The convergence of “smart” microphones, new digital signal processing technology, voice recognition and natural language processing has opened the door for voice interfaces.  Let’s first define a “smart device”.

A smart device is an electronic device, generally connected to other devices or networks via different wireless protocols such as Bluetooth, NFC, Wi-Fi, 3G, etc., that can operate to some extent interactively and autonomously.

I am told by my youngest granddaughter that all the cool kids now have in-home, voice-activated devices like Amazon Echo or Google Home. These devices can play your favorite music, answer questions, read books, control home automation, and all those other things people thought the future was about in the 1960s. For the most part, the speech recognition of the devices works well; although you may find yourself with an extra dollhouse or two occasionally. (I do wonder if they speak “southern” but that’s another question for another day.)

A smart speaker is, essentially, a speaker with added internet connectivity and “smart assistant” voice-control functionality. The smart assistant is typically Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, both of which are independently managed by their parent companies and have been opened up for other third-parties to implement into their hardware. The idea is that the more people who bring these into their homes, the more Amazon and Google have a “space” in every abode where they’re always accessible.

Let me first state that my family does not, as yet, have a smart device but we may be inching in that direction.  If we look at numbers, we see the following projections:

  • 175 million smart devices will be installed in a majority of U.S. households by 2022 with at least seventy (70) million households having at least one smart speaker in their home. (Digital Voice Assistants Platforms, Revenues & Opportunities, 2017-2022. Juniper Research, November 2017.)
  • Amazon sold over eleven (11) million Alexa voice-controlled Amazon Echo devices in 2016. That number was expected to double for 2017. (Smart Home Devices Forecast, 2017 to 2022(US) Forester Research, October 2017.
  • Amazon Echo accounted for 70.6% of all voice-enabled speaker users in the United States in 2017, followed by Google Home at 23.8%. (eMarketer, April 2017)
  • In 2018, 38.5 million millennials are expected to use voice-enabled digital assistants—such as Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, Google Now and Microsoft Cortana—at least once per month. (eMarketer, April 2017.)
  • The growing smart speaker market is expected to hit 56.3 million shipments, globally in 2018. (Canalys Research, January 2018)
  • The United States will remain the most important market for smart speakers in 2018, with shipments expected to reach 38.4 million units. China is a distant second at 4.4 million units. (Canalys Research, April 2018.)

With that being the case, let’s now look at what smart speakers are now commercialized and available either as online purchases or retail markets:

  • Amazon Echo Spot–$114.99
  • Sonos One–$199.00
  • Google Home–$129.00
  • Amazon Echo Show–$179.99
  • Google Home Max–$399.00
  • Google Home Mini–$49.00
  • Fabriq Choros–$69.99
  • Amazon Echo (Second Generation) –$$84.99
  • Harman Kardon Evoke–$199.00
  • Amazon Echo Plus–$149.00

CONCLUSIONS:  If you are interested in purchasing one from the list above, I would definitely recommend you do your homework.  Investigate the services provided by a smart speaker to make sure you are getting what you desire.  Be aware that there will certainly be additional items enter the marketplace as time goes by.  GOOD LUCK.

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MOST HATED COMPANIES

February 3, 2018


The list of the “most hated American companies” was provided by KATE GIBSON in the MONEYWATCH web site, February 1, 2018, 2:20 PM.  The text and narrative is this author’s.

Corporate America is sometimes, but not always, blamed for a number of misdeeds, swindles, “let’s bash the little guy”, etc. behavior.  Many times, those charges are warranted.   You get the picture.   Given below, is a very quick list of the twenty (20) most hated U.S. companies.  This list is according to 24/7 Wall St., which took customer surveys, employee reviews and news events into account in devising its list: ( I might mention the list is in descending order so the most-egregious offender is at the bottom.

