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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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Cybeats raises seed round of investment led by iNovia Capital to create ‘immune system’ for IoT devices

By Zenobia Hegde

Cybersecurity company Cybeats, which provides continuous cyber defence solution for Enterprise IoT infrastructure, announced it has raised a seed round of investment from iNovia Capital, Maple Leaf Angels (MLA48 II), and cybersecurity industry insiders Dr. Richard Reiner, Brian O’Higgins, and Brian Bourne.

“iNovia is excited to invest in Cybeats and its brilliant team, alongside a great group of investors. IoT and cybersecurity is a space that we have been looking into for a while, we believe Cybeats’ technology is solving a real problem, with the potential to become a global leader in the space”, says Magaly Charbonneau, principal at iNovia Capital.

“Maple Leaf Angels is pleased to participate in this round with iNovia, Richard and other angels, through its MLA48 Fund II. The cyber security problem is a growing global issue, particularly in IoT devices. We believe that Cybeats has the right team and technology to tackle this problem,” said managing director, Prathna Ramesh.

Brian Bourne added, “The Cybeats team has built a unique, efficient and highly effective solution to the IoT security problem. They have developed their technology with a keen eye to the needs of enterprise and I am excited to be involved with such a talented team.”

“IoT essentially equips the internet with arms and legs, and brings about a whole new level of concern with safety and security. New technology is needed to address the problem, and Cybeats is right on course to deliver solutions” said Brian O’Higgins.

New chairman for Cybeats

Cybeats is also announcing that Dr. Reiner, a renowned serial cybersecurity entrepreneur and executive with a long string of successful exits, is joining as chairman of the company. Dr. Reiner brings to Cybeats many years of experience at the cutting edge of the cybersecurity industry – his insights will enable Cybeats to better identify business opportunities in the IoT cybersecurity market and to deliver better products faster.

“Cybeats solves a critical problem for enterprises deploying IoT technology, and for the manufacturers of these devices”, said Dr. Reiner. “IoT devices, until now, have been vulnerable and easy targets for hackers. Cybeats protects IoT devices throughout their lifecycle, so enterprises can benefit from the value of IoT technologies without increasing their risk profile.”

The funding will be used to scale Cybeats’ sales team, to further develop new Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning capabilities for the Cybeats platform, and to expand the company’s services into APAC and EU markets. Cybeats builds an immune system-like cybersecurity software for Enterprise IoT (EoT), Industrial IoT (IIoT), and Critical Infrastructure IoT devices, such as those used in energy grids.

Taking an “inside out” approach to cybersecurity, Cybeats’ software is embedded into the devices to provide continuous protection, allowing devices to detect the most sophisticated threats instantly and gather data to help security professionals neutralise them. Cybeats’ Cloud service then analyses data from the infected device, and provides a full threat diagnosis and treatment plan.

With an estimated 50 billion connected devices by the year 2020, the Internet of Things (IoT) is quickly becoming an integral part of our world. But with the increased opportunity the IoT brings, so too come a multitude of new threats to cybersecurity […]

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Osram Lasers promote adoption of autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles

By Zenobia Hegde

At this year’s North American International Auto Show’s AutoMobili-D 2018, Osram Opto Semiconductors is demonstrating how its high-power infrared pulse lasers are helping speed the adoption of autonomous vehicles and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS).

AutoMobili-D is a dedicated expo focused on the rapidly evolving global automotive and mobility landscapes. Attendees can experience Osram’s highly efficient 905 nm lasers in action in booth #AD14 at AutoMobili-D from January 14 to January 21.

Pulse laser diodes from Osram Opto Semiconductors have been featured in cars for more than 10 years for time-of-flight (TOF) measurements in adaptive cruise control (ACC) systems and automatic braking systems.

