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Oracle’s new strategy: cloud apps that learn

At its recent Openworld conference, Oracle unveiled a strategy for Software as a Service cloud offerings that blend third-party data with real-time analytics and behavioural inputs to create cloud applications that adapt and learn.

The result: intelligent cloud applications that automatically offer individualised recommended actions and streamline the tasks of business users, such as human resource or finance professionals.

Called Adaptive Intelligent Applications, these cloud offerings are based on the insights contained within Oracle’s Data Cloud, which is a collection of more than 5-billion consumer and business profiles, with over 45 000 attributes. When activated, these new Adaptive Intelligent Applications use Oracle’s web-scale data and apply advanced data science to learn and ingest data about an organisation’s users and their behaviours to deliver targeted information to customers and employees. The insights from these deep analytics build a knowledge base that helps improve business results across organisations.

R “Ray” Wang, principal analyst at Constellation Research said: “There is a huge opportunity to monetize digital business through machine learning applications and analytics, and Oracle’s large corpus of data, strong expertise in data science, massive compute power, industry and domain expertise, and breadth of application solutions make it well-suited to be a leader in the quickly growing space.”

“A company’s data is its most valuable weapon. To remain competitive today, companies must access their information in real time to intelligently forecast and grow,” said Steve Miranda, Oracle’s executive vice president of applications development. “Oracle Adaptive Intelligent Applications leverage anonymized information from our extensive Data Cloud to optimize existing Cloud Application functionality. When this is combined with a company’s own data, we are able to provide unparalleled customized insights to help enhance business performance.

Oracle provided the following information:

Oracle Adaptive Intelligent Applications have direct benefits for functional business units, providing them with actionable business and customer insights to make more informed decisions:

  • Finance professionals can nimbly negotiate best supplier terms, while optimizing cash flow needs and balancing costs – especially during critical financial events such as the end of a quarter or for a high volume of payables.
  • Human Resources recruiters can automatically identify best-fit candidates in the shortest time and HR managers can create job descriptions that will help candidates more efficiently find the best and most well-suited positions.
  • Marketing and Commerce managers can drive higher conversion rates, lift, repeat purchases, and ultimately, revenue, with smart, contextual offers and recommended actions for individual consumers.
  • Supply Chain managers can automatically find the best options to distribute goods around the world, while optimizing costs and price for both the buyers and the transporters to provide the best value freight and transportation options for enterprise shippers.

“Within the foreseeable future, every enterprise application will be a smart application that intuitively learns from interactions with an enterprise’s data. Oracle’s new Adaptive Intelligent solutions take this value proposition a step further. They are set apart from others by allowing the intelligent applications to learn from billions of anonymized consumer and business profiles available from Oracle.” said Dave Schubmehl, research director of cognitive systems and content analytics for IDC.

Building on its industry-leading suite of Cloud Applications, Oracle further expanded its SaaS portfolio with additional new Cloud Applications and enhancements that span sales, marketing, finance, human resources, and other areas of business. Some of the new offerings include:

·       Oracle Engagement Cloud, part of Oracle’s Customer Experience Cloud portfolio, is a new offering, which combines Oracle’s sales and service capabilities in one, providing a unique combination of sales automation, service request management, knowledge management, and customer self-service. Oracle Engagement Cloud enables organizations’ employees to deliver both sales and customer services from a single screen, powering a one-stop customer experience. Oracle Engagement Cloud helps improve customer satisfaction and loyalty, while increasing up-sell opportunities, particularly for organizations providing high-touch and high value customer engagements, such as wealth managers, enterprise sales reps, or managers who need access to service request in industries such as financial services, high tech and industrial manufacturing, consumer goods, and communications.

·       Oracle Financial Consolidation and Close (FCCS) Cloud, part of Oracle’s Enterprise Performance Management Cloud portfolio, enables Chief Financial Officers at organizations of all sizes to minimize risk, provide transparency, and ensure accurate results of the close. Able to rapidly deploy in weeks, Oracle FCCS provides CFOs the operational agility they need to effectively communicate their financial results to internal and external stakeholders, to quickly consolidate the operating results of an acquired business to help ensure compliance, and to scale globally without a need to re-implement core financial processes or systems.

·       Oracle Revenue Management Cloud, part of Oracle Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Cloud, increases visibility into the status and value of contracts, delivers compliant revenue recognition, and creates configurable and auditable revenue entries. The solution allows companies to adhere to the ASC 606/IFRS 15 core principles, accelerating the transition to the new accounting standards. Oracle ERP Cloud’s new enhancements deliver new support to Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) and their organizations with revenue recognition standards and multi-period accounting capabilities. Driving efficiencies and controls, Oracle ERP Cloud also enables organizations to scale globally with multi-language, multi-GAAP, multi-currency, and localization extensions that can transform finance organizations. As the most complete, modern, and proven ERP Cloud solution, Oracle ERP Cloud’s rapidly expanding customer base includes strong momentum in the public sector and with state and local governments.

