Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The NEXT BIG THING – ‘The Internet of Things’ (IoT)
- First post of a three part series. 

The ‘Internet of Things’ revolves around increased machine-to-machine communication. It is built on cloud computing and networks of data-gathering sensors; it’s mobile, virtual, and instantaneous connection. It is being said that IoT is going to make everything in our lives from streetlights to seaports “smart”. When we talk about making machines “smart,” we’re not referring strictly to M2M. We’re talking about sensors. A sensor is not a machine. It doesn’t do anything in the same sense that a machine does. It measures, it evaluates; in short, it gathers data. The Internet of Things really comes together with the connection of sensors and machines. The real value that the Internet of Things creates is at the intersection of gathering data and leveraging it. 

The Internet of Things (IoT) in its essence describes how the physical world is being connected to the Internet. According to a report by Gartner, it is estimated that besides smartphones, tablets and PCs more than 50 billion “things” will be connected to the Internet by 2020. Much like the Internet did roughly twenty years ago, IoT is bringing convenience, efficiency and safety to a totally new level by changing industries and society itself. Some industry experts go as far as saying that IoT will be the most influential and most disruptive technology in the history of mankind. McKinsey estimates that IoT will be an aggregated $11 trillion business opportunity over the next ten to fifteen years – equalling about 11% of the world economy.

Creating a ‘smart’ factory or ‘smart’ home was far-fetched some 10 years ago as it required expensive, custom-made automation systems that could only be afforded by a handful of companies and households. But now the scenario has changed and it is becoming more and more prevalent. There are many reasons why the IoT opportunities are occurring now.

·       Affordable hardware: Costs for actuators & sensors have been cut into half over the last ten years with more and more companies investing in such devices.

·      Smaller & Powerful hardware: Sensors, communication technology, etc. have shrunk to millimeter or even manometer levels. Now we can get a low-energy, state-of-the-art sensor with ubiquitous connectivity of the size of your fingertip.

·       Ubiquitous & cheap mobility: Cost for mobile devices, bandwidth and data processing have declined as much as 97% over the last ten years with larger investments and increased competition.

·    Availability of supporting tools: Big data tools & cloud-based infrastructure have become widely available and fairly sophisticated.

·    Mass market awareness: The vision of a connected world has gained such momentum, that companies have initiated IoT development & marketing budgets. This is the reason why there is much better understanding and awareness among the masses.

In the world of today, IoT has completely elevated the importance of data. It is believed that in this changing business paradigms, IoT data is the new gold. Gathering and connecting data points from physical objects is the key to letting new IoT business cases come to life. As Robert Metcalfe postulated in the 1980s; “The value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system. Insightful data is the key to unlocking this value.” This trend will be seen in many industries where selling the main product becomes a by-product, while the business model around the data becomes the main product. On top of that, we will see the creation of entirely new industries that build business models solely on IoT data and use hardware partners to get access to the necessary data sources. The business operating models that have boosted the productivity in a variety of industries with massive amount of data gathered by these IoT devices are as follows:

Industries are constantly using valuable data generated via IoT devices to create custom products that take into account personal preferences of the end customer. The IoT is only going to grow. It is believed that currently less than 0.1% of all the devices that could be connected to the Internet are connected to the Internet. But just think of the tremendous potential and limitless opportunities that IoT can bring to the businesses and to the society if its complete potential is exploited.

In the subsequent posts we will be talking about IoT Architecture and Platforms.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2017

Blink and you could miss it. The speed at which technology advances and upgrades can seem overwhelming.

It is amazing to think about the technology we have available to us. It’s astounding to have the power to retrieve almost any information and communicate in a thousand different ways using a device that fits in your pocket. There’s always something new on the horizon, and we can’t help but wait and wonder what technological marvels are coming next.
Breakthrough technologies will continue to create new value and transform experiences for businesses and consumers alike. Here are 10 technology trends of 2017 that will unlock opportunities for growth and enable organizations to provide more meaningful experiences to their customers, employees, and society.

