Tag: Internet of Things

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.

Is the IoT hype justified? Will it change everything, or is it a passing fad?

All the buzz in tech these days is about the Internet of Things. Is the hype justified? Will it change everything, or is it a passing fad?

Tl; dr. It depends, yes, and no. In that order.

To expand a little on that:

Is the hype justified?

It depends on where it is being used, and what for.

So, the use of the Internet of Things (IoT) in industry is really taking off. In fact, just recently (end of July 2016) 451 Research released a report stating that 65% of enterprises are already using the Internet of Things.

There are numerous examples across many sectors – everything from:

As you can see the Industrial Internet of Things (often termed IIoT) is booming, driven by large cost savings, accompanied by deep data insights, and very often reduced carbon emissions.

In the residential sector though, the story is quite different.

There are now Internet of Things connected doorbells, thermostats, lights, televisions, coffee makers, watches, baby monitors, security cameras, lawn sprinklers, refrigerators, even hearing aids.

But the smart home Internet of Things is not yet living up to the hype. The Google Nest, for example only sold 1.3m devices in 2015. All these Things are supposed to offer more convenience, so why aren’t they flying off the shelves?

Two reasons:

  1. Cost – Internet connected things for the home are not cheap. In an industrial setting, adding $1,000 worth of sensors to a wind turbine (for example) is a no-brainer if that wind turbine costs $10m, and the sensors are going to make it more efficient at producing energy, and reduce the chances of its failure, whereas if you are a homeowner, it is very hard to justify paying €200 for 3 internet connected Lightbulbs when a regular Philips LED bulb retails for €6!
    Amazon Screenshot
  2. Lack of convenience – this may sound like a strange one given I said that the Internet of Things was supposed to add to your convenience. Unfortunately the opposite is often true. Each of the IoT items I listed above has its own app, which you need to download, setup, create an account on, and then open up, every time you want to use/control your Thing. We are starting to see some over-arching platforms now which are supposed to help us control all our devices (HomeKit from Apple, SmartThings from Samsung, and Thread from Google), but, if anything are adding to the confusion.

standards

We have Philips Hue, and Lifx LED bulbs in my home, along with Belkin WeMo Switches. The bulbs are now turned on and off at the wall, because it is easier than using an app, and so could just as easily be ‘dumb’ bulbs, and the Belkin WeMo switches failed shortly after getting them (they no longer can connect to the wifi network), so they are taking up space now at the bottom of a drawer somewhere.

Is the residential Internet of Things doomed?

Not at all. If the technology world has taught us anything it is that devices get better and cheaper as time goes by. Just compare the first iPhone to an iPhone 6 to see what I’m talking about.

So, in time, the cost of making connected bulbs will be so low that all bulbs will be connected by default. Ditto coffee machines, refrigerators, etc. Whether we choose to make use of devices ‘smarts’ will depend then very much on how the standards war works out.

The transition will take longer as well because, while we typically change phones every 1-2 years, Our home appliances (doorbells, refrigerators, even LED lightbulbs) tend to have a life more typically of 10-20 years.

So, the residential Internet of Things, as long as it remains expensive, lacks the type of economic imperative which the IIoT has, and doesn’t have a dominant, open standard, will proceed slowly. It will be 5-10 years at the very least, before homes are truly ‘smart’. And even then, a lot of the growth in this sector will likely come from devices subsidised by utilities (such as British Gas’ Hive product range), for energy efficiency programs, or the provision of services.

In the meantime, the Industrial Internet of Things will boom. Justifying the hype, changing enormously how businesses operate, and demonstrating that this is no passing fad.

The Internet of Things – trends for the telecoms, data centre, and utility industries

I gave the closing keynote at an event in Orlando last week on the topic of The Impact of the Internet of Things on Telcos, Data Centres, and Utilities.