  • The Weinstein Company. I think we can all understand this one but I strongly believe most of the employees of The Weinstein Company are honest hard-working individuals who do their job on a daily basis.  One big problem—you CANNOT tell me the word did not get around relative to Weinstein’s activities.  Those who knew are definitely complicit and should be ashamed of themselves.  This includes those holier-than-thou- actresses and actors pretending not-to-know.
  • United Airlines. The Chicago-based carrier is still in the dog housewith customers after a video of a passenger being forcibly removed from his seat on an overbooked flight went viral last year. You simply do NOT treat individuals, much less customers, in the manner in which this guy was treated.  I wonder how much money United has lost due to the video?
  • Fake news, deceptive ads, invasion of privacy.  You get the picture and YET millions subscribe.  This post will be hyperlinked to Facebook to improve readership.  That’s about the only reason I use the website.
  • I don’t really know these birds but apparently the telecom, one of the nation’s biggest internet and telephone service providers, reportedly gets poor reviews from customers and employees alike. I think that just might be said for many of the telecoms.
  • This one baffles me to a great extent but the chemical company has drawn public ire at a lengthy list of harmful products, including DDT, PCBs and Agent Orange. Most recently, it’s accused of causing cancer in hundreds exposed to its weed killer, Roundup.
  • I’m a Comcast subscriber and let me tell you their customer service is the WORST. They are terrible.  Enough said.
  • I have taken Uber multiple times with great success but there are individuals who have been harassed.  Hit by complaints of sexual harassment at the company and a video of its then-CEO Travis Kalanick arguing with an Uber driver, the company last year faced a slew of lawsuit and saw 13 executives resign, including Kalanick.
  • Sears Holdings. Sears plans to close more than one hundred (100) additional stores through the spring of 2018, with the count of Sears and Kmart stores already down to under 1,300 from 3,467 in 2007. Apparently, customer satisfaction is a huge problem also.  The retail giant needs a facelift and considerable management help to stay viable in this digital on-line-ordering world.
  • Trump Organization.  At this point in time, Donald Trumpis the least popular president in U.S. history, with a thirty-five (35) percent approval rating at the end of December. That disapproval extends to the Trump brand, which includes golf courses, a hotel chain and real estate holdings around the globe. One again, I suspect that most of the employees working for “the Donald” are honest hard-working individuals.
  • Wells Fargo. At one time, I had a Wells Fargo business account. NEVER AGAIN. I won’t go into detail.
  • The insurance industry is not exactly beloved, and allegations of fraud have not helped Cigna’s case. Multiple lawsuits allege the company inflated medical costs and overcharged customers.
  • Spirit Airlines. I’ve flown Spirit Airlines and you get what you pay for. I do not know why customers do not know that but it is always the case.  You want to be treated fairly, fly with other carriers.
  • Vice Media The media organization has lately been roiled by allegations of systemic sexual harassment, dating back to 2003. One of these day some bright individual in the corporate offices will understand you must value your employees.
  • The telecom gets knocked for poor customer experiences that could in part be due to service, with Sprint getting low grades for speed and data, as well as calling, texting and overall reliability.
  • Foxconn Technology Group. Once again, I’m not that familiar with Foxconn Technology Group. The company makes and assembles consumer electronics for entities including Apple and Nintendo. It’s also caught attention for poor working and living conditions after a series of employee suicides at a compound in China. It recently drew negative press for a planned complex in Wisconsin.
  • Electronic Arts. The video-game maker known for its successful franchises is also viewed poorly by gamers for buying smaller studios or operations for a specific game and then taking away its originality.
  • University of Phoenix. I would expect every potential student wishing to go on-line for training courses do their homework relative to the most-desirable provider. The University of Phoenix does a commendable job in advertising but apparently there are multiple complaints concerning the quality of services.
  • I’m a little burned out with the NFL right now. My Falcons and Titans have had a rough year and I’m ready to move on to baseball. Each club sets their own spring training reporting dates each year, though all camps open the same week. Pitchers and catchers always arrive first. The position players don’t have to show up until a few days later. Here are this year’s reporting dates for the 15 Cactus League teams, the teams that hold spring training in Arizona.
  • Fox Entertainment Group. If you do not like the channel—do something else.  I bounce back and forth across the various schedules to find something I really obtain value-added from.  The Food Network, the History Channel, SEC Network.  You choose.  There are hundreds of channels to take a look at.
  • The consumer credit reporting was hit by a massive hack last year, exposing the personal data of more than 145 million Americans and putting them at risk of identity theft. Arguably worse, the company sat on the information for a month before letting the public know.

