All posts by Scott Bicheno

Microsoft buys VoloMetrix to include people analytics in its cloud offering

MicrosoftMicrosoft has bought Seattle-based people analytics software maker VoloMetrix. The new addition will become part of an organisational analytics offering to Microsoft’s cloud service customers.

VoloMetrix uses information about employee email and calendar use to assess their individual and collective productivity. The system can also pull in data from Salesforce and other sources. By identifying employees that have too many meetings or who create excessive email traffic it can help companies manage their time resources more effectively.

According to Microsoft corporate vice president Rajesh Jha the newly acquired technology will be a strand in Microsoft’s new organisational analytics service Delve which will be unveiled for previews in October. Eventually, the service will become part of Microsoft’s cloud service Office 365.

The terms of the acquisition have not been disclosed. VoloMetrix co-founder and CEO Ryan Fuller blogged that joining Microsoft means the company can grow far more quickly. “Microsoft has a huge vision to reinvent productivity and a set of assets in Office 365 that are fundamental to how work gets done,” Fuller said.

VoluMetrix had previously raised $17 million in funding, including a $12 million cash injection in September 2014. Its enterprise clients include Boeing, Facebook, Genentech, Qualcomm, Seagate and Symantec.

Quantifying employee productivity is a new growth area with two start ups, Culture Amp and VoloMetrix, leading the field. These systems collate data about employees’ electronic calendar and email behaviour and use that data to assess people’s impact at work.

The systems can expose those who spend all their time “managing up” to senior executives or promoting themselves in status meetings, rather than working, according to Volometric founder Fuller. “You can quickly see the load senior executives are imposing, as well as the social graph of who else is affected,” said Fuller.

Cloud based people analytics will be used to understand the external and internal relationships and drive corporate decision-making, Fuller said: “Once a company understands the behaviours that correlate to success, they can measure them.”

In anticipation of opposition over privacy issues, VoloMetrix recently hired former Microsoft privacy strategist, Peter Cullen, to advise it. Reports are currently anonymous and private but individuals can see their own statistics.

Australian rival Culture Amp, used by enterprises like Airbnb, Box, Etsy, GoDaddy and Jawbone,

received $6.3 million in Series A funding from Felicis Ventures, Index Ventures and Blackbird Ventures in March 2015.

Ericsson strikes global IoT partnership with SK Holdings

Ericsson and SK Holdings are partnering on IoT

Ericsson and SK Holdings are partnering on IoT

Swedish networking company Ericsson has announced the establishment of a collaboration partnership with Korean tech conglomerate SK Holdings to develop a global ICT ecosystem that will support Ericsson’s IoT platform, reports

SK Holdings is the owner of one of Korea’s major operators – SK Telecom – but also has interests a number of other areas of ICT. “Drawing from our strength in ICT services and solutions, we will enhance ICT competitiveness and strengthen our presence in global markets by forging partnerships with leading global companies in the areas of IoT, cloud networks and Big Data,” said Park Jung-ho, CEO of SK Holdings. “We will create a strong collaborative ecosystem with global ICT and solution companies for our global target markets and target industries.”

“Our IoT platform has opened up great opportunities for businesses across industries,” said Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg. “We look forward to working together with SK Holdings C&C to build a strong ICT ecosystem to realize and capture the benefits of the Networked Society.”

The actual announcement concerned the signing of an ‘extensive memorandum of understanding’ on 12 August. It committed the two companies to jointly develop IoT platforms specialized for certain industries, such as healthcare and transportation. In that sense it seems to be an extension of Ericsson’s recently announced strategy to diversify beyond telecoms. The two companies will also collaborate on other new ICT services, as well as security solutions that encompass both networks and data.

In other IoT partnership news Stream Technologies, which provides the IoT-X platform for managing connected devices, has got together with Link Labs, which specialises in developing LoRa networks, to develop a LoRa IoT platform.

