Connected Cars, Autonomous Vehicles, and the Internet of Things (IoT)

Part 2 of 3 on the Future of Transportation and the Internet of Things

In my last blog, I talked about the simplicity of the electric engine compared to the internal combustion engine – and how this changes everything. From climate to the structure of the auto industry to the way we store, manage, and distribute energy – electric cars are having tremendous impact.

But what I left out of that discussion was the Internet of Things.

Predictive

The fact is, most electric cars are connected cars – connected through the Internet of Things. This means that sensors in the car constantly communicate with mission control (the manufacturer), sending data on the status of components in real time.

By analysing this data, especially in context of historical data, mission control can predict component failure before it happens. For electric vehicles – with engines that already need far less repair than traditional internal combustion engines – this only increases reliability further.

But what’s more, IoT-connected cars also increase convenience. For example, after realising component failure is imminent, your car could also trigger a work order at the dealership to resolve the issue – while ensuring the needed replacement part is in stock when you roll in. And if the car is autonomous, it could drive itself to be repaired while you are at work, and return ready to drive you home once the repair is completed. Speaking of autonomous…. 

Autonomous and safe

Connectedness is also what makes autonomous vehicles possible. And while some people may distrust driverless cars; the data shows that they’re safer than the self-driven sort – at least according to a report of the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Back in May 2016, a Tesla Model S sedan in Autopilot collided with a semi-truck in Florida, killing the driver (or passenger in this case?) – 40-year-old Joshua Brown. The car, apparently, crashed into the truck, passed under the trailer, and kept driving for some distance – only coming to a stop after crashing through two fences and into a pole.

As a result of this incident, the NHTSA conducted an investigation resulting in a report that largely exonerated Tesla. In fact, the report says that after the introduction of Autosteer – a component of the Autopilot system – Tesla’s crash rate dropped by 40%.

Self-learning

The accident in question happened when the semi-truck took a left-hand turn into oncoming traffic. The reason the Tesla did not detect such a large object in its path is because it could not distinguish the white color of the trailer from the bright white Florida sky in background.

Reportedly, Tesla has since analyzed the crash data from this accident, identified the problem, and made fixes to the operating system on which its fleet operates. Perhaps it’s premature to declare the problem solved – but the idea at play here is an interesting one indeed when considering the potential for connected cars and the IoT.

What this scenario shows is a learning platform in action. Because all of its cars are connected on a single platform, Tesla has access to a tremendous amount of driver data that it can analyze to continuously improve product safety. I don’t know exactly how the analysis proceeded in this particular case, but one can certainly envision the use of machine learning technology to continuously analyze patterns and introduce safety improvements on the fly – making the self-learning driving platform a reality.

Disruptive

A future in which autonomous vehicles are not only viable but safer than self-driven cars will result in disruptions beyond those I’ve indicated for electric engines.

Take the insurance industry, for example. With fewer accidents comes lower risk – leading to lower insurance premiums. And in a future where most cars on the road are autonomous – connected and controlled via IoT – the insurable entity itself will likely shift from the driver (who is now a passenger) to the operator of the network (presumably the manufacturer). Certainly, if you decide you wish to drive your car yourself, your insurance will be significantly more expensive than the insurance for an autonomous vehicle.

Of course, if autonomous cars can get where they’re going without a driver, why even bother owning a car? Why not just call up the ride when you need it – Uber style?

One result would be optimal asset utilization – where cars that are far less likely to breakdown can be used on an almost 24×7 basis by spreading usage across individuals. This would mean we’d need far less cars on the road – which would alleviate congestion. It would also hit the auto industry with dramatically lower sales volume.

And with fewer cars on the road – cars that are in use almost all the time – we’d have less use for parking. This would have tremendous impact on the global parking industry. An industry which generates approximately $20 billion annually.

Beyond industry disruption, less need for parking would open up tremendous urban space in the form of unused lots and garages. Maybe this would mean more populous cities with room to build for more people to live more comfortably without traffic congestion or pollution. Or how about using some of the space for indoor vertical farming using hydroponics technology and LED lights to grow more food and feed more people? Of course, this is already happening. But that’s a blog for another time.

 

Photo credit Nicole Galpern

3 Ways Electric Cars Are Changing More Than the Way We Drive

Part 1 of 3 on the Future of Transportation and the Internet of Things

The world is moving away from cars based on the internal combustion engine (ICEs). The future is electric. With Tesla leading the way on what’s possible with electric vehicles, more traditional auto manufacturers are following suit.