CONCLUSIONS:  In looking at this survey, there are companies that deserve their most-hated-status and, in my opinion, some that do not.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  As always, I welcome your comments.


OKAY first, let us define “OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE” as follows:

Open-source software (OSS) is computer software with its source-code made available with a license in which the copyright holder provides the rights to study, change, and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose. Open-source software may be developed in a collaborative public manner. The benefits include:

  • COST—Generally, open source software if free.
  • FLEXIBILITY—Computer specialists can alter the software to fit their needs for the program(s) they are writing code for.
  • FREEDOM—Generally, no issues with patents or copyrights.
  • SECURITY—The one issue with security is using open source software and embedded code due to compatibility issues.
  • ACCOUNTABILITY—Once again, there are no issues with accountability and producers of the code are known.

A very detailed article written by Jacob Beningo has seven (7) excellent points for avoiding, like the plague, open source software.  Given below are his arguments.

REASON 1—LACKS TRACEABLE SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT LIFE CYCLE–Open source software usually starts with an ingenious developer working out their garage or basement hoping to create code that is very functional and useful. Eventually multiple developers with spare time on their hands get involved. The software evolves but it doesn’t really follow a traceable design cycle or even follow best practices. These various developers implement what they want or push the code in the direction that meets their needs. The result is software that works in limited situations and circumstances and users need to cross their fingers and pray that their needs and conditions match them.

REASON 2—DESIGNED FOR FUNCTIONALITY AND NOT ROBUSTNESS–Open source software is often written for functionality only. Accessed and written to an SD card for communication over USB connections. The issue here is that while it functions the code, it generally is not robust and is never designed to anticipate issues.  This is rarely the case and while the software is free, very quickly developers can find that their open source software is just functional and can’t stand up to real-world pressures. Developers will find themselves having to dig through unknown terrain trying to figure out how best to improve or handle errors that weren’t expected by the original developers.

REASON 3—ACCIDENTIALLY EXPOSING CONFIDENTIAL INTELLECTURAL PROPERTY–There are several different licensing schemes that open source software developers use. Some really do give away the farm; however, there are also licenses that require any modifications or even associated software to be released as open source. If close attention is not being paid, a developer could find themselves having to release confidential code and algorithms to the world. Free software just cost the company in revealing the code or if they want to be protected, they now need to spend money on attorney fees to make sure that they aren’t giving it all away by using “free” software.

REASON 4—LACKING AUTOMATED AND/OR MANUAL TESTING–A formalized testing process, especially automated tests are critical to ensuring that a code base is robust and has sufficient quality to meet its needs. I’ve seen open source Python projects that include automated testing which is encouraging but for low level firmware and embedded systems we seem to still lag behind the rest of the software industry. Without automated tests, we have no way to know if integrating that open source component broke something in it that we won’t notice until we go to production.

REASON 5—POOR DOCUMENTATION OR DOCUMENTATION THAT IS LACKING COMPLETELY–Documentation has been getting better among open source projects that have been around for a long time or that have strong commercial backing. Smaller projects though that are driven by individuals tend to have little to no documentation. If the open source code doesn’t have documentation, putting it into practice or debugging it is going to be a nightmare and more expensive than just getting commercial or industrial-grade software.

REASON 6—REAL-TIME SUPPORT IS LACKING–There are few things more frustrating than doing everything you can to get something to work or debugged and you just hit the wall. When this happens, the best way to resolve the issue is to get support. The problem with open source is that there is no guarantee that you will get the support you need in a timely manner to resolve any issues. Sure, there are forums and social media to request help but those are manned by people giving up their free time to help solve problems. If they don’t have the time to dig into a problem, or the problem isn’t interesting or is too complex, then the developer is on their own.

