2013
10.30

Are You Prepared for “Talent War” in M2M?

Who knew the coming rise of the machines would ultimately have the greatest impact on us humans? Two significant pieces of news emerged this week that address a necessary talent pool of workers to bring the coming Internet of Things to life.

A report from The Economist Intelligence Unit titled ‘The Internet of Things Business Index’ offered up some interesting perspective on the percentage of organizations that are currently using and/or planning to incorporate IoT (or M2M) into their business models. You can check out the numbers in the report—but the area I want to focus in on is the thought raised in the report, which was sponsored by ARM, that the talent pool of workers will need to acquire more specific IoT-related skills in order for the next stage of development to really take shape.

The report even cites this lack of IoT skills and knowledge among employees and management as the biggest obstacle to companies embracing IoT on a broader scale.

It’s an interesting point and one I think does not get enough attention. The fact of the matter is when we begin talking about all the data that will need to be interpreted, analyzed, and acted upon, there comes a point where the machines simply cannot do it—nor do you want them to. There will be a definitive need for workers who possess specific IoT (M2M) related skillsets. And by and large, I am not too certain the current talent pool is very deep with the right set of skills to take this all to the next level. But hopefully that will change.

As the report suggest, organizations are currently going about addressing this need in a variety of ways: training current staff, recruiting IoT talent, or hiring third-party experts. It all raises the potential for what the report calls ‘IoT talent wars.’ And for those who feared the coming age of IoT would mean less jobs, here is some evidence to the contrary. In fact, you might need to reevaluate the way you are looking at talent going forward.

In a related note, this week Cisco announced its global commitment to educate and empower current and future generations of what it calls ‘IoT entrepreneurs, scientists, and innovators.’ In its news release, Cisco cites a study published by World Bank that says the information and communication technologies sector has become an addressable market of $800 billion globally and that in the coming decade, there will be two million unfilled ICT-related jobs globally. This, according to the report, would correlate with a projected talent gap of 8.2% by 2022.

This is where Cisco is looking to capitalize. The company cites an interesting stat in its release that says education and training institutions will need to increase the number of technical graduates 222,000 more each year between 2014 and 2022. In a word, let me say: Wow!

You can read all the details here, but it goes to show that on a broader scale we should be thinking about the human aspect of IoT (M2M) going forward. Big data means big business, and where else is more data coming from these days than from sensors and other connected “things” around the globe?

 I agree with the observation from The Economist that this could eventually turn into a “talent war” for companies looking to recruit the best of the best in the world of IoT (M2M). Now it’s up the powers that be to ensure the talent pool comes equipped with the right skillset to compete. This will all definitely be interesting to watch.

2013
10.25

I am constantly covering stories about connected-energy programs. It is encouraging to hear these stories, but while smart meters and other energy initiatives are being rolled out across the country, consumer involvement is still relatively low.

Organizations such as National Grid, an electricity and gas company in the Northeast United States, understand the importance of not only implementing energy technologies, but also educating consumers about overall efficiency, which is why National Grid unveiled its Sustainability Hub last week.

The Hub has interactive exhibits and demonstrations to educate consumers about how energy solutions can maximize savings. The goal is to help customers understand smart thermostats, smart plugs, smart appliances, and smart meters. The Hub, which is located in Worcester, Mass., even has the city’s first street-side electric vehicle charging station.

Educational initiatives such as this are huge and are one of the key elements that are needed to get consumers updated on the technology. But education is really only one component.

Case in point: I was having a conversation with a friend who recently received a smart meter—and she understands the smart meter. She excitedly told me about the new connected device on the side of her house, but quickly followed it up by saying nothing has really changed for her, as she has yet to view the data. The caveat in this case is the data isn’t being pushed to her; she has to go out and seek it.

Therein lies the rub. If consumers don’t have easy access to the energy data, nothing will change. Initiatives that drive home the importance of presenting energy data in a way that consumers can easily digest that information in order to make a change in their lives will be key to helping connected-energy initiatives thrive.

The Prius effect, for example, shows if drivers have realtime feedback and an easy way to digest energy data, the result will be reduced fuel consumption and overall environmental savings. This same concept can be applied in our homes, businesses, and cities.

