just think of the power and value of the exchange as being similar to the network effect (something like Metcalfe’s Law) whereby the more the participants engage in activities in the exchange, the more value everyone gets out of the digital exchange. Microsoft’s Satya Nadella calls this “creating more surplus outside us.”

Some of the key benefits we can expect from the digital exchange are:

  • Co-innovation between startups looking for partners and established vendors looking for external ideas for product improvement
  • Collaboration to solve like-minded industry challenges
  • Creation of open and interoperable tools to speed up new products and services offerings
  • Ability to leverage a large and diverse set of partners who can help each other discover new markets and services within their own industry and beyond

Digital exchanges can be wild and confusing, and they may seem disorganised to the newcomer. Think of the first impression you have when you walk into a large open-air market selling antiques. Initially everything seems to be piled into stalls with no logical reason. However, to the experienced shopper and stall owner, there is an organised manner to it that makes sense. And there are many wonderful things waiting to be revealed.

At this year’s Hannover Messe an original example of a digital exchange was rolled out by Schneider Electric called Schneider Electric Exchange — their digital ecosystem and business platform. Schneider Electric Exchange also has a structure to it that is geared up to help specific roles or personas and make it easier for anyone to find the right partner for solving specific business challenges. It is also set up to step someone through the life-cycle process of creating a solution by connecting them to the right tools with the right partners for the right markets. Business value can be created within the Exchange but is equally powerful outside when delivered to the end user. For example, building management designers can use Schneider Electric Exchange to find partners who are also experts of emerging technologies such as digital twins, 3D-Print, AR, and analytics.

We believe that digital exchanges will create immediate economic benefits by reducing friction and inefficiencies in the overall customer supply chain. Participants will be able to innovate faster and deliver quicker — even as customers’ experiences and expectations rise, evolve, and change at the lightning pace of the digital economy. Over time we expect that vendors’ Net Promoter Score (NPS) to rise as a result of improved business processes from these exchanges.

In conclusion, IoT will be the pebble that creates the ripple in the DX pond. Data will be created from every sensor that will be used to create competitive differences at every stage of a company’s value chain. Businesses that do not embrace the use of the data and innovate themselves as well as their products do run the risk of being very quickly disrupted. Companies also do not have the financial and technical resources to do all of this by themselves – hence, the opportunity to be part of a digital exchange is the way to be agile, cost-effective, and competitive. Every time, businesses that waited while a new ‘industrial revolution’ was taking place, lost out. Today, who will dare to disrupt instead of being disrupted? We are at the tipping point of digital transformation and there is no time left to sit on the sidelines – businesses need to jump in to a dynamic digital ecosystem and partner with each other through their industry’s digital exchange!

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Ecosystm Snapshot: Vodafone and Arm partner to drive Internet of Things deployment

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Vodafone and Arm announced a strategic agreement at MWC19 to work on simplifying IoT services and reduce the costs confronted by the organisations on the implementation of IoT.

The Vodafone-Arm agreement expands on the previous collaboration which was on integrated SIM (iSIM) technology, a system on chip(SOC) design which can be reprogrammed with respect to the requirements. The iSIM allows customers to remotely provision and manage IoT devices across the globe which proposes reduced complexities and offers significant cost reduction.

To carry on the existing relationships this agreement is expected to bring Vodafone’s IoT global platform and Arm’s IoT software services to offer organisations a world of connected systems. This characterises a major initiative enabling a wide ecosystem of manufacturers to tap into the potential of trillions of connected devices.

Speaking on the subject, Ecosystm’s Executive Analyst, Vernon Turner thinks that “this announcement will help customers who look to and need a cellular-based IoT solution. Traditionally, mobile devices require a physical process to change their SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) card when there is a change of ownership or carrier, but in a world of trillions of connected devices, this is just not practical.”

Arm’s announcement of its iSIM is the latest in a series of announcements to resolve the size, cost, and scalability of SIM cards. SIM cards are critical for secure identity so the challenge has been to create a cost-effective IoT System On Chip (SOC) that has the SIM function embedded on it. Through its Kigen product family, Arm’s tech buyers will be able to build solutions on the latest cellular standards and specification suitable to run on 5G and backward compatible networks.

Vodafone’s customers will now be able to create a cellular-based IoT solution that can be continuously connected and deployed globally, giving them better investment protection and reduced operational costs. In addition, customers will have the choice of managing these devices through a ‘single pane of glass’ on either Vodafone’s IoT platform or Arm’s Pelion IoT Platform.

“Any time complexity is removed from an IT or mobile solution, customers respond by deploying and using that solution more” says Vernon. “ SoC-based solutions tend to have more functionality that allows for innovation, so we should expect to see an uptick in cellular-based IoT deployments”

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Is there any charm left for IoT enthusiasts at MWC?