Volvo has announced that all of its cars will have electric motors by 2019. Aston Martin is planning the same by 2025. General Motors plans to have at least 20 electric vehicles (EVs) by 2023. The list goes on.

Much of the pressure is coming from countries banning ICE sales in the not-too-distant future (The Netherlands by 2025; China, India and Germany by 2030; France and the UK by 2040). Industry and consumers, however, want electric as well.

When everybody wants something, it tends to happen. The question is, what will be the ramifications? One safe bet is that the market for your ICE -based car will be drying up quickly – so think about selling now. But beyond concerns for personal finance, we can also expect EVs to have a dramatic impact in a number of areas including climate conditions in cities, the automotive industry in general, and energy distribution worldwide.

Lower emissions

The obvious benefit of electric cars – the reason countries, industries, and individuals everywhere are pushing for them – is lower emissions. One of the cities most concerned about emissions is Beijing. Back in 2015, the notoriously thick smog of the city disappeared quickly when authorities banned driving  for two weeks in preparation for a World War II commemoration parade. The day after driving resumed, the smog returned.

Today, Beijing is planning to replace the city’s nearly 70,000 taxis with EVs. Doubtless, this is a step in the right direction. Yet, while Beijing tends to get the lion’s share of press coverage when it comes to smog, other cities face similar challenges. From Paris to Mexico City and all around the world, lower emissions from electric vehicles will help to improve health for citizens locally and fight climate change globally.

Industry change

The automotive industry is not just General Motors, Volkswagen, Toyota and the rest. It’s also made up of countless suppliers of parts and components. But when you move from a traditional ICE to the electric engine, you lose about 90% of the parts. Electric engines are just simpler.

This means that for companies in the automotive supplier ecosystem, much of the market is going away soon. The simplicity of electric engines will also be felt further down the value chain. Service centers, for example, will feel the hit.  Many of these centers – particularly the large chains – use the inexpensive 3,000-mile oil change as a loss-leader to upsell customers on needed maintenance. But without oil in the electric engine – and without as much need for maintenance – many of these chains will have to rethink their business models to survive.

New energy horizons

One of the most significant impacts of EVs will be on the way energy is distributed – because in addition to being modes of transportation, EVs will also act as energy sources that can plug directly into the grid.

This will help address the challenge of “demand response.” The problem to solve here is one of grid stability in the era of renewable energy. Traditionally, large centrally located energy generation plants –  coal, gas, and nuclear – have churned out a steady supply of energy that results in a fairly stable grid.

However, the renewable energy paradigm – based mostly on solar and wind – is neither centralized nor steady. Rather it is distributed across rooftops, solar farms, and mountain tops. And it is variable according to weather conditions.

With renewables, in other words, utilities have less control over the supply side of the equation – meaning how and when energy is generated. This has the potential to lead to instability on the electricity grid. If you can’t manage the supply, then you have to use demand side management, also known as demand response. This can be done using through incentives, and the technology is advancing such that increasingly the process is becoming automated.

By providing a storage mechanism that can both take energy in and send it out, car batteries on EVs can act as frequency regulators for the grid. This is a big deal that has the potential to change energy distribution forever.

At night, say, when the wind is blowing, a car battery can store energy generated by wind turbines. Or, in the middle of the afternoon when everybody wants air conditioning on a hot day, the same batteries can distribute some of their energy. This leads to improved grid stability.

Industry convergence

Let’s just note, however, that the entities with the closest relationships to the owners of the batteries so critical to grid stability would not be the utilities but EV manufacturers. What’s stopping Elon Musk from enticing Tesla customers from sharing their batteries? Tesla could enable its customers provide energy from their batteries – and then sell it on the grid for a profit. Customers make money. Tesla makes money. Utility companies make money. Everybody is happy.

This transforms the automobile industry into an energy industry. At SAP we talk a lot about digital transformation as a response to digital disruption. This is disruption at its most dramatic.

Elon Musk has stated aims to make 500,000 Tesla’s in 2018. Let’s say he falls disastrously short and only hits half his target. Let’s also assume an average 80 kilowatt hour (kWh) battery size in the EVs – (Tesla cars today have battery sizes ranging from 60 -110 kWh). 250,000 cars x 80 kWh – and you’ll see that this fleet would have the capacity of 20 gigawatt hours of storage. For comparison, a gigawatt is roughly the output of a nuclear power plant. So, Tesla will be producing the equivalent of 20 nuclear power plants worth of storage, at least, per year.

