The most compelling new smart products are those that align monetization and business models with the value being brought to customers.
The first step to aligning your business model with customer value is to be sure you understand your customer — what drives them and what motivates them, what their challenges are and how your products can help them address those challenges or generally improve their personal or professional lives.
Understanding the use case can make all the difference as well. For example, some medical devices designed to help improve medication adherence might be best suited for a lease type of model, where patients that value their independence (like aging baby boomers) could use their devices to remind themselves to take their prescribed medications on time without requiring prohibitive upfront investments.
For customers (in this case the patients and their caregivers), this helps them focus on the value they’re getting from the device while enabling the device manufacturer to offer their products to a larger segment of the population and not just a privileged few that can easily afford expensive medical devices.
Contrast this example with wireless outdoor trail cameras that hunters use for recreation. Hunting itself can be a fairly expensive sport due to the costs of equipment, and consumers are not fazed if premium equipment comes at a cost — so long as there is clear value in the product.
In cases like this, buyers are used to purchasing wireless products outright through retail channels, in-store or online. The companies that sell these products not only need to think about the costs of manufacturing the physical product, but the ongoing connectivity and cloud infrastructure costs that are included in offering a view on-demand experience. These ongoing costs can be controlled and managed by offering ongoing added-value services to customers, like packs of thumbnail images that can be billed on a periodic or regular basis, or purely based on usage.
Most hunters don’t live right on the land they use for hunting, so avoiding the 45-plus minute drive (and cost of gas) to get to the wilderness is quite valuable. Companies that have a deep understanding of their customers like this can proactively think of technologies and offer this level of value to customers, thus aligning their business models with the value the products bring to buyers.
A broader industry trend
OEMs aren’t the only ones thinking about this topic, either. Cellular carriers like AT&T and Vodafone have recently highlighted their efforts to make their services more compelling to a wider market and even go so far as to think of entirely new models like outcome-based pricing.
These creative carrier pricing models do help to an extent by lowering the connectivity costs that device manufacturers incur when offering IoT systems, but this is only half of the equation and only addresses connectivity-based costs. Infrastructure, like cloud services, and its associated costs will continue to be a core component of many IoT offerings, so OEMs still need to monetize their systems in smart ways and offer cost-effective, valuable services to end customers, thus converting them from one-time or periodic customers into engaged, ongoing subscribers.
Building out a value-based model
As an IoT device manufacturer, the first question to ask yourself is, “What is the clear value I’m providing?” The second question is, “How much would my customers be willing to pay for this value?”
Savvy customers now understand that they are paying for the value they receive, not the product itself. As the seller of your product, you should be thinking this way as well.
The third consideration needs to be the cost of providing that value and how you can make sure that what you are offering to customers covers your basic costs — assuming, of course, that not every customer may decide to become a paying subscriber.
Once you’ve fleshed out these three concepts, you have the basic framework needed to build out an IoT offering centered around a value-based model.
The work doesn’t stop there, though, because you need to consider what happens if your system is a hit and consumers purchase more than one device each.
Growing faster than you expected is a good problem to have, but additional complexities will come into play, like how you manage billing for customers that have multiple devices, especially customers that didn’t purchase all their devices at once. They don’t want to receive dozens of bills on different days; they would rather have one bill that takes all of these staggered transactions into account. Even aspects like this play a role in the overall perceived value of your offering, so these are details you must keep in mind.
Finally, as more and more IoT systems begin to use cellular technologies like LTE-M or NB-IoT, creative OEMs will think of additional value-adds, like including a limited amount of cellular service in the upfront cost of the device to consumers. Bundling the first 30 days, six months or even a year of service is often a game-changer in the eyes of customers, empowering them to start getting value out of technologies almost immediately.
By thinking through these decisions even in the early stages of IoT system development, manufacturers can plan accordingly in order to start offering value and start building brand loyalty from customers on the first day and every day thereafter.
All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.
The U.S. Postal Service, UPS and FedEx combined will ship more than 2 billion packages during the holiday gift-giving season, according to various estimates. Nearly all of those packages will show up when and where they’re supposed to with the right order in it. I say “nearly all” packages because while 99.7% order-fulfillment accuracy may sound good, even a 0.3 percent picking rate error leads to more than 6 million mis-shipments.
Order-fulfillment processes in retail stores and warehouses are designed to meet a single objective: shipping large orders of identical items in volume, typically on pallets or in containers to a few destinations. But as e-commerce rapidly expands, these legacy systems are straining to keep up as they try to orchestrate fulfillment, where a far greater number of small orders of different items in small lots or packages is shipped to individual consumers. Indeed, just 6% of shippers believe they’ve achieved end-to-end supply chain visibility.
To shrink this error rate, companies are using IoT to find efficiencies while delivering an ever faster, personalized service to each customer.
