2014
07.31

It’s seems like all we talk about these days is defending our digital network, otherwise known as our cyber systems, (i.e., the Internet, information systems, computer systems). Many consumers worry about their personal data being stolen. They are terrified that bad guys are going to get their information like what just transpired at Target.

How do you go about protecting your personal data? What do you really know about cybercrime? What are businesses doing and not doing to keep from being targets of cybercrime? These are all important questions. But are they really the most important ones we should be asking? Rather, should we be more concerned about who is protecting our infrastructures such as finance, power, fuel, and transportation? Just how safe are those systems?

If you do any research at all, you will quickly discover any major disruption of those services could prove extremely detrimental to this country’s well-being and position within the global community. Last year, the Brookings Institute Center for 21 Century Security and Intelligence reported: “The level of cybersecurity awareness and culture in U.S. port facilities is relatively low and that a cyber attack at a major U.S. port would quickly cause significant damage to the economy.”

That is scary to think about when you consider the threats that exist around the world. Yet, despite events which should have made people sit up and take notice of the problems in security, some are slow to react…and that includes places outside the United States.

The Ponemon Institute recently revealed its Critical Infrastructure Security report, and the findings showed there is still a lot of work to be done to get companies to be more proactive in their attempts to shore up their systems. The report surveyed 599 global IT and IT security executives in 13 different countries and found “organizations are not as prepared as they should be to deal with the sophistication and frequency of a cyber threat…”

Sadly, 50% of respondents say their IT security activities have not yet been defined or deployed; 57% say cyber threats are putting industrial control systems and SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) at greater risk; 67% say their companies have had at least one security compromise that led to loss of confidential information or disruption of operations over the last 12 months; and 34% say their companies do not get realtime alerts, threats analysis, and threat prioritization intelligence, which can be used to stop an attack.

At the end of the day besides the loss of money, it’s the loss of customers that really say it all. In fact, the Ponemon Institute confirms more customers stopped their relationship with a company that had a data breach (number increased 15% between 2013- ’14).

The topics addressed here will kick off next month’s programming with a special two-hour edition of “The Peggy Smedley Show” on Tuesday, August 5 beginning at 11 am with a one-hour interview with the newly appointed Deputy Commander of U. S. Cyber Command at Fort Meade, Maryland, Lieutenant General James McLaughlin.

The General takes a deep dive into cybercrime and what he hopes to do in his new role and what he has been doing in his former role as commander of the 24 Air Force and commander of Air Force Cyber, who now oversees all things related to cyber security from a national defense perspective.

During the month of August we interview experts about cybercrime and explore the more complicated issues of how cyber attacks can impact our smart grid, businesses, and what we can do from even the most basic steps to make a difference.

As the General says everyone should have some cyber hygiene within their personal lives and within the organizations where they work. Although he admits it won’t solve all the problems with cyber, but it will certainly make the task of a hacker much harder.

With the cooperation of government, industry, educators, and consumers we can create a more united front to protect our information and our infrastructure from cyber criminals. We hope you will listen in and encourage your friends, colleagues, and family to do the same.

Want to tweet about this article? Use hashtags #M2M #IoT #security #cybercrime #Ponemon #SCADA

2014
07.30

I’d wager that there is no adult in the world that has not heard the aphorism, “Guilty by association,” or a similar non-English version. Used as either a behavioral warning by parents throughout time, or as a condemnation of a person or company because of their association with some form or wrongdoing or ethical misbehavior, it is decidedly a negative connotation.

There is a positive version of this, “Success by association.” In business terms, companies that are associated with highly successful companies tend to get a positive lift in revenue and profitability. The ties that bind are mutually beneficial, but more so for the lesser known company in the relationship. Another way to look at this is to consider two companies, one that provides a component to the company that makes and sells the final product, the “wow” factor device, to the customer. The component maker is rarely identified to the customer, but it benefits from having its component in a device which has tens of millions of units sold. But the ties that initially bind the two companies can also be the clasps on a chain that can disproportionally drag down the smaller company when demand drops. And sometime, that component company may not be so small, making the disproportionate drag even more dramatic.

We have come to associate the names of legendary people in technology development with revolutionary products, ones that have had significant impact on the way people live their lives, and how businesses succeed or perish. We associate the name Steve Jobs with the iPhone (smartphone) and the iPad (tablet). Although these devices were not new to the consumer device market, his devices defined the standard by which all other devices would be judged. He also made them “cool”.

