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February 13, 2015

POV on Architecture for Internet of Things

1.0 Introduction:

This article embodies the architectural thoughts on Internet of Things for Architects and developers. The aim of this paper is to provide a base architecture that covers challenges and main requirements of IOT projects and systems - devices, server side, cloud based services, third party integration that interact with and manage the devices.

1.1  What is Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a scenario in which objects, animals or people are provided with unique identifiers and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. IoT has evolved from the convergence of wireless technologies, micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) and the Internet.

 

A thing, in the Internet of Things, can be a person with a heart monitor implant, a farm animal with a biochip transponder, an automobile that has built-in sensors to alert the driver when tire pressure is low -- or any other natural or man-made object that can be assigned an IP address and provided with the ability to transfer data over a network. So far, the Internet of Things has been most closely associated with machine-to-machine (M2M) communication in manufacturing and power, oil and gas utilities. Products built with M2M communication capabilities are often referred to as being smart. ( smart label, smart meter, smart grid sensor)

 

1.2  Devices

The simplest devices have embedded controllers - they have no operating system
Devices with 32-bit system that can support OS - such as Linux
Devices with 32 bit/64 bit computer platforms such as a wearable watch that can connect to internet and support 2 way communication
Devices that communicates to gateways; these gateways perform filtering, aggregation, event processing

The way devices communicate with gateways/internet could be based on:

Ethernet, WiFi using TCP/IP or UDP, MQTT, http, CoAP

UART, SPI/ I2C

Near Field Communication(NFC)

Zigbee and mesh networks in RF, blue tooth

Modbus

Low Power Bluetooth technology

SRF


2.0 Challenges

We have to address the obstacles to the connection to the devices - Firewalls, Network Address Translation (NAT) and other obstacles on the way.

There could be issues in connectivity of devices due to internet connectivity, battery life, RF interferences, simply being switched off, physical security/damage etc.,

There is plethora of protocols, vendors in this space. Inter-operability among these and derive the required data from these could be a challenge.


3.0 Key Requirements:

·        Device management - remote provisioning and upgrade of firmware/software.

·        Device security is mandatory - only the authorized personnel should have access to the information from the devices. Also, lock and isolation of impaired/hijacked devices should be supported.

·        Ability to process live stream of data and apply configurable complex event processing/rules on the incoming data to respond real time/near real time.

·        Support for time series data and transformation of data to the granularity required for reporting.

·        Leverage existing open/marketplace API's, technologies - should have a loosely coupled architecture, where we can plug/play/replace these components.

·        Multi modal communication API's - support for tablets, mobiles, web applications and other third party integration.

·        We need an architecture that scales well (horizontal) with addition of devices; should have high availability and fault tolerance features. Should support cloud hosting.

 

4.0 Architecture:

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4.1 Device Layer:

Sensors, Actuators, Bar code reader, RFID readers, wearable, smart meters, GPS locators, mobile phones, google glass, biometric sensors, drones are examples of devices in this layer. They communicate in various protocols covered in Section 1.2. Gateways can act as protocol translators, data aggregators, data cache (where connectivity is intermittent).

 

4.2 Data Ingest/Processing Layer:

The data from the devices is accessed over various protocols as mentioned above and protocols with lowest overhead over payload - MQTT and CoAP are clear winners on this account.

We can have an implementation of Agent Hub running in the device/gateway layer, which would collect the data from devices and send it over to a Central Registry (which is the case with Bosch M2M platform) in the ingest layer. 

We need a filter, adapter, transformation are part of data ingestion; Complex event processing (CEP), Business process Modeling (BPM), Business Rules Modeling (BRM) are in the Processing layer. A pub/sub model is best for handling data at this layer. Choices could be ActiveMQ, RabbitMQ or cloud bases offerings such as SQS. CEP is available in many flavors - open source tools such as WS02, ESPER; enterprise tools from Oracle etc; also, Storm/Spark from Hadoop world. Data in flight Analytics using R or any other similar tool can be done in this layer. Volume/Variety will decide the selection of tools in this layer.

4.3 Data Storage and Access Layer

SQL and NoSQL data bases are candidates for storing data. Depending on the volume HDFS can be used as well.

Recommended data access to the consuming applications is over REST API. This layer of abstraction enables access across different data sources.

4.4 Applications

Employee health and Safety, Remote Monitoring, Track and Trace, Traceability, Predictive Maintenance, Risk/Fraud Analytics, Digital Farming, Industry 4.0, Connected Vehicle Technology, Smart Home/Factory/Warehouse/City are some of the applications in this space.

4.5 QoS/Monitoring

he Quality of Service is across all the layers - it should support non-real time, soft real time, hard real time depending on the application requirement. Architecture should support measuring the latency, data loss, ability to handle duplicate data, late arriving data, identify error in data. Instrumentation should be provided in all the services in the system that is capable of reporting the health, resource utilization, efficiency etc.,

 4.6 Security

Security risks associated with using inherent internet and risks that are associated with IoT devices should be addressed. Best practices such as encryption, Identity and access management with OAuth/OAuth2 (tokens rather than username/password) are suggested. XACML based Attribute/Policy based Access control are appropriate.   

5.0 Conclusion:

This article covers the overview architecture of internet of things. We will elaborate on the individual layers of the architecture in the coming articles.

January 8, 2015

The Re-dawning of Business Intelligence

That the Business Intelligence world is being disrupted with new technologies is now common knowledge. However, very few businesses & their BI groups have a holistic view and roadmap to embrace this change. All have few specific new capabilities in mind and here is an opportunity to apply the Infosys 'New and Renew' Strategy to enable BI in your organizations take the next leap.

 

So, firstly let's assess what are we hearing from various stakeholders and the wider BI market:

 

Our Customers:  We need BI to be agile, responsive, trustworthy, cost efficient, easy to adopt and make the right strategic business impact quickly

 

Infosys Experience from Engagements:  Need to Reduce time to insights, bring in some unique assets to accelerate programs, Align customers to industry best practices and need for clear engagement charter in terms of business value and capabilities within an agile delivery model.

 

Industry Analysts:  Analysts like Gartner, Forrester emphasize need for different pricing models, expand BI usage thru' the enterprise, leverage cloud/big data/mobility/advanced visualization etc. They expect avg. BI market growth to be 10% ; 70% of which will still be IT controlled;  Analytics to command 20% of those budgets and rest on Query/integration and reporting.

 

Given these key learning's, the new vision at Manufacturing BI is 'To transform our customers from today's data driven to Analytics driven Enterprises enabled by Rapid, Deep and Actionable Insights'.