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At last, the Mobile World Congress (MWC) – the world’s largest exhibition for the mobile industry – is moving back to its origins. 5G technology has been a star in this year’s conference and I must say that it still has almost the same number of defenders as detractors. Opinions from both sides – the proponents and the critics – have been heard this week in Barcelona and while in the middle I have adopted an easy and not very brave opinion on this aspect. I still think that 5G can bring great advances in many sectors such as healthcare or transport, but contrary to this I don’t think that we will be using 5G in Virtual Reality multi-player games. That’s like, too much investment for a few general use cases of the technology.

I went to Barcelona to discover about happenings on the Internet of Things (IoT), start-ups and to discuss advances on IoT strategies with Operators, Manufacturers and System Integrators who were present at this Congress.

The gist of my visit at the end of my three days time and impressive 70,000 steps on my Fitbit tracker, is that the role of IoT at MWC has been diluted. A couple of years ago almost all the exhibitors used the word IoT on their stalls, many without knowing anything about what it was and today, it hardly appears on a few. There are no longer innovations, nor new use cases that attract visitors.

IoT and Operators

In the long-wait of 5G, IoT operators are torn between several technologies such as NB-IoT or LTE-M o LPWAN networks. The LoRA alliance had a booth in Hall #8 (the Hall of the poor’s, I call this Hall). SigFox did not even attend this year’s conference, which further increased the rumors among the attendees on the possible precarious situation of the French Operator.

Analysts should revise their estimates downwards based on data from new connections announced by Vodafone or Telefonica this year. I agree with Allen Proithis, Global Tech Executive: IoT, Digital Transformation, Strategic Partnerships, Emerging Technology, he said “the lack of emphasis on IoT reflects the struggle of mobile operators to monetize IoT outside of connections, especially at the SaaS or data level

Winner MWC2019 – Deutsche Telekom – IoT Solution Optimiser    

IoT and Network Infrastructure Vendors

This section is reserved for a few players – Ericsson, Huawei, and Nokia share most of the pie around the network infrastructure. A suspicion of Huawei security and doubts on the Operator’s role in election outcomes can delay 5G deployments in Europe. The Americans and the Chinese have already placed their decisions.

Only Huawei granted me an opportunity to meet their VP, a friend of mine.

I tried several times to reach Nokia whereas I did not even try to reach Ericsson this year, I already heard its strategy three times in the last year.

By far, Nokia has gained in terms of its connectivity offer with Nokia Wing, the ecosystem and the use cases (somewhat more advanced than those presented last year).

Winner MWC2019 – Nokia – Nokia Wing 

IoT and IT Technology Vendors

The technology behemoth Microsoft revealed its second-generation HoloLens AR and all I can say is that it left a ridiculous gap for IoT. Other IT giants such as Dell-EMC-VMware, SAP, Cisco, Oracle, SAS or SAG-Cumulocity did not showcase anything new.

Moving towards the System Integrators, they are not even expected at this fair in relation to IoT. Neither the Cloud, nor the Edge IIoT, nor the IoT Platforms, nor the IoT applications had any new ideas that could have attracted the interest of veterans and novices. Where are the millions of dollars going in the industry, which they say are being spent on IoT?

Winner MWC2019 –  No Conclusión

IoT and Countries

Finding an IoT gem among the many tiny cubicles of various countries was similar to finding a needle in a haystack. To me, there was hardly any interest to go through the dozens of small companies that used this event as a stage to make themselves visible to the world. The umbrella allows them to be here but attracting visitors between so much noise and variety to their booth was a big and miraculous task.

Every year, I get in touch with IoT companies and know companies from Israel, UK, Sweden, Canada or France. However, this year to my surprise, I found an interesting company in the pavilion of Belgium. They have developed another league of IoT platform and I liked what they have achieved with Orange. They are my winner of this year.

My special regards to the Colombia pavilion and my friend  Edgar Salas.

Winner MWC2019 – AllThingsTalk

IoT and Start-ups

I could not visit 4YFN, but I went to IoT Stars. My friend Marc Pous and his colleagues always do a great job, who comes as a jury every year. It was a good time spent with them over a beer while sharing impressions of the IoT and discussing new ideas to accelerate this market once and for all.

In my opinion, there was no great achievement this year and I still notice a gap in the Industrial IoT start-up space. Most ideas are like “Déjà vu” applications for Consumer IoT which reminds me of the post-years after the Internet boom. Much remains to be done here and it will take time for Universities to train innovators and entrepreneurs of IoT.

Winner MWC2019 – No Conclusión

P.S. The IoT Stars jury awarded two prizes


Key Takeaway:

It does not matter; this Congress was as soporific as the Oscars ceremony but for some strange reasons I keep coming back every year. Although after the fiasco of 2019, my expectations were set to find progress and opportunities in IoT but considering the after-effects, I think next year I will reduce my stay to only two days.

It has become clear that the MWC no longer holds anything interesting with respect to IoT to attract visitors, exhibitors, companies. Instead, IoT enthusiasts should probably look to other – more focussed – industry events.

If you want me to cover anything specific on IoT from MWC,19 then let me know in your comments.

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