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A new wave of technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI), is transforming cities into smart cities. Many of these cities are building innovation labs and zones as part of their new civic landscape. Smart city innovation labs are vital components of the smart city ecosystem (Figure One). They provide an organized structure for cities, communities, experts, and vendors to come together to create solutions. Successful solutions piloted in smart city innovation labs are then scaled and deployed into a city’s operations and infrastructure.

Figure One. Strategy of Things Smart City Ecosystem Framework.

 
Many municipalities are considering and planning smart city innovation labs today. Over the past year, we helped to create, launch and operationalize San Mateo County’s Smart Region innovation lab (SMC Labs). From this experience, we share ten best practices for civic innovation leaders and smart city planners.
 
 
Ten Smart City Innovation Lab Best Practices
 

Develop a well defined innovation sandbox. Every smart city innovation lab has an unique mission. That mission is specific to its community, capabilities, priorities, and surrounding ecosystem. However, it is easy to get distracted and work on the “next shiny object”, vanity projects and “me too” innovation pilots. These projects don’t add value, but take resources and focus away from the problems the lab was created to address.

Build innovation discipline and focus by defining a “sandbox” from the start and updating it annually. The innovation sandbox defines clearly what types of projects are in-scope and which ones are not. The criteria includes alignment with city or department priorities, problem set type, problem owner(s) or sponsors, budget availability, cost, resource requirements, and organizational jurisdiction.

 

Create procurement policies and processes for innovation projects. Innovation pilots fall outside the “sandbox” municipal procurement processes and policies operate in. These pilots may work with start-ups with limited operating history, use immature and evolving technology, or bought in non-traditional ways (“as a service”, loans, etc.). This mismatch leads to higher risks, extra work and long sourcing times. Due to this, many vendors choose not to work with cities.

Effective smart city innovation labs are agile and responsive. They employ new procurement policies and practices designed specifically for the unique needs of innovation projects. This includes simplified processes and compliance requirements, new risk management approaches, faster payment cycles and onboarding models.

 

Build a well defined plan for every innovation project. Many innovation pilots are “successful” during the pilot phase, but fail during the scaling phase. This is because the pilots were not fully thought out at the start. Some test a specific technology or solution, and not the approaches. Others test the wrong things (or not enough of the right things). Some are tested in conditions that are not truly reflective of the environment it will be deployed into. Still others don’t test extensively enough, or over a sufficient range of conditions.

Successful projects in smart city innovation labs involve extensive planning, cross-department collaboration, and a comprehensive review process throughout its lifecycle. They have well defined problem statements. They define a targeted and measurable outcome, a detailed set of test requirements and specific success criteria. While innovation projects contain uncertainty, minimize project execution uncertainties with “tried and true” project management plans and processes.

 

Continuously drive broad support for the lab. A successful civic innovation lab thrives on active support, collaboration and engagement from stakeholders across the civic ecosystem. However, many city departments and agencies operate in silos. Launching and having an innovation lab doesn’t mean that everyone knows about it, actively funnel projects to it, or support and engage with it.

Successful smart city innovation labs proactively drive awareness, interest and support from city leaders, agencies, and the community. This includes success stories, progress updates, technology briefings and demonstrations, project solicitations, and trainings. They engage with city and agency leaders regularly, host lab open houses and community tours. They conduct press and social media awareness campaigns. Regardless of the “who, how and what” of the outreach, the key is to do it regularly internally and externally.

 

Measure the things that matter - outcomes. There are many metrics that an innovation lab can be measured on. These range from the number of projects completed, organizations engaged, number of partnerships, investments and expenses, and so on. Ultimately, the only innovation lab metric that truly matters is to be able to answer the following question - “what real world difference has the lab made that justifies its continuing existence and funding?”.

All innovation lab projects focus on solving the problem at hand. It must quantify the impact of any solutions created. For example, many cities are monitoring air quality. A people counting sensor, mounted alongside an air quality sensor, quantifies the number of people impacted. Any corrective measures developed as a result of this project can now point to a quantifiable outcome.

 

Build an innovation partner ecosystem. A smart city innovation lab cannot address the city’s innovation needs by itself. A city is a complex ecosystem comprising multiple and diverse domains. Technologies are emerging and evolving rapidly. New digital skills, from software programming to data science, are required to build and operate the new smart city.

Successful smart city innovation labs complement their internal capabilities and resources by building an ecosystem of strategic and specialist partners and solutions providers, and subject matter experts. These partners are identified ahead of time, onboarded and then brought in on an as-needed basis to support projects and activities as needed. This model requires the lab to build strong partnership competence, processes, policies and the appropriate contract vehicles. In addition, the lab must continuously scan the innovation ecosystem, identify and recruit new partners ahead of the need.

 

Test approaches, not vendors or solutions. Real world city problems are complex. There is no magic “one size fits all” solution. For example, smart parking systems use sensor based and camera based approaches. In some cases, both approaches work equally well. In other cases, one or the other will work better. A common innovation mistake is to only test one approach or fall in love with a specific vendor solution and draw a generalized conclusion.