A Forrester survey found more than 60% of respondents believe their IoT investments have or will fundamentally change their business models. More than half are already are seeing improvements in operational efficiency. Additionally, Gartner estimated that enterprises will allocate 20% of enterprise digital transformation costs to the supply chain and that “visibility or event management applications” are a top priority.
Zebra Technologies is just one of the many companies working to erase the friction to bring end-to-end chain visibility with IoT. Zebra technologies include ruggedized mobile devices, barcode printers and RFID readers. This is a fundamental leap forward in technology: Prior to e-commerce, warehouse and retail workers were given printouts of tasks assigned to them to fulfill during their shift. Fortune 500 companies have realized this system cannot scale in an omnichannel world.
To make the process more efficient, warehouse employees now carry ruggedized Zebra mobile devices that let them pick, pack, scan and print new barcodes and ship to fulfill individual orders, while also enabling mangers to track a worker’s progress and location. No longer restricted to pulling just what was on their order lists at the start of their shifts, retail and warehouse workers can now have their tasks updated in real time based on their location. For example, if an online order for shipping a new sweater overnight is received, an IoT-connected system could locate the worker closest to the sweater’s location and update his task list to make picking and shipping that sweater his next task.
To maintain an efficient warehouse order flow, it’s imperative that workers’ mobile devices perform flawlessly during their shifts. Time is money, and if a device’s battery expires or the portable printer runs out of ink or paper, the worker must stop her order fulfillment to get the device replenished so work can continue. To prevent this, Zebra’s Asset Visibility application allows store managers and support staff to monitor a mobile device’s power levels, supply and other functions that need to stay active to keep a worker productive and replace faulty devices between shifts so workers arriving for the next shift have a device that’s ready to go. During busy days, when ruggedized mobile devices are often misplaced, Zebra’s Savanna platform enables the operations staff to find and retrieve them quickly.
With the improved operational visibility that comes from connecting their retail stores and warehouses using IoT techniques, Zebra customers are finding new and innovative ways to transform operations, learn more about their businesses and customers, and empower their workers to be more productive.
Tapping into the data
In another example, Shiseido, the world’s third-largest cosmetics company, uses an IoT platform to ingest, integrate, store, prepare and then discover vast amounts of data, including loyalty membership data, second-party data such as media website viewing data, and third-party public data management platform information.
This approach improved Shiseido’s CRM engagement and ad performance, gave its teams improved data analysis and visualization, and delivered a 20% increase in revenue from loyalty members. This led to an 11% increase in overall revenue.
These are just two interesting examples of the ways in which companies in the supply chain are using IoT systems to improve their business and their customers’ experience. Challenges remain, of course, and technology providers continue to relentlessly pursue solutions for customers.
In my conversations with customers in the logistics world, including retailers, transportation and third-party logistics, they know there’s enormous value in embracing IoT and using the vast amounts of untapped data that await them to transform their business. But they are daunted by where to begin. They know they want technologies that are flexible and scalable, secure and efficient, but they have little patience for navigating a dense forest of options to stitch together an IoT system for themselves. In short, they’re looking for packaged systems and platforms that can speed their time-to-data-insight. And they want to understand the ROI for their business.
Logistics landscape: Challenges and opportunities
A new report from SJ Consulting describes the current challenges and potential approaches that companies in the logistics and asset-tracking world — such as JD.com, CVS, FedEx and DHL — consider as they look to use IoT data to improve their operations.
You can download the study here. In it, you’ll find:
- Analysis of how the retail, technology, transportation and logistics industries are merging in response to Amazon;
- Details on new competitive threats industry incumbents are facing;
- Insight on the strategic partnerships industry players are forming to compete with Amazon;
- Industry- and category-specific predictions for how companies will remain competitive;
- Analysis of how retailers are adopting IoT-enabled omnichannel marketing strategies; and
- How retailers are adopting AI and machine learning to optimize inventory planning and merchandizing.
IoT is prompting companies to think about how to disrupt themselves, to rethink the processes and technologies that have served them well for years before their competitors do it for them.
We believe that by 2035 there will be a trillion connected devices delivering orders of magnitude more data than we see today. And we’re at the cusp of delivering complete systems that will enable that. I’d love to hear about your experiences with IoT and how we might work together to help you achieve your IoT data visions.
All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.
The holiday season is upon us and for many people that means preparing and indulging in festive feasts. However, did you know that 40% of food in the United States today goes uneaten? According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, “reducing food losses by just 15% would be enough food to feed more than 25 million Americans every year at a time when one in six Americans lack a secure supply of food to their tables.” Worldwide, one-third of the world’s food — some 1.3 billion tons — is lost or wasted every year, according to the United Nations Environment Program. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations estimates that just one-quarter of all wasted food could feed the 795 million undernourished people around the world who suffer from hunger.