 

In order to enable 'Rapid, Deep and Actionable Insights', the following offerings are being planned:

 

Analytics Driven Enterprises: The goal is to help enterprises transform from traditional data driven to analytics driven organizations. This is to be enabled by an Analytics adoption framework that helps make the right analytics investments that matter, 'Leverage-your-data' initiatives to take a deep look at available data & innovate to make strategic use of it and Predictive & Descriptive modeling services driven actionable insights for Manufacturing & Hi-Tech relevant areas like Supply chain optimizations, Personalized customer service, sales, marketing and finance analytics functions.


Responsive Business Intelligence:  This includes unique data exploration Services, Self-service BI capabilities, Persona based KPI solutions, Adv. Visualization tools driven data analysis, Reporting Factories, Data Virtualization and agile delivery models.

 

Big Data Enabled Insights: The above vision of transforming organizations into Analytics Driven Organization will be deepened by leveraging Infosys Information Platform (IIP)  for Predictive maintenance, Manufacturing Quality Analytics, Strategic sales opportunity management, IoT driven usage & health analytics, Agro research, Intelligent Asset mgmt., Customer insights etc.

 

For any of the above to be impactful, Our goal is to help customers have a solid backbone in terms of 'Amplified & Efficient Data Operations'. Some of the offerings towards these are:

 

Landscape Modernization:  Help our customers renew/modernize their existing landscapes with  BI tools consolidation and re-platforming, upgrades, big data migrations, clean & conformed Master data mgmt. strategies, Data quality improvements and implementation accelerators for productive COE's.

     

High Performance Computing: Leverage high performance tools based on in-memory , columnar stores, other No-SQL stores to renew existing systems needing such high performance e.g supply chain visibility, Financial consolidations, Just-in-time offers, Asset management and real-time enterprise data warehouses.

 

Amplified Data Warehousing: Existing data warehouses augmented with Hadoop based platforms to reduce turnaround time for multi-structured, high velocity datasets needed for insights. This can also be leveraged to reduce the fast escalating cost of data warehousing.

 

Manufacturing BI believes this dual strategy of transforming organizations from data driven to Analytics driven enterprises and creating an amplified & efficient data backbone will help next gen enterprises stay ahead in the marketplace & outperform today's run-of-the-mill BI Maturity curves. 

January 1, 2015

Predictive service maintenance - A step ahead

 Author: Alpesh Chauhan, CRM Lead Consultant, Manufacturing, Infosys Ltd.

 

Proactive service maintenance is not just limited to preventive maintenance but it is also includes predictive maintenance. Service management is usually associated with negative experience as customer contacts service provider when product has some issues. But it can be turned in to positive experience if services are handled carefully and promptly, which can result in lesser asset down time and faster service resolution. That's why, it can be an opportunity for service provider to convert bad customer experience into a good experience. Of course, it is not easy task and risk is always high as if service provider is not able to provide better service, customer is gone forever and he may provide negative feedback for your products/services.

 

Continue reading "Predictive service maintenance - A step ahead" »

November 25, 2014

I love your connected car but I am not paying

 

It is a well-known fact that one of the top most challenges that the auto industry is facing in pushing the connected car is in getting customers to pay for connectivity services within the car. A recent McKinsey report on connected car states through its survey that, though more than 25% of buyers had prioritized internet connectivity over features such as mileage and engine power, not many were ready to pay for smartphone integration or for in-car subscription services. This is a deadlock that will hinder growth and cast unnecessary apprehensions during this new technology adoption. OEMs will want to pass the additional (and recurring) connectivity cost and subscription charges to the customer and customers would want everything for free. This is a classical stand-off as seen umpteen number of times with new technology. And there's always one winner - the customer.

I am reminded of the TV show on National Geographic channel about the migration of wild beast in the Sahara. There comes a point when the first batch of wild beast standing at the edge of the river and staring at the hungry crocodiles and surging river are no longer able to contain the push and pressure of the millions that have gathered behind them and urging them to move on past the clear and present danger. Automotive companies are facing the same pressure when it comes to emerging technology like Internet of Things (IOT) or Connected Cars. There will be a breach and in spite of the data privacy concerns or the payment terms for connectivity and subscriptions, the technology surge will ensure that some or the other company finds the will and means to reach out to mass customers. It is hence, in the best interest of all auto OEMs to acknowledge this change and make it easier and convenient for customers to be part of the connected car story immediately.

What this means is that auto OEMs will have to work in close coordination with telecom service providers to provide internet connectivity within cars at bare minimum, if not zero, cost. There is also a thing or two to learn from the telecom service providers. In the beginning, mobile charges were exorbitant and mobile phones were scarce. But once the industry expanded and the virtues of using a cell phone became evident to customers, adoption rates increased and prices crashed. Same goes for data plans well. Telecom providers attracted and encouraged early adopters to use internet on their smart phones by providing lucrative pricing. Once the customers poured in by the millions and were hooked on, there was no turning back and telecom companies could then re-look at their pricing model and focus on profitability. I think auto OEMs will have to do something similar with pricing for their connected car services and subscriptions.

Our cars of the future would definitely be connected and auto OEMs may have to bear the initial cost of connectivity in addition to spends on R&D around connected cars. Once customers are able to see and experience the benefits of in-car connectivity, OEMs will be able to better harness the power of data to provide further applications and services which will make life easier and make car driving a better user experience. Stay connected!

July 22, 2014

I need a car, so let's go buy a cell phone

Absurd! Any number of times you read it. How can 'I need a car, so let's go buy a cell phone' ever make sense? But times are changing with rapid technological advancements and so is our outlook towards life's accessories. And what better example of that, can one find other than one's car and cell phone. They are arguably the two largest social statements for folks around the world. In an earlier era, it was probably just the car that made a social statement. But today, the car that you drive and cell phone that you carry define who you are in today's digitally categorized society. But how are the two even related to each other? We typically use a cell phone to call our friends and to surf the internet whereas the car takes us from Point A to Point B. Let's see how the two will converge very soon.

In our fast paced lives, digital connectivity is playing an important role of not only creating a new economy but also redefining our perspective on traditional 'things'. A 'connected car' is much more than just a 'car' and a 'smart phone' is much more than a 'cell phone'. Technology companies like Apple and Google have realized the immense potential in the marriage of these two and is one of the prime reason you will find these two giants foraying into the car space with integrated solutions that will eventually change the way how you perceive a car. Many people do not realize this, but one spends more time looking at the 'insides' of a car than the external shapes & contours. Hence the car experience judgment is bound to be more skewed towards what one perceives as an experience sitting inside while driving rather than the external design beauty. Given not much has happened to enriching the internal experience (barring a few luxury brands), it was an opportunity to be tapped for Apple and Google - the masters at understanding what consumers want.