Effective innovation lab projects focus on testing various approaches (not vendors) in order to solve problems effectively. Given the rapid pace of technology evolution, take the time to identify, test and characterize the various solution approaches instead.

 

Employ a multi-connectivity smart city strategy. There are many options for smart city connectivity. These include, but not limited to cellular 3G/4G, Wi-Fi, LoRaWAN, SigFox, NB-IoT and Bluetooth, and so on. Use cases and solutions are now emerging to support these options. However, some smart city technologies in the marketplace work on one, while others work on more. There is no “one size fits all” connectivity method that works everywhere, every time, with everything.

To be effective, smart city innovation labs need to support several of these options. The reality is that there is not enough information to know which options work best for what applications, and when. What works in one city or region, may not work in another. Pilot projects test a possible solution, as well as the connectivity approach to that solution.

 

Make small innovation investments and spread them around. Open an innovation lab and a long line of solutions vendors will show up. Everyone has a potential solution that will solve a particular problem. Some of these solutions may even work. Unfortunately, there is not enough budget to look at every solution and solve every problem.

Focus on making smaller, but more investments around several areas. Overinvesting in one vendor or one approach, in a market where technologies are immature and still evolving, is not wise. Invest enough to confirm the pilot outcomes. A more detailed evaluation of the various solutions and vendors should be made when the pilot moves out of the innovation lab and into a formal procurement and RFP phase.

 

Simplify administrative and non-innovation workloads. While innovation pilot projects are challenging, interesting and even fun, administering and managing the projects are not. These unavoidable tasks range include managing inbound requests, proposals and ongoing projects. These tasks increasingly consume time and resources away from the core innovation activities.

Effective smart city innovation labs get ahead of this by organizing, simplifying and automating administrative activities right from the start. For example, SMC Labs reviews inbound proposals once a week and organizes follow up calls and meetings on a specific day once every two weeks. In addition, the lab uses a tracking and pilot management tool (Urban Leap) to track innovation projects. Administrative and management activities are unavoidable. However, advanced planning and tools help reduce the burden to keep the lab's focus on innovation.

 

Benson Chan is an innovation catalyst at Strategy of Things, helping cities become smarter and more responsive through its innovation laboratory, research and intelligence, consulting and acceleration (execution) services. He has over 25 years of scaling innovative businesses and bringing innovations to market for Fortune 500 and start-up companies. Benson shares his deep experiences in strategy, business development, marketing, product management, engineering and operations management to help IoTCentral readers address strategic and practical IoT issues.

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Studies that by next year, we will have more than 20 billion IoT devices connected to the internet. Also, that's not just limited to, say, mobile devices or even household device. The evolution of IoT has come to the point that we now also have vehicles that are connected to the internet, as carmakers strive to give their customers better creature comforts and conveniences within their automobiles. So, you can see, that the Internet of Things (IoT) offers immense possibilities for web development as more and more such devices come online.


How? It is quite simple. First, the nexus of IoT devices depends on web servers. Then there's also the data gathered from the sensors, which is saved in the cloud. So how do you think the connected devices communicate with each other? They rely on experimental messaging protocols. Finally, users need a UI to engage with the connected devices. Long story short, web development is a critical part of IoT.


Now, let's get into the details of how IoT has already and continues to revolutionize web development.
1. Data collection: One of the essential elements of IoT devices is the massive amounts of data they work with. The tools gather real-time data from sensors, then filter and process them, before relaying it to the cloud and back again. In the context of web development, this data can be leveraged to fine-tune the web development project, allowing companies to offer products and services that improve with time.
2. User interface: Since IoT devices depend on dynamic UIs to serve the individual needs of various users means that web developers must now take an entirely new approach to design UI. The micromanagement of the UI necessary for correctly displaying all types of data results in IoT devices offering multitasking abilities and overall versatility to users.
3. Enhanced focus on security: While it is miserable to realize, the truth remains that IoT devices, despite their prevalence, suffer at the hands of lack of robust security. It is one of the biggest reasons why users are still reluctant to embrace them. Thankfully, the solution to this conundrum is found in web development. Developers can help fortify IoT devices by integrating certain security features in their code. It can include user identification, identity verification, access management and more.
4. Hybridization of development teams: Ask any developer and will tell you that a hybrid team is practically a death knell for the development project. Nonetheless, work requires completion when IoT is involved. To deliver successful IoT web app development projects, web designers must work together with experts proficient in IoT. It will allow them to concatenate code with the data.


One may be inclined to deem the impact of IoT on web app development as damaging, but you still can't deny that every time such integrated event occurs, it eventually leads to ultra-modern technologies that profoundly affect and transform our way of life even further.

