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Field services operations bullish on emerging technologies, finds Red Hat global survey

By Zenobia Hegde

For many industries, from transportation to utilities, manufacturing and more, field workers are pivotal to the success of business operations, the satisfaction of customers, and the growth of the bottom line.

Field workers are now at the forefront of digital transformation where artificial intelligence (AI), smart mobile devices, the Internet of Things (IoT) and business process management (BPM) technologies have created new opportunities to better streamline and transform traditional workflows and workforce management practices.

To better understand how these technologies are being applied and the impact they are having in the enterprise, Red Hat commissioned research firm Vanson Bourne to survey 300 IT decision makers from organisations in the U.S., Europe and Asia that employ a significant field workforce. The survey examined investment trends, current and future adoption patterns, use cases and implementation challenges.

According to the results, strong technology investment is expected by respondents with an average increase of 25% through November 2018, reflecting the importance of technology in transforming field service operations. Top business factors identified as influencing this investment include increasing field worker productivity (46%), streamlining or optimising field operations and processes (40%), and improving customer service (37%).

When we consider the current trends that are broadly driving conversations in the tech industry, AI is one of the leading topics. While still an emerging category—currently implemented by only 24% of respondents—we believe the technology has great potential across a variety of industries and use cases. It comes as little surprise that an additional 30% of respondents plan to implement AI in 2018, aligning with an average anticipated increase in investment of 26% for certain respondents over the same period.

The AI umbrella encompasses a number of specific technologies for those respondents that have either implemented already or plan to implement to address more specialised uses cases, including:

Predictive analytics (55%)
Machine learning (46%)
Chatbots or virtual digital assistance (45%)
Robotic Process Automation (44%)

Despite being more established technologies, mobile, BPM and IoT seem to defy their relative maturity in the market with respondents indicating double-digit growth across the board in both investment and implementations through November 2018. While 67% of respondents have already implemented mobile apps for field service operations, an additional 19% plan to implement new mobile apps, supported by a 20% average expected increase in investment by certain respondents.

The outlook for BPM and IoT is similar. Respondents expect implementations to grow from 61 to 81% for BPM and from 53 to 73% for IoT, fueled by 20 and 24% average expected increase in investment by certain respondents, respectively.

However, along with the appetite for technology investment and implementation growth, respondents are keenly aware of the technical challenges their organisations face in developing and implementing applications for field workforce management. Access to timely and relevant data is critical for field workers in remote locations, harsh environments, or areas of low network connectivity, as is the ability to protect that data as it flows between the field and back-end systems.

As a result, securing data access was the top challenge identified in the survey at 34%, followed by:

The pace […]

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Low power means long range coverage for industrial sensors

By IoT Now Magazine

Andrew Brown, the executive director of Enterprise and IoT Research at Strategy Analytics, recently interviewed Matt Bacon, the marketing and communications director at Actility, to discuss the company’s activities in IoT; its network, partners and customers and its efforts in industrial markets. Actility is a founding member of the LoRa Alliance and offers low power wide area (LPWA) infrastructure with its ThingPark IoT communications platform. The platform provides LoRaWAN longrange coverage for low-power sensors used in multiple vertical industry applications

Andrew Brown: What are the key IoT applications that Actility customers are implementing in industrial environments?

Matt Bacon, the marketing and communications director at Actility

Matt Bacon: To begin with, it makes sense to explain what we do at Actility and how we help our customers in IoT. Our core product is the ThingPark communications platform, which was initially focused on LoRaWAN, but will shortly also support licensed 3GPP technologies; first LTE Cat M and then narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) for customers. With the platform, we manage data end-to-end, from the sensor via the gateway to customer applications in the cloud. We are able to handle various additional functions such as protocol translation, if required, also ensuring devices are correctly provisioned and sending their data packets end-to-end. We are not an analytics or visualisation company; we offer key ingredients in a complete IoT solution created by a range of partners. Our initial customers were network operators who chose us to build nationwide LoRaWAN networks in order for them to resell connectivity to their customers. They used ThingPark to manage the LoRaWAN component of their network.

Andrew Brown, Strategy Analytics

There are multiple applications that our customers, like KPN or Orange are enabling through connectivity for their industrial customers. For example, one industrial customer manages thousands of rat traps throughout The Netherlands. Connect them with LoRa and the traps only need to be checked and emptied when they have actually caught a rat, so there are far fewer truck rolls required, which dramatically improves the overall total cost of ownership (TCO) of the project.

Our partnership with Inmarsat has enabled the first globally available LoRaWAN IoT platform and we are supporting the company in building smart city applications in Kigali in Rwanda. In the same country, we are also working with Inmarsat and Carnegie Mellon University on a mountain tea plantation and processing facility. There, IoT will deliver agricultural monitoring such as soil moisture levels, but also precise temperature and humidity monitoring in the processing facility, which need to be monitored and controlled to ensure the best possible tea.