Apple has CarPlay and Google has launched Android Auto. Essentially, these technology companies are bringing in a new experience center for drivers. Once you plug an Apple or Android phone into the car, the display unit on the car dashboard gives you an Apple or Android experience. The display unit of the car turns into a feature rich extension of the phone and the experience turns from an unattractive car display head unit into a sleek and contemporary smart phone display. Extending the smart phone experience to the car dashboard is the digital change that Apple and Google are bringing in and it will cause disruption in the sales and marketing strategies of prospective car buyers. Of course, this is going to be available on select brands and models only but this is just the beginning where your smart phone has started taking over your car through a simple integration at the display unit layer. However, what it also means is that the compatibility of your car and your smart phone is soon going to define the experience that you intend to have in your car. It makes life simpler with a single consistent digital experience across multiple personal assets. Which brings us back to the title of this blog.

You now know why that smartphone became so relevant to your car purchase decision. How exciting can that be?

 

July 9, 2014

International Material Data System- A collective effort of OEMs in environmental protection


Several government and industry regulations like product performance, environment, safety and corporate governance are being made mandatory across the Industrial world.
In order to comply with legal  and environmental regulations on concerns like  hazardous substances. All  aircraft, automotive, electronics manufacturers and many others are required to keep extensive materials data. The number and types of materials used in the industry have also increased. It thus became important for manufacturers to have knowledge of restricted and conflict materials. Moreover, as there are high costs involved in collating, storing, and maintaining such information, An International Material Data System(IMDS) was created by HP with a consortium/association of manufacturers to make all data related and needed by supplier economically accessible. In this System, security policies protect all proprietary information but other Common information is shared with all OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers).
In this way, IMDS enables OEMs in data management & analysis of all material information for regulatory compliance and for improvement in design.
Ever since IMDS has been operational, over 2.5 lakh user IDs were issued to apprx. one lakh IMDS companies. It has now become the standard for the automotive & related industries. All Tier 1 suppliers have a responsibility to submit all necessary information in the IMDS database.

Introduction
The IMDS is an internet-based database system collectively developed and maintained by  EDS ( HP company) with several automobile companies namely Porsche, VW ,Daimler, Ford, Opel, Audi, BMW, and Volvo. This system has a free-of-charge usage by all automotive suppliers for vehicle details & content reporting, recyclability and the reuse requirements. It tracks chemical ingredients of parts and assemblies across the entire automotive OEM supply chain.
Through the data collected by the all automotive supply chain stakeholders, OEM's are able to comply with the  worldwide ELV directives, REACH,SVHC, RRR and EU regulations related to material handling and disposal. IMDS & HP Compliance Data Exchange (CDX) thus make the prohibitive cost of collecting and maintaining the data easier.

Functioning
The IMDS is similar to the previous system of paper based  material data sheet form (VDA expenditure 2, system 16: Substances contained in externally purchased parts).  Compared to the former method, OEMs need to indicate not just the banned hazardous materials like Cr6 / Hg  etc.  but also all constituent substances in the material data sheet (MDS) of the IMDS with a resolution of 1 gram or more.

A 100% disclosure of substances in each part or device is provided by suppliers. The onus to share data can be delegated to Tier1 or Tier2 suppliers. OEMs collect data of all automotive parts irrespective of the usability or its ultimate sales point. With a single click suppliers can analyze all the substances/chemicals which are part of the component.

IMDS sorts the data to provide a full material overview via different languages and part-numbering systems built into the product. It is also web-accessible, highly password-protected and not dependent on any system architecture, thus becoming an international portal for material data information for manufacturing industry.

System Requirements
PC with internet access , Microsoft Internet Explorer Version 5.0 or higher, Initial company registration over EDS Helpdesk, Initial user registration.

Process Flow of IMDS working:

IMDS flow chart_v2 - Copy.jpg


Continue reading "International Material Data System- A collective effort of OEMs in environmental protection" »

June 18, 2014

The future of enterprise applications transformed with Cloud and mobility


With the proliferation of 'Digital', industries worldwide have seen a paradigm shift in the technological space. The growing need to stay connected on social and business networks on the go have led to the rise of the Internet of Things coupled with cloud, mobility and big data solutions. With smart mobile devices and virtual apps, powered by cloud solutions, taking the hot seat in enterprises, it has become imperative for manufacturers to tap the collaborative capabilities of these devices to improve business processes and to enable seamless integration between the resultant cloud ecosystem and the enterprise. IT would need to manage virtual applications that will now be accessible by mobile devices. BYOD could mean increased dependence of employees on a single device where personal and work related data will need to be accessed at the same time. This transformation of the enterprise mobility infrastructure is seen as a good monetization solution by CIOs. With BYOD getting to be the next norm, there seems to be a growing demand for business apps targeted at employees as compared to yesteryear's consumer apps. This will require the intervention and support of the enterprise, while keeping a keen eye on adherence to security stipulations.  

This year's Sapphire focused on modernized industries that are powered digitally to reap the true benefits of collaboration. The keynote session by SAP CEO Bill McDermott served as a pronounced launchpad for the new version of SAP Fiori into the market. This will provide SAP users with an outstanding user experience at no additional license costs. What's most interesting is its simple and cost-effective sales order mobile app suite that sales executives can leverage for easy access to their accounts and prospects on the move. 


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It's all in the cloud

Unnerving focus on supply chain optimization, distribution, real-time data for analytics and forecasts, have led manufacturers to shift their applications to cloud based infrastructure solutions. The manufacturing industry, in response to addressing this pronounced consumer need, has carved steep inroads towards collaboration and creation of connected networks by leveraging the power of the cloud and the advancements in mobility solutions. While keeping the organization on the same page with respect to updates and collaborative efforts, the cloud aids in the efficient streamlining of processes, improving agility and enables better response times. Since these apps can be accessed from mobile devices on the move, it has triggered a renewed demand for data security solutions, to check for information vulnerabilities, and supply chain risk management solutions.

 

Mobility and telematics for M2M Communication

The automotive industry, in recognition to the growing need for consumer connectivity and access to insights derived from the huge volumes of data generated, has been developing cutting edge connected car technologies to stay at the forefront of innovation. Telematics have opened exciting prospects for car manufacturers and seems to be very promising in terms of innovative solutions that aid driver awareness, access to a lot more information on the move with minimal intervention and highly reliable safety features. Mobile apps, that help control access and fasten security, are being developed to communicate with smart dashboards. These help add convenience to the whole driving experience and promises the future of a fuel efficient, safer and intelligent drive. The data generated from the continuous usage of these apps is further analyzed and utilized by the car manufacturer to crowd source ideas that can help them embed newer features and technologies into the automobile.  

The Internet of Things will be adding scores of devices to an interconnected cloud which will need to be constantly updated with real-time information. Next generation technologies, such as big data, mobility, and cloud will be paramount for enterprises that are vying to go digital. Machine to machine communication will enable predictive analytics leading to smarter maintenance of assets. By integrating mobility with M2MC, we will see a sea of technological developments in the years to come.