REASON 7—INTEGRATION IS NEVER AS EASY AS IT SEEMS–The website was found; the demonstration video was awesome. This is the component to use. Look at how easy it is! The source is downloaded and the integration begins. Months later, integration is still going on. What appeared easy quickly turned complex because the same platform or toolchain wasn’t being used. “Minor” modifications had to be made. The rabbit hole just keeps getting deeper but after this much time has been sunk into the integration, it cannot be for naught.

CONCLUSIONS:

I personally am by no means completely against open source software. It’s been extremely helpful and beneficial in certain circumstances. I have used open source, namely JAVA, as embedded software for several programs I have written.   It’s important though not to just use software because it’s free.  Developers need to recognize their requirements, needs, and level of robustness that required for their product and appropriately develop or source software that meets those needs rather than blindly selecting software because it’s “free.”  IN OTHER WORDS—BE CAREFUL!

HACKED OFF

October 2, 2017


Portions of this post are taken from an article by Rob Spiegel of Design News Daily.

You can now anonymously hire a cybercriminal online for as little as six to ten dollars ($6 to $10) per hour, says Rodney Joffe, senior vice president at Neustar, a cybersecurity company. As it becomes easier to engineer such attacks, with costs falling, more businesses are getting targeted. About thirty-two (32) percent of information technology professionals surveyed said DDoS attacks cost their companies $100,000 an hour or more. That percentage is up from thirty (30) percent reported in 2014, according to Neustar’s survey of over 500 high-level IT professionals. The data was released Monday.

Hackers are costing consumers and companies between $375 and $575 billion, annually, according to a study published this past Monday, a number only expected to grow as online information stealing expands with increased Internet use.  This number blows my mind.   I actually had no idea the costs were so great.  Great and increasing.

Online crime is estimated at 0.8 percent of worldwide GDP, with developed countries in regions including North America and Europe losing more than countries in Latin American or Africa, according to the new study published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and funded by cybersecurity firm McAfee.

That amount rivals the amount of worldwide GDP – 0.9 percent – that is spent on managing the narcotics trade. This difference in costs for developed nations may be due to better accounting or transparency in developed nations, as the cost of online crime can be difficult to measure and some companies do not do disclose when they are hacked for fear of damage to their reputations, the report said.

Cyber attacks have changed in recent years. Gone are the days when relatively benign bedroom hackers entered organizations to show off their skills.  No longer is it a guy in the basement of his or her mom’s home eating Doritos.  Attackers now are often sophisticated criminals who target employees who have access to the organization’s jewels. Instead of using blunt force, these savvy criminals use age-old human fallibility to con unwitting employees into handing over the keys to the vault.  Professional criminals like the crime opportunities they’ve found on the internet. It’s far less dangerous than slinging guns. Cybersecurity is getting worse. Criminal gangs have discovered they can carry out crime more effectively over the internet, and there’s less chance of getting caught.   Hacking individual employees is often the easiest way into a company.  One of the cheapest and most effective ways to target an organization is to target its people. Attackers use psychological tricks that have been used throughout mankind.   Using the internet, con tricks can be carried out on a large scale. The criminals do reconnaissance to find out about targets over email. Then they effectively take advantage of key human traits.

One common attack comes as an email impersonating a CEO or supplier. The email looks like it came from your boss or a regular supplier, but it’s actually targeted to a specific professional in the organization.   The email might say, ‘We’ve acquire a new organization. We need to pay them. We need the company’s bank details, and we need to keep this quiet so it won’t affect our stock price.’ The email will go on to say, ‘We only trust you, and you need to do this immediately.’ The email comes from a criminal, using triggers like flattery, saying, ‘You’re the most trusted individual in the organization.’ The criminals play on authority and create the panic of time pressure. Believe it or not, my consulting company has gotten these messages. The most recent being a hack from Experian.

