Category Archives: Internet of Things

Salesforce plans to launch IoT offering on AWS

Salesforce WearSalesforce has announced plans to launch its new IoT offering on AWS facilities, moving away from it traditional play of using its own data centre infrastructure, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The offering is reportedly going to be launched by Salesforce in the next couple of months, is currently available to a select number of customers as the team test the various features. Saleforce’s IoT Cloud was initially announced last September, enabling customers to personalize the way they sell, service and market top their prospects. As part of the development, Salesforce has partnered with a number of firms including ARM, Etherios, Informatica, PTC ThingWorx and Xively LogMeln, to bring the service to market.

“Salesforce is turning the Internet of Things into the Internet of Customers,” said Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce at the time. “The IoT Cloud will allow businesses to create real-time 1:1, proactive actions for sales, service, marketing or any other business process, delivering a new kind of customer success.”

Salesforce has traditionally built new services on its own data centre infrastructure, though it would appear to be joining a number of other companies, including Netflix, who are utilizing the services of AWS as well as in-house options. This is not the first experience of AWS for Salesforce however, as the company acquired Heroku in 2010, which operated on AWS. Working with AWS also gives Salesforce the flexibility to manage what could be large scale growth should the offering receive large scale traction upon launch, as adding additional hardware to its own data centre to meet demand could take days or even weeks.

Alongside the IoT announcement, Benioff has taken to Twitter to apologize for a database failure on the NA14 instance, which caused outages for a number of customers in North America, which lasted for more than 12 hours.

The failure occurred after “a successful site switch” of the NA14 instance “to resolve a service disruption that occurred between 00:47 to 02:39 UTC on May 10, 2016 due to a failure in the power distribution in the primary data centre” the company said. Although not confirmed by Salesforce, it would appear a large number of customers throughout North America were impacted by the failure.

Salesforce apology

Microsoft adds more software capabilities to Azure IoT suite

AzureMicrosoft has announced the acquisition of Solair, an Italian IoT software company which currently operates in the manufacturing, retail, food & beverage and transportation industries.

Solair software, which runs on the Microsoft Azure platform, focuses on helping customers improve efficiently and profitably of their IoT initiatives. The acquisition continues Microsoft’s ambitions in the IoT market segment, delivering a more complete solution, as opposed to simply the Azure IoT platform.

“The integration of Solair’s technology into the Microsoft Azure IoT Suite will continue to enhance our complete IoT offering for the enterprise,” Sam George, Partner Director, Azure IoT at Microsoft. “We’ll have more specifics to share about how Solair is helping us build the intelligent cloud in the future. In the meantime, I’d like to reiterate my welcome to the Solair team.”

Solair has been in operation for five years now, and boasts a healthy number of customers including Rancilio Group, where it enabled a connected coffee machine maintenance strategy, and Minerva Omega where it created a remote maintenance and service strategy for the food processing group. Financial details of the acquisition were not released, and Microsoft did not release any specific details of how the business will be integrated into the overall Azure IoT suite.

“From the very start, our mission has been to help customers quickly and easily gain access to the huge benefits of the Internet of Things (IoT),” Tom Davis CEO at Solair. “By building our solutions based on real customer requirements that allow them to gain real value, I’m confident that Solair’s technology and talent will be able to make an important contribution to Microsoft’s Azure IoT Suite and Microsoft’s broader IoT ambitions.”

Microsoft has seemingly been on a mission to bolster its position in the IoT market, both organically and through industry acquisitions. At Build 2016, the team launched Azure Service Fabric and new IoT starter kits, as well as previews of new services to serverless compute for event-driven solutions, Azure Functions, and Power BI Embedded which allows developers to embed reports and visualizations in any application.

Kimberly-Clark implements IoT-based app for facilities managers

Iot isometric flowchart design bannerKimberly-Clark’s professional business unit has announced the launch of a new Intelligent Restroom app that helps customer’s better monitor and manage restrooms remotely.

