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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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AI Investment Up, ROI Remains Iffy

By George Leopold

Real-world applications for artificial intelligence are emerging in areas such as boosting the productivity of dispersed workforces. However, early adopters are still struggling to determine the return on initial AI investments, according to a pair of new vendor reports.

Red Hat released research this week indicating that AI deployments have yielded some tangible results in areas such as transportation and utilities that rely heavily on field workers. A separate forecast released Wednesday (Jan.17) by Narrative Science found growing enterprise adoption of AI technologies but little in the way of investment returns.

Chicago-based Narrative Science, which sells natural language generation technology, found that 61 percent of those companies it surveyed deployed AI technologies in 2017. Early deployments focused on business intelligence, finance and product management. “In 2018, the focus will be on ensuring enterprises get value from their AI investments,” company CEO Stuart Frankel noted in releasing the survey.

Early adopters are also encountering many of the hurdles associated with a “first mover” advantage. “More and more organizations are deploying AI-powered technologies, with goals such as improving worker productivity and enhancing the customer experience that are not only laudable, but achievable,” Narrative Science concluded. “A focus on realistic deployment timeframes and accurately measuring the effectiveness and [return on investment] of AI is critical to keeping the current momentum around the technology moving forward.”

Meanwhile, the Red Hat (NYSE: RHT) survey also found an uptick in AI deployments, with 30 percent of respondents planning to implement AI for “field service workers” this year. Other applications include predictive analytics, machine learning and robotics.

While issues such as securing data access and a lack of standards persist, Red Hat found that field workers are “now at the forefront of digital transformation where artificial intelligence, smart mobile devices, the Internet of Things (IoT) and business process management technologies have created new opportunities to better streamline and transform traditional workflows and workforce management practices.”

A predicted 25 percent increase in AI investment through November 2018 is seen transforming field service operations, Red Hat noted in a blog posted on Thursday (Jan. 18). Early movers cited increase field worker productivity (46 percent), streamlining field operations (40 percent) and improving customer service (37 percent) as the top business factors for investing in AI.

Along with a lack of standards, respondents said deployment challenges include keeping pace with technological change and integrating AI deployments with legacy systems. The survey notes that industry groups are focusing on standards and interoperability among IoT devices along with data security while improving integration technologies.

Earlier vendor surveys also have identified barriers to implementation ranging from a lack of IT infrastructure suited to AI applications to a lack AI expertise. For instance, a survey released last fall by data analytics vendor Teradata Corp. (NYSE: TDC) found that 30 percent of those it polled said greater investments would be required to expand AI deployments.

Despite the promise and pitfalls of AI—ranging from freeing workers from drudgery to displacing those same workers—early AI deployments appear to underscore the reality that the technology remains a solution in search of a problem.

Recent items:

AI Seen Better Suited to IoT Than Big Data

AI Adopters Confront Barriers to ROI

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Saving cities US$5 trillion with smart, sharing technologies

By Zenobia Hegde

The rate of global urbanisation is growing exponentially. But while living in cities offers both social and economic opportunities, the rising costs of living are threatening to increase social inequality, slow down economic growth, and increase levels of crime.

Smart cities, and the technologies that underpin them, are hailed as a significant solution to this problem, and are set to reduce costs for governments, citizens and enterprises alike. In fact, a recent report published by ABI Research, in partnership with Chordant and CA Technologies, reveals smart city and IoT technologies have the potential to save governments, enterprises and citizens globally over $5 trillion (€4.09 trillion) by 2022, says Jim Nolan, executive vice president, Chordant at InterDigital.

Specifically, it is new sharing and service economy paradigms, and the “Internet of Things” along with artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, that will play a leading role in driving these cost savings.

Cutting costs for governments

Governments can benefit tremendously from the implementation of IoT technology and sharing economy business models in energy, water utilities, transportation, and crime and vandalism.

Energy savings is perhaps the first, and most obvious cost benefit of IoT and smart city technology. Turning street lights into smart, connected systems with intelligent on/off cycles, for example, could yield a 30% cost saving for governments.

When it comes to water utilities, advanced leak detection systems can drive direct cost savings by removing the need for manual inspection, while opportunity cost savings can be made through water waste management and waste prevention systems. These cost savings, in turn, help to reduce end-user prices.

Transportation is a major cost centre in government budgets, but adding smart technology such as electronic toll collection (ETC) vehicle to infrastructure (V2I) technology, as well as intelligent traffic light systems, can optimise the use of existing road capacity.

In regard to government services such as waste collection, mobile resource management (MRM) technology can dispatch, manage and monitor field workers, while the deployment of smart garbage bins can enable real-time, remote fill-level monitoring, and therefore the timely dispatch of garbage collection trucks. This isn’t a fantasy, they’re already in use in Dubai. This enables waste collection fleets to run more efficiently and results in fewer trucks on the road. In fact, this form of smart waste collection has the potential to reach cost savings of 30%.