1. Artificial Intelligence & Advanced Machine Learning
AI and Machine learning which include technologies such as deep learning, neural networks and natural-language processing, can also encompass more advanced systems that understand, learn, predict, adapt and potentially operate autonomously. Systems can learn and change future behaviour, leading to the creation of more intelligent devices and programs.  The combination of extensive parallel processing power, advanced algorithms and massive data sets to feed the algorithms has unleashed this new era. Artificial Intelligence has effectively convinced its necessity to the entire world by proving advantageous across various industries. Almost all the industries including manufacturing, healthcare, construction, online retail, etc. are adapting to the reality of IoT to leverage its advantages. Machine learning technology is constantly evolving and the current trends in the field promise that every enterprise will be data driven and will have the capacity of using machine learning in the cloud to incorporate artificial intelligence apps.

2. Intelligent Apps
Intelligent apps, which include technologies like virtual Personal Assistants (VPAs), have the potential to transform the workplace by making everyday tasks easier such as prioritizing emails and highlighting important content and interactions. These “intelligent apps” combine customer, product and operational insights with modern application development tools and user-centric design to create a more compelling, more prescriptive user experience. These intelligent apps not only know how to support or enable key user decisions, but they continually learn from the user interactions to become even more relevant and valuable to those users. By 2018, it is expected that most of the world’s largest 200 companies will exploit intelligent apps and utilize the full toolkit of big data and analytics tools to improve customer experience.

3. Intelligent Things

Intelligent things are at the intersection of AI and IoT (Internet of Things) and are among the top strategic trends for 2017. New intelligent things generally fall into three categories: robots, drones and autonomous vehicles. Each of these areas will evolve to impact a larger segment of the market and support a new phase of digital business but these represent only one facet of intelligent things.  Existing things including IoT devices will become intelligent things delivering the power of AI enabled systems everywhere including the home, office, factory floor, medical facility etc. As Intelligent things become more prevalent and more advanced they no longer only function as stand-alone entities but in a more collaborative setting in which intelligent things communicate with one another to perform more intensive tasks.

4. Virtual & Augmented Reality

Virtual reality (VR) is an artificial, computer-generated simulation or recreation of a real life environment or situation. It immerses the user by making them feel like they are experiencing the simulated reality first-hand, primarily by stimulating their vision and hearing. Augmented reality (AR) on the other hand is a technology that layers computer-generated enhancements atop an existing reality in order to make it more meaningful through the ability to interact with it. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) transform the way individuals interact with each other and with software systems creating an immersive environment. Over time AR and VR will expand beyond visual immersion to include all human senses.  Enterprises are expected to look for targeted applications of VR and AR through 2020.

5. Digital Twin

A digital twin is a virtual model of a process, product or service. This pairing of the virtual and physical worlds allows analysis of data and monitoring of systems to head off problems before they even occur, prevent downtime, develop new opportunities and even plan for the future by using simulations. Within three to five years, billions of things will be represented by digital twins, a dynamic software model of a physical thing or system. Using physics data on how the components of a thing operate and respond to the environment as well as data provided by sensors in the physical world, a digital twin can be used to analyse and simulate real world conditions, responds to changes, improve operations and add value.  Digital twins of physical assets combined with digital representations of facilities and environments as well as people, businesses and processes will enable an increasingly detailed digital representation of the real world for simulation, analysis and control.

6. Blockchain
Blockchain is a type of distributed ledger in which value exchange transactions (in bitcoin or other token) are sequentially grouped into blocks. These digitally recorded "blocks" of data are stored in a linear chain. Each block in the chain contains data (e.g. bitcoin transaction), is cryptographically hashed. The blocks of hashed data draw upon the previous-block in the chain, ensuring all data in the overall "blockchain" has not been tampered with and remains unchanged. Blockchain and distributed-ledger concepts are gaining traction because they hold the promise of transforming industry operating models in industries such as music distribution, identify verification and title registry.

7. Conversational Systems

Conversational systems is a system that intends to converse with a human via language either spoken or written to assist, enable or entertain. In the near future, it will help the individuals to complete their tasks, find what they want and answer any questions as naturally as having a conversation anytime and anywhere. Conversational systems can range from simple informal, bidirectional text or voice conversations such as an answer to “What time is it?” to more complex interactions such as collecting oral testimony from crime witnesses to generate a sketch of a suspect. This is truly revolutionary in every aspect. Conversational Systems shift from a model where people adapt to computers to a model where the computer ‘hears’ and adapts to a person’s desired outcome.