The app, which was built on IBM’s IoT development platform, Bluemix, and hosted on the same company’s cloud platform, combines IoT and cloud capabilities to allow facility manager’s to receive data and alerts from various devices in restrooms, in an effort to improve efficiency.

“The restroom and supplies management have always been important factors in facilities management, however, we now know they’re critical to maintaining the business itself,” said Bryan Semkuley, VP of Global Innovation at Kimberly-Clark Professional. “We wanted to help our clients reduce tenant churn, lower costs, and improve the customers’ experience along the way. That’s when we turned to innovations in cloud and IoT from IBM that can be operated from facilities managers’ smartphones.”

The team at Kimberly-Clark Professional claim initial tests of the app have helped customers reduce the amount of supplies used in the restroom by up to 20%, and the app is now available in North America, with plans to expand internationally over the course of 2016.

“Kimberly-Clark Professional products are used by one fourth of the world’s population on a regular basis,” said Rachel Reinitz, CTO for IBM’s Bluemix Garage. “IBM Cloud, from development platform through IoT, enabled them to develop and deploy the innovative Intelligent Restroom from the ground up.”

Samsung launches IoT cloud platform

SamsungSamsung has launched its Artik Cloud Platform, an open data exchange platform designed to connect any data set from any connected device or cloud service.

Speaking at Samsung Developer Conference in San Francisco, the company has launched the service in direct competition with established platforms such as Microsoft’s Azure and IBM’s Bluemix, to capitalize on growing momentum in the IoT market.

“Our vision for the Artik platform is an end-to-end experience that reduces the obstacles, challenges, and time-to-market for IoT solutions,” said Young Sohn, Chief Strategy Officer at Samsung Electronics. “We’re excited to announce the Samsung Artik Cloud after three years of development and feedback from hundreds of developers. Unlike many other IoT cloud platforms, Artik Cloud breaks down data siloes between devices and enables a new class of IoT applications and services.

“The launch of this exciting new platform not only signals Samsung’s foray into the cloud services market but reinforces our belief that, by creating powerful open platforms, we can harness the information generated by IoT to develop new insights and new approaches to address the major global challenges of today and tomorrow.”

The company, which would generally not be considered a major player in the cloud market, claims it now offers an end-to-end solution, which will enable customers to collect, store, and act on any data from any connected device or cloud service. While the company would not appear to have the software capabilities of its now-competitors, the offering is positioned as an open cloud service positioning to counter this concern.

“The need for an open cloud solution that can work with any connected device, and with other cloud services is critical for broader consumer adoption,” said BK Yoon, CEO of Samsung Electronics. “The launch of Artik Cloud is extremely exciting because it promises to not only help Samsung connect our diverse portfolio of products, but also enable other companies to participate in a growing IoT ecosystem.”

The move does also follow a number of product launches over the last twelve months to bring Samsung into the IoT ecosystem. Last year the company launched three chips, Artik 1, 5 and 10, which were designed specifically to be embedded in IoT products. Although a new player to the market, the team also released a case study for Artik cloud with lighting company Legrand where it claimed to have saved months of development time as well as a notable amount of investment.

“To be connected to the ARTIK Cloud is another step in our openness strategy, which aims to make Legrand’s legacy devices and new smart devices interoperable with other connected products, and increases the value we deliver to our users,” said Ernesto Santini, Legrand VP Innovation and Systems.

The team would also appear to have learnt lessons from the Microsoft IoT strategy, targeting a broad range of potential customers from top-end enterprise organizations through to star-ups and also hobbyists. Hobbyists can connect up to 25 devices, collecting up to 150 messages from each device per day, for free. While Samsung does have ground to catch up when compared to the more established competitors such as Microsoft and IBM, such a flexible pricing plan will seemingly broaden the appeal of the brand.

What did we learn from Verizon’s IoT report?