There are many causes of food waste, but equally as many ideas and innovations that can help growers, shippers, retailers and consumers reduce waste. And technology is rising to the challenge. “Food tech,” combined with IoT-enabled digital supply networks (DSN), and smart farming all have a role to play. Here is a taste of some technological approaches to reducing waste and spoilage in the food supply chain that can help reduce world hunger and better the environment.
Innovative approaches in technology
Technology can play a big role in making food last longer, get better distributed to those in need, be farmed smarter and improve the logistics of moving from farm to table. For example, here are some solutions:
BluApple is a device (that looks like a blue apple) that, when placed in a refrigerator, lowers the level of ethylene gas surrounding fruits and vegetables, slowing their maturation and greatly reducing spoilage. And BluWrap uses oxygen management techniques to create and maintain an all-natural controlled atmosphere environment that extends the shelf life of perishable proteins. Then there’s Apeel, a plant-derived innovation developed by Apeel Sciences to maintain produce quality and freshness and reduce waste. Made from materials found in every bite of fruit, Apeel serves as an invisible, edible barrier that slows down the rate of water loss and oxidation, keeping produce fresh for two or three times longer, without requiring the use of refrigeration.
LeanPath and Winnow Systems both offer food waste prevention to commercial kitchens, helping kitchen staff track what food is being thrown away and make informed decisions that not only reduce the amount of food that goes wasted, but also the kitchens’ overall food costs.
Copia uses its extensive food waste reduction dashboard to allow businesses to safely donate their excess food, access enhanced tax deductions and receive powerful data to inform food purchasing decisions.
Farming with technology
Freight Farms is selling a hydroponic farm in a 40-foot container. Leafy Green Machine and its supporting Farmhand Connect app offer a closed-loop hydroponic system within a shipping container outfitted with climate-control technology and efficient growing equipment. The app allows growers to remotely track their farm’s climate conditions and control its humidity, temperature, carbon dioxide, and nutrient and pH levels to maximize its efficiency and production, thereby minimizing waste.
CropMetrics is a precision agriculture organization focused on ultra-modern agronomic systems while specializing in the management of precision irrigation. Products and services include variable rate irrigation (VRI) optimization, soil moisture probes, virtual optimizer Pro (the company’s analytics system) and so on. VRI optimization maximizes profitability on irrigated crop fields with topography or soil variability, improves yields and increases water use efficiency.
PrecisionHawk is an organization that uses drones and sensors for imaging, mapping and surveying of agricultural land. These drones perform in-flight monitoring and observations. The farmers enter the details of what field to survey and select an altitude or ground resolution. Drone data gives insights regarding plant health indices, plant counting and yield prediction, plant height measurement, canopy cover mapping, field water ponding mapping, scouting reports, stockpile measuring, chlorophyll measurement, nitrogen content in wheat, drainage mapping, weed pressure mapping and so on.
The food supply chain
For perishable food, cold chain management systems like BT9 Xsense tag pallets and/or product packaging with wireless sensors can help to improve the shelf-life of packaged food products and can help better control and monitor food quality throughout the distribution chain, reducing the amount of food wasted during transportation and in retail.
How customers buy food is changing and the food value chain is evolving into a highly dynamic and agile supply chain that uses cutting-edge digital and analytics systems to enable real-time purchasing, routing and pricing decisions. In a perspective article about the fresh food supply chain, titled “The Future of Fresh Food,” Deloitte recommends developing a highly dynamic and agile supply chain that uses cutting-edge digital and analytics systems to enable real-time purchasing, routing and pricing decisions. This creates a real connectivity throughout your food value chain ecosystem via digital supply network and can generate significant value, i.e., increased freshness to reduce waste and increase sales.
And if you want to know more practical technologies and actions that food retailers can take to reduce waste in the food supply chain, ReFed offers a “Retail Food Waste Action Guide.” This guide offers activity on the three fronts of prevention, recovery and recycling, recommending a top-down food waste reduction culture that flows from the executive suite to store employees and permeates every department in support of a defined strategy and goals.
As someone who regularly talks about the human impact of IoT and all things connected, I think the story of technology intervention to prevent food waste gives hope that more food can be preserved around the world to feed more people and reduce the environmental impact of food waste.
All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.
New products introduced recently from Amazon, Google and Apple make it clear that IoT will soon become interwoven in all aspects of our lives — from our homes and appliances to everyday services such as healthcare and public utilities.
Each IoT device will have unique performance requirements (speed — or lack of latency — and availability), depending on the criticality of the service being supported. If your Alexa speaker goes down, that may be annoying, but it’s not as detrimental or hazardous as a connected inhaler or ingestible sensor going down, which are among the latest IoT healthcare advances and can be vital in keeping patients on track with treatment plans.