As connected-energy programs move forward, education and easy access to energy data will be very important components for consumers. I am curious your thoughts on this topic. What do you believe is needed to drive connected energy efficiency initiatives forward in our homes, in our businesses, in our cities, and even in our cars?

Want to tweet about this article? Use hashtags #M2M #energy

2013
10.23

Speed, performance, and power. Those three words were spoken in the good ole days of what were once the calling card for purchasing a vehicle. But not anymore. Today it’s more about convenience, mobility, connectivity. At least that’s what Joe Wiesenfelder, executive editor of Cars.com commented during his interview on The Peggy Smedley Show earlier this week.

Wiesenfelder says automobile companies that don’t change with the times will ultimately be left behind, because the decision to buy a car really isn’t about the vehicle anymore. Rather, it’s about people’s lifestyles. I must confess I have to agree. Customers are used to having constant connectivity. When the iPhone was first introduced in 2007 it changed our world and now every cellphone since then that sends automatic updates has become the norm. As consumers we just expect each and every update automatically. In turn, we are now expecting the same from our cars.

He explains in terms of connected technology in the car, the question really isn’t, “Will this work with my phone?” Rather, it’s, “Will this work with my next phone?” He says, the average car on the road is more than 10 years old and most drivers don’t even realize what’s out there when it comes to technology offerings right now. The good news is that when they experience connected technology, motorists generally embrace it, and in many cases they can’t get enough of it.

As Wiesenfelder sees it, the car company that makes the technology in their vehicles remotely updatable, much like other connected technology will most likely be the one that comes out on top. He applauds the Tesla Model S with being the most successful vehicle so far, saying it has two physical buttons on the dashboard and the rest consists of a screen about as big as two iPads.

In terms of distracted driving, car companies now have a bit of an advantage. It’s become so unavoidable for people to be connected that car companies can look like they’re incorporating technology into vehicles for safety’s sake. In essence, they can look like part of the solution.

You can’t help but chuckle when Wiesenfelder remarks that if voice control features worked as they’re theoretically supposed to, they would be much better. Ironically, as luck would have it, that’s just not the case. And when it comes to voice control, he says, car companies still have more room for improvement. I can’t help but wonder how many automobile companies would take exception to this remark.

2013
10.23

M2M One-Stop-Shop or One-Shop-Stop?

Let’s not debate the fact that the M2M value chain is complex; because it is. That being said, this realization shouldn’t be the basis of the argument for why one-stop-shops—or AEP (application enablement platforms) as they are called—are the ideal option for corporate adopters.

The idea is fresh in the news today with a news brief from ABI Research popping in my inbox that suggests revenues from core capabilities are expected to drive AEP revenues past $800 million by 2018—a 32% growth rate.

In the brief, ABI Practice Director Dan Shey suggest that while much in the realm of M2M application development is still done in the traditional manner using SIs, ISVs, and internal teams, AEPs offer significant value in their time-to-market advantages. Shey makes the comment that “The M2M value chain is still complex which is a drag on adoption.” If you break down that statement, I agree with the first part, not necessarily the second.

We addressed this very topic in the recently released 2014 M2M Sourcebook. I think Peggy said it best in her editorial when she states, “As the M2M technology market becomes developed, so too does its value chain, and as time goes on certain parts will collapse or become refined—and in some cases this has already begun resulting in the surge of M&As (mergers and acquisitions) that has occurred within the past year alone. The M2M value chain will continue to consolidate and so will its core players.”

But, as Peggy goes on to point out, consolidation of core players in M2M has its pros and cons. I agree, and would add that there is something to be said about a company that does one or two core processes very well, as opposed to one who is simply trying to be all things to all people. Because at the end of the day, as Shey suggests, the M2M value chain is complex … but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to solve with the right pieces in place.

Truth be told, you have your traditional AEPs that have been touting the one-stop-shop message since day one. But then you seem to have this growing trend in the market where companies that started out as pure module vendors or MVNOs trying to gobble up more links within the value chain through merger and acquisition.