Iot isometric flowchart design bannerVerizon has recently released its State of the Market: Internet of Things 2016 report, which outlined the growth and potential for the IoT industry. The report features a number of use cases and information detailing the technology’s rise to fame, but also barriers for enterprise organizations over the coming months.

Here, we’ve detailed a few of the lessons learnt from the report:

IoT is no longer a nice idea, it’s becoming mainstream

If 2015 was the year IoT gained credibility in the business world, 2016 is the year IoT gains commercial feasibility.

While the concept of IoT has been around for some time, the idea of the technology having a B2B commercial backbone, capable of delivering on commercial objectives is now a reality. The potential of IoT has been well discussed but now we are seeing companies delivering on the promise. IBM is one which has particularly active in this segment, driving the Watson use case through the press repeatedly this year.

Wearables had a head start on B2B applications, though could be to thank for the relative ease of acceptance within the industry (both for enterprise and consumers). The marketing campaigns surrounding the earliest fitness wearables or smart watches normalized IoT, allowing for what could be perceived as a simple transition into the B2B sphere. But thanks to these (comparative) simple applications, the integration of IoT into the manufacturing process, healthcare, transportation, utilities, smart cities and any other context you could think of, has been a seemingly simple transition.

According to Verizon’s research, IoT networks connections have been growing healthily, the number of connections in the utilities industry has grown 58% between 2014 and 2015, and this is also backed up by forecasts by IDC research. The IDC’s findings estimate the IoT market spend will increase from $591.7 billion in 2014 to $1.3 trillion in 2019.

IoT might be entering mainstream, but data could hold it back

Data acquisition, analysis and action might be becoming one of the most repetitive conversations in the industry, but that is for good reason.

Verizon captureVerizon recently commissioned a report by Oxford Economics highlighted only 8% of businesses are using more than 25% of the IoT data which they have collected. In fact, only 50% of the businesses involved in the study said they would be using more than 25% of the collected IoT data in three years’ time.

On the surface, this shouldn’t seem as an issue that would cause too many problems, until you take into account the long-term deliverables of IoT. The promise of IoT is the collection of vast quantities of data to allow advanced analytics tools to make accurate predictions and customizations. If only a partial amount of the data is being analysed, only a partial amount of the promise can be realized.

IoT has hit the mainstream market, however it will never reach the promised deliverables if companies are not analysing more of the data collected. What is the point is spending millions on sensors, connections, storage and data scientists, if the full potential of the technology cannot be achieved. Can the long term financial security of the IoT industry be guaranteed if the promise is never fully realized?

There could be a number of reasons for the backlog of data, though industry insiders have told BCN the interface required to translate different data sets into a common language for analysis could be one of the reasons for the holdup. It would appear not all of the IoT value chain has evolved at the same pace.

Regulators will have to play a more significant role in the future

Regulation does and will play a major role in the delivery and adoption of IoT. Back in 2007 the Energy Act in the US accelerated the role of IoT in the monitoring of energy consumption, and while this could be considered the initial catalyst, growth has increased year on year ever since.

Verizon capture 2While this is an instance of regulation giving the IoT industry freedom to grow, it should not be seen as a surprise if regulators put in place rulings which could limit what the industry can and cannot do. Whether it is the ethical use of data, volumes of data which can be collected on a single person or the means in which and where the data is stored, regulation is likely to play a more significant role in coming years.

The report discusses the security of IoT which is a constant barrier for businesses and individuals alike. New regulations are likely to severely punish instances of data loss, and when you consider the sheer volume of data should IoT reach its potential, future instances of data loss could be disastrous.

Currently regulation within the IoT market is relatively low-key, encouraging growth of the technology as opposed to monitoring it, however there are a number of areas which need consideration in the short- to mid-term future. Lack of control and information asymmetry, low-quality consent, intrusive identification of behaviour patterns and user profiling and limitations on the possibility of remaining anonymous whilst using services are all areas which should be taken into consideration.