Recent estimates predict especially strong growth for IoT spending in healthcare and B2B sectors, particularly industrial and discrete manufacturing, transportation and logistics, and utilities. But the extent to which these prognostications will become reality — and IoT achieves its full growth and adoption potential — will depend on performance assurances. Organizations relying on IoT will need complete faith that their devices’ internet connections are consistently fast and reliable enough to support mission-critical tasks.
We hear a lot about security, data privacy and integration as ongoing obstacles to more prolific IoT adoption, but we don’t always hear about performance challenges, even though widespread IoT device outages are not out of the ordinary. While Amazon struggled with site availability issues on this year’s Prime Day, a less-reported story was the fact that other Amazon services, notably Alexa, also experienced outages that day. Like the site outage, this was believed to be the result of huge web traffic spikes and not enough servers within Amazon’s infrastructure.
Performance challenges ahead
In some ways, what’s happening in the IoT world parallels what has happened, and continues to happen, in the traditional web world. As more people come online in more far-flung geographies, huge infrastructures are being built to serve content to them. But more infrastructure — like the cloud, content delivery networks (CDNs), domain name system servers and more — inadvertently introduces more points of potential failure and therefore more performance risks.
Ask any IT person responsible for digital services what it’s like trying to deliver strong performance across all this complexity and you’re likely to hear the words challenging, frustrating, nerve-wracking or perhaps even nearly impossible. In a sense, our insatiable endeavor to deliver high-performing online services to more end users worldwide has yielded an infrastructure so vast and unwieldy that it has, in some ways, become a major hairball to contend with.
Most IT managers have resigned themselves to the fact that round-the-clock, perfect, blip-free digital service performance is not possible. They have instead shifted their focus to proactively identifying and addressing growing hot spots — for example, a gradually slowing cloud service provider — before end users are impacted, as well as finding and fixing the root causes of performance issues quickly and accurately when problems inevitably do occur.
Monitoring can help — but are you ready for it?
Synthetic monitoring is one key to this challenge. In the traditional web world, synthetic monitoring works by generating simulated end-user traffic from the cloud, and pinging websites, mobile sites and applications at regular intervals from key geographic regions in order to get an accurate depiction of true end-user performance. Synthetic monitoring data combined with advanced analytics allows organizations to then drill down and identify the root cause of a performance issue, whether within or beyond one’s own firewall — anything from an overloaded server within one’s own data center, to a slow API call within a multi-step transactional process, to a regional CDN demonstrating high response times.
However, making sense and deriving actionable insights from synthetic monitoring ultimately depends on an organization’s ability to harness, analyze and discern trends across voluminous data sets. This challenge grows exponentially for companies serving end users in a wider range of geographies which may be supporting multiple regional website or mobile site versions.
Flash forward to the world of IoT, where connected devices can communicate with each other through the MQTT protocol. Similar monitoring techniques can be applied to MQTT in order to not just measure the speed and availability of device-to-device connections, but also assess if the devices are functioning properly based on sensor data.
For example, many IoT devices are used to assess various environmental or external factors, such thermometers and pressure gauges. A thermometer may be performing well (it is available and communicating with other devices quickly), but is it actually reporting the right temperature? Corroborating sensor data with environmental data can show if the sensors are actually working, as well as which sensors on a device may be working the best. Device manufacturers can then use this information to continually hone and improve their product designs.
The latest figures show there are currently about 4.1 billion internet users worldwide. In an IoT world, the end user is the device — and there are expected to be 31 billion IoT-connected devices by the end of 2020. If collecting and making sense of the huge volume of end-user performance data (measuring the reliability and speed of web-to-end user interactions) around the world has been tough, you can imagine what it’s going to be like for IoT data, where we’re measuring not just speed and availability, but actual product functionality across hundreds of millions of sensors. If end-user performance data is a tidal wave many organizations are still grappling with, IoT performance and functional data is going to be a tsunami.
In order for IoT to reach its full potential and widest adoption — particularly within the critical healthcare and B2B sectors, where rock-solid performance and reliable functionality is not just a nice-to-have, but a must-have — those responsible for managing device performance will have no choice but to get their arms around this. Fortunately, the traditional web world offers years of experience and many valuable lessons that can provide a logical starting point.
After years of embarrassing breaches and botnet abuses, IoT device manufacturers are finally realizing what consumers are looking for in their new products: advanced digital security to protect their networks, privacy and data.
Despite public mistrust and hesitancy, the IoT market is booming. In fact, Bain predicts market growth up to $520 billion by 2021 — which is more than double what was spent in 2017. These new devices are even more innovative and collect and pass far more data over the internet than those that came before. From autonomous vehicles that receive firmware updates over the airwaves to medical devices that go home with the patient and directly improve experiences and outcomes, the impact of IoT cannot be understated.