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The State of Industrial IoT Adoption

According to global management consulting firm Bain & Company, long-term prospects for the industrial Internet of Things remain ambitious. However, many executives are resetting timeline expectations for reaching scale due to early adoption struggles. Notably, certain “darlings of IoT” like predictive maintenance have not lived up to the hype. And while Bain’s survey of 600 industrial customers shows increasing traction with ‘workhorse’ scenarios like remote monitoring and asset tracking, it exposes areas where many teams and vendors are struggling to deliver the goods. In the end, an iterative strategy focused on specific business outcomes remains critical.

Notably, Bain’s survey finds increasing concerns around integration with existing enterprise systems and data portability. Executives worry their visions for digital transformation will be restricted by internal skill gaps and proprietary vendor services. Understandably, they fear losing control of any data not managed by their own enterprise IT departments. Despite this, confidence remains high that an estimated 20 billion devices will be successfully connected by 2020.

Many executives feel the value proposition for industrial IoT is still emerging. For them, the ability to capitalize on this value and achieve better business results remains elusive. To address these challenges, Bain calls for organizations to build a new operating model and position themselves for long-term success in a connected world.

Recommendations for accelerating IoT adoption in the enterprise

First, Bain recommends industrial organizations choose specific, high-value use cases to tackle upfront. Prove out your ability to address security and other valid IT concerns. Then, adopt an iterative approach for demonstrating ROI and ease of enterprise integration.

Second, use experienced partners to address your gaps. Don’t try building everything yourself. Differentiation comes from the combination of acquired data with your industry-specific domain knowledge. We’ve seen manufacturing digital transformation initiatives stall out when internal engineering teams try to build their own IoT infrastructure. Software for collecting data (and system integration services) can be bought. Build your value, not your tools.  

Third, don’t expect overnight success. You’re building up organizational capabilities and working with a new set of specialized partners. Commit to a realistic investment timeline and prepare for change. You’ll likely need to bring in new, more entrepreneurial talent to drive your connected business model. At a minimum, empower your existing teams to think differently. Remember, you’re not rolling out a new CRM application. You’re transforming your enterprise. Act accordingly.

Fourth, industrial IoT revenue starts at the top. Executives must ensure the entire organization is aligned for transition to the new operating model. This requires both vision and clear communication. Unsurprisingly, those responsible for existing products and revenue streams fear cannibalization. Furthermore, IoT initiatives take time to meet traditional P&L requirements. If executives don’t create an environment where the new operating model can take root, prevailing forces will prevent its maturation while competitors move ahead.      

Prepare to scale the business

Eventually companies reach the point on their digital transformation journey where they’ve proven out their connected product technology and business concepts. Now what? Bain concludes with a method for assessing readiness to scale up your industrial IoT efforts.

To begin, how well do you understand the full potential of industrial IoT to your enterprise? IoT can dramatically impact the quality of manufactured products, service offerings, maintenance  procedures, and other areas of your enterprise. But what will this cost, and what will revenue look like once the system is deployed to production and fully commercialized?

Never forget, your competitors aren’t standing still. You can be sure they’re working on their own industrial IoT initiatives. What is your plan to win in this new arena?

Additionally, scaling IoT requires incentives alignment and coordinated execution across the enterprise. Engineering, IT, service, sales, and business teams must work together for organizations to realize the benefits of digital transformation. Make sure everyone understands their part and is rowing in the same direction.

Bain summarizes their last recommendation with a sentiment that we refer to as “strategy over software.” By strategy, we mean not just a plan, but a comprehensive roadmap, organization structure, and business model across the enterprise to support the success of your industrial IoT initiative.

Digital transformation is a journey

As you start your journey, you’re going to need an industrial IoT platform. Whether it makes sense to build your own or buy one depends on a variety of factors. But digital transformation isn’t just about technology. As Bain notes repeatedly, it’s about so much more. Business models and sales strategies, along with clear user stories, team roles, and responsibilities are equally critical to successful IoT initiatives. Beyond a platform, an experienced digital transformation partner can accelerate planning, implementation, and successful commercialization of your connected systems.

 
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The benefits of using Edge Computing / Machine Learning solutions are very attractive to manufacturers because allows minimize latency, conserve network bandwidth, operate reliably with quick decisions, collect and secure a wide range of data, and move data to the best place for processing with better analysis and insights of local data.
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What was the last thing you bought online? Why didn’t you go to a store to buy it? Was it for the vast number of items you could scroll through before making a choice or the recommendations that the website or app pulled up for you, remembering your choices and interests from a previous visit, or the ease with which you paid for it with a card whose details were already stored with the website?

The online shopping experience is leaps and bounds ahead of the traditional experience in terms of using data and technology to provide unique and personalized customer experiences. While brick and mortar stores also have their own upsides, the move towards omni-channel retailing today is key.

So what does an omni-channel experience really mean? The term refers to merging of services and features of multiple channels in order to provide a seamless, integrated and consistent experience to users. It means bringing the best of online shopping to the physical store to enrich customer experiences and create new channels for revenue generation.