Electric vehicle manufacturers will be able to aggregate the energy on their networks, and sell access to their “virtual power plants”. It is a whole new world.

Stay tuned for more on how the transportation industry is changing forever.

 

Photo credit Tesla

Dear Internet of Things startups,…

Dear Internet of Things startups,

As you may already know, SAP is one of the world’s largest software companies. We produce the software that most companies use to produce their goods. But what you may not know is that we don’t stop there.

On the contrary, SAP also has

On top of all that, according to our 2016 Interactive Annual Report SAP is now employing over 84,100 people globally, who create software for over 345,000 customer organisations spread across 180 countries. In fact, it has reached the point where 76% of business transactions globally now touch an SAP system.

And SAP is deeply committed to the Internet of Things. SAP pledged last September to investing €2bn (US$2.2bn) in the Internet of Things during the next four years, while also announcing the acquisition of two significant IoT companies Fedem and Plat.One.

And SAP’s desire to lead in the IoT space comes from the very top of the organisation as you can see in this tweet from our CEO Bill McDermott:

Cool, right?

Even better, you and your startup can be part of the SAP ecosystem, gaining access to those 345,000 enterprise customers, and their deep, deep pockets. How?

Become involved in SAP’s IoT Accelerator program.

What’s that?

The SAP IoT Startup Accelerator is a globally accessible co-innovation program for B2B startups, innovating in the world of IoT. The Accelerator helps startups grow and scale their business alongside SAP, our vast partner ecosystem and global customer base. We work with Accelerators, Incubators, Venture Firms, Academia and innovative technology providers to expand the IoT solutions ecosystem for our customers.

The SAP IoT Startup Accelerator seeks to find and enable the most promising IoT Startups to bring their solutions to market with SAP, and better yet because of that, SAP is not looking for fees or equity, we are looking for solutions that promote our shared customers success.

Curious to know more? Check out the SAP IoT Accelerator page on F6S.

SAP’s Vehicle Network explained by SAP VP Laurens Eckelboom

I had the good fortune to meet SAP’s VP Connected Vehicles, Laurens Eckelboom at Mobile World Congress recently and I invited him to come on the IoT Heroes podcast to tell us all about what SAP is doing with its Vehicle Network and other connected car initiatives.

Here’s the transcript of our conversation:

Tom Raftery: Hi everyone, welcome to the IoT Hero Show. My name is Tom Raftery, I’m VP & Global IoT Evangelist for SAP, and with me on the show today, I have Laurens Eckelboom. Laurens, do you want to introduce yourself?

Laurens Eckelboom: Absolutely Tom and pleasure to be here. My name is Laurens Eckelboom and I’m VP and Head of Business Development for the SAP Vehicles Network and Connected Vehicles working in Palo Alto California.

Tom Raftery: Okay, super. So Laurens what is a vehicles network, because we all know what vehicles are and we all know what networks are, but what’s a vehicles network?

Laurens Eckelboom: That’s a great question and actually SAP Vehicles Network is more like a marketplace. A marketplace around vehicle and mobility centric services with the focus on the B2B side of it, so what we are trying to do is connect on the one hand side supply, vehicle and mobility centric supply focused on parking, fueling and location based services. We aggregate, aggregators in that space, we try to standardize those business transactions and utilize a set of standard API’s to offer that aggregated inventory to the demand side of the marketplace, which are sales channels and sales channels could be vehicle manufacturers, it could be aftermarket providers, insurance companies, etc, etc with a large consumer base. That is in an nut shell what we do.

Tom Raftery: Okay, so and this is all delivered, the reason we’re talking is because it is all delivered using IoT technologies.

Laurens Eckelboom: Absolutely.

Tom Raftery: It’s being the IoT Hero show, I said I’d better bring it back to that. So there are many actors involved in this Laurens?

Laurens Eckelboom: Absolutely, there are many actors, there are many stakeholders that we bring together and again that is the power of SAP Vehicles Network, and yes, it is powered by SAP HANA Cloud Platform let’s emphasize that, but what we are trying to do is that we create an ecosystem where we did not only combined supply and demand where we bring not only content and transactionable content together and offer that to a large ecosystem of companies that have access to a large consumer basis. But we also try to come up with new cross pollination for data, new business models, new revenue streams, all because the more the marketplace is growing, the more the network is growing, the more the stakeholders are benefiting from it.