8. Mesh App and Service Architecture

The  Mesh Apps and Service Architecture (MASA) refers to the design of solutions that link, mobile apps, web apps, desktop apps and IoT apps and their data, whether user or operational into a broad mesh of back-end services to create what users view as the “Application”. The mesh device has several mesh apps running with service architecture. The service architecture gives back-end cloud scalability while the device mesh provides front end experience. It is a multichannel solution architecture that leverages cloud and server less computing, containers and micro services as well as APIs and events to deliver modular, flexible and dynamic solutions.  Solutions ultimately support multiple users in multiple roles using multiple devices and communicating over multiple networks.

9. Digital Technology Platforms

Digital technology platforms are the building blocks for a digital business and are necessary to break into digital. The basic purpose of digital technology platform is that it should provide technology-enabled services to the business.  Every organization will have some mix of five digital technology platforms: Information systems, customer experience, analytics and intelligence, the Internet of Things and business ecosystems. The digital technology platforms are not only providing the much-needed conveniences to the individuals but also helping to scale our business to a new level of growth. The trending digital technology platforms are Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning, IoT, Data Analytics and Big Data, Conversational Systems etc.

10. Adaptive Security Architecture

The evolution of the intelligent digital mesh and digital technology platforms and application architectures means that security has to become fluid and adaptive. Security in the IoT environment is particularly challenging. Adaptive Security Architecture is a type of security measure that mainly applies to web services, as it allows service operators to take data protection to a whole new level. This technology analyses each incoming data packet and scan for any potential anomalies. If hundreds of thousands of user credentials are at risk, the software needs to respond to an anomalous behaviour within milliseconds in order to avoid any data leakage. Furthermore, ASA works by creating boundaries in the software in order to reduce the attack surface when a threat does arise. As a result, sensitive information is stored securely, without compromising convenience or accessibility. The way it works is by adapting to the environment the server is placed in.

Innovation in technology is emerging at a rapid pace and these are a few top technology trends of 2017 that have been the buzzwords for this year. All the above mentioned exciting tech trends of this year are worth looking forward to. These trends have the capability to change the way businesses work and transform the way we function.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

10 Steps to ensure you create a Company Culture that helps your Clients

-  “A company’s culture is the foundation for future innovation.”

Every company has its own culture, whether by design or by default. This culture expresses the personality of a corporation and is a reflection of a company’s beliefs, ethics, expectations, goals, values and its mission. This culture affects every aspect of the business including its relationship with other businesses and its relationship with its clients. A workplace should not be a place that people dread every day. On the contrary, employees should look forward to going to their place of work because they enjoy the challenges, their co-workers, and the atmosphere. While the work may be difficult, the culture shouldn’t add to the stress of the work.  

“Culture guides discretionary behaviour and it picks up where the employee handbook leaves off. Culture tells us how to respond to an unprecedented client request. It tells us whether to risk telling our bosses about our new ideas, and whether to surface or hide problems. Employees make hundreds of decisions on their own every day, and culture their guide. Culture tells us what to do when the CEO isn’t in the room, which is of course most of the time.”

How can we build a healthy company culture that benefits our clients?

1.    Employee Satisfaction
Employees who hate their jobs care less for the satisfaction of customers and the success of a company. By improving employee satisfaction, we can improve the interactions the employees have with their customers. Fair wages, vacation time, flexible scheduling when possible and a supportive management style can all alter corporate culture in a way that improves employee satisfaction, thus improving business relationships with the companies’ clients.

2.    Resource Availability & Skill Development
For the employees to bring out their best, it is imperative that they are made available all the possible resources that can help them improve their quality of work. It is extremely important to engage with the employees to know what they need in order to make their work more efficient and effective. The company must also ensure arming its employees with the relevant skills, either by sending them off-site, or by conducting webinars, meetings or training sessions which will help the employees to be better equipped to deal with the clients.