The reason that e-retailers are able to provide a vast number of superior and personalized features is because of access to a larger volume of data and analytics. Their algorithms are constantly monitoring your every step, from consideration to the point where a sale occurs. Traditional retailers need the same approach and connected products under Internet of Things provide a way to do exactly that. A digital transformation of store assets by connecting them to each other and the internet through means of sensors or digital tags (barcodes, QR codes, Datamatrix codes, NFC & RFID tags) working together with AI and cloud computing, will result in smart connected products at every point within a customer’s journey, collecting and analyzing data.

Many brands already have an online presence as well as applications from where one can directly buy their products. However, a true omni-channel retail experience is one where it works in tandem with, influences and enhances the in-store shopping experience.

A number of leading brands are also coming up with innovations to improve customer engagement and play to their expectations born from online buying habits regarding a seamless and hassle-free shopping experience. Here is a look at the areas within a brick and mortar store that could see incorporation of connected products to facilitate an omni-channel retail experience.

Personalized services
Analytics and personalized services and features go hand in hand together. Brands need to know about their customers in order to curate services for them. Data on a customer’s journey across the store, products they pick up or put back, keeping track of their past purchases and recommending more according to that, and extending coupons and offers specifically for them; feeding data of such nature into algorithms that perform analytics then deliver insights upon which personalized services can then be built.

Kroger has partnered up with Microsoft to roll out EDGE™ Shelves (Enhanced Display for Grocery Environment). Equipped with digital displays, these shelves promise to provide a unique guided customer experience. The solution will also utilize in-store sensors to identify individual shoppers and extend custom recommendations, promotions and offers as well as other personalized content.

Customer’s in-store journey:
The journey of a user buying things online is not too complex; browse, select, pay. If they are a regular customer, chances are the app already knows their delivery points and payment details. A similar journey is far more difficult to emulate inside a retail store. The popularity of Endless Aisles technology is a step in this direction. This technology is based on the observation of how some people fail to find a particular product in their size or colour. No problem! They can simply place an order with their specifications using an endless aisle in the form of an interactive kiosk within the store itself, and the product gets delivered at their doorstep in a couple of days. It’s a win-win situation; customers don’t leave the store unsatisfied and the retailer does not lose out on a sale.

Another feature gaining traction is “click and collect/return”, where customers can place orders through the brand website or mobile app and collect their items from a store at their own convenience.

Consumer Transparency
Smartphones are everywhere and 71% of consumers use theirs to conduct research on products before buying them in-store. Retailers can capitalize on this medium’s ubiquitousness and familiarity to create a similar experience inside retail stores. Modern consumers are also more conscious of how their lifestyle choices, including products they buy and consume, impact the environment and society. Electronic labeling practices incorporating scannable QR codes, RFID tags or NFC stickers, let the customer pull up expanded product information instantly on their smartphones, presenting more than a simple ingredients list, and allowing the brand to display the entire journey of the product from its origin to the shelf. These tags can be further utilized to enrich customer experiences by providing tailor made content for a particular customer such as promotions and offers.

Navigation
In-store navigation services are another example where connected smart products can contribute to unique multi-channel experiences. Retailer Target has installed store fixtures like LED lights which have built-in bluetooth beacons. Their app takes advantage of these beacons to locate users inside the store and guide them to their desired locations by pulling feed from shopping lists stored by the user on it. French Retail giant Carrefour in partnership with Philips has implemented a similar system, however using Visible Light Communication (VLC) technology instead. VLC enabled LEDs emit a code that is readable by any camera on a smartphone, connecting customers to the digital experience provided by the store through their app.

Beating the Queue
Amazon Go is the true embodiment of what a connected retail store of the future will look like. Customers in these cashierless stores need not stand in long queues for checkout as they can just grab what they wish to purchase and walk out. The exit turnstiles trigger an automatic payment from the customer’s credit card, which is already stored on the app, on leaving the store. Not only are these stores getting rid of one of the most annoying bits about shopping in a a brick and mortar store, they are also combining multiple sensors across the store to collect a treasure trove of valuable data. Weight sensors on shelves know exactly when an item is removed from the shelf, or when it is put back. Multiple cameras track and record each customer’s movements within the store. Computer vision along with intelligent algorithms combine to create a unique identification for each customer and separate them from others.

Traditional brick and mortar stores are in an urgent need to innovate in order to maintain a competitive edge by keeping up with consumer expectations and habits, which are constantly evolving thanks to e-commerce. They need to look towards Internet of Things and establish a connected and digital ecosystem within their stores which collect valuable data on their customers, data that can then be converted into smart insights, on the foundation of which smart decisions can be taken to provide sophisticated, delightful and engaging customer experiences.

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In recent years I have listened till the satiety about the importance of ecosystems to make the promises of the IoT come true and in some way for not to leave in bad position the analysts who have flooded us with their optimistic predictions.