·       Oracle Student Cloud’s new Oracle CX for Higher Education uses Oracle’s intuitive mobile technology to help recruiters boost their pipeline by targeting and qualifying best-fit prospects via social, email, and SMS CRM capabilities. Oracle Student Recruiting Cloud’s embedded analytics also help improve forecasting and monitor and optimize recruiters’ performance in their territories. Student Management Cloud is Oracle’s first application of student information systems (SIS) in the Cloud. It provides a student management roadmap and the foundation for nontraditional university functionality in a comprehensive, next-generation SIS that supports changing academic models by managing flexible academic structures, personalized learning, just-in-time intelligence, and BYOD access.

·       Oracle Human Capital Management Cloud’s latest release provides healthcare solutions to manage complex labor rules and contractual terms that enable customers to define eligibility rules for core Human Resources and criteria for benefits, absence, time, and labor and payroll. Oracle also helps provide an added layer of auditing, which can be easily managed in the Cloud. Additional global and industry extensions for higher education, retail, manufacturing, public sector, and professional services, also make it easier for multinational organizations to deploy and configure the solutions with expanded localizations for 99 countries.

·       Oracle Internet of Things Cloud collects data and conducts analysis in real time. Line of business users, such as Manufacturing Plant Managers, can monitor real-time quality control, get early insights into predictive maintenance needs, improve worker and equipment safety, and optimize yield through Oracle’s IoT Cloud Applications.

·       Oracle Supply Chain Management Cloud updates enable increased flexibility, reduced costs, and improved performance and visibility across the business. This comprehensive foundation allows forward-thinking organizations to optimize their global supply chains from ideation to design, to order capture, to manufacturing and planning, to shipping and logistics. Leverages the additional insights available through capabilities such as the Internet of Things and Oracle Data Cloud, Oracle offers the Intelligent Supply Chain.

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Now IBM’s Watson joins IoT revolution in agriculture

Global expansion of the Watson Decision Platform taps into AI, weather and IoT data to boost production

IBM has announced the global expansion of Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture, with AI technology tailored for new crops and specific regions to help feed a growing population. For the first time, IBM is providing a global agriculture solution that combines predictive technology with data from The Weather Company, an IBM Business, and IoT data to help give farmers around the world greater insights about planning, ploughing, planting, spraying and harvesting.

By 2050, the world will need to feed two billion more people without an increase in arable land [1]. IBM is combining power weather data – including historical, current and forecast data and weather prediction models from The Weather Company – with crop models to help improve yield forecast accuracy, generate value, and increase both farm production and profitability.

Roric Paulman, owner/operator of Paulman Farms in Southwest Nebraska, said: “As a farmer, the wild card is always weather. IBM overlays weather details with my own data and historical information to help me apply, verify, and make decisions. For example, our farm is in a highly restricted water basin, so the ability to better anticipate rain not only saves me money but also helps me save precious natural resources.”

New crop models include corn, wheat, soy, cotton, sorghum, barley, sugar cane and potato, with more coming soon. These models will now be available in the Africa, U.S. Canada, Mexico, and Brazil, as well as new markets across Europe and Australia.

Kristen Lauria, general manager of Watson Media and Weather Solutions at IBM, said: “These days farmers don’t just farm food, they also cultivate data – from drones flying over fields to smart irrigation systems, and IoT sensors affixed to combines, seeders, sprayers and other equipment. Most of the time, this data is left on the vine — never analysed or used to derive insights. Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture aims to change that by offering tools and solutions to help growers make more informed decisions about their crops.” 

The average farm generates an estimated 500,000 data points per day, which will grow to 4 million data points by 2036 [2]. Applying AI and analysis to aggregated field, machine and environmental data can help improve shared insights between growers and enterprises across the agriculture ecosystem. With a better view of the fields, growers can see what’s working on certain farms and share best practices with other farmers. The platform assesses data in an electronic field record to identify and communicate crop management patterns and insights. Enterprise businesses such as food companies, grain processors, or produce distributors can then work with farmers to leverage those insights. It helps track crop yield as well as the environmental, weather and plant biologic conditions that go into a good or bad yield, such as irrigation management, pest and disease risk analysis and cohort analysis for comparing similar subsets of fields.

The result isn’t just more productive farmers. Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture could help a livestock company eliminate a certain mold or fungus from feed supply grains or help identify the best crop irrigation practices for farmers to use in drought-stricken areas like California. It could help deliver the perfect French fry for a fast food chain that needs longer – not fatter – potatoes from its network of growers. Or it could help a beer distributor produce a more affordable premium beer by growing higher quality barley that meets the standard required to become malting barley.

Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture is built on IBM PAIRS Geoscope from IBM Research, which quickly processes massive, complex geospatial and time-based datasets collected by satellites, drones, aerial flights, millions of IoT sensors and weather models. It crunches large, complex data and creates insights quickly and easily so farmers and food companies can focus on growing crops for global communities.

IBM and The Weather Company help the agriculture industry find value in weather insights. IBM Research collaborates with start up Hello Tractor to integrate The Weather Company data, remote sensing data (e.g., satellite), and IoT data from tractors. IBM also works with crop nutrition leader Yara to include hyperlocal weather forecasts in its digital platform for real-time recommendations, tailored to specific fields or crops. IBM acquired The Weather Company in 2016 and has since been helping clients better understand and mitigate the cost of weather on their businesses. The global expansion of Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture is the latest innovation in IBM’s efforts to make weather a more predictable business consideration. Also just announced, Weather Signals is a new AI-based tool that merges The Weather Company data with a company’s own operations data to reveal how minor fluctuations in weather affects business.