Even long-term attacks can be launched by using this tactic of a CEO message. “A company in Malaysia received kits purporting to come from the CEO.  The users were told the kit needed to be installed. It took months before the company found out it didn’t come from the CEO at all.

Instead of increased technology, some of the new hackers are deploying the classic con moves, playing against personal foibles. They are taking advantage of those base aspects of human nature and how we’re taught to behave.   We have to make sure we have better awareness. For cybersecurity to be engaging, you have to have an impact.

As well as entering the email stream, hackers are identifying the personal interests of victims on social media. Every kind of media is used for attacks. Social media is used to carry out reconnaissance, to identify targets and learn about them.  Users need to see what attackers can find out about them on Twitter or Facebook. The trick hackers use is to pretend they know the target. Then the get closes through personal interaction on social media. You can look at an organization on Twitter and see who works in finance. Then they take a good look across social platform to find those individuals on social media to see if they go to a class each week or if they traveled to Iceland in 1996.  You can put together a spear-phishing program where you say, Hey I went on this trip with you.

CONCLUSIONS:

The counter-action to personal hacking is education and awareness. The company can identify potential weaknesses and potential targets and then change the vulnerable aspects of the corporate environment.  We have to look at the culture of the organization. Those who are under pressure are targets. They don’t have time to study each email they get. We also have to discourage reliance on email.   Hackers also exploit the culture of fear, where people are punished for their mistakes. Those are the people most in danger. We need to create a culture where if someone makes a mistake, they can immediately come forward. The quicker someone comes forward, the quicker we can deal with it.

THE NEXT FIVE (5) YEARS

February 15, 2017


As you well know, there are many projections relative to economies, stock market, sports teams, entertainment, politics, technology, etc.   People the world over have given their projections for what might happen in 2017.  The world of computing technology is absolutely no different.  Certain information for this post is taken from the publication “COMPUTER.org/computer” web site.  These guys are pretty good at projections and have been correct multiple times over the past two decades.  They take their information from the IEEE.

The IEEE Computer Society is the world’s leading membership organization dedicated to computer science and technology. Serving more than 60,000 members, the IEEE Computer Society is the trusted information, networking, and career-development source for a global community of technology leaders that includes researchers, educators, software engineers, IT professionals, employers, and students.  In addition to conferences and publishing, the IEEE Computer Society is a leader in professional education and training, and has forged development and provider partnerships with major institutions and corporations internationally. These rich, self-selected, and self-paced programs help companies improve the quality of their technical staff and attract top talent while reducing costs.

With these credentials, you might expect them to be on the cutting edge of computer technology and development and be ahead of the curve as far as computer technology projections.  Let’s take a look.  Some of this absolutely blows me away.

human-brain-interface

This effort first started within the medical profession and is continuing as research progresses.  It’s taken time but after more than a decade of engineering work, researchers at Brown University and a Utah company, Blackrock Microsystems, have commercialized a wireless device that can be attached to a person’s skull and transmit via radio thought commands collected from a brain implant. Blackrock says it will seek clearance for the system from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, so that the mental remote control can be tested in volunteers, possibly as soon as this year.

The device was developed by a consortium, called BrainGate, which is based at Brown and was among the first to place implants in the brains of paralyzed people and show that electrical signals emitted by neurons inside the cortex could be recorded, then used to steer a wheelchair or direct a robotic arm (see “Implanting Hope”).