The slides by themselves can be a little hard to grok, so I’ll go through them below. I should note at the outset that while many of my slide decks can be over 90, or even 100 slides, I kept this one to a more terse 66 😉

And so, here is my explanation of the slides

  1. Title slide
  2. A little about me
  3. The IoT section start
  4. IoT has been around for a while, but the recent explosion in interest in it is down to the massive price drops for sensors, combined with near ubiquitous connectivity – we’re heading to a world where everything is smart and connected
  5. According to the June 2016 Ericsson Mobility Report [PDF], the Internet of Things (IoT) is set to surpass mobile phones as the largest category of connected devices in 2018
  6. Depending on who you believe, Cisco reckons we will have 50bn connected devices by 2020
  7. While IDC puts the number at 212bn connected devices. Whatever the number is, it is going to mean many devices will be creating and transmitting data on the Internet
  8. What kinds of things will be connected? Well, everything from wind turbines (this is an image from GE’s website – they have a suite of IoT apps which can “improve wind turbine efficiency up to 5%” which in a large wind farm is a big deal)
  9. Rio Tinto has rolled out fully autonomous trucks at two of its mines in Australia. They developed the trucks in conjunction with Komatsu. The trucks, which are supervised from a control room 1,000km away in Perth, outperform manned trucks by 12%
  10. A nod to one of my favourite comedy movies (“See the bears game last week? Great game”), while also introducing the next three slides…
  11. Planes – according to Bill Ruh, GE’s CEO of Digital, GE’s jet engines produce 1TB of data per flight. With a typical plane flying 5-10 flights per day, that’s in the region of 10TB per plane per day, and there are 20,00 planes – that’s a lot of data. Plus, GE is currently analysing 50m variables from 10m sensors
  12. Trains – New York Air Brakes has rolled out a sensor solution for trains, which it says is saving its customers $1bn per year
  13. And automobiles – in the 18 months since Tesla starting collecting telemetry data from its customers’ cars, it has collected 780m miles of driving data. It is now collecting another 1 million miles every 10 hours. And the number of miles increases with each new Tesla sold
    And since 2009 Google has collected 1.5m miles of data. This may not sound like much in comparison, but given its data comes from Lidar radars, amongst other sensors, it is likely a far richer data set
  14. With the rollout of smart meters, UK utility Centrica recently announced that it will be going from 75m meter reads a year, to 120bn meter reads per annum
  15. Wearables, like the Fitbit now record our steps, our heartbeat, and even our sleep
  16. This was my heartbeat last November when I presented at the SAP TechEd event in Barcelona – notice the peak at 2:30pm when I went onstage
  17. Lots of in-home devices too, such as smoke alarms, thermostats, lightbulbs, and even security cameras and door locks are becoming smart
  18. Even toy maker Atari has announced that it is getting into the Internet of Things business
  19. Which is leading to an enormous data explosion
  20. In 2012 analyst form IDC predicted that we will have created 40ZB of data by 2020
  21. In 2015 it updated that prediction to 75ZB
  22. Where will this data be created?
  23. Well, according to the 2016 Ericsson Mobility Report, most of the IoT devices will be in Asia Pacific, Western Europe, and North America
  24. When?
  25. That depends, different devices have different data profiles for creation and consumption of data, depending on geography, time of day, and day of year
  26. And why?
  27. Because, as Mary Meeker pointed out in her 2016 State of The Internet report, global data growth has had a +50% CAGR since 2010, while data storage infrastructure costs have had a -20% CAGR in the same timeframe
  28. In 2011 EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes famously said that Data is the new gold
  29. And if that’s true, as is the case with any gold rush, the real money is to be made supplying the prospectors
  30. Now, let’s look at some of the trends and impacts in the telecoms industry
  31. From Ericsson’s 2016 Mobility Report we can see that the big growth for the telecoms is in data traffic
  32. And not content to be merely infrastructure providers, telcos are looking to climb the value chain
  33. To facilitate this data explosion, telecom companies are building fatter pipes with LTE growing significantly in numbers between 2015 and 2021, while 2019 will see 5G kicking off
  34. Telcos are now offering cloud solutions. Their USP being that their cloud is fast, reliable, and end-to-end secure
  35. There are huge opportunities for telcos in this space
  36. In the next few slides I did a bit of a case study of AT&T, and some of the ways it is leveraging the Internet of Things. First off AT&T has partnered with solar company SunPower to connect residential solar panels for remote monitoring of the panels’ performance
  37. In its connected vehicle portfolio, AT&T manage the connections for Tesla, Audi, GM, and Uber. They have 8m connected cars atm, and expect to grow that to 10m by the end of 2017
  38. And, an interesting data point to back that up – in the first quarter of 2016, in the US, 32% of all new cellular connections were for cars. The largest percentage of any segment
  39. 243,000 refrigerated shipping containers connected through AT&T

