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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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With a surge in counterfeit medicines, technological protection is crucial to securing supply chain integrity and access to safe & authentic medicines & medical devices.
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Iot and IIoT has made it a long way in the past several years. In fact, according to Forbes, trillions of dollars are at stake as the Industrial Internet of Things rolls out over the next decade. But, has the multi-tillion dollar trend lived up to the hype?

It could be many more years until certain industries reach the levels described in the hype.  Here’s the industries you should keep your eye on when it comes to IIoT technology.

The Internet of Things and the Industrial Internet of Things (IoT and IIoT, respectfully), widely encompasses many concepts, technologies, and products, but can generally be described as:

  • A system that contains wired or wirelessly connected components which relay data that can be analyzed or used to control an output of the system
  • A network that allows for automated information exchange between two devices
  • A vision where any and all systems are connected to gather masses of data that will lead to overall improved performance, insights, and control

As of 2018, we most commonly see IoT being used for location tracking, remote monitoring, and preventative maintenance.  Yet, for IIoT the most common application is preventative maintenance. Many of these IIoT systems report back to a control interface, and are not completely automated control loops that are self-evaluating or self-improving.

 

There are some industries in particular that stand out when looking at the IIoT.  We looked at trends that will progress through the end of 2018 into 2019, and asked the following questions.

  1. What industries will be most affected by IoT solutions?

According to BI Intelligence, the ‘Manufacturing’ and ‘Transportation and Warehousing’ industries have received the highest amount of investment in IoT to date.  These investments, totaling $230B between the two industries over the past few years, will continue to drive impressive progress in the development of IoT solutions. 

  1. Who will be the key players in IIoT Solutions in 2019?

We are currently witnessing a race to capture the IIoT market.  AT&T is collaborating with Honeywell, Verizon offers a machine-to-machine (M2M) management platform called ThingSpace, and startups like Uptake Technologies are raising absurd amounts of capital to compete with existing analytics giants. Uptake alone has raised $218M since 2015, and specializes in analytics of complex data sets. 

Nearly all of the corporate giants you would expect to have a stake in the race are putting serious resources behind their efforts.  GE is offering Predix, and end-to-end Industrial IoT Platform, and has incorporated capabilities like Predix Edge to allow for edge computing within the platform.  Siemens offers their own Industrial IoT platform called MindSphere, and Bosch is also getting in on the action now offering their IoT Suite publicly available on AWS Marketplace. Further, Schneider Electric developed WonderWare and SAP offers Hana.

We expect that through 2019 we will see more partnerships develop, offering cross compatibility between the many platforms which are available today.

  1. What further developments in IIoT can we expect in the near future?

Security will continue to be a major focus for all providers and users of the IIoT.   In a recent publication Steve Watson, CEO of VTO Labs, explains “security and specifically the ability to detect compromised nodes, together with collecting and preserving evidences of an attack or malicious activities emerge as a priority in successful deployment of IoT networks.” This ability to detect and preserve evidence of a cyber-attack will not only need to occur through edge computing, but it will also need to be maintain its integrity with interoperability of different systems that are linked together.

Given the amount of investment we are seeing in the ‘Manufacturing’ and ‘Transportation and Warehousing’ industries we expect to see many breakthroughs in both cyber security for the IIoT and interoperability between the many IIoT platforms. Looking into 2019 we can expect to see more partnerships between major sensor providers and network providers, such as the AT&T Honeywell collaboration we saw in 2018. With more interoperability and collaboration, 2019 may be the year that we see the major breakthroughs in IIoT we’ve been expecting.

 

About the Author: Taylor Welsh is a writer for a Speedtronic reseller, located in Fuquay-Varina, NC. To see more, visit AX Control.

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The rise of IoT is good because it has enabled humans to gather, process and understand vast sums of data. This understanding helps us observe the nature of Human existence in real time, both collectively and individually.

Supply chain management is an integral business process. It affects people in every industry from farmers in Food Supply Chain to manufacturers in Industrial Supply Chain. We are going to observe the up and coming technologies and how they are revolutionizing this fundamental business process.

How is IoT being used in today’s World?

The Understanding of Mass Human behavior at an individual level has enabled services and technologies to exist that cater to personalized needs.It is introducing a new genre of innovation in Mobile App Development.

Companies use this data to develop applications that can efficiently increase revenue by cutting liability costs because of Big Data Analytics and IoT prompting all investments.