 

Digitization: What lies ahead?

The future of digitization lies in the hands of a decentralized decision maker community that would want the business and technological factors of consideration to be amalgamated for strategic reasoning that leads to IT transformation.

But with the increasing complexity in requirements and in order to keep in sync with the changing technology landscape, organizations would collaborate extensively with a wide range of partners, both inside and outside their industries. They will need to invest in resources and partnerships that will take them ahead of their competition.



June 10, 2014

Additive manufacturing: The key to smarter maintenance?


3D printing technology, otherwise known as additive manufacturing, is evolving to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of the manufacturing industry. There seems to be a sea of opportunities for this technology in the Aerospace and Automotive sectors due to their need for high-value complex part replacements, the periodicity of maintenance and the need to reduce inventories. While most of us believe that this technology might still be at a nascent stage, we ought to take a closer look at its adoption in the high-tech and industrial manufacturing sectors. The US Department of Defense, supported by a consortium of private companies, has recognized this as a key growth area and announced plans to fund 2 new world class manufacturing innovation centers in the region this year. With the technology to print living tissues today, it makes us think that 'Dolly' could have just been printed out without much ado.  


The IT industry sees a gamut of opportunities in the 3D printing arena, particularly in the areas of digitization, engineering and supply chain management reconfiguration. The Infosys whitepaper titled The Future of Maintenance discusses 3D printing as a solution for optimization of maintenance costs which will help flatten supply chain and procurement expenditure on industrial machinery and capital goods.  The entire blueprint of the component procurement space will have to be redrafted by substituting these revenues with the sale of custom specifications for each part 3D printed at the end customer location. Gone will be the days when a customer places an order for a part and waits patiently for door delivery with an additional day's wait for a service mechanic to assemble the part. If you perceived Amazon's superfast drone or the Rolls Royce Cargo Drone ships to be your solution, wouldn't 3D printing make the process much simpler - or not. That's quite a debate. 


If you thought that the demand for customization and shorter delivery timelines have brought our production hubs closer to home turf from low cost centers like China, you are at a greater advantage having a 3D printer installed at your production house. Companies are now embracing backward integration strategies by turning into part manufacturers, replacing their OEM suppliers fractionally to start with. The cost of purchasing a 3D printer along with the raw materials and IP will be offset by added energy efficiency, less to no wastage of materials used in the process, the elimination of shipping costs and the ability to create prototypes that would have otherwise consumed expensive resources and larger timelines.


Are we moving to an era where construction, manufacturing, design, engineering and medical care are all going to be a DIY affair? It's too soon to assume, but we sure are inching closer.    


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June 3, 2014

Sapphire 2014 - SAP 'Run Simple'

The keynote session at 'Sapphire Now' by SAP CEO Bill McDermott was on how we can simplify processes with technology. He talked about changing complex business processes to make business simple by removing 'complexity'. Refreshing as it sounds, it can be likened to a conference being attended by 25,000 in-situ attendees with over 250,000 online! 

The word 'Simple', said with ease, is clearly not an easy task to achieve. But in order to do things simply, it takes sophistication. In order to reinstate that, Bill announced the inclusion of the SAP Fiori line of apps and SAP Screen Personas software along with the underlying licenses of SAP software. Thus, instead of making employees work around processes, Fiori from SAP makes processes simple by changing processes that required 10 clicks to 2 click processes. 

A leading FMCG company, with over 800 factories spread across the globe, has used Fiori to reduce the number of clicks it required from 10 to 2. This has, indeed, helped simplify the process aspect from an operational point of view. 

SAP has decided not to charge the customer for Fiori and has included it as part of the Suite. SAP is simple from now on.. because the customer expects simple! 

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Infosys at Sapphire 2014: 'Enterprise now' for the smart manufacturer

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Rapid Urbanization and information empowered customers are driving modernization and innovation in the manufacturing space. Increased customization, shorter product lifecycles have led to the evolution of high performance supply chains, though this raises challenges exposing them to diverse risks and disruptions at various stages of the value chain. Besides, increased regulatory pressures and cut throat competition in a globalized economy means supply chains also need be to cost efficient and transparent for manufacturers to survive. Technology today is playing a key role in enabling supply chain modernization to meet above challenges. But, Modernization is not just about responding to change but also leading change and technology is also playing that part to a "T". The rise of the digital consumer with proliferation of web and ability to process Big Data has ensured that manufacturers can ignore technology trends like advanced analytics, real time data processing, social media, cloud, mobility and machine to machine communication (Internet of Things) at their own peril. Having said that companies need to evaluate and manage technology by striking a fine balance between business value and disruption.  This is where you would need a smart integrator like Infosys with a proven track record in enterprise solutions and disruptive technologies, who can help you transition and transform your business processes to get on that path.

 SAP is the leader in Enterprise Business application software and this year's Sapphire is all about the manufacturers' journey from Industrialization, followed with Modernization and finally powered with Digitization. While we all are eager to actively contribute and listen from market leaders in the event, we briefly elaborate below some of the advanced solutions areas in SAP where we have invested and made rapid strides to enable manufacturers in their "smart" journey.

 

 

Continue reading "Infosys at Sapphire 2014: 'Enterprise now' for the smart manufacturer" »

May 21, 2014

Autonomous cars and fuel efficiency

Auto OEMS and Tier 1 suppliers tell me that in year 2020 I won't have to drive my car, it will drive itself. Cool, I say, but will it also pay for its own fuel? For a country that has always imported oil, fuel efficiency of cars is what most Indians think of when evaluating a car. While the whole world goes gaga over autonomous/self-driving technology, pardon me if I have my eyes fixated over the fuel gauge and am wondering "What's the fuel efficiency of this car?"

Connected vehicle technology (CVT) is fast changing the automotive landscape and we will soon see the modern yet everyday cars flaunting this latest technology. CVT will allow you to remotely lock/unlock car doors; start the car air conditioning; point out which friends of yours are sitting at the Starbucks outlet you are about to cross while driving and get you over there with a voice command while navigating you through the back alley (since the main street is blocked for road maintenance). An advanced version of this technology is going behind the autonomous/self-driving cars that are being currently tested. Phew! That's a lot of intelligence for a car. But snazzy features apart, what does that mean for an everyday car user?

We can all imagine the coolness factor with the technology around autonomous/self-driving cars. It means such 'connected cars' will have the capability to drive on their own with limited human intervention. Wow again! But just take a step back and think about it. It also means that these cars will have a ton of sensors and intelligence along with internet connectivity that will continuously tell the car on what speed to travel, when to accelerate and when to decelerate - all the while keeping safety in perspective. With this ability to predict, instruct and execute acceleration and deceleration, cars will have a lot more information to decide on the mode of driving. Also, this mode is more likely to be 'Economy' rather than 'Sport' mode which means that the cars would run in the right gear at the right speed for the optimum time. What does that mean for our everyday user? Voila! Higher fuel efficiency.