  40. AT&T have a partnership with GE for intelligent lighting solutions for cities and public roadways
  41. In the equipment and heavy machinery space, nearly half of all tractors and harvesters in the US are connected through AT&T
  42. While in healthcare, AT&T predicts that wellness tracking and virtual care solutions will reach 60m homes & 74m users by 2019
  43. Then there’s outdoor advertising. AT&T knows data analysis. For years they owned the largest telemarketing organisation in the US. Now, with cellular data, they can completely transform outdoor advertising. Previously for advertising hoardings, the amount of footfall, or vehicular traffic passing a sign could be guesstimated, but no more info than that was available. But now, because AT&T knows where everyone is, their gender, age, and approximate income, they can transform this business.
    Recently they carried out a study with a customer who wanted to advertise to women in the Dallas area who earned over $75,000 per year. They queried the data and found that the customer only needed to buy two billboards in all of Dallas, to adequately cover the target demographic. Needless to say the customer was impressed
  44. Because they don’t have a monopoly on ideas, AT&T have opened up their M2X Internet of Things developer platform to allow outside developers create solutions using AT&T’s infrastructure
  45. They’re far from being alone in this – Verizon have an Internet of Things platform as well called ThingSpace Develop
  46. While t-mobile has announced that it is teaming up with Twilio for its Internet of Things play
  47. And it is not just cellular technologies they are using – there are also other low bandwidth radio protocols such as Lora and Sigfox which the telcos are looking at to broaden their reach
  48. I spoke to a senior exec at a telcom firm recently (who for obvious reasons preferred to remain unnamed) and he told me:
    Telcos want to own everything, everywhere“The internet of things is certainly one way for them to get there
  49. How is all this impacting the data centre industry?
  50. Well, in the next four years data centre capacity will need to increase 750% according to IDC. Also required will be significant ramp-ups in analytics, security and privacy
  51. As Jim Gray pointed out in his book The Fourth Paradigm:

    “As datasets grow ever larger, the most efficient way to perform most of these computations is clearly to move the analysis functions as close to the data as possible”

    In other words, instead of bringing all the data back to the data centre to be processed, more and more of the analysis will need to be performed at the edge

  52. As a graduate biologist, this reminds me of the reflex arc – this arc allows reflex actions to occur relatively quickly by activating spinal motor neurons, without the delay of routing signals through the brain
  53. So there will be a greater need for event stream processing outside the data centre – this will bring about faster responsiveness, and reduce storage requirements
  54. This also explains the rise of companies such as EdgeConnex – companies who provide proximity, and lower latency
  55. And the rise of new designs of racks for hyperscale computing, such as the 150kW Vapor.io Vapor Chamber which, according to a study conducted by Romonet is $3m cheaper per MW and reclaims 25% of floor space
  56. Other initiatives in the industry include Google’s attempting to create a new standard for HDD’s to make them taller, adding more platters, and thus increasing IOPs
  57. Microsoft and Facebook are getting together with Telefonica to build a 160TB transatlantic fibre cable (the largest to-date) to handle the vast streams of data they see coming
  58. While Intel are warning that organisations need to become more security aware, as more devices become connected
  59. I also decided to address a trend in data centres to require renewable energy from their utility providers, and did so by referencing this excellent letter from Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith on the topic (recommended reading)
  60. Finally, what about the utilities sector…
  61. Well, there are many ways the internet of Things will impact the utilities vertical, but one of the least obvious, but most impactful ones will be the ability to move energy demand, to more closely match supply. If you’re curious about this, I’ve given 45 minute keynotes on this topic alone
  62. Another way the Internet of Things will help utilities is renewables management (such as the GE example referenced earlier), and preventative maintenance applications
  63. And finally, energy information services will be a big deal, for everything from remote monitoring for seniors, through to device maintenance, and home management
  64. The conclusions
  65. Thanks
  66. Any questions?

