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Dell unveils IoT strategy

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Dell Technologies has unveiled its Internet of Things (IoT) vision and strategy, a new IoT division as well as new IoT specific products, labs, partner program and consumption models.

The company says the announcement underscores Dell Technologies’ commitment to helping customers realise their digital future by safely navigating the complex and often fragmented IoT landscape.

Dell Technologies provided the following information:

As more and more customers look to digitally transform their business, a new model of computing is emerging. For the last 15 years the IT industry has seen the rise of Cloud Computing, a highly centralised model for delivering IT services.  But in an age where every type of device, from phones to cars to light bulbs to thermostats to heart monitors are alive and intelligent, there is a requirement for distributed, real time, processing of information. These devices simply cannot wait for a response from centralised cloud infrastructure that may be ‘seconds’ away.

“IoT is fundamentally changing how we live, how organisations operate and how the world works” said Michael Dell, chairman and chief executive officer of Dell Technologies. “Dell Technologies is leading the way for our customers with a new distributed computing architecture that brings IoT and artificial intelligence together in one, interdependent ecosystem from the edge to the core to the cloud. The implications for our global society will be nothing short of profound.”

Customers have expressed a growing need for one company to pull together complete IoT solutions that can be deployed within their organisations. Dell Technologies’ comprehensive approach to IoT is based on market leading technology and services and a carefully curated partner ecosystem designed to realise value for customers today and prepare them for the future.

New Dell Technologies IoT Division

The company’s new IoT Division will be led by VMware CTO Ray O’Farrell, and is chartered with orchestrating the development of IoT products and services across the Dell Technologies family. The IoT Solutions Division will combine internally developed technologies with offerings from the vast Dell Technologies ecosystem to deliver complete solutions for the customer.

“Dell Technologies has long seen the opportunity within the rapidly growing world of IoT, given its rich history in the edge computing market” explained Ray O’Farrell, VMware EVP & CTO, and general manager for Dell Technologies IoT division.. “

“Our new IoT Division will leverage the strength across all of Dell Technologies family of businesses to ensure we deliver the right solution – in combination with our vast partner ecosystem – to meet customer needs and help them deploy integrated IoT systems with greater ease.”

Organic Investments in our IoT Future – Products, Labs, Partner Program

Over the next three years, Dell Technologies is investing $1B in new IoT products, solutions, labs, partner program and ecosystem.

Today Dell Technologies already provides Edge Gateways, which can be secured and managed by VMware IoT Control Center.  Dell EMC PowerEdge C-Series servers have been enhanced for batch training and machine learning as a part of the distributed core. Dell EMC Isilon and Elastic Cloud Storage provide file and object storage for massive amounts of data and enable analytics through HDFS. Pivotal Cloud Foundry (PCF) and Pivotal Container Service (PKS) provide an ideal platform for developing new cloud-based analytics applications.  Virtustream’s PCF Service provides a managed Pivotal Cloud Foundry Service simplifying the deployment and operation of mission-critical cloud architected workloads in Virtustream Enterprise Cloud, while Virtustream Storage Cloud is available for off-premises cloud object storage. Finally, Dell Boomi rapidly connects relevant data to enhance cloud-based analytics and deep learning.

New product development initiatives include:

  • Dell EMC ‘Project Nautilus’: Software that enables the ingestion and querying of data streams from IoT gateways in real time.  Data can subsequently be archived to file or object storage for deeper advanced analytics;
  • ‘Project Fire’: a hyper converged platform part of the VMware Pulse family of IoT solutions that includes simplified management, local compute, storage and IoT applications such as real-time analytics. ‘Project Fire’ enables businesses to roll-out IoT use cases faster and have consistent infrastructure software from edge to core to cloud;
  • RSA ‘Project IRIS’: Currently under development in RSA Labs, Iris extends the Security Analytics capability to provide threat visibility and monitoring right out to the edge;
  • Disruptive technologies like processor accelerators will increase the velocity of analytics closer to the edge. Collaboration with industry leaders like VMware, Intel and NVIDIA and the Dell Technologies Capital investment in Graphcore reflect opportunities to optimise servers for AI, machine learning and deep learning performance.

Customers can also now visit one of the newly designed Dell Technologies IoT Labs.

New IoT services initiatives include:

  • Advisory services including strategic consulting to set business goals, direction and strategy, infrastructure design, deployment and support services.
  • Implementation of ‘Worldwide Herd’, consulting services for performing analytics on geographically dispersed data – increasingly important to enable deep learning on datasets that cannot be moved for reasons of size, privacy and regulatory concern.

In addition, with the core focus on technology and services, Dell Technologies’ strategy is to grow the IoT footprint via a strong partner program and ecosystem.

