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The smart home opportunity

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The increasing availability of broadband coupled with more appliances being able to connect to the Internet has led to a range of new opportunities that service providers can offer their clients, writes ASHISH JOSHI.

Home networking has grown exponentially in the past few years, fuelled by the ever-increasing availability of broadband Internet and smart mobile devices such as phones and tablets. As a result, we are now seeing the emergence of a plethora of ‘smart’ connected consumer electronics. Everything from appliances to climate control to security is becoming IP connected, enabling it to communicate and be communicated with via the Internet. This Internet of Things (IoT) is set to grow over the next few years, and connected homes are moving inexorably towards smart automation. For the service provider, manufacturer or other enterprise, this opens up a host of new opportunities. Leveraging these opportunities is key to remaining relevant and competitive in the increasingly connected marketplace of the future.

Connected technology is not necessarily a new concept, however, the revolution of the connected home is driving the volume and variety of connected devices in an unprecedented manner. From relatively mature technologies such as smart metering and remote infrastructure monitoring to connected appliances that can proactively determine when maintenance and repairs are needed via remote diagnostics. From cloud-based technologies and big data analytics that can be used to develop significant insight into customer requirements to major solution and service innovation based on real demand. The connected home is the next revolution, augmented by the growth of more sophisticated sensor and control technologies, mobile applications, network traffic, big data management, analytics and cloud computing. Further driving this revolution is the fact that consumers themselves are increasingly demanding mobility along with monitoring and control capabilities as part of their desire for an always-on digital lifestyle.

Many manufacturers are already catering to this demand with IP-enabled devices, and communication service providers are providing the support and platforms required for new and innovative services. The connected home also offers many opportunities for growth in the business and service provider markets, which will require the development of new business models and partnerships as well as the ability to embrace new technology and address or even create new markets. Some of these opportunities include delivering increased volumes of online content, media sharing solutions, video surveillance, converged technology solutions, enhanced healthcare and assisted living solutions, new revenue sharing and billing opportunities and more.

Developing solutions to meet the new and evolving needs of the consumer around the connected home is an almost limitless opportunity for service providers and other market players. However, as with any new technology, service or market, embracing these opportunities comes with a number of challenges. Chief among these is the rapid evolution of technology, which requires high levels of agility to keep on top of. In addition, the sheer volume and variety of connected devices with different operating systems, communication protocols, and interfaces presents a challenge around integration and interoperability. Furthermore, increased legislation around data privacy and security is a challenge, as connected systems by nature capture and store vast amounts of user data and compromised data could lead to fines, other legal implications and reputational damage.

Addressing these challenges is essential for future success of connected solutions. In addition, in order to ensure maximum consumer uptake, it is essential to provide seamless, easy to use interoperability across devices. Services also need to be competitive and easy to understand, removing as much complexity as possible for the end user. To drive success, it is important to rethink around customer experiences in real world using input from sensors and big data and think about how the things can be done better. Ultimately, success in this space requires organisations, be they service providers, manufacturers or other industry players, to embrace new technology, deliver a seamless user experience, and drive innovation in an agile way, so as to take advantage of opportunities as they emerge.

Service providers need to be able to roll out new services to multi-party environments quickly and effectively. This requires a secured, open and flexible architecture that scales and enables integration of systems both now and in the future, as well as the ability to incrementally create and integrate new applications quickly and without major cost. For operators, the connected home revolution requires the ability to capture, securely store, manage, analyse and distribute the huge volumes of data the IoT will deliver, as well as the ability to generate and send out insight on this data in real time.

Legacy business models are no longer effective in the connected world. Success will require new partnerships between parties such as device manufacturers, service providers and system integrators, enabling them to work together to create seamless, end-to-end services and experiences for the end user. At the end of the day, in a consumer-driven world, success is all about delivering superior quality and a differentiated experience.

* Ashish Joshi, Practice Lead, Internet of Things (IoT) Business Solutions, Wipro

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Millennials turning 40: NOW will you stop targeting them?