A major limit to these provocative experiments has been that patients can only use the prosthetic with the help of a crew of laboratory assistants. The brain signals are collected through a cable screwed into a port on their skull, then fed along wires to a bulky rack of signal processors. “Using this in the home setting is inconceivable or impractical when you are tethered to a bunch of electronics,” says Arto Nurmikko, the Brown professor of engineering who led the design and fabrication of the wireless system.

capabilities-hardware-projection

Unless you have been living in a tree house for the last twenty years you know digital security is a huge problem.  IT professionals and companies writing code will definitely continue working on how to make our digital world more secure.  That is a given.

exascale

We can forget Moor’s Law which refers to an observation made by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore in 1965. He noticed that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits had doubled every year since their invention.  Moore’s law predicts that this trend will continue into the foreseeable future. Although the pace has slowed, the number of transistors per square inch has since doubled approximately every 18 months. This is used as the current definition of Moore’s law.  We are well beyond that with processing speed literally progressing at “warp six”.

non-volitile-memory

If you are an old guy like me, you can remember when computer memory costs an arm and a leg.  Take a look at the JPEG below and you get an idea as to how memory costs has decreased over the years.

hard-drive-cost-per-gbyte

As you can see, costs have dropped remarkably over the years.

photonics

texts-for-photonoics

power-conservative-multicores

text-for-power-conservative-multicores

CONCLUSION:

If you combine the above predictions with 1.) Big Data, 2.) Internet of Things (IoT), 3.) Wearable Technology, 4.) Manufacturing 4.0, 5.) Biometrics, and other fast-moving technologies you have a world in which “only the adventurous thrive”.  If you do not like change, I recommend you enroll in a monastery.  You will not survive gracefully without technology on the rampage. Just a thought.


Forbes Magazine recently published what they consider to be the top ten (10) trends in technology.  It’s a very interesting list and I could not argue with any item. The writer of the Forbes article is David W. Cearley.  Mr. Cearley is the vice president and Gartner Fellow at Gartner.  He specializes in analyzing emerging and strategic business and technology trends and explores how these trends shape the way individuals and companies derive value from technology.   Let’s take a quick look.

  • DEVICE MESH—This trend takes us far beyond our desktop PC, Tablet or even our cell phone.  The trend encompasses the full range of endpoints with which humans might interact. In other words, just about anything you interact with could possibly be linked to the internet for instant access.  This could mean individual devices interacting with each other in a fashion desired by user programming.  Machine to machine, M2M.
  • AMBIENT USER EXPERIENCE–All of our digital interactions can become synchronized into a continuous and ambient digital experience that preserves our experience across traditional boundaries of devices, time and space. The experience blends physical, virtual and electronic environments, and uses real-time contextual information as the ambient environment changes or as the user moves from one place to another.
  • 3-D PRINTING MATERIALS—If you are not familiar with “additive manufacturing” you are really missing a fabulous technology. Right now, 3-D Printing is somewhat in its infancy but progress is not just weekly or monthly but daily.  The range of materials that can be used for the printing process improves in a remarkable manner. You really need to look into this.
  • INFORMATION OF EVERYTHING— Everything surrounding us in the digital mesh is producing, using and communicating with virtually unmeasurable amounts of information. Organizations must learn how to identify what information provides strategic value, how to access data from different sources, and explore how algorithms leverage Information of Everything to fuel new business designs. I’m sure by now you have heard of “big data”.  Information of everything will provide mountains of data that must be sifted through so usable “stuff” results.  This will continue to be an ever-increasing task for programmers.
  • ADVANCED MACHINE LEARNING– Rise of the Machines.  Machines talking to each other and learning from each other.  (Maybe a little more frightening that it should be.) Advanced machine learning gives rise to a spectrum of smart machine implementations — including robots, autonomous vehicles, virtual personal assistants (VPAs) and smart advisors — that act in an autonomous (or at least semiautonomous) manner. This feeds into the ambient user experience in which an autonomous agent becomes the main user interface. Instead of interacting with menus, forms and buttons on a smartphone, the user speaks to an app, which is really an intelligent agent.
  • ADAPTIVE SECURITY ARCHITECTURE— The complexities of digital business and the algorithmic economy, combined with an emerging “hacker industry,” significantly increase the threat surface for an organization. IT leaders must focus on detecting and responding to threats, as well as more traditional blocking and other measures to prevent attacks. I don’t know if you have ever had your identity stolen but it is NOT fun.  Corrections are definitely time-consuming.
  • ADVANCED SYSTEM ARCHITECTURE–The digital mesh and smart machines require intense computing architecture demands to make them viable for organizations. They’ll get this added boost from ultra-efficient-neuromorphic architectures. Systems built on graphics processing units (GPUs) and field-programmable gate-arrays (FPGAs) will function more like human brains that are particularly suited to be applied to deep learning and other pattern-matching algorithms that smart machines use. FPGA-based architecture will allow distribution with less power into the tiniest Internet of Things (IoT) endpoints, such as homes, cars, wristwatches and even human beings.
  • Mesh App and Service ArchitectureThe mesh app and service architecture are what enable delivery of apps and services to the flexible and dynamic environment of the digital mesh. This architecture will serve users’ requirements as they vary over time. It brings together the many information sources, devices, apps, services and microservices into a flexible architecture in which apps extend across multiple endpoint devices and can coordinate with one another to produce a continuous digital experience.
  • INTERNET OF THINGS (IoT) and ARCHITECTURE PLATFORMS– IoT platforms exist behind the mesh app and service architecture. The technologies and standards in the IoT platform form a base set of capabilities for communicating, controlling, managing and securing endpoints in the IoT. The platforms aggregate data from endpoints behind the scenes from an architectural and a technology standpoint to make the IoT a reality.
  • Autonomous Agents and ThingsAdvanced machine learning gives rise to a spectrum of smart machine implementations — including robots, autonomous vehicles, virtual personal assistants (VPAs) and smart advisors — that act in an autonomous (or at least semiautonomous) manner. This feeds into the ambient user experience in which an autonomous agent becomes the main user interface. Instead of interacting with menus, forms and buttons on a smartphone, the user speaks to an app, which is really an intelligent agent.