In the Apple iPhone and iPad, a primary component is the glass face on which you tap and slide your finger. It is made by Corning Inc. Corning is itself a legendary company, a 160-year-old technology leader in glass products including fiber-optic-cables that deliver the blazing download speeds you experience when you order a movie online, play online games and for just about everything you do when you are connected to your home network. The glass in Apple products is called Gorilla Glass, a chemically hardened type of glass that resists cracking.

The story of how Steve Jobs got Corning to make this glass for his products is apocryphal. Corning stepped up to the challenge and the outcome delivered a new and significant revenue stream to Corning, resulting in improved profits as iPhones and iPads flew off the shelves in stores.

Corning, as you might expect, is a significant patentee, which according to Patent Buddy, has more than 5,000 patents to its name (including those of its subsidiaries). So it is no surprise that in this week’s awards, it received six patents, of which one directly relates to improvements in the chemically hardened glass product. Patent 8,789,998 (“Edge Illumination of an Ion-Exchanged Glass Sheet”) describes improvements in surface illumination, both functional and ornamental, in the glass that goes into smartphone and tablets. Innovation is a constant process for Corning.

By coincidence, on Tuesday, the day of the weekly announcement of patent awards, Corning released its Quarterly earnings report, which reflected a drop in revenue from slowing tablet sales. Fewer tablets sold, fewer gorilla glass sheets sold, with the result that revenue from this component dropped. Corning’s stock value fell 9.3% after the announcement. Gorilla glass is one of a number of products made in Corning’s specialty-materials business unit, which accounts for only 11% of Corning’s overall revenue. Think, then, about the impact of lower revenue for a product in a small part of Corning’s total business resulting in its stock losing 10% of its value overnight. The ride up with Apple as iPhone and iPad sales skyrocketed, “Success by association” at work, created a market perception that so solidly tied gorilla glass to iPads that regardless of the relative impact on overall revenue, the heightened perception of risk incented investors to sell Corning stock.

Corning will bounce back as it deploys glass into other smart devices for other manufacturers. The lesson here is that success by association creates ties that are perceived to be so strong that they have a far greater impact to associated companies’ market valuation when sales of the devices in which components are used run out of fuel and fall back to Earth.

2014
07.28

PTC Saves Axeda

If you have been following the M2M/IoT (Internet of Things) space at all, then the recent acquisition of Axeda, www.axeda.com by PTC, www.ptc.com certainly is no big revelation. Candidly, I am surprised that Axeda was able to survive this long without being gobbled up sooner.

In fact, rumors have been swirling about it being acquired dating back to 2011. (that was right about the time SensorLogic was closing its doors.) From where I sit, this purchase was more of a Hail Mary for Axeda that has paid some amazing dividends for its founders and investors. Management knew after several previous attempts and numerous rounds of financing, the door has been rapidly closing on it as a standalone company. But more importantly than Axeda being acquired, was what the company fetched; approximately $170 million in cash.

As we have said so many times before, the M2M/IoT-platform space is up for grabs. However, after PTC acquired ThingWorx, www.thingworx.com at the end of last year, PTC made a pretty strong statement that it wants to be a real player in the M2M/IoT market. According to the Needham, Mass.,-based company, the Axeda acquisition is deigned to complement PTC’s existing SLM (service-lifecycle management) and extended PLM (product lifecycle management) solution portfolio.

After receiving several emails from people asking me comment on PTC’s purchase, I thought it was time to assess the platform space and my spiel about this will impact the M&A race once again.

First and foremost, in speaking with my good friend and industry analyst Dan Miklovic we both agreed that PTC is determined to build a deep portfolio in M2M/IoT technology and this move is a good one to do just that. But it does beg the question if this is good news or bad news for customers?

There is no question that Axeda has built a strong manufacturing customer base and it’s done an impressive job of kissing up to partners, but whether that will all truly complement the Thingworx business only time will tell.

We’ve known for quite some time that single-point solution companies like Axeda are headed for the chopping as they continue to show their vulnerabilities. The larger companies are not necessarily acquiring these companies for the technology per se, but for the customer base they possess or their ability to help them penetrate new markets. It’s pretty obvious that both platform purchases will help PTC become real M2M/IoT player.