Microsoft steps up IoT credentials

Scott Guthrie, EVP of the Cloud and Enterprise Group at Microsoft

Scott Guthrie, EVP of the Cloud and Enterprise Group at Microsoft

Tech giant Microsoft has launched a number of updates and features for both its Azure and Office platforms, in a move to bolster its position in the intelligent apps and IoT space.

Speaking at Build 2016, the company launched the general availability of Azure Service Fabric and new IoT starter kits, as well as previews of new services to serverless compute for event-driven solutions, Azure Functions, and Power BI Embedded, which allows developers to embed reports and visualizations in any application.

“Microsoft is the only cloud vendor that supports the diverse needs of every organization and developer — from core infrastructure services to platform services and tools to software-as-a-service — for any language, across any platform,” said Scott Guthrie, EVP of the Cloud and Enterprise Group at Microsoft.

“With 30 regions worldwide — more than every major cloud provider combined — Azure’s massive scale means developers and businesses alike can focus on creating the next generation of amazing applications, not their underlying cloud infrastructure. This makes our cloud the de facto choice for enterprises of today and tomorrow — and today, more than 85 percent of the Fortune 500 agree.”

The launch of Azure Service Fabric will allow developers to decompose applications into microservices, for increased availability and scalability. The company claims the offering will handle application lifecycle management for constant uptime and easy application scaling, and builds on the growing popularity of microservices in the industry and is accompanied by the promise of open-source programming frameworks for Linux later in the year. As with a number of Microsoft’s announcements over recent weeks, open-source has been a prominent product position for the company at Build 2016.

The company also highlighted its IoT starter kit would be available for anyone with Windows or Linux experience to build prototypes which use all of Azure’s offerings. Prices for the kit range between $60 and $150, which could potentially open up a new market of students, academics and casual users for the company.

For the more complex IoT projects, the company have also previewed Azure Functions which will enable developers to create apps which will automatically respond to events in virtually any Azure or 3rd party service as well as on-premises systems. The preview is part of the greater trend of automated responses and reactions to events, and appears to be Microsoft’s response to AWS Lambda, which was launched in late 2014.

Qi Lu

Qi Lu, EVP of the Applications and Services Group at Microsoft

Outside of the Azure platform, the company also announced a number of product updates and features for Office. “In terms of reach, Office is one of the few platforms in the world that provides developers with access to over a billion users across a variety of devices,” said Qi Lu, EVP of the Applications and Services Group. “The opportunity to build on the Office platform has never been greater.”

“With new extensions and new connections to the Microsoft Graph — an intelligent fabric that applies machine learning to map the connections between people, content and interactions across Office 365 — developers are empowered to build intelligent apps that can transform the landscape of work,” said Lu.

Alongside Lu, Starbucks CTO Gerri Martin-Flickinger showcased how he has been using the platform to create an add-on which enables customers to send a gift-card through Outlook, and also schedule meetings at the nearest Starbucks. “Building on the Office platform is reaching our customers right on their desktop or device and extending the Starbucks Experience to them in new and compelling ways,” he said.

As part of the announcement, Microsoft previewed six new APIs for the Microsoft Graph which let developers link Office 365 data to third-party solutions. One of which automatically identifies a series of times a predefined group of people are available for a meeting.

Apple enters consumer e-health market

Apple carekitApple has announced the launch of CareKit, an open-source software framework which enables its consumers and doctors to proactively keep track of their health through monitoring symptoms and medications in real-time.

The open-source framework follows the launch of ResearchKit last year and enables consumers to us data collected from various sources to understand their health. The app also enables consumers to record feedback on how well they are feeling or recovering from a procedure which can be shared with family members and their doctor remotely.

“We’re thrilled with the profound impact ResearchKit has already had on the pace and scale of conducting medical research, and have realised that many of the same principles could help with individual care,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s COO. “We believe that giving individuals the tools to understand what is happening with their health is incredibly powerful, and apps designed using CareKit make this a reality by empowering people to take a more active role in their care.”