“Link Labs are a perfect partner for deploying LoRa carrier grade LPWA networks,” said Tracy Hopkins, SVP of Low Power Networks for Stream Technologies. “Not only do they support the LoRaWAN open ecosystem and like Stream are active members of the LoRa Alliance, they also have Symphony Link which offers a different feature set for private networks… In this complex ’market of markets’, partnerships that make deployment simple and deliver on the business model are the very key to success.”

“We are very excited to be working with Stream’s IoT-X platform to bridge the gap between Link Labs’ LoRa Symphony Link networks and other IoT and M2M technologies,” said Bryan Eagle, VP of Biz Dev and Marketing at Link Labs. “Having simple, ease of management across multiple networks is a huge benefit for our customers. They deploy different technologies for different applications but want a single platform to manage them and Stream can deliver that.”

Jasper, Microsoft partner on enterprise IoT

Jasper and Microsoft are integrating Jasper's IoT tech with Azure

Jasper and Microsoft are integrating Jasper’s IoT tech with Azure

IoT platform provider Jasper has announced a new strategic partnership with software giant Microsoft designed to help businesses bring IoT services to market more easily, reports

The partnership will involve integrating Jasper’s platform with Microsoft’s Azure cloud suite, a preview of which will be available later this year. The combined platform will aim to cater for the full IoT journey, from sensors and devices, to wireless communication, to big data collection and analysis.

“Through this strategic partnership with Microsoft, we continue to increase the business value of IoT by making it easier and faster for enterprises to bring their IoT services to market, and to scale those services globally,” said Macario Namie, vice president of Strategy at Jasper.

“Our vision for the Azure IoT Suite is to help companies thrive in this era of IoT by delivering preconfigured solutions and world class services that any company, whether startup or the most established global enterprises, can use to create new value,” said Sam George, director of Azure IoT at Microsoft.

“Jasper’s IoT services platform is a critical component of delivering on this vision. By bringing together the Jasper Platform and the Azure IoT Suite, businesses of any size and in any industry can build cost effective IoT solutions for themselves or their customers.”

While it’s been around for over a decade, Jasper is currently accelerating its partnership activity with big tech companies in a sign that IoT itself is approaching critical mass. Earlier this week Jasper announced a similar partnership with Japanese telco SoftBank, to help it introduce IoT solutions to enterprise.

“The Japanese market is enthusiastically embracing the opportunity created by the Internet of Things to transform the way they operate, interact with customers and create revenue,” said Ken Laversin, senior vice president of Worldwide Sales at Jasper, “SoftBank’s partnership with Jasper demonstrates their commitment to bringing cutting edge IoT technology to Japan.”

Adobe under renewed pressure to kill Flash following security issues

Much of the world's digital video content is still served up on Flash

Much of the world’s digital video content is still served up on Flash

Adobe Flash, the video and graphics platform that was once almost ubiquitous across computing devices is coming under increasing pressure after a series of security vulnerabilities, reports

Such has been the severity of these vulnerabilities that Mozilla has added all versions of Flash to the block list for the Firefox Browser. In addition the new Chief Security Officer of Facebook used Twitter to call for Adobe to announce an end-of-life date for Flash.

This probably marks the end game for a piece of software that was once considered central to the consumption of multimedia content, both on PC and mobile. The first and probably most damaging Emperor’s New Clothes moment was in 2010 when the late Apple boss Steve Jobs addressed a furore around Apple’s diminishing support for Flash.

An Adobe-affiliated blogger has even gone so far as to demand Apple screw itself, and Jobs saw fit to put the Apple view forward.  Among Jobs’ criticisms of Flash was its security, saying: “Symantec recently highlighted Flash for having one of the worst security records in 2009. We also know first hand that Flash is the number one reason Macs crash. We have been working with Adobe to fix these problems, but they have persisted for several years now. We don’t want to reduce the reliability and security of our iPhones, iPods and iPads by adding Flash.”