We all know that we are not the best fuel conservators in the world when we drive. Everyone has a different style of driving which leads to different fuel efficiency scores recorded on the same car. So, when a car manufacturer states a fuel efficiency of say 23 mpg (miles per gallon), we can safely bet that we will not be able to achieve that all the time. It may be about 15%-25% lesser than that on a normal run. But with autonomous cars, it's the technology that will be driving the car and it will be more prone to consistent and optimal driving than humans. There won't be any hard accelerations or hard braking, and change of gears will be based on actual traffic rather than driver perception of the actual condition. All this will mean optimal driving at optimal fuel efficiency. This will be a good start and is a wonderful takeaway for our future generations who are anyway looking at the bleak prospect of depleting natural resources.

So in the year 2020, I may be driving an autonomous car and I will have to pay for the fuel myself but connected vehicle technology will help me make that visit to the gas station less frequent. Cheers to that!

February 10, 2014

Infosys partners with USC Marshall School of Business for Supply Chain Excellence

 

With economic slowdown, triggered by the recently witnessed recession, the global manufacturing sector experienced a drop in demand. This led to an unprecedented loss of employment in this sector. Today, this leaves us with a high demand for highly skilled resources. The industry demand for skills that meet their specific job requirements seem to be the hardest to come across, especially in the supply chain sector.

To add to these woes, globalization, increasing customer expectations, and stringent local and global regulations have added risk and complexity to the supply chains of today. In order to regain ground, we need to think of reforms that would help us get back on the growth bandwagon. As a starting point, it would be great to see investments in the field of education that would lead to the creation of educational programs to help meet the growing job demand in this industry.  Institutes that create such focused training programs need to be cognizant of what the sector really needs and be abreast of the latest developments in the industry and the best practices to be followed in order to augment its growth. Unfortunately, the research and insights, that are currently available for working employees and students, do not draw a parallel with what the industry wants. We are looking for quality education that can help engage our ignited minds and flare up the innovation quotient. We certainly would not want redundancy.

The recently formed partnership between Infosys and the USC Marshall School of Business is a classic example.Infosys will be closely associated with the curricular and research activities of the University's Global Supply Chain Management center.  The specialized post graduate degree on Supply chain management, from the university, will be the first officially integrated Master's program on supply chain management strategies that meets its mission of Education, Networking, and Advanced Research. This course will focus on advancing global supply chain management for a sector which is vying to employ over a million qualified professionals by the end of 2016, in the US alone.   

As part of the team from Infosys who have partnered with the university, we will be running several programs on thought leadership, industry relevant education and co-ordinate with industry experts, organizations, trade bodies and local authorities, for the center's activities. Infosys's supply chain practice would gain immensely, from the advanced research and networking activities of the USC's supply chain center. In line with its corporate social responsibility commitment, Infosys will also actively contribute to the humanitarian projects undertaken by the center.

This specialized program, will be perceived as a saving grace in the supply chain industry, and is also seen as the educational sector's proactive response to demand that's driven by the industry need for leaders who can drive growth.

January 31, 2014

Will wearable technology boost business productivity or make people dumb?

Do you remember that man on the busy road talking all to himself and you wondered if he was out of his wits? Only to realize later that he was wearing a Bluetooth device and speaking to someone on the other end of his cell phone. Well, be prepared to see newer forms of human behavior soon.
Technology evolution and developments in the wearable technology space are now a reality. A huge number of wearable gadgets are been unveiled. Large number of these gadgets are in the consumer space. Wearable technology has tremendous implication for the business world as well, it will lead to improved business productivity or newer ways of doing day-to-day activities and potentially result in billions of dollars of savings for the industry. There will be efficiency gains not only in terms of doing work quicker, but better.  It will make on the job training much easier and on demand. Immediate access to information will unfold further productivity gains. Very soon ways and means of our day-to-day work will see a lot of change.

Consulting experts on the go will save significant time and money spent by organizations on field jobs, perhaps wearable technology's single largest contribution towards cost savings. A technician wearing a contact lens developed by Innovega or a Google glass can relay what they see in real time for consultation. Experts could advice and also share content visible to technician in real time. This not only saves an expert's field trip but allows the team to close the issue in much shorter time and lower costs. To imagine how important this could be consider a technician working on an electric grid or an oil rig. Errors could be life threatening and costs the organizations huge sum of money.

To impart effective training managers can observe field staff as they attempt difficult or first time assignments, with the ability to share live feeds from the field through wearable devices. Field staff can be guided as needed, it also gives them an opportunity to review recorded video at a later time. This will enables better understanding and capture real life situations to be referred as case studies.  Such technology will enable new employees to leverage training materials while they're on the job or in a remote location instead of attending scheduled training programs at pre-designated locations.

Having data at your fingertips is crucial, no matter what job you do. A mobile phone, smart watch or interactive eye wear can give workers access to a nearly infinite amount of information with simple voice commands or other natural input methods. Say an emergency response team needs to quickly access building plans while responding to a fire emergency or an evacuation, they could do so while out in the field in a matter of seconds. If your sales representative is attending a very important client meeting, a team in office can quickly gather relevant information and share it with him based on key points been discussed.

Gauging your emotional response will be the new battle ground for the techies in the wearable technology industry. Wearable gadgets that can track your brain activity level will gauge your emotional response to a situation, along with tracking your body vitals. Stressful assignments that have serious consequences in an event of human errors can be made less stressful and possibly safer. Consider a deep sea diver trying to carry out a critical maintenance activity on an under-water oil rig or a Pilot trying to land air plane in distress. If people monitoring these activities from a remote operations center can gauge the emotional state of field worker they can not only assist in completing the job, but also talk to them to reduce their stress levels, if needed psychological experts could also be brought to assist in critical situations. This will improve the chances of avoiding human error and significant amount of potential life and material damages.

The increased use of wearable tech in business does come with a new set of privacy concerns. Organization will be able to monitor their employees more closely for assignment related activity but will have deep insights of personal information like health records, emotional makeup and vital information about a person's behavioral pattern etc. This will make people feel vulnerable, you never know how this information will be used. To get a perspective consider your manager and few others having access to such personal information, or participating in your company's health insurance plan may require you to give insurance company access to your health tracking devise. A more important consideration needed is with passage of time our dependency on such devices will increase drastically for day-to-day work, such gadgets will become a necessity and no longer remain an accessory. This poses an interesting question will people become more productive or dumb in the long run?
For example if you try to assist a person at a till of a super store with some extra change once the cash machine has computed the exact change to be returned, the person gets confused. While this is not true for all the case it's commonly observed. Our earlier generations were good at oral math including fractions but since this skill is no longer required we are not that well equipped now.