From next month, the developer community will be able to build their own apps through the open-source software, however Apple have designed four modules in the first instance. Care Card is a to-do list reminding consumers to take medication or perform certain exercises, which can be tracked through various Apple devices. The Symptoms and Measurement Tracker enables consumers to record their symptoms and progress. The Insight Dashboard compares the symptoms to the data taken from the Care Card to ensure that treatment is effective, and the Connect module shares all information with the person’s doctor.

The concept of CareKit is one of the few data analytics use cases available to the consumer market, though the open-source framework will offer opportunities for developers. While the framework is not available for the wider community currently, Apple has been working with a number of developers to demonstrate the use case of the framework. One example, Glow Nature, is an app incorporating the CareKit modules to offer advice to women to guide them through a healthier pregnancy.

The launch of CareKit follows healthy adoption of ResearchKit, a similar open-source framework designed for medical researchers. ResearchKit enables doctors, scientists and other researchers to gather data from participants anywhere in the world using iPhone apps. While ResearchKit enables researchers to more accurately gather data and further their research, CareKit provides these organizations an alternative means to communicate with the mass audience.

“With ResearchKit, we quickly realised the power of mobile apps for running inexpensive, high-quality clinical studies with unprecedented reach,” said Ray Dorsey, Professor of Neurology at the University of Rochester Medical Centre. “We hope that CareKit will help us close the gap between our research findings and how we care for our Parkinson’s patients day-to-day. It’s opening up a whole new opportunity for the democratisation of research and medicine.”

Bosch boosts enterprise IT credentials with IoT Cloud launch

Bosch IoT cloudGerman engineering and electronics giant Robert Bosch has thrown its hat into the IoT ring with the launch of Bosch IoT Cloud.

The new initiative comprises technical infrastructure as well as platform and software offerings, and claims to cover the full IoT proposition, from the device to the cloud. It will be initially utilized for in-house solutions, though plans are to roll out the platform as a service for other companies worldwide from 2017.

“As of today, we offer all the ace cards for the connected world from a single source,” said Bosch CEO Volkmar Denner. “The Bosch IoT Cloud is the final piece of the puzzle that completes our software expertise. We are now a full service provider for connectivity and the Internet of Things.

“A major factor in the success of connected solutions is their scalability. Business models must be able to grow quickly when necessary. The Bosch IoT Cloud means Bosch now has the relevant infrastructure. We see this as a major milestone for Bosch.”

Traditionally a major player in the automotive, building and appliances spaces, the announcement follows a lengthy transition into the digital industry with Bosch apparently spending €500 million annually on new technologies. “The key prerequisite for this is to have in-house software and IT expertise,” said Denner. “Bosch has been building these capabilities for many years. Digital transformation and increasing connectivity are huge opportunities for us.”

The move allows Bosch to increase its influence in the development of the connected world in such areas as smart homes, smart cars and Industry 4.0. Current applications include detection of parking spaces, insurance rebates for careful drivers, a platform which connects user’s smartphones with the heating, lighting and smoke alarms at home, as well as a system to connect technicians directly with their customers’ heating systems. The company claims to currently connect more than five million devices and machines.

Denner’s leadership over recent years has driven Bosch’s strategic transition and brought about a number of acquisitions, including Pro-Syst Software, to build the company’s software expertise – the cornerstone of Bosch IoT Cloud.

This move is a great example of how IoT is bringing businesses from a very diverse range of industries into the same space as partners, competitors or both. Companies like Bosch will increasingly be bumping shoulders with the likes of Ericsson, Cisco, Intel and Amazon in the race to serve up the most comprehensive IoT proposition.