I have many questions about what PTC hopes to gain by integrating Axeda’s offering with ThingWorx. I still consider Axeda to be too much of a one-trick pony. And I have to wonder why PTC would want to? ThingWorx has done a stiller job of building its platform on the latest and greatest and was shaking things up in the manufacturing marketplace. In the early days it built its foundation on what people called Web 2.0 and or a SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) model right from the onset; things like social networking or even search concepts—i.e., using the idea of tagging to tag and relate people’s data. Part of the social networking technology comes as a result of a very strategic acquisition in Palantiri Systems. It then went on to really build on a strong cloud-based system.

Then you have Axeda’s foundation which comes from a legacy system, so to speak. Again it has done a good job of building partners and talking up a big game, but in reality it didn’t do enough to clearly distinguish itself as being a stellar platform provider. It did eventually develop a SaaS model, but there’s the overlap with ThingWorx. But again, Axeda has proven to be very competent within the manufacturing sector developing some good manufacturing customers, but let’s not forget so did nPhase.

Remember that acquisition? Steve Pazol made himself a lot of money selling that company, twice. (I know I’m exaggerating, but industry observers get my point). But in the end what did Qualcomm and Verizon really get? Some key customers? Are they using the platform to grow the business today? The real beneficiary of that deal was Pazol who laughed all the way to the bank.

Axeda stockholders really benefited out of this deal, no doubt. But let’s be fair here. PTC is a shrewd company with really smart execs. They will take this partner network, manufacturing customers (estimated at about 15,000-18,000 customers) and truly leverage them into a successful operation. So in the end, Axeda customers will benefit from this deal knowing that they were just adopted by a much healthier company.

So where does this leave the industry as a whole? This is just the beginning of a lot more shakeups. For instance, platform companies such as Wyless, www.wyless.com, and Kore Telematics www.korewireless.com, are also susceptible. Even though Kore made headlines when it announced it had acquired Jazz Wireless Data and its six-figure subscriber base, rumors say it’s only a matter of time before a big announcement is made.

We’ve been hearing for the past couple of years that Numerex is also very exposed or even on the block. But as industry watchers always say a great way to help prevent stock prices from going sideways is to acquire and rumor has it that’s what Numerex did with the purchase of Omnilink several months ago. So that begs the question are these platform companies potential targets for the right price?

John Horn, president of Raco Wireless says he gets interesting offers all the time. He admits the market is ripe for consolidation and more on the horizon.

The numbers speak volumes. In 2011, the CW 100 had approximately 20 platform players on the list. Looking at the 2015 list that will be revealed shortly, puts the count at less than 10 and that number is down from a year earlier. There is no doubt there will be a lot more M&As coming before the year comes to a close. At this point we can’t even put the new CW 100 on the Website before we hear of yet another merger or purchase. We anticipate at least 10 more before 2014 comes to a close. Let’s see if the rumor mill is on target.

Want to tweet about this article? Use hashtags #M2M #IoT #Axeda #PTC #ThingWorx, #Raco, #Wyless, #Kore, #Numerex

2014
07.23

Not having checked on Amazon Technologies, Inc., in some time, let’s focus today’s report on it. Today it received 14 awards, one of which was intriguing in that, once again, the only named person on the patent was Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO. When the CEO is the only person referenced on the patent, you can bet its significance to the company is high.

Before we explore that one, here’s another that caught my attention. Consistent with Amazon’s efforts to master its value chain, Patent 8,788,199 (“Transport Using Geolocation”) describes a way to determine not only the location of an address that is hard to find, but to also check to see if the recipient of the delivery is at that location. The courier or delivery person can type in an address into a smart device to get geo-coordinates that will, in conjunction with a map app, help them navigate to that location more effectively.

I threw the term “value chain” at you just now, the meaning of which you may not know. I am more certain that you have heard of the term “supply chain.” So what is common between the two and what are the differences?

The common point is that both strive to reduce the cost to make and distribute products through a process — the “chain” — that starts with customers wanting something, continues on from getting raw materials, transforming them into products, and then moving the products to a place where the customers can buy them. Another way to think about this is that at each step in the chain, finding ways to become more efficient at doing that step can result in higher profits for the producers and lower prices to the customers.

What makes the two different is the orientation to the end user, the customer. Supply chains are created by producers to “push” products to customers. It is an adversarial process. Customers get what is pushed to them by the producers, which reduces trust between the producer and the customer.

A value chain focuses on the customer, whose interests pull the chain, producing and delivering products and an experience for the customer that engenders trust.

For a delightful explanation of the differences between the two, view this video created by Professor Andrew Fearne of Kent Business School. The cartoon illustrations and his charming way of presenting the two will keep you hooked until the end.