Humans lost their tail long back in evolution as we didn't use it for some time, what's next. If we look back a generation or two, we had a much active work life. Today most urban jobs are sedentary and at times we find it difficult to cope up with a busy active day, excluding the folks who have a regular workout. As a society we might soon be in a situation that we may not be able to do much of the physical activity un-assisted by devices. A large amount of population may be limited to using a set of gadgets which will further limit their ability to do things not part of their regular routine.

While wearable technology will assist us in many ways to improve productivity, reliability and ease our day-to-day work.  In the future it may make you feel like a new pilot trying to land an airplane in bad weather. Or will it make you a super human.  Time will tell, but what do you think about it?

January 27, 2014

Is Crowdsourcing the magic bullet to adopt Mass Customization?

 

The customer wants to buy customized products.The seller wants to sell from existing inventory.The classic dilemma exists even today. But in this internet age where information is easy and choice is abundant, the tide is strongly in favor of the customer.  Driven by demanding customers, increasing competition, and a recession weary economy, manufacturers of 21st century do not seem to have a choice than to move to customized offerings. The solution to this problem though, is not new. Mass customization or the business strategy of selling of customized products at a large scale by producing them at mass manufacturing costs, has been in the news for more than a couple of decades.  As the demand is now met from build to order stock, this scenario leads to lower accumulation of unsold inventory. So what has led manufacturers to be slow on adopting this compelling proposition till now? In the coming sections we will touch upon some of the challenges and explore whether innovations like crowdsourcing and 3D printing may finally provide the impetus leading to extensive adoption of mass customization among manufacturers. While the last century was dedicated to mass manufacturing, will the current one be known for mass customization?

One of the main challenges in adopting this philosophy is the multifold increase in number of product variants. This presents challenges not just in designing flexible manufacturing units, re-usable product structures but also on the marketing side to promote this huge variety. While options may entice customers, it presents the risk of confusing him, if the variety is not presented appropriately. Mass customization can very quickly become mass confusion leading to failure of an otherwise customer centric approach. Choice is good but too when customers have to choose from too many attributes which they don't understand and value, it leads to frustration and can have an adverse impact on the buying decision.  Take the case of mobile phones; there are so many models but few which are top selling.

One of the other big problems is that customers are not ready to wait long for customized products. While earlier a customer would be ready to wait for 60 days for a made to order car in Germany, this has now reduced to around 40 days. In an industry sector like automotive which is heavily dependent upon its suppliers for its manufacturing process, mass customization is not just about bringing a change within the company but also selecting the right set of supply chain partners. Apart from design flexibility, the increase in number of variants leads to operational burden too by increasing the complexity in accounting structures, inventory tracking and order processing.

The multitude of problems also has seen some pragmatic solutions. The recent advances in information technology have led to decrease in cost and increase in accuracy of handling transactional, accounting data and the ability to handle complex production schedules.  Advanced manufacturing systems have enabled manufacturers to adopt lean manufacturing, design modular product structures to facilitate mass customization. Distributed manufacturing and assembly is another strategy being adopted.

The ability of not just to process information but to disseminate it seamlessly has led to real time integration with suppliers thus leading to a decrease in lead time of built-to-order assemblies. The advances in visualization technology have enabled creation of online configurators which enable customers to visualize their final configured product without the manufacturer having to build it or keep it in stock.  The virtual building of the product from attributes engages the customer and takes care in reducing "mass confusion" to some extent. Another innovative practice which directly addresses the current problem of huge inventories (especially cars) is the Virtual build to order (VBTO). Online car configurators are able to search matches to selected configuration from existing inventory across retailers and factory systems, hence meeting the demand for customized products without actually manufacturing a new vehicle.  You have recommendation engines incorporated within the configurators which suggest near matches to customer inputs hence assisting him or her to make a quick choice if he or she is not ready to wait.

All the above developments are great but only leading to incremental adoption of the mass customization philosophy. The reason is that it still does not substantially mitigate the risk of failure against the benefit. What if you discover that the variable attributes you introduce to your product or service are not the ones which the customers really value? By that time the manufacturer would have made substantial investment in redesigning manufacturing setup, driving change in organization, partners, marketing and IT systems. The sunk cost, capacity underutilization and inventory from lack of sales could lead to a shutdown. In this world of fast changing needs, market research based on historical data can hardly provide that kind of customer insight to guarantee success. This is where new innovations like "crowdsourcing" and "3D printing" can break the barrier.

Crowdsourcing or the practice of involving a large set of people especially over the internet with an intention to obtain ideas, opinions or services, allows manufacturers to involve the customer in the design stage itself. Advancement of web 2.0 technologies enables integration of visual software (3D) within collaboration platforms leading to a very interactive form of co-design between the prospective consumer and manufacturer. Advanced analytics software derives meaning out of unstructured comments from consumer and thus indicates key insights to manufacturer which otherwise would not have been possible via traditional means. With this manufacturers are reasonably sure about the key attributes of value, product variants before moving to a mass customization approach. They no longer follow suit what competitors are offering and have an opportunity to lead the game rather than catch up to it. Allowing people to participate creates a positive vibe for the brand too. Crowdsourcing also has a role to play post the manufacture of the product i.e. in the buying decision. For example a customer can build a virtual car using an online car configurator and post it on a crowdsourcing platform provided by the OEM. Based on recommendations, likes/dislikes from others he/she could make the buying decision. 

Another innovation which is hugely helping the cause for mass customization is 3D printing. With the advent of cheap 3D printers small manufacturers can quickly move to prototyping to final product. Large manufacturers also benefit as they do not have to spend a whole lot of time and money in prototyping anymore. A good use case is in the automotive aftermarket. OEMs or savvy players from the un-organized sector can provide a platform where do it yourself customers can take the core-design of the accessories and parts and can customize it. Subsequently the customized designs could be 3D printed and delivered to the customer.

By now we have seen the challenges manufacturers face in adopting a mass customization approach. There seems no single method to success except that manufacturers have to treat mass customization as a business strategy rather than a manufacturing one. But with innovations like crowdsourcing and 3D printing addressing the fundamental risks which prevented the adoption, I believe we would see more companies opting the mass customization route profitably.

What do you think??

January 17, 2014

Look ma, no speedometer on my car dashboard

Come to think of it! How many times do you keep staring at the glass panel behind the steering wheel? Until the autonomous car is on the road for you and me, we will have to continue to watch the road, enjoy the scenery and then toggle the infotainment cluster for navigation, weather report, radio, music playlist, climate controls etc. But check out the tachometer or temperature indicator? Nah! Not many times, right? Thought so!