Connected products need to be impeccably secure so hackers can’t take control — devices left unprotected can turn from helpful to harmful in a heartbeat. From the same Bain study, the average data breach costs businesses more than $1.2 million, and 93% of enterprise executives are ready to increase budget to purchase devices with improved security.
IoT security begins with a strong foundation of unique identity and trust built into the product before it reaches beta. The trust must also be maintained by the ability to securely update devices throughout their lifecycle. Device security can no longer an afterthought — it needs to be rooted in the design.
The building blocks for successful IoT security
1. Crypto-agility and continual lifecycle management
Today’s threat is tomorrow’s nightmare. Companies that build connected devices must become agile in their ability to act before threats become serious, designing devices for adaptation and change.
If a root of trust (RoT) is breached, it renders the chain of trust and all public and private keypairs moot, or even dangerous, as they can be issued and used maliciously. The immediate replacement of that RoT is required, along with the updating of all certificates and keys used by devices.
Devices that are in the market today may be sold or transferred to another party in the future. Sending such devices back to the manufacturer for reprogramming is not an option, nor is expanding the private chain of trust to include new owners. Regardless, for devices to communicate with the proper systems, there is a need to reconfigure the device’s identity.
Algorithms degrade and it’s important to have the ability to maintain and strengthen digital identities over the lifetime of every device. Where will the device be two, five, 10 years from now? For example, if a car purchased today is driving for an average of 11 years, think about what will be needed to ensure cryptographic strength for as long as it’s on the road. Consumers may not be thinking about the threats of system takeovers, but they’ll surely come up to speed quickly if a device ever puts them in danger.
2. Code signing
Connected devices must authenticate properly at all times, establishing trust regardless of how many millions of devices are in use.
Signing firmware and software is a critical best practice. When you sign a piece of code, you make a statement that the software came from your organization and that you stand behind it. You’re sending a message to consumers that the code meets your quality assurance guidelines and security standards. Code signing keys must be properly requested, approved and generated — important steps in avoiding their misuse and malicious code being signed using a legitimate certificate.
But all too often, code signing certs are not protected carefully. The burden to sign code often falls on software developers and the DevOps community who specialize in writing code and creating a good user experience. Generating and protecting private keys is an afterthought and they might not even know how to get started. As such, private keys often wind up in unsecured locations such as developer workstations or build servers. A similar problem extends to many IT security professionals who are unaware of how many code-signing certificates their organization has or where they are stored.
It’s important to document, track and rigorously follow the steps and procedures required to sign code as a part of a software development lifecycle or DevOps processes. Pre-signing workflows may vary application to application, but typically include steps such as QA testing, virus scans, static source code analysis, penetration testing and so forth.
The security infrastructure for IoT devices should be built to support rapid expansion and ongoing management of all versions throughout the device lifecycle. Manufacturers need to ensure that device updates can be managed remotely for new and old models without downtime, disturbances or vulnerability. Automated, cloud-based public key infrastructure (PKI) is a great option as it eliminates the need to manage digital identities on-premises, which can be resource intensive, limited, expensive and error prone.
Security for IoT should not be an add-on, luxury or choice — and it certainly isn’t something that should be revisited after the device has been deployed. In fact, there’s not a technology in the market that will be able to keep a poorly secured device safe after it’s been released. Security must be part of the development process for manufacturers and built into the core infrastructure of these products. This means binding a digital identity to a device that is based on encryption, authentication and code signing — at scale. It means security by design.
I can’t remember the last time I planned an outing to go buy ice cream. How it normally plays out is I feel an urge to eat ice cream and if I happen to find a shop nearby, I satisfy that urge. If not, the feeling disappears as fast as it appears. Ice cream companies understand the importance of capitalizing on this urge. Ignoring this impulse is the equivalent of saying “I don’t care about selling my product.”
Pushcarts in India serve the same function that ice cream trucks do in other countries. They are the means of taking the product directly to the consumer. Places like public parks, gardens, squares, beaches, lakefronts and college campuses allow pushcarts to position themselves to take advantage of that very immediate consumer urge.
Pushcarts are also the perfect tool to take advantage of the spike in demand that occurs during summer. People want their ice cream fix, but may not be overly excited about traveling in the heat to get it.
Now that we have established a reasonable case to operate pushcarts, the focus shifts to optimizing the inventory they carry, the routes taken and the working hours. Companies have known the value of optimizing these factors for a long time, but depend on the end-of-day reports to track the data that fuels their changes. Since some of this data is subjective, it can be altered, partial or just plain wrong.
Imagine always knowing at any given time where your pushcarts are, if they are functioning properly and what inventory they are carrying. Imagine if you could push out the location of your carts on the fly, dynamically and accurately. Your customers could locate a cart, and get a list of the inventory and even instructions on how to get to it in the most efficient way. IoT-driven systems enable exactly that scenario. These systems provide companies with all the information required to run inventory, plan stock replacements, plan cart maintenance schedules and more.