A couple of years later Android followed suit and the industry on the whole has been looking to reduce its exposure to Flash ever since, with tech such as HTML5 being of significant assistance in this regard. The writing appears to be on the wall for Flash, and it will be interesting to see if Adobe is capable of pulling the plug on it in a sensible and dignified way.

Microsoft shifts ever further to cloud as it writes off entire Nokia acquisition

Nadella's mobile first, cloud first strategy will centre more on software and cloud services than devices

Nadella’s mobile first, cloud first strategy will centre more on software and cloud services than devices

Software giant Microsoft has announced a ‘restructure’ of its phone hardware business that amounts to a write off of the entire Nokia acquisition, reports

7,800 jobs will be lost, mainly in the phone business and on top of around $800 million in restructuring charges (over $100,000 per head!), Microsoft is recording an impairment charge of $7.6 billion, which is pretty much what Microsoft paidfor Nokia less than two years ago. No wonder Stephen Elop was shown the door.

In the light of this final Nokia disposal it’s hard to view Microsoft’s acquisition as anything other than a complete failure and to derive any positives from Elop’s involvement in the whole sorry saga. The only consolation is that the market had already priced this write-off into Microsoft’s share price, which at time of writing had been unaffected by the announcement.

“We are moving from a strategy to grow a standalone phone business to a strategy to grow and create a vibrant Windows ecosystem including our first-party device family,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. “In the near-term, we’ll run a more effective and focused phone portfolio while retaining capability for long-term reinvention in mobility.”

The acquisition was always a strange one, as at the time Microsoft was still trying to apply its standard Windows business model to Windows Phone – i.e. get people to pay for the license. The problem was that a superior platform in the form of Android was already available for free, and Microsoft only secured Nokia’s loyalty with generous inducements. To then turn around and acquire its main customer was effectively an admission that the licensing model had failed in this case.

It was then assumed that Microsoft planned to make money from the devices themselves, in spite of the fact that the rest of the smartphone industry with the exception of Apple and Samsung was struggling to break even. Inevitably this was soon revealed to be a forlorn quest and Microsoft started supporting other mobile platforms.

Today Microsoft’s approach to mobile is to try to sell software and services such as Office 365 and Skype to all mobile platforms. At the same time Windows 10 has been designed to be one unified platform regardless of device, but with smartphones seemingly relegated to an afterthought.

Here’s Nadiella’s full internal email on the matter, which also touches on recent disposals in other non-core areas such as mapping and advertising:



Over the past few weeks, I’ve shared with you our mission, strategy, structure and culture. Today, I want to discuss our plans to focus our talent and investments in areas where we have differentiation and potential for growth, as well as how we’ll partner to drive better scale and results. In all we do, we will take a long-term view and build deep technical capability that allows us to innovate in the future.

With that context, I want to update you on decisions impacting our phone business and share more on last week’s mapping and display advertising announcements.

We anticipate that these changes, in addition to other headcount alignment changes, will result in the reduction of up to 7,800 positions globally, primarily in our phone business. We expect that the reductions will take place over the next several months.

I don’t take changes in plans like these lightly, given that they affect the lives of people who have made an impact at Microsoft. We are deeply committed to helping our team members through these transitions.

Phones. Today, we announced a fundamental restructuring of our phone business. As a result, the company will take an impairment charge of approximately $7.6 billion related to assets associated with the acquisition of the Nokia Devices and Services business in addition to a restructuring charge of approximately $750 million to $850 million.

I am committed to our first-party devices including phones. However, we need to focus our phone efforts in the near term while driving reinvention. We are moving from a strategy to grow a standalone phone business to a strategy to grow and create a vibrant Windows ecosystem that includes our first-party device family.

In the near term, we will run a more effective phone portfolio, with better products and speed to market given the recently formed Windows and Devices Group. We plan to narrow our focus to three customer segments where we can make unique contributions and where we can differentiate through the combination of our hardware and software. We’ll bring business customers the best management, security and productivity experiences they need; value phone buyers the communications services they want; and Windows fans the flagship devices they’ll love.