Tom Raftery: Okay and this is an unusual model I think because if we think about IoT and vehicles, people immediately think of maybe something like smart parking, but what the vehicles network is it’s much much bigger than that because if my understanding is correct. SAP is kind of standing in the middle of all kinds of vendors, of services for vehicles, so it’s a much, much bigger place, is that correct?

Laurens Eckelboom: That is absolutely correct and you’ve hit the nail on the head, if you look at it more realistically then of course we are a part of the SAP Leonardo Family, IoT family of brands within SAP and if you look at the value of proposition around the connected vehicles then we have 4 activities that we can identify, and SAP Vehicle Network is only 1 of those 4 activities, but if we look at it more broad then you know we are providing vehicle insights at more like fleet and B2B telematic solutions to a broad range of customers, not only data gathering, but also analysis and predictions that are associated with it, which is of course fascinating and a very rapidly growing activity within SAP.

The second activity that we do under the Connected Vehicles brand is ride sharing under the twogo brand, ride sharing to provide an economically friendly, more sustainable solution to companies to organize ride sharing initiatives that they have and also associate with all kinds of incentives around ride sharing.

Then the third activity is as we discussed SAP Vehicles Network, which is a B2B marketplace around vehicle and mobility centric services.

And last but not least, we are also providing SAP Connected Parking, which is a standalone Kiosk based on HANA Cloud Platform that is absolutely paperless and has the capability of being operated remotely in a new revolutionary design, very simple and very easy to do maintain and to operate, and again a 100% based on our cloud platform.

Tom Raftery: Okay, so just talking that one for a second, because that one is very easy to grok, the connected parking. Who would be the typical customers for that?

Laurens Eckelboom: So as you know SAP is a software company and the Kiosk is hardware right? So for us this is an outbound OEM solution where we will provide or are providing the IP of the hardware to what we call new ghost companies that will take over the design, the assembly and distribution, and install it at their customers inventory and then you need to think about parking operators, the large operators in America, but also think about other use cases such as airports, think about potential municipalities, real estate companies and other types of locations where you could use the unattended Kiosk in various ways of use cases.

Tom Raftery: Okay and this I presume obviously then connect back into the vehicle network as well, so you could have the two of them wired up together for all intents and purposes?

Laurens Eckelboom: Absolutely, the beauty of it is that the kiosk is part of opening up a lot of parking inventory that today is not accessible, that is not online accessible. So with the kiosk we are putting these offline locations on the grid, we make them available to reserve, to book, to pay, and that obviously benefits the whole ecosystem of SAP Vehicles Network because all the consumers now have a broader choice of parking inventory to go to in a seamless and frictionless way.

Tom Raftery: Okay and how long as the vehicles network been in operation?

Laurens Eckelboom: It’s pretty new, we launched the SAP Vehicles Network in America in October 2015 and in Europe in November 2015, so we have one and a half years on the way, but it’s exciting to see the growth, it’s exciting to see the development, and so we could not be happier with the direction that we’re going to today.

Tom Raftery: Okay, and in terms of, I mean do you call them customers or do you call them partners, people who are using the network, who interesting is on the network that we can work with?

Laurens Eckelboom: So we have two roles basically on SAP Vehicles Network, on the first of all on the supply side, every marketplace has a supply and demand, on the supply side we are working with companies that have access to a large inventory of parking spaces, and those parking spaces are online available, so that means that you could online or mobile interact with these spaces. We call that POP’s, Point of Purchase, which is different than POI’s, which is only static information. So we work with the market leaders for on and off street parking where we have the availability of their complete inventory, and by bundling that inventory, now suddenly through one API connection you have access to all this aggregated inventory, to these millions of parking spots, without the needs to sign up individually for these operators. [emphasis added]

And we do the same for fueling and we have a second activity within a marketplace is fueling, cashless fueling, where we could tie in a navigation experience towards a fuel station, with an identification use case through the head unit of the car, or through any companion app that through the cloud directly interacts with the transaction handler software, so we can activate the right fuel pump so that you don’t pay for the wrong fuel. And for somebody in front of you,

Tom Raftery: That’s important.

Laurens Eckelboom: Yeah, that’s of course very important. And we do the payments authentication and authorization through the cloud, and so all these elements are coming together, then the fuel pump will change its display you know saying hey, I’m ready. So the only thing you still need to do, we’re working on that as well, but you still have to get out of your car and put that nozzle in the gas tank and then that’s it.

Tom Raftery: It won’t fuel itself

Laurens Eckelboom: Yeah, that would be nice right, and we can tie that experience also into a business use case where if it would be a business trip, you could also tie that into Concur for your trip reporting.