Where do I get ice cream?
A customer IoT app keeps your target audience in the loop. This app can be used to provide your customers with location, stock and the easiest way to reach your carts.
Since customers will be registered on your app, you can set up user-based offers and deals.
I forgot my wallet. Do you take cards?
Digital payments make it easier for customers to pay. The past few years have shown that allowing digital payments for a product almost always increases the willingness of people to purchase the product.
A combination of both the shipper application and the customer mobile app data can be used to analyze consumption trends which further help match the supply perfectly with the demand. If used optimally, it can facilitate an increase in sales, a decrease in waste and improvement in operational efficiency. The ice cream supply chain will eventually move from a push to an effective pull.
Stacked die is a newer technology gaining traction in a variety of electronics applications, due to the fact that OEMs continue to demand greater capabilities and performance in smaller printed circuit boards (PCBs). As the name implies, stacked die means one bare chip is placed on top of another one or it could be a spacer rather than a bare chip, then another chip is placed on top of those and perhaps even a third one, and so on. Multiple rows of wire bonding loops are arranged in sets, each going to a separate die or spacer. This way, the same real estate can be utilized for packing considerable functionality in the same small die placement area. Circuitry placement is performed this way to save valuable space on the PCB.
IoT devices are at the top of this stacked die agenda because PCB assembly and manufacturing companies have little space to work with on these extremely small rigid and combination rigid-flex circuits.
With stacked dies being ushered to the IoT PCB manufacturing floor, OEMs have to understand that basic surface-mount technology manufacturing must have the companion microelectronics manufacturing expertise to effectively manufacture IoT PCBs populated with stacked dies.
Here, the electronics manufacturing services (EMS) provider must have both manufacturing capabilities in-house to effectively coordinate surface-mount technology and microelectronics assembly. On top of that, the OEM should expect the EMS provider to have the expertise not only for basic wire bonding for bare chip on-board connections, but also of the wire bonding challenges stacked die applications pose. Some of those manufacturing challenges deal with low wire loops between the bare chip and the substrate or PCB, as well as multiple-level and higher overhang wire loops.
With a multistacked die, one set of wire bonding is being created, which is the lowest one first and has the smallest loop angle. Then, a second set of wire bonding is created and, in some cases, a third and a fourth. All the while, the same PCB real estate, the same wire bonding techniques and the same substrate are being used.
Smaller bond pads pose yet another challenge associated with multistacked dies. These pads are much smaller than usual and they are packed closer and more tightly. In this case, the IoT device OEM needs to know that creating more bonds for multistacked die demands more bond pads.
All told, IoT device OEMs should become more familiar with the advanced stages of today’s wire bonding. That includes gaining an understanding of state-of-the-art testing and inspection tools associated with advanced wire bonding. Moreover, it’s a good idea to learn about how an IoT device EMS provider maintains process-related and engineering training to keep updated on newer developments in this field.
Until recently, if a car dealer, auctioneer or manufacturer needed to find a car on their property for transport, test drives or sales, someone had the daunting task of figuring out where the car was located. Seems simple, yet many of these campuses encompass multiple lots and decks across hundreds of acres, some holding as many as 25,000 cars at any given time.
Outside of driving (or running) for hours up and down aisles of cars, many lot operators decided to invest in expensive and often unreliable RFID, barcode, cellular or Wi-Fi tracking technologies over the past 10 years to make the process easier.
Cognosos, an Atlanta-based startup, approached the problem from a different angle 18 months ago, creating a wireless sensor network that could be offered at a significantly lower price point. Cognosos set out to change the operator experience of finding vehicles by creating a more efficient and cost-effective way for car lot operators to locate vehicles and track their movement over time.
IoT device disrupts RFID
Founder and CTO of Cognosos Jim Stratigos, a serial entrepreneur, came up with the idea for the application after spending several years studying software-defined radio (SDR) technology at the Smart Antenna Lab at Georgia Tech, where he had previously mentored startups. Stratigos was also familiar with the institution after earning two electrical engineering degrees from Georgia Tech. He knew SDR had been used in radio astronomy for decades and saw new potential for the technology in IoT applications if he could figure out a way to extend the range and battery life of a wireless network. SDR would also allow the physical layer of a wireless communications channel to be entirely determined by software, a promising perk that could reduce costs for potential IoT applications.
After securing grant money to develop a new wireless networking technology, Cognosos successfully applied it first to the automotive market by building RadioTrax, a disruptive IoT platform for tracking vehicle inventories. RadioTrax allows users to do quick searches within a web application online or on their smartphones and see in real time the location and movement history of any car across all of their storage lots and parking decks. As explained by a Cognosos customer, what used to take three or four hours was reduced to 30 minutes. And unlike RFID alternatives requiring extensive infrastructure and only showing the last known location of a car, the RadioTrax system displays the car’s real-time location, while its gateway is the size of a Wi-Fi access point.