  • Dell’s award-winning IoT Solutions Partner Program is a carefully curated, multi-tiered program comprising more than 90 partners from enterprises like Intel, Microsoft and SAP to start-ups like Action Point, IMS Evolve, FogHorn and Zingbox.
  • The program will now support partners across all Dell Technologies businesses, allowing for easier collaboration and implementation of blueprints.
  • An example of the partner ecosystem at work is the recent announcement that VMware and SAP are collaborating to create an integrated solution for IoT analytics and vertical applications. The solution utilises VMware Pulse IoT Center, SAP Cloud Platform and SAP Leonardo and is designed to help customers roll out IoT use cases faster and scale more easily.

Dell Technologies continues the commitment to openness and standardisation in IoT by participation in efforts such as EdgeX Foundry, the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) and the OpenFog Consortium. Seeded by Dell source code, EdgeX Foundry is a vendor-neutral open source project building a common interoperability framework to facilitate an ecosystem for edge computing. Since launching in April 2017, EdgeX Foundry has grown to more than 60 member organisations. Recently the project announced its first major milestone with the ‘Barcelona’ code release, as well as an alliance with the IIC to collaborate on testbeds.

IoT is creating new revenue models for customers and, in turn, new financing options. Dell Technologies provides customers with cloud-like payment flexibility through Dell Financial Services flexible consumption models. These payment solutions are available across the Dell Technologies family of business and allow customers flexibility in technology acquisition and consumption.

Investments in IoT Future through Dell Technologies Capital

Dell Technologies Capital, the venture arm of Dell Technologies, is partnering closely with the new IoT division, providing industry insight and relationships to support its strategic agenda. Through its investments in promising startups and founders, Dell Technologies Capital provides a valuable link to the external innovation ecosystem, effectively accelerating the development and deployment of new IoT, AI and ML technologies and solutions. Dell Technologies Capital will be showcasing some of these startups and investments at the company’s New York IQT event, including:

  • Edico Genome, creator of world’s first processor designed to analyse next-generation sequencing data
  • FogHorn Systems, a leading developer of edge-device intelligence software for IoT solutions
  • Graphcore, a developer of next-generation processors optimised to accelerate AI-solutions
  • Moogsoft, a market leader in applying Artificial Intelligence to IT Ops (AIOps)
  • Zingbox, a developer of IoT security solutions to enable the Internet of Trusted Things

Africa News

Smart grids needed for Africa’s utilities

Power utilities across Africa should rethink their business models and how they manage and monetise their assets to keep pace with the changing energy ecosystem, says COLIN BEANEY, Global Industry Director for Asset-intensive and Energy and Utilities at IFS.

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Africa’s abundant natural resources and urgent need for power mean that it is one of the most exciting and innovative energy markets in a world that is moving rapidly towards clean, renewable energy sources. The continent’s energy industry is taking new approaches to providing unserved and underserved communities with access to power, with an emphasis on smart technologies and greener energy sources.

Power systems are evolving from centralised, top-down systems as interest in off-grid technology grows among African businesses and consumers. And according to PwC, we will see installed power capacity rise from 2012’s 90GW to 380GW in 2040 in sub-Saharan Africa. Power utilities are needing to rethink their business models and how they manage and monetise their assets to keep pace with the changing energy ecosystem.

Energy and utilities providers are transforming from centralised supply companies to more distributed, bi-directional service providers. They can only achieve this through the evolution of “smart grids” where sensors and smart meters will be able to provide the consumer with a more granular level of detail of power usage. This shift from an energy supplier to “lifestyle provider” will require a much more dynamic and optimised approach to maintenance and field service.

African companies must thus embrace digital transformation as an imperative. This transformation begins by embracing enterprise asset management to improve asset utilisation. The subsequent steps are enhancing upstream and downstream supply chain management; resource optimisation; introducing enterprise operational intelligence; embracing new technologies such as the Internet of Things, machine learning, and predictive maintenance; and becoming a smart utility.

Embracing mobility to drive ROI

Getting it right is about putting in place an enterprise backbone that accommodates asset and project management, multinational languages and currencies, new energies and markets, visualisation of the entire value chain, and mobility apps. Mobile technologies that support the field workforce have a vital role to play in driving better ROI from utilities’ investments in enterprise asset management and enterprise resource planning solutions.

Today’s leading enterprise asset management solutions feature powerful functionality for mobile management of the complete workflow of work orders – from logging status changes and updates, from receiving and creating new orders to concluding the job and reporting time, material and expenses. Such solutions are easy to deploy and intuitive for end users to learn and use.

Importantly for organisations operating in parts of the continent with poor telecoms infrastructure, connectivity is not an issue. The solutions work offline and synchronises when network connectivity is available. Users can work on any device—laptops, tablets, and smartphones—commercial or ruggedised.

By ensuring that field technicians have easy access to information and processes, the mobile solution enables technicians and maintenance engineers to easily do the following tasks:

·         Create a new work order on the fly and log new opportunities

·         Access both historical and planned work information when requested

·         Permit customers to sign when the job is completed

·         Capture measurements and inspection notes on route work orders

·         Create new fault reports on routing

·         Facilitate documentation through photo capturing

·         Provide easy access to technical data and preventive actions.