Tom Raftery: Okay, so you pull up to the fuel pumps, you fill the car, you then have a reserved parking space you pull up to that, and at the end of the day the parking billing and the fuel billing all appear in your expenses report automatically?

Laurens Eckelboom: Exactly.

Tom Raftery: Or automagically maybe we should say.

Laurens Eckelboom: I like that better.

Tom Raftery: Interesting, so this obviously is great for business users. Is there a consumer aspect to it or is it all business to business?

Laurens Eckelboom: No, there is a huge consumer aspect to it. As I said prior in our conversation that we are looking for the demand side within the marketplace, for consumer facing companies, and we identify basically four tiers, one tier is of course the vehicle OEM’s where we are looking for direct integration in the head units combined with a companion app. The second tier would be rental car companies, where we interact with their user base. The third one would be aftermarket, where we work with dongle and Telco’s with an OBD2 Solution and a companion app that interacts with the car, and the fourth use case is of course an app that is out there whether it’s an insurance app or an existing parking app or maybe it’s a city specific app, where we can add locations and relevant services around parking and fueling into that app.

So those are the use cases that we have, and then seguing more towards your question, these services can be consumed by consumers, by a BMW driver, by a Mercedes driver that once you access parking, but of course they are also more like business use cases available that as basically comparable as a consumer use case, but by tying it to Concur, you can suddenly create a whole business use case scenario where a trip reporting and expense claim management is also integrated. I hope that makes sense.

Tom Raftery: It does and nobody likes doing expenses, so anyway you can make it easier for us, it’s so much appreciated.

Laurens Eckelboom: I feel your pain

Tom Raftery: You mentioned insurance, what would be the use case for the insurance industry?

Laurens Eckelboom: So insurance companies are realizing that there main channel of interaction is more and more mobile. Anyway they segue from people towards online, web towards mobile, and so to that ends they are adding more and more functionality into mobile apps, and that functionality goes further than a regular insight in your policy, there is now also a way to apply for an insurance policy whether it’s car or house or associated to insurance products, but also now they are looking on how they can increase interaction with their app, how they become more relevant, and have be brought interact more than twice a year, which is typically the renewal cycle of insurance to a more like weekly or even daily interaction, and to that end if you would add things like parking or fueling services to that app, suddenly the interaction with that app is becoming more repetitive and more frequently.

And by doing that they are adding more relevance and stickiness to their app and that is what they are looking for, they are looking more for a more like almost like a kind of a mobility value proposition to their end users that acts as there companion for more daily use cases.

Tom Raftery: Okay, interesting, nice. So we’ve covered a lot about it, is there anything that we haven’t talked about yet?

Laurens Eckelboom: Well, I mean there’s a couple of things that I think are really exciting and that is for instance the Hertz, Nokia, Concur and SAP showcase at MWC 2017 because I think that what is really interesting about SAP Vehicle Network is also that we can bring multiple large companies together, and create new innovative use cases, not necessarily by coming up with new technology, but by bundling the individual value propositions, and create whole new use case scenario that also provides a more delightful user experience, and more relevance and stickiness towards individual app or individual companies. So what we did in the Hertz case was that we used a Hertz mobile app as a front end and added additional solutions to it that would go way further than your rental car experience.

So to that end, you know the app during the Mobile World Congress, did not only enable you to, you know the moment you enter a rental car facility to select a car and do your regular rental car managements steps such as looking at the agreement, adding fuel services to it, maybe increase the insurance but after those steps you know the use case was that had interacted with vehicle to the cloud, so I’m a tall guy 6’4 I used to be 6’5, but at 6’4 these days, and so if I step into a car through the cloud the car recognizes me as Laurens, 6 foot 4 so the seat would go backwards, it recognized that I like 90’s music better than today’s music, so the radio would tune on 90’s music.

And the app could behave like a keyless access point, so I could pop the trunk, I could open up the car and there the keys of the vehicle would be available and I could actually start the car, so that would be one of the examples, but then we’re going to convert that car into a mobile wallet, the wallet on wheels by opening up the SAP vehicles network parking and fueling inventory, having the ability to push navigation from that transaction to the head unit of the car, and then when you’re at your point of interaction whether that’s a parking garage or whether that’s a fuel pump, there is an interaction through the cloud with that hardware, and by adding the components of Concur to this whole use case scenario, we suddenly create a whole business scenario.