We also handle more traditional plant monitoring projects, such as the work we are doing with IBM Watson and Cougar Automation, a UK systems integrator, for RS Components. RS has a large warehouse with thousands of metres of conveyor belts. It ships up to 44,000 parcels a day, which are moved by conveyor belts. As a parcel drops from one belt to another, it can marginally knock the belts out of alignment. As this is repeated with thousands […]

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Digital transformation drives strong adoption of Hyper Converged Infrastructure in the UK, NetApp survey shows

By Zenobia Hegde

NetApp has announced the findings of its study to uncover the true scale of digital disruption. In a survey of 501 UK information technology decision makers from the full spectrum of the enterprise, NetApp found that 82% of businesses are in the midst of digital transformation.

Hyper Converged Infrastructure (HCI) emerged as the answer for digital transformation acceleration. In all, 22% of respondents adopted the technology for scalability, and 20% for access to data.

Key findings:

Digital transformation is a top concern for big businesses – The level of concern is high among larger businesses, with 42% seeing digital transformation as a primary concern. Only 2% say digital transformation is a low priority.
HCI is already in use for the majority of businesses – To navigate increasingly data-driven enterprises, HCI is the solution of choice, with 80% of UK businesses already using it and 11% planning to in the next 12 months. Only 4% say they have no plans to adopt HCI.
Security is a key motivation for HCI adoption – Security is the leading motivation for HCI adoption (54%), with ease of use (44%) and cost savings (41%) following close behind. However, 49% state hardware costs as a primary concern when considering HCI adoption. With 78% of IT decision makers indicating that they are ready for HCI technology, the market is ripe for a next-gen HCI solution.

“We are in the middle of a massive shift from hardware to software environments,” said Tim Pitcher, vice president, NGDC, NetApp. “It is clear from NetApp’s research that businesses are informed and making the move to more software-defined infrastructures. Digital transformation is leaving no business untouched, and it is encouraging to see the openness to change, with the majority of UK businesses already using HCI.

NetApp’s next-gen HCI solution is set to plug the market gap with its data fabric integration and automation capabilities. It is not only smaller businesses that benefit from HCI’s automation features, but big businesses too – such features could go some way to alleviating their concerns around digital transformation.”

NetApp HCI is claimed to be the world’s first enterprise-scale hyper converged infrastructure (HCI) solution that offers enterprise-grade performance, flexibility and scale and automation. Running on SolidFire technology and delivered on a NetApp designed architecture, NetApp HCI enables enterprises, midsize businesses, and service providers to maximise their infrastructure by simplifying management and independently scaling both compute and storage resources.

Comment on this article below or via Twitter: @IoTNow_OR @jcIoTnow

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Mining businesses identify IoT as essential to gaining a competitive edge, finds Inmarsat

By Zenobia Hegde

Businesses in the mining industry are backing the Internet of Things (IoT) to help them retain their market share, as competition in the sector intensifies, the quality of seams decreases and profit margins are put under pressure.

According to the latest research from Inmarsat, the Internet of Things (IoT) will play a critical role in helping mining businesses to increase the level of automation and improve production efficiency, enabling them to compete with rivals operating in lower cost markets.

Market research specialist Vanson Bourne interviewed respondents from 100 large mining companies across the globe for Inmarsat’s ‘The Future of IoT in Enterprise’ report, and found that 70% of mining businesses agreed that IoT would give them a significant edge against their competitors.

Mining operators further identified how IoT would help them to bolster this competitive edge, with 41% reporting that they would use IoT to increase the automation of business processes, and 44% saying that it would help them to identify cost saving and efficiency opportunities.

Joe Carr, director of mining at Inmarsat, commented on the findings: “It is no surprise to see that mining businesses are looking to IoT to help them gain a competitive advantage. Mining businesses across the world are under constant pressure to produce the same product at a lower price than their rivals. At the same time, it is becoming harder to find high quality deposits in lower sovereign risk countries.

“This pressure is amplified in developed economies, such as Canada and Australia, where labour costs are much higher than in emerging markets, leaving operators in these territories at a significant competitive disadvantage. These businesses must drive down operating costs and improve productivity to remain competitive, and the most effective way to do this is the adoption of IoT and automation.

“Using automation to reduce labour requirements can make a big difference to an operator’s bottom line. For example, an Australian open pit mine might employ 100 truck drivers each earning AUD$200,000+ per annum (€130144.19+ per annum), which is then replicated on staff working on the trains, and the maintenance personnel.”

“IoT will be critical in enabling mine operators to reduce the amount of manual extraction and transportation of raw materials, as it will allow for the introduction of more autonomous infrastructure, such as fleets of unmanned trucks and trains. Autonomous technology can also enable an around-the-clock, 365 days-a-year operation, removing the need for shift change and improving safety by removing the person from the environment, further increasing productivity.”

Carr concluded: “We are currently working with some of the mining industry’s largest operators to deliver increased automation, which in turn results in increasing speed across the mining process, helping to reduce average cycle times and improving productivity. Mining technologists are increasingly aware of the importance of satellite connectivity in their mines, understanding that IoT solutions cannot function without reliable connectivity to gather and transmit data from connected sensors and devices to control rooms.”

With many mines located outside terrestrial or cellular network coverage, satellite communication networks can offer more reliable connectivity that is central […]

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IPv6 in Enterprise Client Networks

The transition to IPv6 is well underway. Most service providers have enabled IPv6 and run dual-stack networks offering their services in IPv4 and IPv6. There have been many talks about IPv6 in backbone networks, in residential networks and at peering points.

Read more here:: labs.ripe.net/RSS