The power of mobility allows the engineer to be the origin of all data capture on a service event. They can easily inquire on asset history, record parts used or parts needed for repair, record labour hours, and expenses as they occur, and any notes of repairs performed. When coupled with workforce management tools, such solutions unlock significant productivity gains for utilities who are trying to get the most from their workforce and assets.

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Brands fall for app vanity

The experience of a mobile screen full of icons, representing independent apps that your need to open to experience them, is making less sense. Instead, businesses should serve customers with an ‘app-like’ experience inside the digital platform they already use, says PIETER DE VILLIERS, Group CEO at Clickatell.

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Many brands remain obsessed with creating mobile apps. This not only defies trends that point to increasing consumer app apathy, but can exclude a sizeable portion  of your customers in emerging economies. Companies need to engage with their users where they are rather than forcing them onto an app, in what can only be described as brand vanity. 

In 2017 there were around 2.2 million apps available in the iOS app store and over 3 million on Google Play. And, while the number of apps being downloaded continues to rise, analysis shows that consumers are only using 30 apps per month and accessing just 9 on a day-to-day basis. 

While these numbers still seem attractively high, in reality the majority of the apps we use are for messaging (like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and WeChat) and our social networking, gaming, leisure, dating or utility activities. 

Despite the facts, the application strategy as the holy grail for digital transformation is still being pushed even within large progressive brands. What’s more, some advertising agencies and digital consultants are still pushing apps as the best means for companies to connect with their customers. This has resulted in some organisations stubbornly doubling down on app strategies which are simply not showing return on investment (ROI). 

It’s not immediately clear to us whether the fascination with apps is a roll-over from long overdue projects or whether brand owners equate a mobile-first strategy with a mobile app. Mobile-first in 2018 means customer first, and therefore embracing chat commerce in order to deliver services with convenience and simplicity in mind. 

Why apps won’t win the internet

The problem with apps goes beyond user fatigue. In the first instance, many apps are poorly designed, assuming technical sophistication which may not match reality for the average customer. Poor user interfaces and attempts to provide complex engagement can result in even the best ideas missing their targets due to lack of engagement. 

Secondly, we all know that economic realities drive consumer behaviour. In Africa, new mobile phone users typically opt for feature phones over smartphones. With a longer battery life and a much more accessible price point, feature phones still allow for a basic internet connection, chat platforms like WhatsApp, and call and message functionality. In these regions, the cost of an app – even if it’s free – goes far beyond installing it. Constant updates require reliable and cheap access to the internet. For the average phone owner in an emerging market, this can be a serious challenge. 

Thirdly, and most importantly, apps must be relevant to their intended market. Frequency of usage is a key measure of relevance. 

Apps which are used on a daily basis, like health and fitness trackers, enjoy constant engagement. New features which are added are eagerly awaited by users who are happy to update their apps. 

However, users may well question the relevance of the app if they are required to conduct updates on a monthly or even weekly basis when they are only making use of the app once or twice a year. 

On average, I download one app per quarter. Some I use more frequently than others, but all of these apps need to be regularly updated to maintain security, update features, and fix bugs. Many apps are pushing out updates much more frequently. I noticed over the past year that I could go from having all apps updated, to 32 apps requiring an update in five days.

When it comes to a customer-first digital strategy, companies should be asking themselves if an app is really the best way to reach their target audience. 

In fact, at the end of 2016, Gartner predicted that by 2019, 20 percent of brands would ditch their mobile app. What’s more, in its 2018 predictions, the company forecast that by 2021, more than 50 percent of corporations would spend more per annum on bots and chatbots than on mobile app development. 

So, we need to ask, what is the alternative for CIOs, CDOs, CMOs, and digital leaders who are looking for ways to reach, retain and grow their customer base? 

The logical app alternative 

The old battle advice goes: fight your enemy where they are not. Military strategists agreed that having your enemy come to you and fight you on your own terms was preferable. In a world where customers have access to thousands of offerings and millions of deals online, we need to flip that idea to Meet Your Customers Where They Are. 

Any marketeer will tell you just a how difficult it is to drive app downloads. Development, cross platform testing and user interface aside, the marketing campaign required to get customers to download the app can swallow entire annual budgets and still come up short. 

Looking at the facts, it makes infinitely more sense to work within the digital platforms already being used by your target audience. 

Clickatell is already enabling chat commerce for some of the leading global brands with its Touch solution. This allows organisations to serve their customers with an ‘app-like’ experience inside the chat or browser platform of their customer’s choice (Twitter, Facebook Messenger, etc.) 

Brands can now send an actionable Touch link such as ‘find the nearest ATM’ or ‘reset my password’ within a chat stream that will open an intuitive touch card without the user having to download an app to perform the action. Services can also be linked to the in-app experience for brands not looking to abandon their app efforts. 

Working with our clients, many of whom are global innovators and thought leaders, we’ve found that having the courage to design with an ‘end user first’ approach and dealing with the back-end complexity behind the scenes results in cost efficient customer delight and ROI. 

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