CONCLUSIONS:  You have certainly noticed by now that ALL of the trends, with the exception of 3-D Printing are rooted in Internet access and Internet protocols.  We are headed towards a totally connected world in which our every move is traceable.  Traceable unless we choose to fly under the radar.

IOT

September 17, 2016


The graphic for this post is taken from the article “The IoT is Not a DIY Project”, Desktop Engineering, June 16, 2016.

OK, I’m connected.  Are you really?  Do you know what completely connected means?  Well, it does appear the numbers are truly in.  The world’s top research firms and business technology prognosticators all agree that the Internet of Things or IoT, is growing at an amazing pace.  This very fact indicates there are new revenue models for business that any executive would be extremely foolish to ignore.  The possibilities for additional revenue streams is staggering. Every design engineering team across the globe has been asked to design products that build connectivity into their structures and operating environments.  Can your product “talk to and through the internet”?   To prove a point, let’s look at several numbers that represent reality.

by-the-numbers

This IoT chart indicates where we are and where we might be going over the next few years and decades. Over six and one-half billion, (6.6 billion) connected “things” by the end of 2015.  Everything from refrigerators to automobiles is in the process of being connected or will be connected to the internet.  This connectivity allows communication from the device to the user of the device.  This connectivity can tie the device to GPS tracking, thereby detailing its location down to mere feet, if not inches. (NOTE:  The desirability of this feature is somewhat in question but it is definitely possible.)

Imagine, $1.3 TRILLION in world spending by 2019 to accomplish connectivity of hardware with the internet.  This is a prediction by IDC Technologies. (IDC Technologies, Inc. is a Premier Technology Services Organization with primary focus in IT services. A very capable organization devoted to following IT services and market demands for IT services.)  This huge number reflects the fact, as shown above, that forty percent (40%) of the top one hundred (100) discrete manufacturers will rely on connected products to provide equipment and services to customers by 2018.