Think, then, about the improvement to the customer experience – and the cost reduction opportunity – that Amazon’s patented technologies offer. Customers that live in hard to find places are found on the first delivery attempt, making these customers happy and appreciative of Amazon’s effort to improve the value of their shopping experience. Amazon wins by not having to repeat the delivery effort, a definite cost savings.

Let’s circle back to the patent with only Mr. Bezos’ name on it. Patent 8,788,977 (“Movement Recognition as Input Mechanism”) describes how the movement of either the user’s device or the user (a change in the orientation relationship between the two) can be used to act as an input mechanism. Amazon calls this “dynamic perspective.” Motion tracking to execute changes in the application you are using is the fundamental function.

Keep in mind that Amazon is a producer of smart devices, such as the Kindle and now its new smartphone with a 3D camera, the Fire Phone. Preloaded on that phone is Amazon’s own mobile wallet capability.

Regarding the Fire Phone, rare is the occasion when the award of a patent coincides with mainstream media’s coverage of the technology described in a patent, but this is such an event; the Wednesday, July 23 edition of the Wall Street Journal has a major product review about the phone including an assessment of the functionality of the “dynamic perspective” technology covered in the patent.

I have gone down this rabbit hole to make the point that everything Amazon does to engage customers is done with the value chain in mind. It is creating an ecosystem that embraces customer convenience and satisfaction. And with its preeminence in logistics technology and its deployment, the strength of its value chain in relationship to competitors’ value chains is dominant. 

Here’s a recent perspective on Amazon’s strategy that I think captures its essence.

Amazon never fails to amaze. We’ll keep an eye on it for sure.

2014
07.16

It has been a while since I checked Accenture Global Services Ltd. patent activity. To be honest, I was intrigued by the mention of them in the current cover story of Fortune, where the author, Allan Sloan, described them as a “never here” company for U.S. taxpaying purposes. It was not a flattering reference.

This week, the usually prolific company was awarded a modest four patents, two of which were related to Cloud processing. Of the remaining two, the one that was most intriguing is Patent 8,781,882 (“Automotive Industry High Performance Capability Assessment.”) A computer-based capabilities assessment tool, it intends to analyze, assess and report on “marketing leading” capabilities of automobile manufacturers. The motivation is to identify and exploit competitive advantage while exposing inefficiencies in a company’s processes.

Let’s keep in mind that Accenture is a consulting company, and such a tool gives it significant advantage when competing for engagements from the auto makers. Accenture, unique among its main competitors, is an aggressive patentee around processes that broadly cover major markets such as automotive, aerospace, city development and healthcare.

According to Patent Buddy, Accenture has, as of July 8th’s awards, been granted 1,014 patents.  Accenture is ranked 10 on the 2014 Vault  Consulting 50 list. Compare its award record with the nine companies ahead of it in the listing: McKinsey (none), Bain and Co. (none), The Boston Consulting Group (none), Booz and Co. (none), PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) with a total of 20 (!), Oliver Wyman (none), Deloitte Consulting (10), The Parthenon Group (none) and A.T. Kearney (none).

I have taken the time to go through the top 10 because it highlights patenting as a key differentiator for Accenture. In fact, some observers have pointed out its intent to become a software company. Another way to see this is by taking a glance at a recent snapshot of its patent applications, as of June of this year. It is all about processes and technology that can be deployed as software, either for its own use in its consulting services areas, or as applications that can be sold as traditional software.

As recently as Oct. 8, 2013, at Accenture’s Investor & Analyst Conference, held in New York, the senior general and technology management went into great detail around the theme of “Capturing New Waves of Growth”. Reading the transcript it becomes very clear that Accenture sees itself more of a solutions’ design and deployment business for its 40 practice areas (markets). Here is how Paul Daugherty, Accenture’s CTO, described the company’s identity:

“Well, the way I think about it is innovation is really at the core of who we are, of who Accenture is as a company, and it’s really the essence of the Accenture Way of how we operate in our culture. And as technology cycles increase, we talk about digital, we talk about SMAC, the industrial Internet – lots of things changing very fast. The way we innovate is very important, but innovation isn’t just my job or just any one person’s job or any one organization’s job at Accenture. Innovation is part of a lot of what we do and something that permeates a lot of our organization.” (pg. 22)

To my mind, Accenture’s orientation is more in line with GE, which staked a founder’s claim in the Industrial Internet Consortium. Interestingly enough, you will find Accenture in the member’s list. Only one of its top 10 consulting competitors, Deloitte, can be found among the movers and shakers creating the connected industrial infrastructure that will shape our world in the decade ahead.