And then also I think one of the unique things that we do is that we bring IoT also to business processes, and that’s of course our strength within SAP, and that is something unique and we are very proud of that. And so everybody is benefiting from it, it’s not only the user, the business traveler that has a delightful experience, but also these transactions through the cloud through the real world are coming back into one of the core things that we do, business processes.

Tom Raftery: Okay and that announcement, at Mobile World Congress with Nokia and Hertz, is that available now to Hertz users, or is it something that going to be rolled over the next however how many months or years?

Laurens Eckelboom: Yeah, absolutely. This is something that of course is not available today, it was a showcase, but it says something about innovation and the roadmap ahead, so rest assure that in the future that many of these elements will become available within not only the Hertz app, but also in other comparable use case scenarios.

And another example that I would love to give to you is with Mojio. Mojio is a aftermarket solution, it’s actually a connected car platform for T–mobile in the US and Deutsche Telecom in Europe, and here the Mojio team decided to add SAP Vehicles Network services around parking and fueling to their current use case, which is focused around basic telematics and navigation and issue management capabilities, and the unique thing is that they have access to a large target audience of T-Mobile customers in the US, and with the distribution network of T-Mobile stores in the US, so here you will see that hundreds of thousands of T-Mobile users and T-Mobile customers have now the ability in the next couple of months to start interacting not only with Mojio’s key and core competence, but also with transactions, paying for parking, starting to pay for fueling and this is all about the network you know.

Now you see that the transaction is starting to come in and now we also start to learn about behavior and other elements and that is very exciting, we could not be more happy about that.

Tom Raftery: Oh, fantastic, great. Okay, we’re coming towards the end of the show Laurens, we’re running out of time. Just for the people who are interested, what else is coming down the line with the Vehicles Network that you’d like to tell people about?

Laurens Eckelboom: I think that and that is great question. There’s a couple of things that we are working on besides the parking and fueling scenario, we are focusing now on location based services around parking and fueling, and we feel that parking was never a destination, but it will be great at the moment you parked, you could get a cup of coffee with a participating Starbucks around the corner or maybe a second bagel, and the same for fueling, of course I think the optimal use case scenario at a fuel station is that while you’re you know getting gas, you’re going to buy something at the convenience store, whether that’s a free coke or you know and we can tie that into your trip, we can also segment and fine tune that base on the time of the day, we could tie it in to how long you’ve been driving, so there are all kinds of deeper detailed scenarios available.

And after those services that I described, we will continue to add new vehicle mobility centric services to the marketplace. Think about I think in the near future insurance related services, roadside assistance related services, but also think about maintenance service, maybe in the future even multi modelling because again we also go to that direction, so it’s exciting and there’s a lot coming.

Tom Raftery: Fantastic, great. Laurens if people want to know more about you or about the vehicle network or any of these things, so where should I go?

Laurens Eckelboom: Go to sap.com and look for SAP Vehicles Network. We have a nice website with more examples, more information and the other way to reach out is send an Email laurens.eckelboom@sap.com and I’m happy to answer any question you may have.

Tom Raftery: fantastic Laurens it’s been great thanks for joining us on the show today.

Laurens Eckelboom: Thanks so much Tom I appreciate the opportunity.

You can listen to the audio over on the IoT Heroes website or check it out below:

IoT, and the transition to the digital services economy discussion with Constellation’s Andy Mulholland

Over on the IoT Heroes podcast I recently had a chat with Constellation Research analyst Andy Mulholland. Before coming out of retirement to head up IoT research for Constellation, Andy was Global CTO for Cap Gemini, and so he knows a thing or two about IT!

Andy publishes extremely insightful articles on the Internet of Things regularly over on his blog, so I was keen to have him come on the show.

In the podcast we had a wide-ranging discussion on the implications for (primarily) manufacturing organisations of the Internet of things, the transition to the as-a-service economy, and how people can get up-to-speed on happenings in the IoT space.

If you have any interest at all in the Internet of Things, and how it will effect our society, you should check out this episode of the show – you can subscribe to the RSS feed, subscribe on iTunes, or simply click Play on the player below to hear our discussion

 

Photo credit Toyota UK

IoT Heroes podcast

Back in the early days of podcasting (2005-08) I ran a popular podcast called PodLeaders where I regularly interviewed luminaries from the tech world such as Vint Cerf, Matt Mullenweg, Robert Scoble, and others.

I have always had a soft spot for podcasts. I love listening to them as I walk the dog every morning, and/or when I’m on planes, or when I’m driving. And so, with the recent upsurge in podcast popularity,  I recently decided to start up a new podcast focussing on the Internet of Things. I’m calling it IoT Heroes.

