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Monitoring is heart of IoT

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Connected devices result in an increase in the volume of data flowing into companies. But, while companies are able to analyse the data, IT will struggle to maintain adequate application performance levels, writes WIMPIE VAN RENSBURG, Country Manager for Sub Saharan Africa at Riverbed Technology.

We’re all becoming pretty familiar with the idea of the Internet of Things (IoT). Often, when thinking of the IoT, the first things that come to mind may be a wearable fitness tracker or a smartphone app that can control a thermostat. In fact, adoption of the IoT is so widespread that Gartner predicts that by 2020, there will be over 20 billion connected things in the world. The IoT is not only having an effect on the consumer world. It is also driving rapid digital transformation in the realm of business. We’re already seeing IoT powering a wide range of applications across industries. For example, The William Tracey Group, one of the UK’s largest recycling management companies, is using the IoT to collect data from chipped wheelie bins, smart weighing arms on collection trucks and on-board computers. This data is then used to help enterprises protect the environment while creating new business opportunities.

The growing business case for connected things means that the volume of data flowing into companies’ data collections is increasing. However, whilst companies are able to analyse the volumes of data supplied by connected devices in order to improve decision-making processes and efficiency, IT will struggle to maintain adequate application performance levels as enterprises bring more connected devices online.

Implementing application performance monitoring (APM) establishes the end-to-end visibility IT needs in order to immediately identify what’s causing an application to perform poorly, so that the issue can be fixed before it escalates.

The challenges of IoT

There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes in order to make the IoT come to life. While users may be launching a simple app on their smartphone, there are a number of factors that go into making that simple digital experience work.

By considering how a wearable fitness tracker works, we can understand the complexity that can be constructed by the IoT. The user interface is simple, but the wristband is always working to send and receive information via Bluetooth from a smartphone, upload that information to a cloud-based app that analyses a range of metrics, including activity levels, nutrition, sleep quality and heart rate. The application then supplies that analysis to its dedicated smartphone app, and possibly also to other mobile and web-based applications.

Users expect all of this to occur in real-time. In order to meet these expectations, network communication and interdependent application processes taking place on a grid of distributed environments need to perform to perfection. If just one piece of this application fails, so will everything else.

The complexity of this process is further amplified if we consider a company managing a fleet of delivery vehicles such as UPS. UPS has installed a variety of connected devices their vehicles to monitor mileage, optimum speed and overall engine health– all in real-time. This enables the company to ensure the driver is driving safely, automatically schedule maintenance, and provide immediate updates to customers. The operation becomes even more complex when scaled across an entire fleet of vehicles.

Achieving seamless app performance

With businesses storing information in the cloud as well as on local systems – creating what are known as hybrid environments – and enabling employees to access that data from an increasing number of connected devices, including smartphones, laptops and tablets, the number of things that can go wrong within applications as well as within the network increases.

Monitoring the performance of all the applications and systems that run across hybrid networks has become more and more difficult, costly and time-consuming for IT. This is why many organisations are seeking the help of technology in order to achieve real-time visibility to oversee the performance of massively distributed applications. By implementing the use of specialised APM tools, companies can:

1.                   Monitor distributed applications and the underlying networks: By achieving complete visibility over the organisation’s apps, IT can examine the type of information flowing through the network and map out how it is being collected and shared between devices, applications, cloud services and the analytics systems. IT can then quickly identify if there are any issues affecting the end user experience.

2.                   Pinpoint the causes of bottlenecks or errors: IT can then identify the causes of information bottlenecks, determine which are affecting business critical processes, and address these first.

3.                   Look for opportunities to improve performance: Because APM tools continuously monitor applications and information transactions, IT can amass a wealth of information that can then be analysed for patterns in order to identify minor bugs before they become severe, or to seek opportunities for performance improvement.

What next?

Business-critical IoT applications now span both physical, virtual, and hybrid environments and end-users’ expectations are continuing to grow. IDC predicts that within three years, 50 per cent of IT networks will transition from having excess capacity to handle the additional IoT devices, to being network constrained with nearly 10 per cent of sites being overwhelmed.

With this in mind, it’s now more important than ever to monitor the performance and availability of the business applications that employees and customers rely on so business productivity can increase. Companies need to be able to pre-empt an inevitable rise in the flow of data and ensure that they have adequate bandwidth to cope with this upsurge.

Application Performance Management tools can provide the end-to-end visibility and diagnostics necessary for identifying issues with complex networks and distributed applications as well as for taking action before issues escalate. Additionally, the detailed analytics provided by APM enables companies to not only take control of performance improvement, but to also evaluate the business impact of all applications in their network.

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The PC is back!

… and 2020 will be its big year, writes CHRIS BUCHANAN, client solutions director at Dell Technologies

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Concept Ori

It turns out the PC’s death has been exaggerated. PC sales grew between 1.1% and 1.5% in the last few quarters of the year, according to Gartner. While those don’t sound like massive leaps, they represent a large market that has been declining for several years. Windows 10 is credited for this surge, especially as Windows 7 is leading towards its end of life (EOL).

