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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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WISeKey to launch The TransHuman Code at the “Davos Gathering of Minds”

By IoT – Internet of Things

WISeKey International Holding Ltd, a leading cybersecurity and IoT company announced that The TransHumanCode.com is the first interactive “knowledge platform” for managing the convergence of humanity and technology, its impact on our daily lives, and the long-term implications. This dynamic initiative will be introduced on January 24 in Davos, Switzerland during the world’s foremost assembly […]

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World’s First Connected Car Cyber-Security Service

By IoT – Internet of Things

Trillium Secure, Inc. has announced the April deployment of SecureIoT in Tokyo, Japan. This represents the world’s first 24/7/365 connected car Cyber-Security as a Service (C-SaaS) platform. The project brings together strategic go-to-market partners including automotive manufacturers, electronic component suppliers, insurance providers and commercial fleet owners. Identical C-SaaS deployments are scheduled for North America and […]

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HPE, PTC, and Wind River join effort to speed IoT software purchasing

By Zenobia Hegde

Three of the biggest software vendors in IoT – HPE, PTC, and Wind River (Intel) – have agreed to join the IoT M2M Council’s (IMC) fledgling template RFP Program for IoT Software Platforms, which will be presented at the IMC’s conference at CES.

Using input from many vendors and more than 100 software buyers in an open-source process, the IMC developed a template reference document that will ease buying of IoT software, and later, hardware and connectivity solutions. HPE, PTC, and Wind River have agreed to have their platforms assessed by the IoT M2M Council which represents 25,000 enterprise users and OEMs that buy IoT solutions.

The RFP program will simplify sourcing of IoT platforms for buyers by providing reference documentation and demonstrating capabilities of established software platforms, and for participating vendors, it will ultimately shorten the sales cycle.

The RFP template will be discussed at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where large numbers of OEMs that buy IoT solutions will see it for the first time. The IMC developed a template RFP document earlier this year in a wiki-based, open-source process with input from more than 100 IoT buyers, and has now retained a third-party consultancy to validate vendors against the RFP.

The validation process, conducted by UK-based Beecham Research, includes surveying vendors for responses to the RFP, contacting their customers anonymously for references, and a hands-on analysis of the platforms for ease-of-use.

“No other industry group or major consultancy is talking to buyers at scale and looking at the actual IoT sales process. My staff spends a lot of time responding to RFPs. The IMC’s RFP program gives us a report from a credible third-party that allows us to respond to RFPs more quickly, as well as a place to send potential buyers where they can access a template RFP document and learn more.

If this program reduces my sales cycle, even just incrementally, it will be well worth it,” says Volkhard Bregulla, VP of Global Industries, Manufacturing, & Distribution at HPE, with a seat on the IMC board.

IMC rank-and-file membership comes from 24 different vertical markets on every continent, and a plurality self-identify as “operations”, meaning that they are unlikely versed in communications technology. “The template RFP provides a non-technical reference, and can go a long way in establishing a common language for IoT technology among people actually doing the buying,” says Bregulla.

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Loyalty or lock-in? Most smart speaker users won’t budge from Amazon or Google

By Zenobia Hegde

More than two thirds of current owners of Amazon Echo and Google Home smart speakers are planning to buy another smart speaker within the next six months, according to the latest research from Strategy Analytics.

The report, Smart Speaker User Survey: Brand Awareness and Ownership, also found that 75% of Amazon smart speaker owners would choose another Amazon speaker, and 69% of Google owners would choose another Google product. The report concludes that “this may simply suggest high levels of satisfaction, or a recognition that the technical platforms are different and that switching would involve unwanted complexity”.

Other key findings from the research include:

24% of respondents already own at least one smart speaker
Amazon and Google account for 94% of all smart speakers in use
More than a quarter of all respondents intend to buy a smart speaker in the next 6 months

“The early runners in the fast-growing smart speaker market look set to dominate for some time,” says David Mercer, principal analyst and the report’s author. “High customer satisfaction levels and the possibility of platform ‘lock-in’ will make it challenging for competitor platforms to carve out significant market share in the near term.”

“At this early stage it appears that Amazon and Google are successfully meeting customer needs, in spite of adopting contrasting strategies,” comments David Watkins, director of Strategy Analytics’ Smart Speakers service. “This is good and bad news for competitors: it will be tough to dislodge Amazon and Google; but new approaches to smart speaker design and user experience can help win over new customers.”

Strategy Analytics will be attending CES in Las Vegas January 9-12 where analysts will be available to discuss the company’s smart speaker research in more detail.

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