It’s one of the most overused terms in youth marketing, and probably the most inaccurate, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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One of the most irritating buzzwords embraced by marketers in recent years is the term “millennial”. Most are clueless about its true meaning, and use it as a supposedly cool synonym for “young adults”. The flaw in this targeting – and the word “flaw” here is like calling the Grand Canyon a trench – is that it utterly ignores the meaning of the term. “Millennials” are formally defined as anyone born from 1980 to 2000, meaning they have typically come of age after the dawn of the millennium, or during the 21st century.

Think about that for a moment. Next year, the millennial will be formally defined as anyone aged from 20 to 40. So here you have an entire advertising, marketing and public relations industry hanging onto a cool definition, while in effect arguing that 40-year-olds are youths who want the same thing as newly-minted university graduates or job entrants.

When the communications industry discovers just how embarrassing its glib use of the term really is, it will no doubt pivot – millennial-speak for “changing your business model when it proves to be a disaster, but you still appear to be cool” – to the next big thing in generational theory.

That next big thing is currently Generation Z, or people born after the turn of the century. It’s very convenient to lump them all together and claim they have a different set of values and expectations to those who went before. Allegedly, they are engaged in a quest for experience, compared to millennials – the 19-year-olds and 39-olds alike – supposedly all on a quest for relevance.

In reality, all are part of Generation #, latching onto the latest hashtag trend that sweeps social media, desperate to go viral if they are producers of social content, desperate to have caught onto the trend before their peers.

The irony is that marketers’ quest for cutting edge target markets is, in reality, a hangover from the days when there was no such thing as generational theory, and marketing was all about clearly defined target markets. In the era of big data and mass personalization, that idea seems rather quaint.

Indeed, according to Grant Lapping, managing director of DataCore Media, it no longer matters who brands think their target market is.

“The reason for this is simple: with the technology and data digital marketers have access to today, we no longer need to limit our potential target audience to a set of personas or segments derived through customer research. While this type of customer segmentation was – and remains – important for engagements across traditional above-the-line engagements in mass media, digital marketing gives us the tools we need to target customers on a far more granular and personalised level.

“Where customer research gives us an indication of who the audience is, data can tell us exactly what they want and how they may behave.”

Netflix, he points out, is an example of a company that is changing its industry by avoiding audience segmentation, once the holy grail of entertainment.

In other words, it understands that 20-year-olds and 40-year-olds are very different – but so is everyone in between.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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Robots coming to IFA

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Robotics is no longer about mechanical humanoids, but rather becoming an interface between man and machine. That is a key message being delivered at next month’s IFA consumer electronics expo in Berlin. An entire hall will be devoted to IFA Next, which will not only offer a look into the future, but also show what form it will take.

The concepts are as varied as the exhibitors themselves. However, there are similarities in the various products, some more human than others, in the fascinating ways in which they establish a link between fun, learning and programming. In many cases, they are aimed at children and young people.

The following will be among the exhibitors making Hall 26 a must-visit:

Leju Robotics (Stand 115) from China is featuring what we all imagine a robot to be. The bipedal Aelos 1s can walk, dance and play football. And in carrying out all these actions it responds to spoken commands. But it also challenges young researchers to apply their creativity in programming it and teaching it new actions. And conversely, it also imparts scholastic knowledge.

Cubroid (Stand 231, KIRIA) from Korea starts off by promoting an independent approach to the way it deals with tasks. Multi-functional cubes, glowing as they play music, or equipped with a tiny rotating motor, join together like Lego pieces. Configuration and programming are thus combined, providing a basic idea of what constitutes artificial intelligence.

Spain is represented by Ebotics (Stand 218). This company is presenting an entire portfolio of building components, including the “Mint” educational program. The modular system explains about modern construction, programming and the entire field of robotics.

Elematec Corporation (Stand 208) from Japan is presenting the two-armed SCARA, which is not intended to deal with any tasks, but in particular to assist people with their work.

Everybot (Stand 231, KIRIA) from Japan approaches the concept of robotics by introducing an autonomous floor-cleaning machine, similar to a robot vacuum cleaner.

And Segway (Stand 222) is using a number of products to explain the modern approach to battery-powered locomotion.

IFA will take place at the Berlin Exhibition Grounds (ExpoCenter City) from 6 to 11 September 2019. For more information, visit www.ifa-berlin.com

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