But I don’t think that is the entire picture. Windows 10 upgrades have been taking place for several years, and the market has also gotten savvier about managing EOL. Other factors are driving the adoption of PCs.

A specific one is how much closer the PC now sits to smartphones. I recently watched some youngsters work with laptops that had touchscreens. They hardly ever touched the keyboard, instead tapping and swiping on the screen. Yet they were still working on a laptop, not a smartphone. Certain things are much easier to do on a PC than a phone, and users are realising this. They aren’t relinquishing the convenience of their smartphones but applications are now available on PC’s and often easier to use.

Convertible or 2-in-1 machines have closed the gap between the two device types. This is in contrast to tablets. If you observe how people sit with tablets, it’s the opposite of smartphones or laptops. With the latter, we sit forward, attentive and focused. But tablets often prompt people to recline. It’s just a casual observation, yet I believe that PCs and smartphones have much more overlap with each other than pure tablet devices. Additionally, the convertible laptop has become the new tablet.

Chris Buchanan

Why does this bode well for PCs in 2020? 2-in-1 machines break down the barriers between the utility of a PC and collaborative culture of a smartphone. You can now flip a laptop into tent mode and use it as an interactive presentation screen on a boardroom table, or cradle it like a clipboard you jot on with a digital pen.

In the next year, we’ll see more of the market responding to this trend. Premium 2-in-1 devices have a stable and growing audience of users who are now going into their second, third and even fourth generations of devices. Mid-range and entry-level laptops are also starting to adopt touchscreens and flip displays.

2-in-1 devices are also pushing innovation, such as the emergence of dual-screen systems. Dell revealed two such concept devices at CES this year: Project Duet, a dual screen laptop, and Project Ori (for origami), a more compact approach to foldable devices. We also unveiled Project UFO, a prototype Alienware device that puts triple-A PC gaming into a handheld device. All of these reflect the desire for touch-enabled devices that are portable without sacrificing performance or excellence. They definitely point us to the future.

Convertible devices are not a new form factor. I can recall the first flip-over touchscreen designs appearing 15 years ago. Back then they were exotic and the standard laptop ruled the roost. But today, the habits and expectations of users are driving a change decisively towards convertible devices.

Desktop PCs are meanwhile becoming more specialised, yet also more widely appreciated for their versatility. Specialist non-Windows PCs, such as those used by designers, are being replaced by Windows PCs, often for lower costs. Integrated discrete graphics chips and other advancements add a lot of value to modern desktops. The smartphone overlap also appears here: many people use services such as Whatsapp Web on their PCs, and Dell customers use the Dell Mobile Connect app to show their smartphone screen on their PC display.

There is a new synergy between the PC and smartphone, created by users who find the two complement each other. Not everyone has realised this yet, but in 2020 that will be the resounding message. The PC is back and 2020 will be its year.

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Jaguar designs ‘seat of the future’

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Jaguar Land Rover is developing the seat of the future – a pioneering shape-shifting system designed to improve customer wellbeing by tackling the health risks of sitting down for too long.

The ‘morphable’ seat, being trialled by Jaguar Land Rover’s Body Interiors Research division, uses a series of actuators in the seat foam to create constant micro-adjustments that make your brain think you’re walking, and could be individually tailored to each driver and passenger.

More than a quarter of people worldwide – 1.4 billion – are living increasingly sedentary lifestyles, which can shorten muscles in the legs, hips and gluteals causing back pain. The weakened muscles also mean you are more likely to injure yourself from falls or strains. 

By simulating the rhythm of walking, a movement known as pelvic oscillation, the technology can help mitigate against the health risks of sitting down for too long on extended journeys with some drivers doing hundreds of kilometres per week. 

Dr Steve Iley, Jaguar Land Rover Chief Medical Officer, said: “The wellbeing of our customers and employees is at the heart of all our technological research projects. We are using our engineering expertise to develop the seat of the future using innovative technologies not seen before in the automotive industry to help tackle an issue that affects people across the globe.”

Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles already feature the latest in ergonomic seat design, with multi-directional adjustments, massage functions and climate control fitted across the range. Dr Iley has also issued advice on how to adjust your seat to ensure the perfect driving position, from removing bulky items in your pocket, to shoulder positioning and from ensuring your spine and pelvis are straight to supporting your thighs to reduce pressure points. View the video here.

The research is part of Jaguar Land Rover’s commitment to continually improving customer wellbeing through technological innovation. Previous projects have included research to reduce the effects of motion sickness and the implementation of ultraviolet light technology to stop the spread of colds and flu. 

Together, these efforts are driving towards Destination Zero; Jaguar Land Rover’s ambition to make societies safer and healthier, and the environment cleaner – a responsible future for our workers, customers and communities around us. Through relentless innovation, Jaguar Land Rover is adapting product and services to meet the rapidly-changing world.

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