I will publish roughly one episode a week. Sometimes it will be a dedicated podcast, more often it will be a case of republishing the audio from one of the video interviews I carry out.

For example, I have just published as a podcast the recent video interview I did with Fybr CTO, Mrinal Wadhwa. Fybr do the full network stack for IoT devices which need to be in the field, reliably sending info back to base and using very little power so the battery life is in the order of 10 years. Typical use cases are parking meters for cities, soil moisture sensors for agriculture/horticulture, and sewage flow sensors for waste water organisations.

Apart from the interview with Mrinal, I’ve already published interviews with Industrial Internet Consortium Executive Director Richard Soley, with Eclipse’s VP Marketing Ian Skerrett, and with Labs Network Industry 4.0 Lead Anke Riechers.

If you want to subscribe to the podcast, the url is http://tomraftery.libsyn.com/rss, and if you want to add it to the blogs you follow, you can find it on IoTHeroes.com.

In the meantime, use the player below to enjoy the podcast with Mrinal:

New business models for utilities

Several months before joining SAP, I was asked if I would give a talk (and be on a related panel) at the European Utility Week conference in Barcelona this year on the topic of New Business Models for Utilities.

The event is the premier utilities event annually in Europe with 12,000 attendees, and 600 exhibitors. I was honoured to be asked, and of course accepted, without hesitation.

The talk wasn’t video’d but you can check out the slides I used above. In slides 3-29 I outline why utilities need to adopt new business models (revenues are falling due to factors like falling costs of generation, the rising popularity of renewables, climate change, etc.). In slides 33-40 I discuss some of the evolutionary business models open to utilities. While slides 41-60 outline some of the more revolutionary opportunities open to utilities – many being enabled by the Internet of Things, and utilities digital transformation.

With all the changes occurring, utilities need to disrupt, or they themselves will be disrupted.

Italy’s train operator invests big in IoT

TrenItalia has invested €50m in an Internet of Things project which it expects to cut maintenance costs by up to €130m anually, to increase train availability, and improve customer satisfaction ratings.

There is a lot of hype around the Internet of Things (IoT) these days, so it is refreshing to see an IoT story with some real traction (terrible pun, sorry!).

TrenItalia, the primary train operator in Italy, and SAP had a big launch event recently to announce a partnership whereby TrenItalia are using SAP’s IoT technology to help manage the maintenance of the TrenItalia fleet.

TrenItalia operates around 8,000 trains per day, which is in itself, no mean feat. However, it wanted to make its service even more efficient so it looked to the Internet of Things to help.

Historically maintenance on trains was scheduled based on how long the train was in service, how many kilometers it had travelled, or if a failure ocurred, and as a consequence many times the maintenance happened before it was needed.

Trains have had sensors installed for some time now, however typically they wrote their data to log files which were examined at the journey’s end. With the new Dynamic Maintenance Management solution (DMMS), TrenItalia is deploying sensors on all its trains to report back detailed data on the trains’ performance in realtime. The data is used to track where the trains are, to schedule maintenance when it is actually needed, and to increase the safety, and reliability of the entire locomotive fleet.

The trains have between 500-1,000 sensors capable of generating up to 5,000 data points per second measuring variables like motor temperature, line voltage, and braking effort. This data is transferred to TrenItalia’s 6 terabyte in-memory database, and can be stored ultimately in their 1 petabyte cloud storage facility.

The cost of the project to TrenItalia is €50m, which may sound like a lot, but according to TrenItalia CIO Danilo Gismondi, they expect the solution to save them between €104m – €130m per annum (8 – 10% savings in the annual maintenance budget of €1.3bn). There are also savings of an estimated €10-€20m from not having to pay fines and penalties to customers and regulators associated with train failures and delays.

Apart from the financial savings, other benefits of the solution include:

  • a reduction in the unplanned unavailability of trains (leading to a 5-8% increase in train availability)
  • a reduced stock of spare parts
  • a reduction in the amount of time locomotives spend in maintenance and
  • a realtime look into the status of the entire TrenItalia fleet with the ability to be alerted to issues on any one individual locomotive before problems arrive

At €50m, this is a significant outlay for TrenItalia, but they are now battling against competitors on many fronts (air travel, buses, and even ride-share schemes like Uber). Knowing this, a big motivator for TrenItalia’s undertaking the project was to increase customer satisfation ratings. As TrenItalia CEO Barbara Morgante put it

Customers have to choose us because we’re better than others

The transformative nature of the Internet of Things should not be underestimated. With this one solution TrenItalia is saving over €100m a year, it is increasing the safety and reliability of its trains, and it is providing a better service for its customers.