3.    Find a way to Communicate your Vision
It can’t be stressed enough how important communication is in order to create a healthy company culture. Whether it’s selling an idea to investors or selling a company’s culture to its employees, communication is one place where many leaders fall down on the job. If a leader is a great communicator, it’s pretty easy to get the culture moving in the right direction. It is paramount to find ways to share the company’s vision with the employees outside of our personal communication style to help them better communicate it to their respective clients. In a more conventional workplace, people function in isolation with limited communications which ultimately leads to developing a more perfunctory environment which leads to a bad client experience.

4.    Listening to the Employee’s Feedback
Employee-to-employer feedback is hugely underrated in companies of all sizes. It is of great importance to ask company employees how they feel about working for the company or what they like or dislike about it. It is also important to ask them for their suggestions on what can be done to improve the company’s work environment or what they would do differently if it were their company. Focusing on the employees needs and listening to them from time to time creates a positive corporate culture that ultimately translates into profitable business.

5.    Collaboration and Team Work
If we want to build a better work culture, collaboration should be an important part of every workday. This can be done by holding frequent brainstorming meetings and creating open spaces in the office where creativity can occur. Hanging up whiteboards, scheduling innovation retreats, and hiring people who dare to think out of the box. This helps people reach their full potential and there is also a better chance of the client’s problem being solved in a more efficient and innovative manner. The idea of accomplishing together as a team should be prevalent in a company’s work culture.

6.    Knowing that good decisions can come from anywhere
No one has all the answers. A company where only the management makes decisions and the employee’s impact on the business is minimal have a larger rate of attrition. Employees want to have a voice and a meaningful impact on the company and its direction. Knowing that good decisions can come from anywhere and expanding employee freedom are cornerstones of attracting talented individuals. Companies that build a culture where employees feel trusted and empowered to make decisions reap benefits. In a work culture like this team members take ownership of issues and work to resolve them in a positive manner which ultimately ensures a better client experience.

7.    Educated Employees Make For Educated Clients
Employees who know their company offerings inside - out are almost always among the most successful in their field. If a sales pitch is made by somebody who doesn’t really know what he is selling, it will weigh heavily on any decision to patronize that company for the second time. It literally pays to build internal training programs for your employees. It is important to make sure that the employees are not left in the dark about anything that can influence the customer’s experience. Employees should be equipped with informative resources such as articles or whitepapers to create better awareness. This way the company can ensure that correct information is transferred to the clients and they have no misconceptions. 

8.    Responsiveness to change
A well-developed culture brings a strikingly increased openness to change and the desire of the employees to make changes work. As trust and responsibility increases, employees don’t just initiate significant improvements in the ongoing operations but they also actively reach out to their environment, bringing forth an array of improved ideas and initiatives that make the company more market competitive. In a well-developed culture this information is smoothly connected to marketing and development.

9.    Creating a Reward based Career Progression Policy
Employees who worry about job security protect themselves first. When employees feel insecure about their jobs or operate within a false or misleading company culture, they prioritize saving their own jobs over solving customer problems. While it’s important to set ground rules, companies that want to achieve customer service excellence have to trust employees and give them incentives to do the right thing. It is important for them to feel like their place of work is safe and secure and they can focus on their work without always keeping a check on themselves.

10. Investing in Employee’s Passion
A company that invests in the passion of its employees can achieve a happy work force that turns an asset for the company. It is important to understand what each employee is interested in and then creating initiatives that help them pursue their interests. Engaging the employees in group activities and creating special interest groups generate team spirit and gives an opportunity to the employees to bond outside their place of work. It has been proven that when people are highly engaged with the company they work for, they are happier, more productive, loyal and enthusiastic about their work. This has a direct spin-off on the quality of their work, and when they are facing customers, their interactions with their customers are more relaxed and friendly. In fact, they will not only handle their customers better, but also take ownership of their work because they will take pride in what they do.

A common thread in all of these scenarios is that the employees develop and thrive in a culture that a company creates for its people which ultimately benefits the company. A company leader who wants to create a more collaborative, customer-focused workplace takes a look at each scenario and thinks about how his/her teams handle customer interactions and how they can create a company culture that can ultimately translate into a better business experience for its clients. This leader makes sure to give its employees the tools they need to effectively work together and solve problems, and ensures that they measure performance accurately to reward employees that work towards the company’s vision. It is believed that when you have the right tools and philosophy in place, you can start living your brand promise.