In the longer term, Microsoft devices will spark innovation, create new categories and generate opportunity for the Windows ecosystem more broadly. Our reinvention will be centered on creating mobility of experiences across the entire device family including phones.

Mapping. Last week, we announced changes to our mapping business and transferred some of our imagery acquisition operations to Uber. We will continue to source base mapping data and imagery from partners. This allows us to focus our efforts on delivering great map products such as Bing Maps, Maps app for Windows and our Bing Maps for Enterprise APIs.

Advertising. We also announced our decision to sharpen our focus in advertising platform technology and concentrate on search, while we partner with AOL and AppNexus for display. Bing will now power search and search advertising across the AOL portfolio of sites, in addition to the partnerships we already have with Yahoo!, Amazon and Apple. Concentrating on search will help us further accelerate the progress we’ve been making over the past six years. Last year Bing grew to 20 percent query share in the U.S. while growing our search advertising revenue 28 percent over the past 12 months. We view search technology as core to our efforts spanning, Cortana, Office 365, Windows 10 and Azure services.

I deeply appreciate all of the ideas and hard work of everyone involved in these businesses, and I want to reiterate my commitment to helping each individual impacted.

I know many of you have questions about these changes. I will host an employee Q&A tomorrow to share more, and I hope you can join me.


Ericsson details strategic plans beyond telecoms sector

Swedish networking giant Ericsson has made no attempt to hide the fact that it needs to diversify in order to survive and the nature of that diversification just got a bit clearer, explains

In his exclusive interview with late last year CEO Hans Vestberg detailed the five main areas of diversification his company has identified: IP networks, Cloud, OSS/BSS, TV & Media and Industry & Society.Ericsson has spoken freely about the first four but has chosen to keep quiet about its industry & society initiative until it was ready.

That moment has now arrived, so spoke to Nadine Allen (pictured), who heads up Industry & Society for Ericsson in Western and Central Europe. She explained that Ericsson sees a massive opportunity in helping other industries to capitalize on the way the telecoms and IT industries are evolving and converging, with IoT being a prime example.

“The evolved use of ICT is becoming increasingly important to all industries as they address the opportunities and challenges that the networked society will bring,” said Allen. “There is a growing need for ICT connectivity and services in market segments outside the traditional customer base of Ericsson, such as: utilities, transport and public safety.”

Ericsson has identified five key industries to focus on: Automotive, Energy & Utilities, Road & Rail, Safety & Security and Shipping. As you can see these are mainly quite industrial sectors, and this is in keeping with how things like IoT are evolving, with the main commercial applications being of a B2B type.

Ericsson has been a transformation partner to our customers for many decades and supported them in shaping their strategies,” said Allen. “This is a key strength relevant to customers inside and outside the telco space as they develop their connected strategies.

“We are a leading software provider and developer across all areas of the network, including OSS and BSS – these capabilities we see as being key to what will be needed to flexibly support the plethora of future use cases, some of which we can only imagine right now.”

Allen brought our attention to some specific use-cases, illustrated in the slide below. In utilities, for example, things like smart grids and smart metering are already emerging as a way to increase efficiency, while intelligent transport systems are doing the same for that sector.

Ericsson industry & society slide

All of this makes a lot of sense on paper, and Ericsson unquestionably has a lot of tools at its disposal to help industries get smarter, but combining these capabilities into coherent solutions and competing against companies such as the big systems integration and consulting firms will be a challenge. The Ericsson brand is strong in telcos, but not necessarily in transport, and it still needs to establish its consulting credentials beyond its home territory.

To conclude we asked Allen how she sees these underlying trends evolving. We believe the Internet of Things will have a profound impact in the future, enabling anything to be connected and providing ’smartness’ to these connected things will bring value across many sectors,” she said.

“The vision of IoT is a key part of the networked society and in one line I would say it is well described by ‘where everything that can benefit from being connected will be connected’. For example in a world of connected things, value will shift from the physical properties of a product to the services that it provides.”