I think this is where we suggest the greatest level of caution with regards to amassing your M2M value chain. Sometimes a one-stop-shop seems best, but other times it might not provide that ‘one stop’ you are seeking, and instead provide an array of subpar solutions to go along with one or two strong ones. I am not pointing fingers in any direction, but simply offer a word of caution. If you believe one-stop-shop is truly the way to go with your M2M deployment then by all means go forward. But just be sure that you thoroughly vet all your options. Ask the right questions, get the right information, and don’t be wowed by companies that simply talk the talk.

I will leave you with this, from Peggy’s aforementioned editorial: “The best way to understand the M2M value chain is to follow the flow of data, all the way from a sensor inside a machine, out through a radio, over a network, and into a software application, where it is finally integrated into a business process. These are not simple devices. In an M2M value chain, the ultimate goal is to take data from a remote asset and use it to make our businesses or even our tablets run more efficiently.”

To that, I suggest if your one-stop-shop can do all this, then it is a good fit. If not, perhaps it’s not your best option for the long run.

2013
10.19

Tech writers take a lot of pride in what they do and Wayne Cunningham is no exception. The senior writer at CNET, whose parent just happens to CBS, says CNET started noticing car technology about 10 years ago. Since then, the industry has exploded to the point where just about every car you’ll find has some kind of advanced technology.

In his view, the old paradigm that a car manufacturer would update a model every five years has completely changed and now cars just keep getting better and more advanced.

Now, thanks to connected technology, changes in vehicles have to happen much faster so that the tech stays up-to-date. While keeping up with technology advances might be good news for consumers, the bad news is that the industry is fraught with some significant challenges. He says one way the car industry is attempting to manage this particular problem is by making the software in the car updatable.

While connectivity has it benefits, Cunningham admits it adds to driver distraction. The problem is that as soon as a car manufacturer adds more features and capabilities to the technology, it complicates the interface and that’s where the rubber meets the road.

But he points out that there is this perception that cellphones are causing a massive distraction crisis, which results in “people crashing into each other” constantly. He challenges this perception. He notes that cellphones have been common for the past decade, and this sort of crisis really hasn’t happened.

In his estimation, most people seem to be smart enough to put the cellphone down when the road requires greater attention. Despite the National Highway Traffic Safety Admin., stats that quote 3,300 fatal traffic accidents as a result of distracted driving in 2012, Cunningham is still  optimistic that the majority of motorists can balance the urge to use a cellphone with being responsible enough to keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel.

2013
10.18

Consumer Reports is a no-holds-barred kind of magazine. That’s why when Liza Barth, associate writer for autos, joined me on The Peggy Smedley Show to talk about the world of connected cars I knew she wouldn’t disappoint. You have to admire a writer that speaks her mind about what she sees and doesn’t hesitate sharing her thoughts with hundreds of thousands of listeners.

We all agree that driver distraction is an epidemic in this country. But Barth goes a step farther stating some car companies have added to the distraction. She says both MyFord Touch and the Cadillac CUE are both very distracting. She’s not afraid to point out that MyFord Touch has been improved in its second go around, but it’s still cumbersome and not easy to use, and requires a variety of buttons and steps.

On the other hand, she not was thrashing all connectivity in vehicles. She gives a thumbs-up to Chrysler and its uConnect, saying it is simple and easy to use with knobs for frequently used tasks. In her view, knobs should be used for everyday features in the car, such as changing a radio station or changing the climate. Other car companies like BMW and Audi scored well in this area as well.

Generally, she says, motorists try not to take their eyes off the road for more than two seconds. But for some of the tasks in today’s connected cars you’re distracted for much longer than that. As a result, Barth points out that automakers are stuck between trying to live up to consumer demand (i.e., smartphone integration), and making sure their automobiles are safe. Some connected features are helpful, such as navigation features and the ability to stream music seamlessly and automatically. She too agrees that fidelity in voice control would be optimal, but it’s just not there yet.

Despite all the advances and distractions on the dashboard, Barth says cars are safer than they’ve ever been. Crash avoidance technologies and the like are steps in the right direction, though some are better than others. So this technology can be helpful in terms of helping drivers stay aware of what’s around them. The key to all of the technology is helping young and old maximize their experience. Now that’s the biggest challenge of all.