You can bet that I will be paying closer attention to Accenture going forward.

2014
07.15

There has been a lot of discussion around crowdfunding. Even the mainstream media is talking about it a lot these days after some guy decided to ask for $10 just for kicks and ended up getting more than $50,000 to make potato salad.

Setting aside all the nonsense about potato salad, there is a real point to be made here: Crowdfunding potential is truly limitless. Even before the potato salad story had hit the news, I had been really digging into this whole crowdfunding scene. That’s why I had decided to dedicate the whole month of July on The Peggy Smedley Show, http://www.peggysmedleyshow.com/ to this very subject. My research so far has been truly fascinating as I have discovered organizations like Kickstarter and Indiegogo are leading the charge and are very influential in helping tech innovators bring their creative ideas to production or to market.

Let’s talk real numbers. According to Massolution’s 2013 crowdfunding industry report, donation and reward grew 85% to $1.4 billion between 2012 and 2013. During that same period, lending grew 111% to $1.2 billion and equity climbed 30% to $116 million. These are big numbers.

Using Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and others are giving people a chance to take their product to the people and letting them determine if a product or solution is truly worthy of being something useful.

People want to forgo the traditional route of knocking on doors and trying to land face-to-face meetings with potential investors.

So what exactly is crowdfunding any way? By definition, crowdfunding is the “The practice of funding a project or venture by raising small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the Internet.”

Any type of person or organization can go the route of crowdfunding. This can be a non-profit, charitable organization, start-up, artist, and musician, you name can bring a product, service, or idea.

As I said earlier, while many people have given up on the traditional way of seeking investors, crowdfunding really isn’t new. In fact, its roots can be traced as far back as 1713. Alexander Pope was looking to translate Homer’s Illiad from Greek into English, and set out to find people to support him. In exchange for their assistance, he offered acknowledgements in the book, a copy of the book, and a good feeling of helping out another person. Some 750 people stepped up helping Pope giving birth to the first real crowdfunding effort. Ironically, it’s only recently crowdfunding has come into its own and people are seeing its real value.

Let’s go back to the Massolution’s report again as it states $2.7 billion was raised by more than 1 million campaigns in 2012, which ironically was an 81% increase from the year before. Looking ahead that means the total amount raised could hit more than $5 billion when this firm completes its 2013 review.

What this tells me is the opportunities for crowdfunding are endless. We are only limited by our imagination, thus the making and raising of funds for potato salad truly a reality.

Want to tweet about this article? Use hashtags #Crowdfunding, #Kickstarter #Indiegogo #M2M #PeggySmedleyShow

2014
07.14

Great brands are built upon the foundation of good products that sustain their value over the long term. These products achieve an iconic status, crossing generational boundaries with their appeal. Coca Cola is such an iconic brand, recognized throughout the world. For years, it was number one on Interbrand’s Top 100 Listing of Best Global Brands, but slipped to number three in 2013, after Apple and Google.

Great brands also develop and deploy devices that help them position products with consumers, some of which may also take on iconic stature. In the case of Coca Cola, its vending machines have succeeded in capturing consumer attention through great designs that augment and compliment the appeal of the product they house and dispense.

Since 1929, the development of Coca Cola vending machines to deploy products broadly in a manner that satisfies the immediate need of a consumer, to conveniently buy chilled refreshments, has been ongoing. Innovations have paralleled advancements in electro-mechanical technology, and have recently incorporated networked digital capabilities that have opened new opportunities to offer non-traditional products. These additional new revenue sources have expanded the value of vending machines. They have also turned the traditional “dumb, unconnected” device into a “smart, connected” device. It now sits firmly in the ecosystem of the Internet of Things. It is also a major player in the Internet of Soda.

(For a wonderful and quick pictorial tour of the evolution of the Coca Cola vending machine, click here and click through the photo set.)

The evolution of the device in conjunction with customer engagement experiments continues and can take on very intriguing forms. For this past Valentine’s Day, a virtual vending machine was created that would only appear when couples passed it. Here is the video. This is an example of the merger of point of sales entertainment and functionality that lends itself to social media exploitation.

Coca Cola vending machines have become ubiquitous. They, and competitors’ machines, are seemingly positioned everywhere, but in reality, their placement is contingent upon certain infrastructure requirements that enable the networked digital capabilities to function.