Finally, AI-based automation for surveillance cameras, along with data optimisation, can reduce the costs associated with monitoring and analysing video footage in support of crime reduction. AI technology can also be used to complement surveillance cameras with crowd sourced intelligence such as data captured from social sites, as well as smartphone footage from citizens.

By taking advantage of these different technologies, city governments in mega cities (a metropolitan area with a total population in excess of ten million people) globally could save up $58 billion (€47.40 billion) annually.

Affordable services for citizens

Smart city technologies are not only key for driving cost savings for governments – they play just as important a role in reducing costs for citizens. After housing, mobility presents the second largest item in family […]

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Continental, Ericsson, Nissan, NTT DOCOMO, OKI and Qualcomm Technologies join forces to host C-V2X trials in Japan in 2018

By Zenobia Hegde

Continental, Ericsson, Nissan, NTT DOCOMO, INC., OKI and Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., a subsidiary of Qualcomm Incorporated, announced plans to carry out their first Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X) trials in Japan. The objective is to validate and demonstrate the benefits of C-V2X using direct communication technology defined by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) in their Release 14 specifications. The trials are designed to show the enhanced range reliability and latency benefits of C-V2X direct communications operated in 5 GHz band.

Additionally, the C-V2X trials are designed to demonstrate the complementary benefits of network-based communications utilising LTE-Advanced (LTE-A). The trial results will help develop the ecosystem by providing inputs to the relevant stakeholders, including ITS-related organisations and government agencies, as we prepare for the connected car of the future and the industry’s evolutionary transition towards 5G New Radio (NR), the new global cellular standard being defined in 3GPP.

While complementing other Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) sensors, such as radar, lidar, and camera systems, C-V2X provides non-line-of-sight (NLOS) low latency awareness with longer range and cloud capabilities, and designed to extend a vehicle’s ability to see, hear and communicate further down the road, even at blind intersections.

C-V2X radio technology is state-of-the-art cellular technology and is being validated for global deployments, and leverages the upper layer protocols developed by the automotive industry over years of research to support new advanced end-to-end use cases. C-V2X direct communications provide enhanced range and reliability without relying on cellular network assistance or coverage.

Preparation work is well underway with the trial expected to begin in 2018 and the use cases are designed to focus on Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V), Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) and Vehicle-to-Pedestrian (V2P) direct communications, as well as Vehicle-to-Network (V2N) operations over cellular network-based wide area communications with cloud access.

For the field trials, Continental will utilise the Qualcomm C-V2X Reference Design, which features the Qualcomm 9150 C-V2X chipset with integrated Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) capability to build connected car systems and integrate the systems into Nissan vehicles. Nissan will perform V2X use case selection and develop test scenarios with key performance indicators (KPIs) for C-V2X technology validation.

OKI, one of the companies in ITS, will bring their expertise in roadside unit (RSU) infrastructure and applications to demonstrate V2I as a viable technology for advanced traffic applications by integrating the Qualcomm 9150 C-V2X chipset into their RSU.

Ericsson, as one of the companies in the technology and service for telecommunication, will join to the V2N use case discussion, considering a combination of direct communication and LTE-A network technologies. NTT DOCOMO will provide an LTE-A network and V2N applications to demonstrate the benefits of complementary use of network-based communications for a variety of advanced automotive informational safety use cases.

“Connecting vehicles is at the top of our agenda and with more than 20 years of competence in the development of telematics, over 30 million units shipped, and years of V2V safety product development culminating in available V2V communications offerings. We are ready to fully exploit the potential of cellular connectivity to provide advanced vehicle functionalities.”

“Along with Nissan, we […]

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Akita raises $700,000 crowd-based funding on Kickstarter

Akita, an IoT device watchdog station raised approximately $700,000 crowdfunding on Kickstarter. With 7000 plus backers, the startup promises to provide instant privacy for connected products.

Instant Privacy for Smart Homes

The device performs three core activities i.e. scans connected gadgets/devices, blocks compromised devices and notifies the users of known issues. Akita comes with full support and help desk monitoring powered by Axius.

This device connects to a LAN port on users’ home router (not inline). The startup describes the device working as follows:

“Akita uses a custom form of WiFi sniffing to detect questionable packets and send them to our servers to be analyzed (this is why the hardware can run on low memory/CPU, because it’s mainly a cloud-based system). Once the packets are determined to be malicious, a command is sent from our servers back to the Akita device; this includes custom protocol commands to disconnect the device from the network router.“

Akita’s Kickstarter received significant backing (both in terms o the number of backers and funds raised from the campaign), though, it only aimed to raise $30,000 initially.

The rise in popularity of privacy and network security devices is understandable. A home network, with several connected devices, need robust protections. That’s where other startups like Dojo and F-Secure also promise to secure network traffic and identify rouge devices.

Readers might visit the Postscapes Connected Device Security guide to understand how other devices in the same niche work and how Akita stacks up against its competitors.

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