Take for example the efficiency with which you can use GPS trackers and environment sensors to keep track of your inventory and the storing conditions of your goods. Asset Tracking has created transparency in the supply chain, providing manufacturers with scope for business customization.

The kind of granular data that can and is being generated using RFID tags and global SIMs can create efficient staffing practices. Also, addressing the availability of complementary resources at the right place and right time.

There is Beacon technology, which is Low Energy Bluetooth devices (BLE), capable of transmitting information over short distances. Bluetooth SIG (Bluetooth Special Interest Group) is pushing this wireless personal area network as a factory floor network.

BLE is being used to create an Internet of Things solution, for instance, take IoT Development companies that created apps that help in Airport Baggage Management all by using these BLE devices or Beacons.

Another great example can be that of Amazon Go. It uses computer vision, machine learning and AI to create a shopping experience where you can just walk in, pick up what you want and walk out.

You check into the store with your mobile Phone and through a technology they have developed called “Just Walk Out” you can shop and just leave. It is one of the best examples of an Internet of Things Company, using a variety of sensors and computer vision tracking working together over a secured shared network.  

How is IoT affecting the Supply Chain Processes (SCP)?

Gartner the leading research and advisory organization, recently released a study, showing a thirty-fold increase in Internet-connected physical devices by 2020. 

International Data Corporation (IDC) reports: Largest IoT segments in 2017: manufacturing operations: $105B

Just imagine the kind of data that will be generated when we could observe the real-time shopping habits of individuals, their waiting time in each aisle, their preference. And the rate at which products and services are sought will see an unprecedented rise.

We will be able to automate a system that will conduct targeted marketing and efficient manufacturing. Research shows three-quarters of all retail and manufacturing ventures beginning to transform their supply chain processes.

IoT is enabling a more bidirectional flow of communication. Now engineers can run efficient diagnostics using the most recent captured data enabling them to conduct remote repair, increasing machine uptime and better customer service.

Unlike previously available passive sensors, this generation of sensors can keep track of the state of products in shipment, such as external surrounding and execute actions. Also, it can monitor utilization of Machine and update cloud platforms that can, in turn, optimize performance and workflow.

IoT is playing an integral role in increasing the scope of digitizing the Supply Chain in the Agro-Industry. Modern farmers are now incorporating Cloud Platforms to keep track of their farm produce and fine-tuning storage conditions.

A much more inter communicative channel is being formed between the different talking heads of the Supply Chain. And the funny thing is IoT devices are guiding how the products reach the market and talking has nothing to do with it.

Industries are trying to create the process more transparent for the consumers, certifying quality checks and an invasive feedback process.

Fleet Management for industries that comprise of companies like FedEx and DHL. Driver headcount, maintenance, and fuel consumption can all be brought down using IoT cloud Platforms. These platforms take in enormous amounts of data about diverse variables like traffic models, weather reports etc. and chart out efficient routes and delivery itineraries.

Having a connecting channel among all the components of the supply chain enables vendors to form better relations amongst themselves and with the customers. This is done by linking the shipping companies to the on-ground delivery services to the shopkeeper, all in real time.

We generate a truly end to end offering by providing vendors with domain expertise in IP connectivity, cloud service, security, hardware, and positioning.

With the help of IoT, we can accurately forecast inventories; keep track of the expiry dates of products and restocking schedules. It can also be used for cutting on Downtime with smart sensors, which are assessing maintenance requirements around the clock, propagating positive revenue generation.

Fitting the factory floors and machinery with sensors helps the system to tail workflow efficiency and logistics short-comings and respective requirements.

The Industrial Internet of Things revolution is pushing entire businesses towards an approach of local connectivity. Many businesses are adopting tools like AT&T’s Low-Power Wide-Area Technology, which has smaller modules with extended battery life and capable connectivity even in underground environments.

This has also created a demand for developers who excel in creating IoT Applications. And lately, it seems IoT technology and software framework has become essential to the 21st-century consumer market at par with Big Data Analytics and Management.

IoT compatibility is the need of the hour for businesses that want to stay ahead of the curve.One should investigate functional ways to integrate IoT technology and Applications into their Business Back-End and generate new streams of revenue.

Also, existing Businesses need to acknowledge the potential of IoT to redesign existing SCP. Building strong bridges to support the convergence of physical and digital supply chain.

In today’s market, SCP isn’t just for tracking your product. It’s an opportunity to gain an edge over your competitors and even establish your own brand.

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