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Oracle puts IoT to work

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The Oracle Internet of Things (IoT) Cloud offering has been enhanced with built-in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning that powers Digital Twin and Digital Thread capabilities. 

As a result, customers and partners can quickly gain operation-wide visibility and leverage predictive insights from connected assets. These insights can decrease deployment times, reduce costs, improve business outcomes, and accelerate new market opportunities. Combining the power of Oracle IoT Cloud and enterprise applications, Oracle also introduced new industry solutions for digital field service, smart connected factories, and digital fleet management.

“IoT holds the potential to transform today’s siloed operations into a modern, interconnected, digital set of workflows with real-time visibility and responsiveness,” said Bhagat Nainani, group vice president, IoT Applications at Oracle. “Oracle continues to push the boundaries of IoT to help our customers significantly simplify their IoT deployments. By receiving real-time data streams enhanced with predictive insights, they can reach new levels of intelligence and a much quicker realization of ROI.”

The expansion follows the recent introduction of new Oracle IoT Cloud Applications for asset monitoring, connected workforce, fleet monitoring, and production monitoring. Also, in the past six months alone, Oracle has more than tripled its IoT application ecosystem of device and systems integration partners. Oracle IoT Cloud is offered both as software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications, as well as platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offerings, enabling a high degree of adaptability for even the most demanding implementations.

“Hitachi Consulting is constantly looking for industry leaders like Oracle to help clients and prospects harness the power of data and IoT to optimise operational and financial performance, outpace their competition and solve significant business problems,” said Garth Carter, vice president North America Sales, Hitachi Consulting. “Our longstanding, strategic relationship with Oracle delivers industrial IoT solutions to digitise the physical world for manufacturing, energy, and transportation. In particular, Hitachi is leveraging Oracle IoT Applications—asset monitoring and production monitoring—that are uniquely engineered to meet specific industry and functional needs. These applications have a depth of OT, IT and IoT functionality that no competitor can match.”

New capabilities introduced today include:

·         Digital Twin for Supply Chain Management
Digital Twin is a digital representation of a physical asset or equipment that enhances traditional analytics approaches. The object model includes multi-faceted views into current, historical, and predictive data, as well as operational and behavioral dimensions of that asset. This enables remote users to not only monitor the health of that asset to prevent failures before they occur, but also to run simulations of “what-if” scenarios in the context of the business processes. With Digital Twin, organizations have a new operational paradigm to interact with the physical world, allowing lower operational and capital expenditures, minimizing downtime, and optimizing asset performance.

·         Digital Thread for Supply Chain Management
Supply Chain practitioners have spent millions of dollars in implementing SCM and ERP systems, but most often, data is manually fed into these systems. Digital Thread is a connected business process framework that leverages IoT and creates a “system of systems” by connecting traditionally siloed elements in real-time throughout the digital supply chain. By providing an end-to-end view of an asset throughout the entire manufacturing lifecycle, Digital Thread seamlessly bridges the entire supply chain process—from product design and order fulfillment, to manufacturing and product life cycle management, to warehousing and transportation, to logistics and procurement.

·         Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
Built-in AI and machine learning features are now fully integrated across Oracle’s IoT solutions portfolio. These technologies leverage machine data in the context of business data from applications, such as manufacturing, maintenance, service, and logistics. The built-in operational analytics help detect anomalies, predict equipment failures, and recommend the best course of action. They also provide the intelligence needed to evolve capabilities to increase effectiveness and experiences of applications.

·         Industry Solutions Built on IoT Cloud Applications
Oracle IoT industry solutions help customers reimagine and innovate business solutions for the connected, intelligent, context-aware, digital enterprise. New solutions introduced today include:

o    Digital Field Service: Showcases intelligent remote monitoring, failure prediction, over-the-air repair, and dynamic technician dispatch. The solution features IoT Asset Monitoring Cloud, CX Service Cloud, CX Engagement Cloud, and CX Field Service Cloud, plus the use of augmented reality (AR) for guided equipment repair.

o    Smart Connected Factory: Demonstrates how incident detection, root cause analysis, and smart resolution are performed within minutes in a connected factory. The solution features IoT Production Monitoring Cloud, SCM Cloud and ERP Cloud, and the use of virtual reality (VR) to navigate the manufacturing floor. It can also be used for remote worker training.

o    Digital Fleet Management: Showcases real-time shipment tracking, risk management, and logistics synchronization. The solution features IoT Fleet Management Cloud and Oracle Logistics Cloud.

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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