All, or at least most of those who read my articles know that there is no company in the world, no matter how great it is, it can do everything in IoT. So, ecosystems are the key to successfully in this business.

The ecosystem allows to achieve a multiplier effect and a trusted environment.

Creating an IoT ecosystem either horizontal (technology) or vertical (industry) requires a lot of talent alliance managers able to maintain win-win transactions over the time.

Select an IoT ecosystem is not an easy task. In the IoT ecosystems there are fights between equals, also abuses usually produced from the big ones over the little ones. There are conflicts with companies that are in several ecosystems sometimes with contradictory interests. It is very usual how partners collide with the objectives of the ecosystem and you can imagine betrayals and back stabs.

For instance after IBM acquisition of Red Hat, will the IoT open source architecture designed by the ecosystem Red Hat , Eurotech and Cloudera be a good decision?

In my post “The value of partnership in Industrial Internet of Things”  and subsequent comments I presented several successful cases of collaboration among members of these ecosystems. But let's be honest, there are few references and examples after 4 years.

The fragility of Alliances in IoT is a challenge to accelerate adoption of IoT Ecosystem solutions.

IoT Ecosystems

In Harbor Research article “ Has Anyone Seen A Real Internet of Things Ecosystem?” ,dated November 2013, the analyst firm wrote that no really significant ecosystem or network of collaborators had emerged in the IoT arena in spite there was early and very interesting efforts being made by several players. We can thing that in 2013, these ecosystems were very emergent alliance developments and have had not attained the scale, scope and momentum we expect will be required to really drive this opportunity to its intended and expected scale.  Most of the attempts thus far to drive an ecosystem advantage have failed to scale and reach critical mass.  This just underscores how challenging building a high velocity network of partners can be.

In this article I will focus my analysis on 4 examples of IoT ecosystems that represent a big portion of the value chain in the multiple IoT submarkets: IoT Connectivity Provider, IoT Cloud Platform Vendor, IoT Professional Services and IoT Solution Aggregator.

Telefonica: IoT Connectivity Ecosystem - https://iot.telefonica.com/partners

One of my first attempts to monetize my IoT services was through the Telefonica IoT Solution Partners program. It was four years ago. At the beginning I received a couple of calls from the Operator to help me create my account and describe my services. We were many partners and although the Partners Search portal left a lot to be desired, I did not see much competition in my services and I thought that we would be the perfect accelerator for the ecosystem. I was wrong. Since I register, I have not received any invitation to participate in any event for partners, nor has anyone contacted me to request my services, nor have I needed the portal for contact any other partner (for that I already have my LinkedIn network).

How the hell are you going to find me as IoT Solution partner if Telefonica IoT web page does not offer a link to the partner search page ? and the use of this non update page is frustrating with duplicates names, closed companies, etc.

Telefonica identifies 3 types of Partners: Operators Alliances, Channel Partners and Solution Partners.

Operators Alliances: Telefonica is partnering with other Tier-1 telecom operators including the IoT World Alliance and other operators like China Unicom, Sunrise and Avea in order to provide IoT customers with the best, seamless services worldwide and lower costs.

Channel Partners: Telefonica enables partners to drive growth and differentiate their business by reselling their Global Managed IoT services. It helps to increase their capabilities, enabling deployment on a global scale, in particular in regions such as Europe and Latin America

Solution Partners: Telefonica Solution Partners ecosystem consists of a global network of IoT providers with functional or industrial expertise: IoT Device Providers, IoT System Integrators and IoT Industrial Experts.

I never liked the idea of Telefonica oriented to quantity (around 1000 partners including duplicate names and not updated list) instead of quality in Partners and I think the results have been and are very poor. Clearly a point to improve if they want the IoT to take off inside the Operator.

Talking with Telefonica IoT you quickly recognize that if you are not Microsoft, AWS, or similar unless you bring business to them you will never get business from them.

Telefonica does not lead any IoT ecosystem, neither geographically, nor industrially nor technologically. It is just one more logo (important of course) in many presentations of IoT vendors.

I can not understand of its win-win strategy and goto market regarding IoT platforms. In addition to its own platform, Telefonica appears as a partner of at least Microsoft Azure, PTC-Thingworx, SAG Cumulocity, AWS IoT, Cisco Jasper, Libelium, etc. Maybe they should select partners around ‘share of outcome’ rather than share of investment if they want to lead some ecosystem. Pecking is good for the birds.

Telefonica need an open-minded company culture to become comfortable with an ecosystem structure.

IoT Cloud Platform Vendor  -  Microsoft IoT Ecosystem

Having worked at Microsoft, I recognize that I have had the temptation to become an IoT partner. But also, because my business model is based on vendor independence my decision was to help other companies to enter in the MSFT IoT ecosystem

This year I was convinced that I needed to change my approach. But, instead of becoming a partner, I decided to convince other 2 Microsoft partners strong in complementary disciplines (Business Intelligence and Cloud) to create a specific area for IoT. I have not succeeded, which makes me think that despite the efforts and investment planned by Microsoft, Partners do not see IoT business clearly yet.