Now, connectivity does not come freely or without barriers. Some of these are as follows:

  • THE NEED: It’s all about the business. IoT is a classic example of organizations needing to take a step back and determine whether there is a strong business case for pursuing IoT before they get on board with implementation. Championing IoT simply because it’s the latest technology may be enough for engineers, but it means nothing to customers or the company’s financials unless there is a smart business strategy to back it up. The customer DRIVES incorporation of IoT into your product or your service.  If the entity does not need IoT—DON’T DO IT.  Who need a refrigerator that communicates with the internet?  Maybe yes—maybe no.
  • Resources don’t come cheap. IoT commands a great deal of expertise in areas where most companies are lacking. By some estimates, it can take over one hundred and fifty (150) months of manpower and an investment in eleven (11) unique long-term roles to sufficiently develop and support a full IoT-connected product development stack. Most companies evaluating the IoT space aren’t software development or connectivity experts and would be better served focusing engineering resources on core competencies. IoT for even the largest company is a definite commitment.  You probably cannot do-it-yourself in your spare time.  Don’t even think about it.
  • Growing pains come with scale. Even if the initial IoT implementation goes off without a hitch, scaling the system to accommodate a larger universe of “things,” additional features and product lines typically brings new, unanticipated challenges. It’s critical to make sure your system design is future-proofed from the start, and building for scale adds complexity to an already complex project. Plan for the future and future expansion of IoT.  Things in the business world generally increase if immediate success or even partial success is accomplished.
  • Security is a top concern. There are multiple vulnerability points in an IoT system, and many engineering organizations don’t have the internal expertise to address them sufficiently. Rather than staffing up a dedicated security organization, companies should consider aligning with external partners with proven, connected product security expertise. To me, this is the greatest concern. We read every day about web sites and digital systems being hacked.  It still represents a HUGE problem with the internet.  Encryption to lessen or eliminate hacking is a definite need.
  • Identity management challenges. Related to security, this is a critical step to ensuring users can control their own IoT devices, and there are limitations on who can make changes or initiate updates. Again, it’s an area where many engineering organizations lack sufficient competency.
  • Data deluge. Connected products spin off a massive amount of data, which requires competency in data management practices and new Big Data technologies. Not only that, but the IoT data needs to be organized and integrated into existing business systems. For engineering organizations light on data management manpower, this can be a problem, not to mention, a huge impediment to the success of any connected business. Data organization is the great need here.  Mountains of data can result from IoT.  Determine what data you need to further your business and improve customer service.  I feel the 80/20 rule might apply here.
  • Long-term maintenance. If you build an IoT system on your own, you’re probably going to have to support it on your own, which requires an additional investment in manpower. A system built in-house will require frequent updates over the course of its lifetime, which can quickly eat up entire budgets and consume already stretched engineering resources. Remember, if you build an IoT system you MUST maintain that system—always.
  • Time-to-revenue delays. It takes time and effort to build these systems from scratch, and every hour spent on engineering prolongs development and increases the time-to-market cycle. Companies trying to ride the IoT wave need to get products into the hands of customers as soon as possible to stay abreast of competition and maximize financial gain. I cannot stress too much the need for focus teams inquiring from potential customers their wants and desires relative to incorporating connectivity into products and services.  Ask your customers up front what they want.
  • On-going interoperability requirements. Maintaining full control of the IoT technology stack also means being responsible for on-going integration requests and keeping up with continuously changing standards. As the connected product business matures, this can be a lot of work that could be handled more efficiently by a third party.
  • Service distractions. The work involved in managing in-house solutions can distract from one of the more important advantages of IoT: Gaining a picture of product usage and customer requirements that can be leveraged for optimized, proactive service. If companies are spending all their time troubleshooting their own IoT hardware and software, they have less time to devote to customers’ problems or growing their IoT-enabled business.

If I were a stock trader doing business with the markets on a daily basis, I certainly would address those companies “folding into” and providing services to IoT methodologies.  Also, businesses need to listen to their customers a gauge the importance of incorporating internet connectivity into the products and services they provide.  This, apparently, is the way business is going and so as not to be left out or lose your customer base, you may have to yield to the wishes of your clients.  Just a thought.

As always, I welcome your comments.

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