On an historical note, there is a story that places the origins of The Internet of Things to the efforts of some frustrated, thirsty computer students at Carnegie-Mellon University wanting to know the inventory level of their local Coke machine. In 1982, they wired up the Coke vending machine with microswitches to report on levels in the racks in the machine.

What are some of these capabilities? Let’s see what Coca Cola says. Coke has a B2B (business-to-business) segment, called CokeSolutions, which positions and deploys vending as a managed services opportunity. The business value that smart, connected vending machines can deliver are tied to interoperability with other smart devices that consumers use, such as their smart phones used as mobile wallets.

Coca-Cola has taken a strong infrastructure position with its latest smart machine, reportedly acquiring 16 million unique network IDs to use with its Freestyle vending machines as they deploy. A network ID for each machine is essential for network connectivity, giving each machine the ability to be identified in space (location) and time. Machine stock levels that automatically trigger replenishment orders, delivering third-party value offers to mobile wallets, and realtime test marketing are just some of the intended capabilities of networked vending machines.

Few consumers know that Coca-Cola positions it machines in quick-serve merchant venues, such as Burger King. Consider this a managed services business opportunity for Coke.

As I have written before, American brands including Coca-Cola and McDonalds have used Japan as a learning laboratory for the advancement of digital capabilities in its operations. In the case of Coke, it presently is experimenting with gamification to allow customers to bond more closely with hundreds of thousands of its vending machines.

Another ongoing experiment is the “peak shift” energy conservation vending machine which when more broadly applied in other countries will have an impact on smart city initiatives.

As early as 2005, in Japan, one could download ring tones from a Coke vending machine to a cellphone.

The most important development has been to synchronize the vending machine with the mobile wallet in the consumer’s smart phone. Coke machines in Japan had this capability since the early 2000s, built upon Sony’s contactless transaction chip, FeliCa. FeliCa was the dominant contactless format in Japan for the first decade of the 21st century.

In the U.S., the first significant deployment of contactless payment-enabled Coke vending machines was announced in 2006, based on MasterCard’s PayPass technology. This first effort was focused on taking a contactless payment for a Coke product in the vending machine.

Efforts to take advantage of contactless technology’s capabilities have broadened, with Coke’s “My Coke Rewards” becoming a digital part of the mobile wallet in smart phones equipped with a NFC-chip (Near Field Communication). A good example of this is the ISIS trial announced last year for deployment of its mobile wallet service in Austin, TX and Salt Lake City, UT. Coke has apparently benefited from this trial:

“Coca-Cola’s vending machines are among them. More than one-third of active Isis Mobile Wallet users in Austin have reportedly loaded a My Coke Rewards card into their wallet since the pilot began and 90% of them are new to the My Coke Rewards program.”

ISIS was formed by three of the four top wireless communications companies in the U.S. to promote smart phone payment services.

I have grown up with the Coca-Cola vending machine, from its days as a dumb, unconnected device to today’s smart, connected “Happiness Machine.” What I have witnesses is the transition of a simple device designed to keep a Coke product cold at the point of purchase to an entertainment engine that enhances the brand experience and delivers value offers—Coke’s and other merchants’—seamlessly to the consumer’s mobile wallet. It can do on the spot market testing, and self-manage inventory replenishment. It can sell and deliver non-beverage products to me.

And, yes, it still delivers a cold Diet Coke for me to enjoy on a hot summer’s day.

Want to tweet about this article? Use hashtags #CocaCola, #Coke, #Freestyle, #ISIS, #M2M #Vending #NFC, #IoT #CokeSolutions, #smartmachines 

2014
07.09

Recently, I added Spansion Inc. to my patent “watch list” because of some interesting news about the company. It also received four patent grants today. Let’s start with the interesting news. On July 3, it was announced Spansion had joined the ZigBee Alliance, noting this would position the company firmly in the build out of infrastructure of the IoT (Internet of Things).

ZigBee was formed about in 2002 as a standards setting group, defining open standards for wireless sensor networks. ZigBee’s approach was to develop low-cost, low-energy sensor standards that would allow information from a source sensor to be passed “cooperatively” to the closest sensor, then on to the next one on the path, continuing the along the trail of sensors to the last stop, usually a collection node that was linked by the Internet to a monitoring device. Another way to describe this process is mesh networking. It offered the promise of having sensors that were cheap to deploy and useful in extending the reach of remote-device monitoring deeper into buildings and other dense structures.