IBM, Apple combine IoT forces for sleep health study

electronic medical health recordIBM’s Watson Cloud is to be the foundation for research by the American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA) into how human sleeping habits affect our health. IBM and ASAA have also jointly created a new SleepHealth app to encourage patients to contribute to the cloud based SleepHealth Mobile Study.

The SleepHealth study uses Apple’s Internet of Things technology and open source ResearchKit, which simplifies tasks and survey compilation and feeds its data into the SleepHealth app. SleepHealth is the first ResearchKit study to run on the Watson Health Cloud.

Though sleep is critical for physical and metal health it remains one of the most overlooked of the basic human needs and one in four Americans experience sleep problems. Chronic insomnia affects 10% of Americans and 25 million suffer from types of obstructive sleep apnoea such as disrupted sleep, snoring and uneven breathing, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This in turn can create heart disease, hypertension, obesity, cancer, depression and fatal accidents.

Researchers and physicians will use Watson to host its surveys and study exercises and interrogate the data to uncover patterns. The Watson Cloud makes crowd-sourcing data possible and creates a system of patient-led research and data-driven discovery, according ASAAs chief science officer Carl Stepnowsky. The SleepHealth app could build the world’s largest longitudinal study to collect data on both healthy and unhealthy sleepers, said Stepnowsky.

The Watson Health Cloud has opened up a diversity of data sources such as medical literature, treatment guidelines, claims data and clinical data, according to Kyu Rhee, chief health officer for Watson Health. Researchers can also opt to apply Watson Analytics for deeper insights from the data. “One of our goals at IBM Watson Health is to eliminate silos that hinder collaboration between researchers, patients and clinicians,” said Rhee.

The study also makes use of IoT technology. The SleepHealth app makes use of multiple Apple Watch sensors, such as the accelerometer, which detects movements, and the gyroscope, which determines orientation in space, to measure and record movements such as shifting positions during sleep. It also uses Apple Watch’s heart rate monitor to detect sleep. Some of the app’s features, such as the Personal Sleep Concierge and the Nap Tracker, were designed specifically to the Apple Watch as a way to improve sleep habits. SleepHealth will be the first ResearchKit app to use Apple’s new Night Shift feature that reduces light exposure before sleep.

Red Hat and Eurotech to jointly re-engineer the cloud for better IoT

redhat office logoRed Hat is teaming up with Italy’s Eurotech in a bid to help Internet of Things projects get bigger and more flexible without sacrificing their security.

The companies have pooled their technical powers to combat the scale, latency, reliability and security weaknesses within complex Internets of Things. Their joint ambition is to obviate the need for the mass consignment of data to the cloud for real-time processing. Instead, they want to set up a more robust alternative system that works by using essential data aggregation, transformation, integration and routing.

North Carolina based open source champion Red Hat and Camaro based machine to machine (M2M) system maker Eurotech say they have two objectives for the IoT: simplify and accelerate. They aim to combine open source cloud software and M2M platforms into a single architecture that bridges the gap between operational and information technology.

All the inherent weaknesses of the IoT – from its lack of scalability to its insecurity – can be tackled by pushing computing power to the network edge, according to the partners. This will help IoT project managers to avoid the risk of shipping masses of data to the cloud for real-time processing. With all the essential data aggregation, data transformation, integration and routing taking place locally, and less exposed to a journey across the cloud, security and performance can be tightened up.

Another productivity dividend will come from placing the processes close to the operational devices. By devolving power away from the centre and allowing remote devices to trigger business rules the partners aim to automate greater numbers of machine processes.

The foundations of this new architecture will be Red Hat’s Enterprise Linux and JBoss Middleware along with Eurotech’s Everyware Software Framework and Everyware Cloud. These are to be integrated to provide the security, management and application support spanning the whole hierarchy of the cloud from device tier to the data centre, according to a Red Hat statement.

“Open Source and Java are important pillars in both our strategies. These factors ensure a good alignment,” said Eurotech CMO Robert Andres, CMO, Eurotech.