At AutoMobili-D, Osram will showcase its laser and LEDs in a number of innovative applications for autonomous vehicles and ADAS, including:

An industry-first long range infrared 4D camera concept from Vergence Automation uses 190 Osram infrared LEDs. 4D imaging, when applied to autonomous vehicle use, will be a boon to computer vision, machine learning, and deep learning.
The GazeT Driver Monitoring Global Shutter Image Sensor Demo System from ON Semiconductor uses Osram’s 940 nm infrared LEDs.

Rajeev Thakur

Osram lasers dedicated to LIDAR applications are based on the company’s extremely efficient, high-power infrared pulse laser with 905 nm wavelength. The laser’s short pulse length allows systems operating at high optical power levels to realise large detection ranges, while still being safe for the naked eye.

“Osram is pleased to be working with leading companies to enable widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles and ADAS, which will change the future of driving,” said Rajeev Thakur, regional marketing manager at Osram Opto Semiconductors. “Joining forces with companies like Vergence Automation and ON Semiconductor is a testament to Osram’s leadership in the development and future of autonomous vehicles.”

“Osram is a great technology partner for developing our 4D camera that utilises a patented 4D pixel to perform 3D image creation,” said Jamie Retterath, chief product officer at Vergence. “The 4D pixel has the potential to displace TOF for all future 3D imaging applications.”

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Five ways remote access will transform everything from cashpoints to living rooms

By Zenobia Hegde

As a digital economy breaks down boundaries between industries, supply chains, employees and customers, we will see new remote access technology creating interconnectivity between companies, workers and consumers in 2018. Company support staff will be able to ‘remote in’ to cars and set-top boxes, delivering connected customer support across millions of IoT devices from the road to the living room. Workers will increasingly ‘remote into’ devices in other departments, divisions or training centres, creating cross-departmental collaboration, learning and oversight, says Adam Byrne, COO at RealVNC.

Future remote access technology will even enable remote human intervention in vehicles, creating interconnected transport ecosystems where everyone from technicians to fleet managers can ‘remote in’ to cars to fix faults, warn drivers, reduce emissions or even view police car chases in real-time from any location.

Below RealVNC outlines five ways remote access is set to transform our lives:

Bank managers will help you from within cashpoints

2018 will see the transformation of the cashpoint into a smart, all-seeing, all-doing ‘bank in a box’ that enable people to obtain audio or video support from bank managers, deposit coins and even make ‘cardless’ withdrawals without ever entering a branch.

The key will be the creation of ‘smart’ cashpoints that replicate bank branches, by using the remote access technology that IT help desks use to allow bank staff to ‘log in’ to ATMs and guide customers through transactions in real-time. Crucially, banks will be able to see inside the ATM and fix faults or remotely update and even upgrade cashpoints from any location.

Banks are particularly sensitive to the loss of an older customer demographic because these are also the wealthiest customers and they are the most resistant to automation and branch closures due to the loss of human interaction. Financial institutions face the dilemma of ensuring that branch closures do not impact a lucrative market segment that attaches considerable importance to customer service and human interaction. Remote access technology will now enable banks to automate services without losing the human touch.

Trainees and support staff will be able to ‘remote in’ to training centres and even living rooms

As the digital economy increasingly pulls down the barriers between geographies, sectors and people, we will begin to see companies and consumers using remote access technology to deliver real-time, remote customer support inside everything from data centres to living rooms.

Already, some pioneering enterprises are reaching out into customer homes by enabling staff to ‘remote in’ to TV set-top boxes and deliver real-time customer support from any location. Other companies are conversely allowing customers to ‘log in’ to training servers in other countries and receive virtual training from any location in the world.

The same is happening for workers. Some enterprises will allow real-time interconnectivity between tens of thousands of employee devices by enabling employees to ‘remote into’ everything from ‘smartboards’ to tablets across departments in real-time, creating cross-sector training and collaboration and allowing companies to oversee and enforce policies from anywhere, on the move.

Vehicle fleets will be remote-controlled

The combination of remote access technology and live telematics data means […]

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