If you have been following what's happening at the recently concluded CES in Las Vegas, you would know how fast our digital life is changing and how far it is evolving. With ubiquitous gadgets and clearer & smarter TV screens, it was just a matter of time before our cars woke up to the digital revolution as well. So don't look surprised when I tell you that Visteon Corporation launched their connected audio solution for a global vehicle manufacturer by delivering Bluetooth, voice control and integrated smartphone connection to Cloud applications. They also showcased a connected vehicle software framework that is intelligent enough to anticipate a driver's need and then produce a Human-Machine Interface (HMI) experience. This would be akin to turning an imaginary knob in the air to control the audio volume. Another example would be follow-the-gaze in which the gauges appear at the side where the driver is looking. Such HMI experience, when combined with driver behavioral data and preferences allows the HMI to not only intelligently display the most relevant information using applications and other environmental inputs but also at the right time. Even Panasonic Automotive Systems is building a dashboard that has all the gauges and controls behind the steering wheel and within the instrument cluster. This could also be reflectively displayed on the windshield such that the driver need not move the direction of his eyesight. This makes it redundant to have separate touchscreen panel for infotainment and gauges, doesn't it?

Now look at your mobile phone or tablet or even the laptop on which you are reading this blog. You have a home screen, a background wall paper, a screen lock wall paper and different color options. We all set the preferences based on what we feel is most meaningful or appropriate to us. It could be a family portrait or a celebrity close-up or a beautiful scenic waterfall. We see what we want to see on these devices. If that's the freedom we get on our mobile devices, then why not in the car? The functional needs of the various gauges on the typical car dashboard viz. Tachometer, Speedometer, Odometer, Fuel gauge, temperature gauge, seat belt indicator, door open indicator, etc. have a limited and conditional need. Hence, this information is not required all the time. Now, how about adding a character to the visualization and personalizing it like we do to our mobile phones. How about giving it flair and charisma? Feeling good already?

Not many in the automotive industry will argue that the digital world of a consumer outside a car is very quickly merging with the one inside a car. This is what the connected car intends to do by making it an extension of the digital world. Imagine if the same could be extended to the dashboard as well. Think of it as a changing wall-paper. Instead of a cumbersome instrument cluster and a central console hosting the touchscreen panel & controls, we could see a more simple design of having a single screen within the car that displays the requested information. This will also be event-triggered such that if the temperature increases to an abnormal level, then the temperature gauge will show up or if the speed is exceedingly high, then the Speedometer will show-up and so on. There could also be gesture controlled or voice controlled or native buttons on the steering wheel that will bring the required screen on display. Of course, customers will have an opportunity to connect a USB drive or connect to the cloud to change the wallpaper display of the 'normal' screen. This has an added unique advantage as well. In India which is one of the countries with the largest number of road accidents, an experiment on government run transport buses showed that drivers drove more cautiously and safely when a picture of their family was put up on the dash. Using the same, a family portrait could be displayed on the dash by connecting the mobile or USB drive.

Already, last week Audi showed a dashboard on its TT model which had an integrated dashboard showing the gauges as well as navigation all in the same view. This has been termed by a few experts as an 'overload of beautiful information'. But naysayers apart, this will be the future. Consumers will be allowed to choose what they see on their dashboard. It is exciting times for automotive companies and their Tier 1 electronic partners. Radical changes within the cockpit are to be expected in the coming years and our perspective about the inside of a car will change drastically. What do you think?

January 2, 2014

Technology Trends of 2014 and How They Apply to the Manufacturing Industry

It is the start of a new year and we are seeing a lot of predictions being made on trends for 2014 - be it technologies, industries, business functions, business models, enterprises or consumers. Being focused on the Manufacturing industry for a few years now, here is my take on how some of the top technology trends apply to this industry, how they will be leveraged over this year and the kind of changes we may see them bring about.

Continue reading "Technology Trends of 2014 and How They Apply to the Manufacturing Industry" »

B2B Ecommerce Circa 2014- Demystifying the Hottest Trends PART 1

In one of my earlier Blog posts (E-Commerce in B2B Arena: The wheels are moving albeit slow) we talked about the latest Ecommerce trends and B2B ecommerce. A lot has happened since then, let us have a look at some of the developments!

Here are a few interesting facts involving B2B eCommerce which are getting the Manufacturers all excited and charged up:

1) Sheer size of B2B eCommerce: B2B eCommerce market in the US alone is roughly double the size of the US B2C eCommerce market. 

2) Rising Mobility: Mobile traffic is gaining traction and will be almost one- fourth of the overall business Internet traffic in a few years.

3) Profitable Online customers: It is becoming more and more profitable to migrate offline customers online fuelling a better and fatter net spend.

4) Reducing support Costs: It is much more cost effective to support the consumers who have moved online providing better savings on support activities.

5) Greater penetration: B2B companies can also service small accounts online effectively which could have been a cost burden in the offline scenario, thus profitably adding new customers.


All these facts are encouraging more and more Manufacturers to take up B2B eCommerce initiatives.

Continue reading "B2B Ecommerce Circa 2014- Demystifying the Hottest Trends PART 1" »

January 1, 2014

Is enough being done for enterprises in connected cars?

Technology and gadgets have always caught man's fancy since centuries. And cars - always a hotbed for new cool technology - have historically pulled more customers into dealer showrooms whenever there is an exciting feature to showcase. Hence, it is no surprise that more and more automotive companies are focusing on building cool connected car apps for the technology trendy customer of today.

The usual consumer apps in a connected car are GPS navigation, traffic alerts, internet radio or music, search engines, internet browsers, remote door lock/unlock, etc. All these are consumer focused and will heavily rely on transactions between the car, the driver and the World Wide Web. However, enterprise is often the last place for automotive customers to focus upon. The reasons are evident:

  • Consumer apps create better selling and marketing points since their benefits can be fully perceived by customers
  • Building mobile applications is easier and faster as compared to enterprise applications
  • Compatibility and integration are enterprise challenges that are comparatively easier to resolve on the consumer app side
  • The customer need for ubiquitous connectivity can be met more satisfyingly with consumer apps in cars

Let's face it. It's now a given that the sprint race would be won by consumer apps. But does that leave out enterprise apps completely?

The answer is a big No. For the amount of data that a car can generate, the analytics wealth hidden within that data is of unimaginable value. Imagine if the enterprise (automotive manufacturer) can forewarn you of an impending breakdown and book a service appointment. Imagine if based on someone else's recent warranty report, your car gets recalled earlier than usual and thus prevents any accident of breakdown for anyone using the same batch model. Imagine if your car broadcasts a lease payment notification as soon as you start the engine and thus helps you to maintain your credit ratings. There are many more benefits of using the power of the enterprise to make the driver experience enjoyable and stress free. No one wants to have a breakdown in the middle of the road or mess up their credit rating unnecessarily.