How it works
A user simply scans or types in the car’s VIN, stock number or description into a smartphone or web interface and the car shows up on a digital map with instructions on how to reach it. The Cognosos RadioTrax tag is secured to the visor or hung from the mirror of every car and transmits a sub-GHz radio message using patented wireless technology. The RF device includes an accelerometer to detect motion whenever the car is moved.
Delivering a competitive and viable low-cost technology alternative to the market required innovation across all spectrums of the product, including the chip level. Cognosos used a low-power Silicon Labs Flex Gecko system-on-chip (SoC), which supports both 2.4 GHz and sub-GHz frequencies with long-range capability and a transceiver and MCU on the same SoC. The wireless SoC’s high level of integration helped Cognosos reduce the size, cost and complexity of its device. The end result is a wireless network that enables the in-car RadioTrax devices to wirelessly transmit location to the gateways over a range of one to two miles, depending on terrain. Large campuses can be covered with a minimal number of gateways, reducing implementation and ongoing operating costs.
Since launching the new product 18 months ago, Cognosos has grown quickly from a three-person to a 20-person company and is already working to expand its IoT offering to include both indoor and outdoor asset and inventory management tracking technologies. The company also has plans for new verticals in the future. Describing the company’s outlook, Stratigos said he sees any large outdoor area spanning hundreds of acres or more maintaining valuable assets with wheels (such as construction sites, airports, ports and so forth) as a potential customer, signaling the startup has a lot of opportunity in its future.
The internet of things has penetrated every aspect of our lives, and it’s transforming how we test and develop software. With the IoT market projected to be worth $1,490.31 billion by 2024, this explosive growth is set to continue. However, testing procedures and processes are not ready to test IoT and, if no change occurs, it’s likely to result in delays in deployment, updates and user acceptance.
So what does this frenzied growth mean for testing?
As IoT continues to snowball, it presents testing with a myriad of challenges thanks to the vast number of systems and variations involved. IoT applications make end-to-end software testing even more complicated, and many organizations have underestimated the issues with test strategies. Within IoT, companies need to understand all the elements of an application, how they are working together and how people are using them, from the vast array of mobile devices and complex back ends to microservices managing a wide range of sensors and devices at the edge, as well as data collection, analytics and decisions in the cloud. Suffice to say that this is the final nail in the coffin for manual testing; however, test automation also requires an overhaul to try and keep up.
As so much of an IoT application is composed of services outside the application’s control, the only way that test automation strategies can keep up is to embrace AI and machine learning. Automation of test execution is not enough as the entire testing process from creation through to analysis needs to be automated. To do this requires intelligent models to auto-generate tests, with AI and machine learning allowing teams to analyze data from testing and to identify the patterns with bugs.
AI-driven intelligent testing can build models by itself to continually test and monitor a system. Different AI approaches can look at the user interfaces, network traffic, system resources and so forth to build complete verification models. Expanding test automation beyond simple test execution and automating the creation of tests is the only way to achieve high levels of test coverage and confidence in complex IoT systems.
Once tests can be auto-generated, machine learning is then required to focus testing on the areas that really matter, “learning” the areas of an IoT system that are the riskiest and the areas that matter the most to users and then focusing testing in that area. Today, most teams only have a few hundred test scripts, so it’s easy to simply run all tests; but once we can auto-generate billions of tests, we need machine learning to help ensure we are executing the right ones to deliver a robust product.
Machine learning is also increasingly being used to understand which behaviors are bugs and which are features. Currently, development teams manually define what correct behavior is for each test case. However, once we have billions of test cases, highly complex systems, IoT systems interacting with each other and emergent behavior, it’s clearly not feasible for a human to define what correct is in each case. Especially since correct will be a range of values, not just one, and may in fact differ depending on the user and the context.
So, AI and machine learning are at the core of the future of IoT testing as auto-generating tests, deciding which tests to run and deciding which tests have failed.
If you think about different examples of IoT systems — from wearables to smart fridges to Amazon Go — they are complex applications that include a vast array of interconnected systems often built on entirely different technology stacks, so intelligent testing becomes essential. Intelligent testing, using AI and machine learning, is about demanding more actionable intelligence from testing: when automation, cognitive systems and advanced analytics become integral parts of a testing ecosystem, we should have high expectations, especially when proactively dealing with issues surrounding user interfaces and user experience.
For IoT to continue on its path of rapid growth, intelligent testing is no longer an aspiration, but an essential. By incorporating AI and machine learning, testing is not only more intelligent, but it will become a critical business accelerator for those IoT businesses that embrace it.