Free, open online course about the Internet of Things

SAP have just announced Imagine IoT – a free course on openSAP, SAP’s Enterprise MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) learning platform.

Why is this important?

The Internet of Things is an incredibly nascent area. Today. But it is going to explode. Slowly at first, and then all at once, such that some day soon everything will be smart and connected.

Think back to the state of the Internet in 1994. Almost no-one had a website, or their own domain even. Most companies didn’t even have a company email address, never mind one per employee. That’s where the Internet of Things is today. Most devices, are dumb and not connected, but soon all devices will be connected, the same way everybody has an email address, and when they all start talking to one another, it will transform the world as we know it even more than the Internet has to-date.

Now you see why the Internet of Things is important. It is globally transformative. Now, if you want to learn a little about the technologies underpinning the IoT, this course could well be for you.

The course is open to all comers and in the course

you will learn the fundamentals of the Internet of Things (e.g., sensors, the cloud, and more) and be introduced to new interaction paradigms (augmented reality, wearables, and more) that are changing how we interact with the world around us. You will also learn how to design and create your own IoT prototype

At the end of the course there is a “prototyping challenge” where you submit the prototype you have designed and completed during the course for feedback from your peers. The prototypes will be voted on and the winning prototypes will be showcased, and get to choose how SAP donates $50,000 to charity.

The course consists of 3 weeks of lectures commencing on September 28th, followed by four weeks of the prototyping phase.

The course curriculum looks like this:

  • Week 1: Get to Know the Internet of Things
  • Week 2: Go Deeper into IoT with SAP
  • Week 3: Create Your First IoT Prototype
  • Week 4: Submit Your IoT Prototype
  • Week 5: Evaluate IoT Prototypes of Your Peers
  • Week 6: View Results of Your IoT Prototype
  • Week 7: Winners Announced

And the course doesn’t require any previous knowledge of coding (though, it probably wouldn’t hurt!).

I signed up for the course, and I’m looking forward to trying out some of the technologies that will be showcased.

Full disclosure – I work for SAP but I’d have blogged about a worthwhile initiative like this regardless given how important and pervasive the Internet of Things is going to become. Knowing how to work with IoT will be a hugely important skill.

Global Internet of Things Evangelist for SAP

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My SAP phone on my SAP laptop

I have been recruited into SAP in the role of Global Internet of Things Evangelist starting this month.

When I left RedMonk earlier this year, I mentioned that I was talking to a couple of people, but that there was still a window of opportunity for other companies to get in touch about my working for them. SAP, and a number of others, saw the post and got in touch.

It has been an exciting few months in the meantime. I’ve had fascinating discussions with lots of companies (including the CEO of a US electric car company who wanted me to move to Palo Alto to work for his organisation).

After weighing the various options though, I decided to accept SAP’s generous offer, for a number of reasons:

  • The Internet of Things is at its very inception – it is now where the Internet was in 1994 – back when organisations didn’t have websites or a company email address even. So there are going to be seismic changes in the workings of the IoT over the next few years. This ever changing landscape, and the incredible outcomes which will accrue, are what makes this topic fascinating for me.
    Also, when I worked on cleantech, it was an area which was very broad and cut across many verticals. IoT similarly crosses many verticals, so it maps very closely with what I’ve already been doing.
  • Then there is SAP – SAP is a large enterprise software company. SAP has in the region of 77k employees, and reported revenues in excess of €20bn in 2015. By any measure SAP is an enormous organisation. And I have only ever worked for very small companies, so why go for SAP?
    Well, that’s the point, isn’t it? Working for a small company it is very hard to make an impact, but when you are working for a company with hundreds of thousands of customers, if you make even a small difference, it can have really significant outcomes.
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    And then there’s the fact that we live in the city of Seville. It is a beautiful city, and my family and I love living here. SAP had no problem with me living in Seville and didn’t even think of asking me to move to Germany, to Palo Alto, or even require me to work out of the SAP Madrid office. This was a big factor inthe decision too.

So now that I have started, I am looking forward to getting to know all my SAP colleagues, helping craft SAP’s Internet of Things strategies, and showcasing all the seriously impressive IoT solutions that are possible with SAP’s software.

If you want to get in touch to know more, feel free to leave a comment here, DM me on Twitter, email me at tom.raftery at sap.com, or get me on my mobile +34 608 252 871