Orange, Foxconn among LoRa IoT startup Actility backers

IoT partnerships are in full swing this month

IoT partnerships are in full swing this month

A group of tech companies including operators Orange, KPN and Swisscom and manufacturing giant Foxconn have put $25 million into Actility, an IoT startup focused on the LoRaWAN standard, reports

With the IoT land grab fully underway there are already calls for standardisation and collaboration as everyone looks to get an early piece of the action. The LoRa Alliance was unveiled at CES at the start of this year to support LoRaWAN low-power WAN technology. Minimising the amount of power required by IoT modules is considered critical if they’re to have the multi-year battery life required for embedded applications.

This $25 million round of funding was led by Ginko Ventures, which is a consortium consisting of the above tech companies and some VC players. The stated aim of the investment is to accelerate the go-to-market strategy for Actility’s ThingPark open standard IoT network solution.

“I decided to create Actility in 2010 based on the intuition that M2M would become much bigger and the need for carrier grade M2M infrastructure,” Actility founder and chief exec Olivier Hersent told “In terms of technology we have worked a lot with a technology call LoRa, which is one of the fastest growing alliances, on the LoRaWAN standard.

“ThingPark provides the technology to connect both long range and low power sensors over unlicensed ISM band spectrum, allowing low cost and fast roll-out of IoT networks for a wide range of IoT applications. We are delighted to have secured the backing of such prominent communications industry leaders.”

“Foxconn Group is transforming to be a high technology solution provider, including hardware and software value creation. Through this strategic investment, we will expand our current collaboration with Actility to bring its LoRaWAN technology and IoT Platform and Solutions to Taiwan, China, and the rest of Asia,” said Fang Ming Lu, executive vice president of Foxconn.

“This is a technology that comes at the right time for operators to accelerate the connection of objects,” Jean-Paul de Weck, CEO Swisscom Broadcast. “There is set to be a huge increase in the demand for IoT and we see Actility as a key partner as we expand our activities in this market.”

The feeling among Actility and its investors is that LoRa could well become the default IoT technology worldwide, and that it will only become so if it is open to all players. The commercial applications of IoT at this early stage tend to be more industrial, such as smart metering, remote monitoring and logistics applications. By seeding the market the aim is to prove the commercial viability of such IoT implementations and build momentum.

The announcement coincides with a flood of other IoT collaborations. Vodafone is partnering with EMC to develop an IoT testing platform, while Samsung yesterday announced a partnership and investment in Sigfox, which seems to be competitive with LoRa and already has some commercial networks, with a new one being rolled out by Engie in Belgium. Finally the Weightless SIG, yet another prospective IoT wireless standard, also picked this week to announce the deployment of a Weightless-N Smart City network in London. It seems unlikely that all these announcements are a coincidence and the IoT land grab is definitely gathering intensity.

Juniper: Connected cars to be 20% of car market by 2019

Jupiter Research says the connected car is the fastest growing segment of the M2M market

Jupiter Research says the connected car is the fastest growing segment of the M2M market

Analyst firm Juniper Research has forecast the connected car market to grow faster than any other M2M segment and to account for a fifth of total passenger car revenue by 2019.

As part of a broader report on M2M, Juniper compares connected cars favourably to other fast-growing segments such as healthcare and retail. The firm reckons the overall M2M market will generate service revenues of over $40bn globally by 2019, which is twice the current amount.

As well as cars, Juniper believes smart metering is set to boom, fuelled by state efficiency and green initiatives, but it won’t generate the kind of revenues cars will.

“Both India and China are expected to see rapid adoption of smart metering as new metering infrastructure is installed and smart cities are created,” said Juniper analyst Anthony Cox.

Other observations include an acknowledgement of the growing importance of M&A in creating companies with the range of products and competences to create and commercialise innovative M2M and IoT products. Western markets are currently leading the way in M2M, but China is unsurprisingly set to be increasingly prominent. Lastly Juniper stressed the importance of big data analytics in getting the best out of M2M.