2013
10.17

On Friday I learned something new about distracted driving from AAA. Audible emails are causing greater distraction than handheld phones. At least that’s what the latest research from AAA reveals. That’s a new one for me. I have been very passionate about educating drivers about the dangers of distracted driving. I have been a strong advocate pleading to listeners and readers about keeping their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.

And according to AAA, we all need to understand the inherent dangers of audio fidelity when we are having a discussion about in-vehicle connectivity. I don’t think anyone disagrees that when we are behind the wheel we all need to concentrate on what we are doing, and that means keeping our minds and our eyes on the road and our hands on the wheel. So when I interviewed Justin McNaull the director of state relations from AAA on The Peggy Smedley Radio Show, he made a few pretty convincing arguments that part of the problem with voice-to-text features is fidelity or the lack thereof. The driver needs to think a little harder to say something that’s going to be properly detected by software and turned into verbiage, and there isn’t 100% fidelity with these systems.

AAA’s recent research looked at the cognitive load associated with various activities. The research found that the greatest cognitive load was affected when drivers engaged in voice-driven email.

McNaull stressed once again that distracted driving has become a much higher profile issue in the last five years, partially because of what former Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood did while he was in office, and partially because more and more technology is being placed in vehicles. He couldn’t emphasize enough that motorists need to understand driver-distraction risks from a safety advocacy standpoint, and from an equipment design and building standpoint. McNaull is adamant that just because we have our eyes on the road and our hands on the wheel doesn’t mean that OEMs can put whatever they want in their vehicles. Through its research, AAA has been trying to figure out how to accommodate the desire consumers have for technology in their vehicles, while at the same time addressing safety concerns.

Now let’s be clear: That’s not to say managing safety and infotainment systems won’t get there since technology is changing faster than I can say technology, but right now AAA is raising some serious doubt as to whether the technology is ready for prime time. It’s a pretty safe bet the tech companies are not really happy with AAA raising this point, but the real challenge is for the technology geniuses to figure out how to improve the sound quality if this is the road they want to travel, no pun intended. Well okay, it’s a bad pun.

What’s interesting is that AAA wants to make sure voice-driven email technology is incorporated responsibly. What’s more, it wants to work with drivers to ensure the proper use if it is installed into more and more vehicles. He emphasizes that a serious, research-driven discussion is in order. I just wonder how many of the OEMs, carriers, and legislators will get onboard to support AAA’s cry for help in an effort to prevent more car crashes. As screens in automobiles get larger and as driver distraction continues to increase, everything needs to be put into perspective focusing on driver safety, first and foremost.

2013
10.16

Every time I host The Peggy Smedley Show I get just a little smarter. That’s because the guests I feature on my show are not only outspoken individuals, but they are very well versed on the subject matter at hand. Take for instance the connected-car market. Just 10 short years ago, who would have thought we would be talking about infotainment perhaps as much as safety when it came to the cars we drive?

Well, it’s true. Today’s consumers are just as concerned about being entertained when they drive perhaps as much as their safety when they travel the highways. In fact, Jeff Bennett, automotive reporter for The Wall Street Journal, raised some interesting points about how the automotive industry has changed, but Jeff and I both agreed that those smarter than the both of us had predicted this all years earlier. For instance, telematics used to be a word most people never even knew, let alone would associate with the automotive community. Today, it has exploded to the point that most people can’t even imagine buying a car without it.

Here’s Bennett’s analogy that’s worth repeating: Car companies are starting to become computer companies. These slow to move behemoths are now speaking at consumer electronic shows and they are having to figure out ways to send software updates to the cars they produce. He says, this harkens back to 2000 when Scott McNealy, former CEO and cofounder of Sun Microsystems, foresaw, “’The car becoming an Internet server on wheels.”’ I have to admit I had never heard that line before, but McNealy nailed it. That statement could have been spoken today and how true it would be.

Bennett was also correct when he emphasized the point that the technology being placed in a car is the beginning of a layering process. What we have now are the basics, but more aggressive, advanced technology will advance on top of it. Think of it this way, much of the connected technology we see in the modern era has begun to make a difference. Connected vehicles now have rear-view cameras, lane-departure warning systems, blind-spot detectors, and the list goes on. In the future whether a driverless car lays ahead for consumers or not, we will soon see an era where cars are more helpful to the driver. They’ll let drivers know their car is low on gas, or automatically alert emergency services of an accident. Now that’s being connected for all the right reasons.