The list of Internet of Things Trusted Partners certified in Microsoft Azure Certified is impress and I recognize the effort of Microsoft building an IoT ecosystem that fuels business transformation. Without going further, the largest partnership with GE Predix and the partnership with PTC  will help industry customers accelerate their digital transformations by adopting IoT.

In this case, finding an partner de Microsoft Azure IoT is easier than in the previous case. The categories of IoT partners for Microsoft are: Devices, Gateways, security, isv, network and telecommunication and system integrators.

By the way, no partner in Spain according with this web. ☹. Maybe is the right time to invest.

 Microsoft is expert identifying, nurturing and managing partners and Azure IoT is a great opportunity to lead some IoT ecosystems.

IoT Professional Services - EY IoT Ecosystem

EY, otherwise known as Ernst and Young, is a leader in the IoT space. Not involved in the construction of devices themselves, EY is instead helping organisations navigate the largely unchartered waters of IoT.

While working in an engagement with EY IoT, I read a report developed by Forrester Research dated Oct/18, 2017 “Vendor Landscape: IoT Professional Services”. This report segments the landscape of IoT Professional Services firms, based on functional capabilities to help enterprises deploy IoT-enabled processes, vertical market focus, and geographic reach. Based on the service offerings, vertical capabilities, and characteristics of a broad array of professional services firms, Forrester has identified eight categories. The major players in the consulting firm segment include Deloitte, EY, KPMG, and PWC because these strategic consulting firms combine strong business strategy capabilities with the ability to execute on digital transformation initiatives. The report clearly showed EY strong IoT capabilities across the globe. EY was also recognized as Internet of Things services leader by HFS Research.

For EY, initiatives like launch a global IoT/OT Security Lab to help clients stay ahead of emerging threats or to launch EY wavespace™, a global network of growth and innovation centers to help clients achieve radical breakthroughs is a way to demonstrate its strategic alliances like SAP, GE Digital, Microsoft, IBM or Cisco how important is to create an ecosystem with the firm. These technology vendors rely on EY to implement IoT solutions in large customers with a business-driven approach.

Do not expect EY or any of the consulting firms to lead any IoT ecosystem. Their role is to leverage their business strengths and client relationship to empower the ecosystems to which they belong

IoT Solution Aggregator - Tech Data IoT Ecosystem

Perhaps the most complex task I have done regarding advising of IoT ecosystems was with one of the largest IT distributors in the world, Tech Data. The challenge of balancing players like Microsoft, Dell, Cisco, IBM, Schneider or Vodafone with innovative startups in several industry verticals and different use cases without anyone feeling careless was very exciting.

To find a right place for Tech Data in the IoT value proposition schema, , was another challenge. It was great helping the company defining its role as an IoT Solution Aggregator and define which partners should be included for Tech Data IoT repeatable solutions.

Tech Data has been able to demonstrate how to become useful for IT and OT vendors and how provide value to existing and new channel of IIOT system Integrators worldwide.

I always have believed this approach could make easy for their small and medium end clients to adopt IoT solutions quickly.

I did not have time during my engagement with Tech Data to analyse and support the launch on new business models, but I am sure they will leverage its position to offer new services based on data aggregation.

Education, the latest products, support services, and firm footing in the B2B world put IoT Solution Integrators  at the centre of the Internet of Things craze.

 Key Takeaway

The IoT market is still in its early stage. Enterprises face many different options for IoT partners and suppliers. Choosing the right ecosystem is critical not only for a successful IoT project implementation but for the journey in their Digital Transformation.

IoT ecosystems need to understand that most industries thrive on "coopetition," it’s important to become cognizant and respectful of competitors, as they may also be your potential partners.

Just like with people, when it comes to IoT business, no two ecosystems are alike. We have been helping different type of companies to build or enter in the most suitable ecosystem. I have no doubt only the best ecosystems will survive; the challenge is to rank among so many. It is really a nightmare.

Ecosystems is hardly new but as rapidly evolving and if they are able to leverage the shared data and information from intelligent sensors, machines and assets, radical new modes of value creation will emerge.

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We are fast moving towards a future where cities will feature hundreds and thousands of smart connected objects, talking to each other, exchanging and producing meaningful data and insights, basically reshaping the urban landscape into intelligent and autonomous systems. Internet of Things will be at the heart of this technological transformation, as sensors and digital tags will find their way into various physical city infrastructure, monitoring traffic, weather, crime and even rat infestations! However, it’s not just hardware IoT and sensors that will provide city planners and authorities to gain more visibility into the working and management of a city. Smart connected products or ordinary consumer products tagged with digital ID’s and digital twins can open up new dimensions in how we imagine Smart Cities to function.