Intel joins IoT M&A frenzy with $17bn Altera acquisition

Intel is buying Altera for $17bn to strengthen its position in IoT

Intel is buying Altera for $17bn to strengthen its position in IoT

Chip giant Intel has wasted little time in joining the recent flurry of semiconductor M&A activity by acquiring embedded chip company Altera for $16.7 billion, reports

Altera specialises FPGAs (field-programmable gate arrays), which essentially are chips that can be reconfigured, making them useful for dynamic embedded environments such as software defined radio and whatever the Internet of Things eventually serves up. Intel believes this kind of technology can help it in the embedded space, where it often struggles to compete with more power efficient ARM-based products.

“With this acquisition, we will harness the power of Moore’s Law to make the next generation of solutions not just better, but able to do more,” said Brian Krzanich, CEO of Intel. “Whether to enable new growth in the network, large cloud data centers or IoT segments, our customers expect better performance at lower costs. This is the promise of Moore’s Law and it’s the innovation enabled by Intel and Altera joining forces.”

“We believe that as part of Intel we will be able to develop innovative FPGAs and system-on-chips for our customers in all market segments,” said John Daane, President, CEO of Altera. “Together, we expect to drive meaningful value for our customers, partners and employees around the world.”

Intel has been getting serious about IoT for some time, especially when it became apparent how difficult getting into the smartphone market would be for it. Back in 2009 it bought embedded software company Wind River and it has recently broken out its IoT activities into a distinct reporting unit. Together with other acquisitions, such as cellular modem company Infineon, Intel is amassing a portfolio of silicon capabilities that could be combined into some highly versatile chips – just what you need when looking to future proof your embedded technology.

Avago buys Broadcom for $37bn to create IoT chip dream team

Avago is buying Broadcom for $37bn to create an IoT giant

Avago is buying Broadcom for $37bn to create an IoT giant

It seems every corner of the mobile market is consolidating right now and semiconductors are clearly no exception, with digital signal processing chip maker Avago acquiring communications chip company Broadcom for $37bn, reports

Avago was spun off from Agilent Technologies back in 2005, which was itself spun off from HP in 1999, leading to what was at the time the world’s largest IPO. It has a broad portfolio of semiconductor products and is strong in mixed-signal circuits and sensors. Broadcom has long been a leader in communications technologies such as ethernet, wifi and Bluetooth.

“Today’s announcement marks the combination of the unparalleled engineering prowess of Broadcom with Avago’s heritage of technology from HP, AT&T, and LSI Logic, in a landmark transaction for the semiconductor industry,” said Hock Tan, president and chief executive of Avago. “The combination of Avago and Broadcom creates a global diversified leader in wired and wireless communication semiconductors. Avago has established a strong track record of successfully integrating companies onto its platform.”

“This transaction benefits all of Broadcom’s key stakeholders,” said Scott McGregor, president and chief executive of Broadcom. “Our customers will gain access to a greater breadth of technology and product capability. For our shareholders, the transaction provides both compelling up-front value as well as the opportunity to participate in the future upside of the combined business.”

In practice the combination of Avago’s strength in sensors and Broadcom’s in communications looks like a potential IoT dream team, creating the ability to offer unified IoT chips that do everything you could ask of a connected thing.

Chris Taylor, analyst at Strategy Analytics, told explained that Avago’s other strengths include RF power amplifiers and filters. “Their most notable success has been in Apple phones over the past several years with their multi-mode, multi-band power amplifiers,” he said. Taylor also noted their success in RF filters for LTE bands above 1.9 GHz, which are likely to be used more extensively as more capacity is needed.

A similar move was recently announced by NXP and Freescale, which are merging to form a semi company with strengths in NFC, automotive and microcontrollers, and which NXP announced today it would be selling off its RF Power business to fund. Both of these merged companies must compete with mobile chip leader Qualcomm, which acquired wifi chip giant Atheros back in 2011. It will be interesting to see if there’s a response to all this M&A from Asian chip players such as Mediatek.