Even more than that, and if Bennett is right, the next wave of connected-car applications will make certain decisions for the driver. Rather than the driver having to search for certain information, or take his or her eyes off the road, that information will be readily available. It’s conversations with other journalists and experts in the field that make my job so much fun. And just think, this is merely the beginning of the connected car.

2013
10.15

I recently came across a survey that reports 15% of American adults ages 18 and older do not use the Internet or email. Naturally, as a member of the millennial generation, this number surprised me. How can 15% of American adults not be connected at all?

Digging into the results and the reasons, the survey from Princeton Survey Research Associates Intl., shows 32% cite not using the Internet because it is difficult to use. This stat got me thinking.

I know someone that very rarely uses the Internet. She might on occasion use her daughter’s laptop to get directions using MapQuest. Other than that, she doesn’t use the Internet on a laptop because—as the survey points out—it is difficult or frustrating to go online. Or is it?

This same ‘baby boomer’ is more frequently using her daughter’s iPad for entertainment purposes—and many of the apps she uses are connected to the Internet. The ease of use on the tablet makes it so she doesn’t even necessarily know she is connected.

I heard a similar story at the 2013 Constructech Technology Day conference, which took place in Santa Clara, Calif., on October 4. One construction executive pointed to a superintendent who refused to use a laptop on a jobsite. Now, that same superintendent uses an iPad every day because the tablet is more user-friendly.

The point is this: Ease of use is essential to keeping many—not all, but many—of the baby boomers connected. I believe there is an opportunity for industries such as healthcare and others to reach this generation, but the caveat is the apps and solutions need to be very easy to use.

Truth be told, this caveat applies to any generation. When connected devices and associated M2M apps become difficult to use, devices will start collecting dust.

2013
10.09

It’s hard to avoid the topic of wearable technology these days. Analysts are trumpeting the numbers and growth projections, fashion magazines are incorporating them into spreads, and everyone under the sun has suddenly gone all wild about wearables.

Heck, the wearables market has had such enormous influence on connected devices that we decided to make them the focal point of this year’s Perfect Gift section, which will come out with our December issue. That being said, it’s hard to gauge between what is simply fashionable for the moment and what actually has staying power.

I had an interesting conversation with an expert from the fashion world on this topic. Syuzi Pakhchyan is an experienced designer who describes her work as the investigation of the intersection between code, cloth, and culture. Her book “Fashioning Technology: A DIY Intro to Smart Crafting,” focuses on the topic.

In our conversation about the long-term viability of wearables, she emphasized the fact that technology providers need to separate from the pack in a stylistic manner. In other words, many of the wearables on the market today are solid from a functionality standpoint—doing their particular function well, whether that is fitness tracking or health monitoring, etc. That next step will be making sure the consumer actually wants to wear the device—and keep wearing the device. Pakhchyan characterizes this as getting past the “technology hurdle” and on to the “emotional hurdle.”

I think the analyst community is starting to communicate the same message. I give credit to a recent report from Berg Insight for balancing its grandiose growth projections with words of caution.

Berg Insight says sales of smart glasses, smart watches, and wearable fitness trackers reached 8.3 million units worldwide in 2012, up from 3.1 million devices in the previous year and expects total shipments of wearable technology devices to reach 64 million units in 2017.

However, Johan Svanberg, senior analyst at Berg Insight, says devices need to evolve into something more than single purpose devices in order to be truly successful. I happen to agree. Or else we will end up wearing 15 devices to perform 15 different functions. To be frank—that’s not going to happen.

So it seems as if the future of wearable technology hinges on two very important factors: elegance and multipurpose. The company that develops a smartwatch that appeals to the timeless classic elegance of style of such a classic accessory, while also performing multiple functions might ultimately win out.

It is a conversation I would like to have at our Connected World Conference this February. I am looking for experts who can debate the future of wearables from all angles. If you think you have something to contribute to this discussion I encourage you to contact me and let’s set up a conversation for the masses that will take this wearable discussion to the next level.