I received extremely positive feedback on the talk from the attendees. If you have any comments/questions, feel free to leave them in the comments, email me (tom@tomraftery.com), or hit me up on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

Can blockchain and the Internet of Things mitigate supply chain reputation risk?

Supply chains are complex, unwieldy beasts, which are notoriously hard to tame, but a solution could be in the offing, using Blockchain, and Internet of Things technologies.

“Mommy, I want to be a supply chain manager when I grow up”, said no-one. Ever.

Supply chain management has to be one of the most difficult, thankless jobs in business. In this globalised age, it becomes increasingly complex, all the more so, the bigger an organisation becomes.

Getting a company’s supply chain right, can transform a company’s fortunes. Witness Apple Computers, a large part of Apple’s resurrection was due to having the best supply chain in the world (as ranked by Gartner for the last 5 years in a row).

Getting you supply chain wrong on the other hand can have serious consequences. Tesco saw €360m knocked off its value overnight when it was discovered that it’s beef burgers were found to be 29% horse meat. Investigations subsequently showed that the horse meat entered the supply chain without Tesco’s knowledge, but the issue still had significant implications for people’s trust in the brand.

In another famous example, taken from the Economist Intelligence Unit’s  Managing supply-chain risk for reward [pdf] report it noted

Nearly a decade ago, lightning struck a Philips microchip plant in New Mexico, causing a fire that contaminated millions of mobile phone chips. Among Philips’ biggest customers were Nokia and Ericsson, the mobile phone manufacturers, but each reacted differently to the disaster. Nokia’s supplychain management strategy allowed it to switch suppliers quickly; it even re-engineered some of its phones to accept both American and Japanese chips, which meant its production line was relatively unaffected. Ericsson, however, accepted Philips’ word that production at the plant would be back on track in a week and took no action. That decision cost Ericsson more than US$400m in annual earnings and, perhaps more significantly, the company lost market share. By contrast, Nokia’s profits rose by 42% that year.

And then there is the issue of conflict minerals. These are natural resources (such as cassiterite (for tin), wolframite (for tungsten), coltan (for tantalum), and gold ore) mined in a conflict zone and sold to help finance the fighting. These minerals are required for the manufacture of electronics such as tablets, laptops, and mobile phones. Coincidentally, Apple announced yesterday that it is now auditing 100 percent of its suppliers for the use of conflict minerals.

How best to gain and enforce transparency into supply chains? Traditionally this has been done with audits, a resource intensive process if carried out correctly.

However two more recent technologies may help significantly improve this procedure – blockchain, and the Internet of Things.

Blockchain, the technology which underpins cryptocurriencies like bitcoin, is basically a cryptographically secure, immutable record of transactions. And recently it has been used to set up and enforce smart contracts for things such as managing community energy exchange transactions in New York, to issue equity to drivers in a cooperatively owned ride sharing platform, and to authenticate users, and manage the billing process when charging electric vehicles in Germany.

If every item in your supply chain is part of a blockchain, then it has a proven provenance. Add to this always-on traceability using Internet of Things technologies, and you suddenly have a robust, transparent, virtually bullet-proof supply chain.

Has anyone rolled this out for their supply chain yet? Not that I know of, but it can only be a matter of time (did I mention supply chains are complex?).

 

Photo credit Neville Hobson

Sign up for my new newsletter here

I started a new newsletter last week.

It is quick and easy to read with 5-6 story links maximum. But the stories which will relate to the topics I regularly research (the Internet of Things, Energy, and CleanTech), will be the most important stories in these areas for that week.

I will be publishing the newsletter every Friday, so you can enjoy the stories, just as we head into (or during) the weekend 🙂

You can check out my first newsletter here.

And if you wish to be included in the weekly mailing, you should sign up for it here.

Finally, if you have any feedback on the newsletter, please don’t hesitate to let me know either in the comments below, or you can email me on tom@tomraftery.com anytime.

Thanks.

More prestigious speaking engagements

I recently received an invitation to address the bi-annual meeting of the Council of European Professional Informatics Societies (CEPIS) in Athens.