For the sake of painting a picture of the role of connected products within Smart Cities, let’s consider a pharmaceutical company supplying critical drugs to a city. Enabling every drug product at batch and serial item level to have a digital twin of its physical self will allow for exchange of product related data to happen between manufacturer, the supply chain, the city authorities, end consumers and the products themselves. Read on to see how the pharmaceutical industry could look like in the not so distant future.

Smart Logistics & Traceability: Digitally tagged consumer products such as medical products will paint a clearer picture of each item’s journey from the manufacturing facility to the hands of a customer, resulting in intelligent movement of products characterized by autonomy. Each time a product moves, whether it’s from the factory to a truck, or from the truck to a warehouse, its location and movement will be logged against its digital twin in real time with the help of a scanner, RFID reader, smartphone or other connected devices.

So, when situations arise where brands or smart city authorities become aware of substandard or defective products in circulation, the process of factoring on the production source for them and a faster and leaner product recall will become easier by tracing back to the relevant point in the product’s journey.

Smarter Production & Distribution Channels: Smart connected products will help in procuring the right amount in the right place at the right time. Complete visibility at all events of the supply chain will allow brands to better predict demand in respective locations in a city. Better predictive ability will help them to create seamless intelligent systems capable of efficiently managing production and distribution channels, ultimately leading to reduction of wastage by preventing accumulation of unused medicines.

In fact, brands will be able to predict demand on a much larger scale than before. They will anticipate when a particular medicine is supposed to run out at the city-level and trigger production cycles for the particular product.

Smarter response to Public Health Crises: With IoT powered smart products, the engagement and the monitoring does not stop at the customer level. Even after the product leaves the shelf, customers can input valuable data through the digital twins which can be mined into to tailor smarter responses to public health emergency situations.

For example, city authorities will be aware of exactly how many medical products are in inventories across the city by keeping track of their movement across every touchpoint in the supply chain. In situations where a contagious disease breaks out, public health officials will be instantly alerted by hospitals that are also hooked onto the network. By keeping track of the quantity and location of stocks of medicines dispersed across city, public health officials will always be prepared to tackle such high priority situations as they can more efficiently assess and redirect required medicines to appropriate locations.

Even smarter, cities of the future could be prepared for seasonal illnesses by predicting their onset based on algorithms derived from a mix of data from weather forecasts, hospital reports and product supply chains.

Smarter Citizens: Digital twins will give rise to smarter citizens, who will be capable of using smartphones to digitally interact with the packaging in order to obtain accurate information pertaining to authenticity, ingredients, color-coded expiry dates, instructions for use (IFU) etc. Not only will digital twins of medical products enforce transparency, but they will help in improving health literacy by weeding out counterfeits and providing easy-to-read and user-friendly formats to dispense IFUs.

Medical products empowered by IoT will also lay the foundations for a multiway communication channel between consumers, manufacturers, and city authorities, especially aiding researchers to collect and analyze feedbacks for clinical trials and development of new cures.

Smarter ways to tackle Counterfeits: Falsified medical products take the top spot in the fraudulent products market, being worth US$163 billion to $217 billion per year. Falsified, substandard and unlicensed medicines and medical devices pose a serious threat to public health. Counterfeit medicines are on the rise and no place remains untouched by them.

However, medical products with digital twins can have vast implications in fighting the war against falsified medical products. The sophisticated digital tags on these products can act as a unique identifier, at the same time providing a user-friendly way to verify their authenticity. Both retailers and consumers just need to authenticate the product using the digital tag which will allow it to confirm the product’s genuineness by running it against an online database.

Going one step further by taking advantage of a highly connected ecosystem, fraudulent products can instantly be reported by consumers directly to manufacturers and city authorities. City authorities can thus keep track of regions in the city reporting counterfeits and crack down on the sources for such illegal operations.

The goal of smart cities is to create intelligent urban spaces and infrastructures to improve the lives of their citizens. But the first step towards this goal is to set up digital twins for products to bring them onto the Internet of Things platform. For these automated and intelligent systems would be impossible without various products generating and transmitting data about themselves. At this point, we have barely scratched the surface with IoT’s potential to create smarter cities, and smart connected products will lead the way in laying the foundation for the cities of the future.

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Internet of Things is the talk of the town over in construction, manufacturing, healthcare, transportation and home automation. But we are yet to fully tap into the potential of IoT driven solutions to trigger disruption in and deliver value to the consumer retail industry.

Enabling smart attributes and inter-connectivity to store assets can have a plethora of exciting applications: engaging customer experiences, leaner and more efficient store operations, products and services as well as opening up of new streams for revenue generation. According to Zebra Technologies, 7 out of 10 retail brands will be investing in IoT technology by 2021 and a few have already begun rolling out IoT powered smart stores and services. With more and more retailers looking to reimagine every aspect of their supply chain with technology, let us look at some future possibilities for IoT in the retail industry :

1. Creating Experiences with Lighting

Lighting devices are an ubiquitous presence inside any retail store and connected smart lighting can do more than save energy. Emerging technology is exploring avenues to utilize connected and automated smart lighting for retail displays to create superior customer experiences and indoor positioning, expanding the horizon for an experiential store.