Cars can be connected to enterprises using a connected car platform and can allow millions of bytes of car data to be analyzed using big data and analytics. The output of this can then be used to tailor the services back to the car or the car driver. Unlike consumer apps that are more or less a one-on-one interaction between the car and the car driver, enterprise apps have a wider use of big data and analytics. These help automotive companies to better understand the car's behavior and pass this learning to other cars such that timely intervention can make the car experience more enjoyable.

If your customer is truly at the center of your automotive business, it is time now to do more by unleashing the enterprise power on connected cars. Can you agree more?

December 17, 2013

Sentiment analytics - are we ready to move from text to multimode?

Today it is easy to give an opinion and there is no stopping us. Nearly one in every four people use social media and in some of the developing and developed countries, around 70% of the adult population spends more than 2 hours per day on the same. That's a lot of time to say a lot of things, things which matter to marketers. Hence companies are investing a lot into mining this huge amount of information on networking sites, blogs, and discussion forums to gain insights into underlying customer sentiment about their brand, customer service, new products, customer behavior and underlying needs. 

Very often sentiment analytics is either considered as a topic within text analytics or text analytics is considered as the approach to sentiment analytics.This may be because, today, a large source of social online data is considered as text. But, the definition could be quite restrictive. More than 65000 videos are uploaded to YouTube alone per day and 6 billion hours of video are watched on it each month. More than 25000 photos are uploaded to Flickr every minute. With this huge number of videos and photos being shared and watched online, companies and analysts can no longer afford to ignore this data and stick to text alone.

If not statistics, we can also look to intuitive logic to build the case for looking beyond text. Sentiment to a layman would be polarity of an opinion. To judge the polarity, words are not enough, the emotion behind the words matter. And emotions are better reflected through tone and gesture. Remember what we learnt at college? "We communicate more effectively through body language than words" and that "a picture is worth a thousand words". Now, which is a better measure of sentiment - "how long a person smiled" in a video or "the number of smileys" in a transcript?

The time has come to move from a traditional single mode (text) approach to a multimode approach. But, are we ready for it? While, there is a lot of research done in labs/institutions to prove the feasibility and superiority of multimode approach, there is hardly any example in real life. One of the main challenges in non-textual data is the variation in representing the same meaning as against words, thus making it almost impossible to model. The other hurdle is that, even though a model is designed (example: Face detection), its applicability also depends upon the quality of the image. In real life people use home web cameras to upload videos or photos and there is an inherent lack of clarity in them. The third challenge is the size of the data, which would be many times more than a text scenario.

It seems we are far from ready, and the challenges are overwhelming. In order to progress on this, we need to take baby steps:

1.      Focus on specific areas where a multimode approach can be a differentiator over text and bring in a lot more value, for e.g. lie detection, sarcasm identification, and real time voice analytics and demonstrate its usage in real life context.

2.      Research on managing the huge size of data needs to continue.

3.      While the ideal state is "reliable automated sentiment analytics on multimode data", we should look into innovative manual ways to do the same to enjoy the benefits now.

For example we could use crowdsourcing to distribute and manually categorize sentiment on a huge set of photos from Flickr or videos from you-tube or audio files from a call center over the internet. After all the quality of sentiment scoring a human being can do is likely to be superior to any algorithm based logic.

What do you think should be our way ahead?

December 13, 2013

Unravelling Social Commerce Age: The Dawn of the Social Consumer

Here a few interesting observations, check them out:

Globally, almost half of those with online access use social media to enable purchase decisions 

Almost one third of the consumers do tend to act on a promotional message on a company's social media pages

More than half of the US online consumers use YouTube and other social media channels to browse and research an organization

Facebook influences the way people made purchase decisions based on their exposure to ads and comments


Still think social consumer can be ignored? Companies who are investing in creating better social experiences for their customers are going to reap rich dividends in the long run as more and more customers are on social websites and conversations are happening in real time about the experiences (good/bad) they went through during purchase or post purchase process. Business cannot control the conversations but can manage it much more effectively by proactive participation!

 

Social commerce has brought with itself a new breed of user who likes to talk about the products she purchased, liked or disliked. Today's user is very passionate in supporting the brands she love and at the same time does not leave any stone unturned to trash the brand where the experience has not been satisfactory. This presents an unusual opportunity for the business to tap into these 'Brand advocates' but at the same time it is a big risk and a perennial threat to brands if they goof up.

Continue reading "Unravelling Social Commerce Age: The Dawn of the Social Consumer" »

December 12, 2013

Can we avoid driver distraction in connected cars?

The other day I had a friend car pool with me to office from home. We were having a lively discussion on a common interest subject and out of habit I had the FM radio turned on as well. The incessant honking by the motorists on the road only added to the audio decibels around us and it was all getting extremely noisy and insufferably loud. I noticed that all these events were causing a distraction and actually causing a slight dip in my attention to driving the car. This made me very worried.

We are all getting increasingly surrounded by technology in our ecosystem and there is still a hungry demand for further ubiquitous and seamless connectivity within vehicles from consumers. Decidedly so, auto OEMs are being continuously pushed to find a balance between providing 'relevant, important and critical' applications within the car vis-à-vis controlling driver distractions. However, driver distraction is now at the center of all connected car woes and is the most talked about topic at conferences, events and client interactions. More and more people are opposing (or at least voicing concern) to any technology that is going to add to the distraction strain on the driver while driving; which takes me to the moot point of this blog - Can we avoid driver distraction in connected cars?

Undoubtedly, this is the elephant in the room and we cannot avoid embracing new technology and applications within cars and other vehicles. What we could do is devise innovative ideas on how to minimize driver distraction. One way to do this is by classifying what is 'relevant, important and critical' for the car-on-the-road ecosystem. Having prognostic ability built in the car to avoid a mid-drive break down can be termed as relevant to the driver whereas an emergency call (eCall) may be critical for sending EMS to the site. From a consumer perspective, being seamlessly connected to Facebook or Twitter within the car could be important. Hence a matrix should be formed with weighted average taken for all the applications and features that can have an impact on driver distraction. Once this is done, we could then decide what takes priority over the other and then use technology to regulate the communication. For example, an eCall will take precedence over the audio navigation instruction. Route navigation can take precedence over FM radio. A reminder alert can be timed to be broadcast within 5 seconds of engine start and so on. The whole experience within the car will have to be re-analyzed taking situational events into consideration before adopting new features.

Hence, prioritization is going to be critical to decide on which technology or application takes precedence over the other. This will definitely help minimize distraction and allow drivers to handle and manage the seamless connectivity within the connected car. Do you agree?