CEPIS, if you are not familiar with it is

a non-profit organisation seeking to improve and promote a high standard among ICT professionals, in recognition of the impact that ICT has on employment, business and society. CEPIS currently represents 33 member societies in 32 countries across greater Europe. Through its members, who are the professional ICT bodies at national level, CEPIS represents 450,000 ICT professionals

Quite an honour to be asked to address them.

This got me to thinking of all the prestigious talks I’ve given in the last few months.

I addressed the European Commission’s European technology platform for Smart Grids on Energy Digitalisation last November.

DrivingATesla

I addressed the TeslaWorld event in Antwerp last year (see video above). This was a spectacular event with two Tesla Model S cars on either side of the stage, a phenomenal line-up of speakers, and I got to drive a Tesla on the way back to the airport! So that was pretty awesome, and I have to admit to seeing my Prius in a less favourable light when I arrived home 😦

I gave the opening keynote at the SAP for Utilities event in Huntington Beach last September on the topic of The convergence of the Internet of Things and Energy, and I was bowled over by the positive feedback I received afterwards from the attendees.

And I was very honoured to be asked to be the keynote speaker at the EclipseCon event in Toulouse last year.

There were other events I spoke at last year as well (SAP TechEd and ThingMonk off the top of my head).

But with the CEPIS invite, and another I’m not allowed to reveal just yet, 2016 is definitely shaping up to be an even better year for speaking engagements!

 

Libelium launches its IoT Marketplace to make Internet of Things projects as painless as possible

In a time when Spain’s economy is in the doldrums, it is nice to see some good news coming out of the Iberian peninsula, especially in the Internet of Things (IoT) space – technology’s new hotness!

Libelium, an IoT hardware and software provider based in the North of Spain, and recently profiled in a Financial Times piece where they were referred to as a “baby unicorn”, just announced that it has launched an IoT Marketplace.

The marketplace currently has 15 boxed IoT solutions for sale, but Libelium plans to increase this to 50 as the year progresses.

The solutions cover the Smart Cities, Smart Environment, Smart Parking, Smart Agriculture, Smart Water, and Air Quality verticals.

LibeliumMarketplacePurchase

As well as the kits covering verticals, there are also Application Development kits for developing IoT solutions for Microsoft Azure, esri, IBM Bluemix, Thingworx, and Telefonica’s cloud platforms.

And there specific Solution kits created together with partners like Indra, Thing+, IOTSENS, and elementblue. These kits include pre-configured hardware to speed up time to live.

In a move likely to be popular with their customers, Libelium took advantage of existing partnerships with cloud providers to ensure that kits were available with trial access to cloud offerings. This cleverly allows Marketplace customers to try the different cloud platforms, seeing which one works well, before buying.

And, this is a true marketplace. Clicking on the Buy button, brings the user to a screen with fields for entering credit card details, or using a Paypal account to buy the kit (I didn’t attempt to purchase an actual kit, so I can’t verify that part of the site works, but I’ve no reason to think it doesn’t).

I asked Libelium CEO Alicia Asín about the genesis of the marketplace and she explained that Libelium’s VARs were often not finding it easy to sell solutions to customers because they were working from a 70+ page catalog, and architecting a solution for a customer wasn’t something they were necessarily comfortable doing.

So in order to make it easier to come up with the right equipment Libelium launched a trial with four vertical kits last year in June. Despite being launched half way through the year, they were some of the company’s top selling products by the year’s end, and so the marketplace was born.

This marketplace idea is an interesting one for organisations looking to run a pilot or proof of concept, without too much risk. The variety of hardware, communications standards, and software protocols to be taken into account in any significant IoT project can be daunting, and any attempt to simplify this should be lauded.

 

Using the Internet of Things to keep people safe

At the 2014 SAP TechEd && d-code event in Las Vegas, I spoke to Dr Severin Kezeu of SK Solutions. His company has developed an Internet of Things based safety technology which has been deployed on building sites throughout the world.

What it does is to send in realtime, the positions of all vehicles, and workers on site, so that in the case a potential collision is detected, action can be taken to avert the collision, thereby saving expensive equipment, and more importantly, keeping people safe.