Retail giant Carrefour partnered with Philips to install LEDs in one of their hypermarkets in Lille, France. Enabled with Visible Light Communication (VLC) technology, these LEDs emit a code which is readable by any camera on a smartphone, connecting the smartphone to a digital experience provided by the store. Customers can then locate items on their shopping list using the indoor positioning activated by the LEDs, experiencing an in-store navigation system.

2. Smart Packaging and Digital Labeling

Under the constant pressures of demands for more consumer transparency and capricious regulations, brands and retailers are running out of space on the physical packaging of products to put relevant information. IoT will play a major role in the future of the labeling and packaging industry as brands turn to technology to solve challenges related to packaging.

QLIKTAG Software is providing solutions using their IoT platform to enable all products to have a globally unique identifier “QLIKTAG” and hence a digital twin, allowing “dumb” products to have a presence in and participate in the Internet through smart devices. These digital tags, consisting of barcodes, QR codes and Data matrix codes, pave the way for a vast variety of digital interactions like better stock and inventory management throughout the supply chain, product traceability all through its lifecycle, consumer transparency in multiple languages, product authentication, consumer feedback, insight and analytics as well as better consumer engagement experiences. Brands also save on costs incurred in reprinting and repackaging as these digital tags allow real time edits and updates of label content remotely.

3. Smarter Inventory Management Solutions

The future of retail will see increased integration of technology into brick and mortar stores and a more connected ecosystem giving rise to sophisticated experiences for both customers and retailers. IoT will enable the development of smarter inventory management solutions that will be capable of detecting and solving out-of-stock situations on its own.

WiseShelf is converting shelves in retail stores into smart shelves to address the issue of shelf out-of-stock incidents. Equipped with light sensors, the shelves can detect when an item is removed from the shelf and send alerts to the management application through WiFi when it assesses low levels of stock. Apart from leading to more efficient restocking operations and inventory management, these smart shelves are also freeing up employees to engage in more customer interactions. They are also providing key data and analytics on popularity of products, enabling better design of store layout in accordance to foot traffic.

4. Automated Events Of Supply Chain

Plenty of countries are plagued by an ageing population and rising labor costs and retailers as a result are turning to digital solutions to reinvent supply chains. Panasonic in partnership with Trial Company Inc. conducted a demonstration experiment for an automated self-checkout system with RFID tagged shopping baskets and products. The smart shopping baskets are capable of calculating the total cost and the number of items in the basket due to the RFID tags, generating your bill when you place it on the checkout counter. Not only does it allow automated billing, but on being placed on the self checkout counters, the bottom of the basket can open up releasing all contents into a bag, which the customer can collect and leave.

5. Facilitating Omni-channel Retailing

In order to consolidate online shopping practices with in-store ones, retailers are looking to ingrain technology into physical stores for a seamless customer experience. Ralph Lauren launched interactive fitting rooms in its flagship store in Manhattan, furnished with RFID tagged interactive mirrors. Powered by retail technology platform Oak Labs, the mirrors automatically detect and display the clothing items brought into the room along with available sizes, colors and recommendations for a complete look. Enriching the entire digital experience, customers also have the option to call an associate on the floor to the fitting room, to bring more items to try out for example.

6. Reducing Food Wastage and Spoilage

IoT could have vast implications in reducing global food wastage and spoilage, especially at the retail level. Wasteless, a startup from Israel, has successfully implemented IoT enabled digital pricing labels in an international Spanish retail store in an effort to reduce food waste. Using data regarding expiry dates encoded into the barcodes or RFID tags on labels, Wasteless’s platform enables a dynamic pricing system with the cost of the product dependent on its freshness, becoming cheaper as it nears its expiry date. The platform has led to reduction of waste by 33%, better inventory management and monitoring of products in terms of their expiry dates to reduce out-of-stock incidents as well as improved sales by allowing customers a more dynamic pricing range to shop from.

7. Food Traceability and Quality Control

The entire food supply chain will see a transformation as IoT enabled sensors and smart devices will become more common to track and optimize each supply chain event. With more demands for fresher food products and sustainable sourcing, these sensors will be able to collect and transmit relevant information like location, temperature etc to all supply chain stakeholders in real time. Consumers buying at retail stores can scan digital tags like QR codes, Data matrix codes or RFID tags on packaging to get assurance about the quality and provenance of the food product.

Zest Labs is working to improve real time visibility for farm to shelf at all levels of the supply chain. Their unique ZIPR code (Zest Intelligent Pallet Routing) enables real time tracking and monitoring of the actual freshness of each pallet of food product, using a combination of wireless IoT sensors and cloud based predictive analytics and machine learning. The result is in supply chain managers being able to make better decisions about sending a particular pallet across a certain distance based on its freshness, thus preventing food spoilage in-transit.

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