The “Uberization” effect is driving a seismic shift in the role services play in our increasingly on-demand economy. Enabled by technology, new service models allow customers to get exactly what they want when, where and how they want it. In notable ways, the service economy has already impacted several industries, including transportation (Uber), lodging (Airbnb), entertainment (Netflix), apparel (Stitch Fix), cosmetics (Birchbox) and groceries (Instacart).
Technology itself is not even exempt from this tidal wave.
Device as a service (DaaS) is a disruptive model fundamentally changing how devices are perceived, sourced and managed. According to IDC, 35% of Fortune 1000 companies will have a DaaS agreement in place and 1% will have completely transitioned to DaaS by 2019. That number is sure to grow as the promise of increased agility, lower and more predictable costs, access to the latest and greatest technology, improved security and sustainability considerations entice more customers.
With 2019 just around the corner, there are four reasons DaaS is here to stay and why organizations need to move now to get on board.
Strategic asset deployment
When technology is the key to competitive advantage, having IT staff drowning in routine tasks is the equivalent of Nero playing his fiddle while Rome burned — nobody is focusing on what matters. DaaS releases IT teams from mundane work so they can focus on transformative projects. Research reveals 50% of IT managers spend too much time procuring and managing devices and 63% say those resources could be better used on strategic projects such as security and digital transformation.
Not only does DaaS enable organizations to redeploy valuable resources to more pressing tasks, but it also makes day-to-day device management more efficient. IoT-enabled devices deliver data that can be used to proactively address issues before they happen, eliminating downtime and minimizing maintenance calls and costs.
DaaS also enables companies to shift the cost of acquiring new technology from a Capex to an Opex, freeing up cash for investment elsewhere. Plus, it allows companies to adjust device usage to match workforce fluctuations while the subscription model delivers a more predictable cost. Companies will continue to look for ways to optimize investments and realign resources to fund strategic initiatives, opening the floodgates for services that will enable and accelerate this shift.
Perpetual security safeguards
Security remains a key concern and driver of the move to DaaS. Juniper Research predicts that data breaches will cost businesses a total of $8 trillion by 2022. With cyberthreats becoming increasingly sophisticated and common, many companies are interested in the enhanced security that DaaS delivers. Security services proactively protect against attacks by monitoring every device — desktops, laptops, smartphones, printers — to ensure continuous compliance with security policies, including data access and approved apps. Automatic updates across entire fleets mean the resources required to manage all those devices are dramatically reduced.
Another key benefit of DaaS deals with lost, stolen and retired devices. DaaS allows lost or stolen devices to be remotely located, locked and erased. Instead of stashing old devices in a drawer or closet, DaaS provides the peace of mind of knowing that obsolete devices are collected and wiped of data, while also enabling the business to recover the residual hardware value.
With the proliferation of threats, security will remain an urgent and fast-changing area of concern — and 53% of organizations in the U.S. are already looking to partners to help keep their networks safe.
Evolving workforce expectations
More and more, an organization’s technology is a factor in recruiting and retaining top talent. Millennials are on track to make up 75% of the workforce within the next 10 years. On their heels, the oldest members of Generation Z, forecasted to be the most influential generation yet, are just starting to enter the workforce. These always-connected, tech-nimble groups regard devices as a reflection of their identity and have a no-compromise approach to technology. Company-supplied technology must be at least as powerful, lightweight and functional as what they have at home.
DaaS empowers companies to deliver the right technology to each job function and provide stylish devices that employees are proud to carry. As the gig economy accelerates and companies take on more seasonal, contract or part-time employees, DaaS can be used scale device deployment to match changing workforce dynamics.
With the talent war heating up, companies are competing for fewer resources. Smart, sleek, powerful technology will be increasingly important in attracting employees. In fact, an HP survey found that new technology is tied with sustainability as the top employer offering.
Sustainability in the workplace
Speaking of sustainability, DaaS enables companies to contribute to a more efficient, circular and low-carbon economy. As a service provides customers with access to sustainably designed technology such as printers made with closed-loop recycled plastic and ink cartridges made with plastic from bottles recycled in Haiti. These energy-efficient devices drive down energy consumption with features such as automatic shut-off when they are not in use or scheduled sleep and wake-up modes across the fleet.
Businesses can further slash waste and shrink their environmental footprint by creating more efficient protocols based on user behavior. For instance, paper costs can be trimmed by deploying fleet-wide print policies such as single-sided versus two-sided printing or pull printing.
Another important factor? Sustainability matters to employees — a lot. In fact, 56% of employees in the U.S. said they are more likely to work for an organization that offers ways to practice sustainability at work.
Flexibility. Cost savings. Better security. Talent acquisition. Sustainability. These are irresistible benefits for any company, regardless of size or industry, and will make the continued shift to DaaS inevitable. Partners who move quickly to work with trusted vendors offering device as a service will be at the front of the massive wave of demand that is swelling — and will ride that wave straight into the future.