Back in the early 2000’s this was a very big deal for companies that offered remote monitoring and managed services. Getting to devices deep within structures that were “masked” from typical wireless systems required hardwiring them, a significant expense to the customer that in most cases caused the customer to balk. Many devices went unmonitored. Mesh networks could bring the cost of coverage of these devices down significantly, while concurrently setting up the infrastructure to monitor other devices that could be deployed in other use cases. ZigBee’s founding members were leaders in promoting this approach. Today, the ZigBee alliance has more than a hundred members, many which design and manufacture the sensors and their components, including the controller chips. This is where Spansion is positioned.

The four new patents granted to Spansion are:  8772953 (“Semiconductor device and programming method”) , 8773885 (“Semiconductor memory device featuring selective data storage in a stacked memory cell structure”) ,8774400 (“Method for protecting data against differential fault analysis involved in rivest, shamir, and adleman cryptography using the Chinese remainder theorem,”) and 8775853 (“Device and method for preventing lost synchronization”).

Let’s circle back to the ZigBee Alliance. Of the top 11 companies in the highest membership category (Promoter), you will find Kroger. Let’s pause to think about this. Kroger is a very large food and multi-merchandise retailer. Yet it is part of a wireless mesh networking standards body at the highest level of membership, sitting on the Alliance’s Board of Directors. Why would it do this? Kroger’s position as a ZigBee Board member provides it an opportunity to approve projects that will enhance the retail experience through deployable mesh networks. They have the ability to be first user in a learning lab, which if successful, gives them significant competitive advantage.

ZigBee is about infrastructure development, while Kroger is all about front line customer engagement using that infrastructure. The Internet of Things, and now, the Internet of Everything, has generated a significant business opportunity, which by all accounts, is in the billions of dollars. Consumers are using the “things” for “everything”, and for retailers, control of this newly emerging “smart” customer experience is paramount.

In April of 2014, Kroger joined with eInfochips to roll out a Retail Site Intelligence capability that is deployed over ZigBee mesh networks. Take a look at pages 8-11 of this 2012 presentation. You’ll get a very clear understanding of the synergy between Kroger and ZigBee as they envisioned and created the “store of the future” environment, and now begin to massively deploy it throughout the brick and mortar venues of a major retailer.

The point of all of this is that companies have always sought out alliances that would bring in new revenue opportunities. In this sense, Kroger’s active membership in the ZigBee Alliance is a continuation of traditional business practice. What is new is the positioning joining together of infrastructure developer with a premier infrastructure user to create the new customer engagement model for the Internet of Everything. Expect to see more of this in the newer alliances, such as the Allseen Alliance.

2014
07.03

Every time I explain to someone that our world is connected I can’t help but make the analogy to the 1987 movie Planes, Trains, and Automobiles starring the late comedian John Candy. However, in our world we are connecting cars, homes, and everything.

Think about it. The race is on between Apple and Google for sure. Already we’ve written about Apple’s move into the connected car market with its CarPlay letting users connect their iPhones through its iOS and a Lightning cable with the help of Siri all while keeping the driver’s eyes on the road. Now it’s Google’s turn with Google Auto and a MicroUSB and Google voice search.

As an observer it’s really fascinating. Personally, I can’t help but like Google. This is a company that has its fingers in everything. At first it was talking searches, then platforms, then homes, wear, and now it’s cars. It wants to connect it all. We’ve been saying it for the past several years your mobile world will be completely connected and you will have a central hub that will be automatic and seamless.

So it was no surprise to anyone at Google’s I/O developer conference that the company announced Android Auto, which promises to extend the Android platform into our next car. We have been wondering when it was going to happen since we have been talking about an autonomous car now for far too long. Google wants to be, and is proving to be, a leader at all facets of the connected lifestyle.

While not much information is available just yet, but I can say this, Google is truly proposing what appears to be yet another step forward in making connectivity a ubiquitous feature in new cars. The Android Auto solution will offer an intuitive interface allowing drivers to interact with the data. The company says drivers will be less distracted. Personally, less distraction is music to my ears. Now I’m struggling with this since Google is the company behind the Google Glass, but I will be open minded and wait a little longer. But candidly, I have some serious doubts. Why you might ask?

The company says, whether it’s navigating using Google Maps, getting traffic updates along an intended route, or selecting the right playlist from our smartphones, Android Auto will connect user’s to an Android phone to his or her car, opening up new ways to control content and services through integrated steering wheel controls and voice commands.