The combination of rich weather forecast data from The Weather Company and IBM’s AI and Cloud technologies is designed to provide a unique capability, which is being leveraged by agriculture, energy and utility companies, airlines, retailers and many others to make informed business decisions.

[1] The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, “World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision”

[2] Business Insider Intelligence, 2016 report: https://www.businessinsider.com/internet-of-things-smart-agriculture-2016-10


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What if Amazon used AI to take on factories?

By ANTONY BOURNE, IFS Global Industry Director for Manufacturing

Amazon recently announced record profits of $3.03bn, breaking its own record for the third consecutive time. However, Amazon appears to be at a crossroads as to where it heads next. Beyond pouring additional energy into Amazon Prime, many have wondered whether the company may decide to enter an entirely new sector such as manufacturing to drive future growth, after all, it seems a logical step for the company with its finger in so many pies.

At this point, it is unclear whether Amazon would truly ‘get its hands dirty’ by manufacturing its own products on a grand scale. But what if it did? It’s worth exploring this reality. What if Amazon did decide to move into manufacturing, a sector dominated by traditional firms and one that is yet to see an explosive tech rival enter? After all, many similarly positioned tech giants have stuck to providing data analytics services or consulting to these firms rather than genuinely engaging with and analysing manufacturing techniques directly.

If Amazon did factories

If Amazon decided to take a step into manufacturing, it is likely that they could use the Echo range as a template of what AI can achieve. In recent years,Amazon gained expertise on the way to designing its Echo home speaker range that features Alexa, an artificial intelligence and IoT-based digital assistant.Amazon could replicate a similar form with the deployment of AI and Industrial IoT (IIoT) to create an autonomously-run smart manufacturing plant. Such a plant could feature IIoT sensors to enable the machinery to be run remotely and self-aware; managing external inputs and outputs such as supply deliveries and the shipping of finished goods. Just-in-time logistics would remove the need for warehousing while other machines could be placed in charge of maintenance using AI and remote access. Through this, Amazon could radically reduce the need for human labour and interaction in manufacturing as the use of AI, IIoT and data analytics will leave only the human role for monitoring and strategic evaluation. Amazon has been using autonomous robots in their logistics and distribution centres since 2017. As demonstrated with the Echo range, this technology is available now, with the full capabilities of Blockchain and 5G soon to be realised and allowing an exponentially-increased amount of data to be received, processed and communicated.

Manufacturing with knowledge

Theorising what Amazon’s manufacturing debut would look like provides a stark learning opportunity for traditional manufacturers. After all, wheneverAmazon has entered the fray in other traditional industries such as retail and logistics, the sector has never remained the same again. The key takeaway for manufacturers is that now is the time to start leveraging the sort of technologies and approaches to data management that Amazon is already doing in its current operations. When thinking about how to implement AI and new technologies in existing environments, specific end-business goals and targets must be considered, or else the end result will fail to live up to the most optimistic of expectations. As with any target and goal, the more targeted your objectives, the more competitive and transformative your results. Once specific targets and deliverables have been considered, the resources and methods of implementation must also be considered. As Amazon did with early automation of their distribution and logistics centres, manufacturers need to implement change gradually and be focused on achieving small and incremental results that will generate wider momentum and the appetite to lead more expansive changes.

In implementing newer technologies, manufacturers need to bear in mind two fundamental aspects of implementation: software and hardware solutions. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, which is increasingly bolstered by AI, will enable manufacturers to leverage the data from connected IoT devices, sensors, and automated systems from the factory floor and the wider business. ERP software will be the key to making strategic decisions and executing routine operational tasks more efficiently. This will allow manufacturers to keep on top of trends and deliver real-time forecasting and spot any potential problems before they impact the wider business.

As for the hardware, stock management drones and sensor-embedded hardware will be the eyes through which manufacturers view the impact emerging technologies bring to their operations. Unlike manual stock audits and counting, drones with AI capabilities can monitor stock intelligently around production so that operations are not disrupted or halted. Manufacturers will be able to see what is working, what is going wrong, and where there is potential for further improvement and change.

Knowledge for manufacturing

For many traditional manufacturers, they may see Amazon as a looming threat, and smart-factory technologies such as AI and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) as a far off utopia. However, 2019 presents a perfect opportunity for manufacturers themselves to really determine how the tech giants and emerging technologies will affect the industry. Technologies such as AI and IoT are available today; and the full benefits of these technologies will only deepen as they are implemented alongside the maturing of other emerging technologies such as 5G and Blockchain in the next 3-5 years. Manufacturers need to analyse the needs which these technologies can address and produce a proper plan on how to gradually implement these technologies to address specific targets and deliverables. AI-based software and hardware solutions will fundamentally revolutionise manufacturing, yet for 2019, manufacturers just have to be willing to make the first steps in modernisation.

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