The goal is to put the information consumers want and need at their fingertips. And while that all sounds good on face value—helping motorists keep their hands on the wheels and eyes on the road—which ultimately reduces the temptation to fiddle with a cellphone driving; I’m not 100% sure this will do the trick, since a distraction is a distraction—it all depends how much access Google will be providing to Android users at their fingertips. This little factoid still remains to be seen. Google says Android Auto will begin to appear in cars later this year.

The only question left to answer is who will own the road more: Google Auto or Apple CarPlay. The race is now on.

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2014
06.25

Anytime a vendor finds a way to keep me out of a doctor’s office or away from the emergency room all while keeping my costs down, I’m going to blog about it. And that’s what Verizon Enterprise Solutions, http://www.verizonenterprise.com/, unveiled today with the introduction of a new mobile-health solution aimed to provide a convenient, cost-effective way for clinicians to remotely see and assess patients via smartphone, tablet, or computer. Coined Verizon Virtual Visits, the app uses video to connect patients suffering from acute conditions such as colds, sore throats, or the flu with healthcare clinicians and other professionals.

Let’s face facts, healthcare costs have reached a record high and solutions that offer alternative ways to help patients connect with physicians at a reduced rate is certainly going to be embraced by consumers and medical professionals. Research shows $4.4 billion is spent annually on emergency visits for non-urgent routine care and another $151 billion is spent on emergency room visits.

Couple this with the increasing shortage of primary care physicians and consumers are being forced to bear a greater financial burden than ever before. I couldn’t believe it when Verizon revealed that 62 million people don’t have a connection to primary care doctors. That’s just scary. When you think about it, this app can make the difference of millions of dollars of an unproductive workforce.

Christine Izui, Verizon’s quality officer for mobile health solutions, says Verizon Virtual Visits is really for the “working well.”  More specifically, she says if I’m really feeling crappy and I don’t want to really wait in a doctor’s office this is the app for me.

She explains it like this, “(Imagine) you’re just feeling horrible and you decide that you really want to see a doctor (but) you’re swamped. You’re working all day today and you just cannot get out of the office and this is your second or third day of feeling horrible…. What am I going to do?’ With Verizon Virtual Visits ….connect with a doctor on a phone or a tablet or a PC.”

Here’s how it works. Verizon Virtual Visits typically takes place through a secure app downloaded to my connected device. There, I can simply log in, answer a set of questions, and then discuss my symptoms and options for treatment with a clinician. If applicable, the healthcare professional can use the platform to send a prescription to the pharmacy closest to my current location. The system has been even set up to facilitate the acceptance of a medical co-pay. The best news of all is that I don’t have to go to an urgent care. In the end, perhaps the app will reduce some overall burdens on these medical locations giving them more time to care for patients remotely.

By leveraging the latest encryption technologies and the company’s HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), Verizon says its solution is an enterprise-class platform for health systems, health plans, and employers to “meet the needs of their specific patient or member population base.” Employers benefit by keeping their employees healthier.

She says, “(Imagine) you’re just feeling horrible and you decide that you really want to see a doctor (but) you’re swamped. You’re working all day today and you just cannot get out of the office and this is your second or third day of feeling horrible. You think, ‘all right, I don’t have time to go sit in the waiting room; I don’t want to go to an emergency room. What am I going to do?’ With Verizon Virtual Visits, what you do is you actually connect with a doctor on your phone or a tablet or a PC.”

The Verizon Virtual Visits is meant for an episodic condition, so this isn’t to treat congestive heart failure or diabetes or something where a patient might have an ongoing prescription. It’s really meant for an incident, such as a flu, upper respiratory infection, or for taking a short-term drug. 

Verizon’s ultimate goal with its latest mobile-health offering is to help pave the way for a more efficient healthcare system in the United States. By leveraging the latest encryption technologies and the company’s HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)-enabled cloud, Verizon Virtual Visits offers a new way for employers, employees, and healthcare providers to work together to get sick people in front of those who can help get them well.

I think Rich Black Verizon’s vice president, healthcare practice says it best when he acknowledged there is a shift in how care is delivered in the U.S. As a result Verizon wants to be at the forefront of not only delivering a solution, but one that is secure and reliable. Security will continue to play an ever-increasing role and it’s great to see Verizon leading the charge in providing healthcare solutions to consumers.

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