IBM opened its global Watson Internet of Things (IoT) headquarters in Munich this week. It is hardly unusual for this quintessential global business to open research centers on a global scale. But the decision to move the HQ for one of the most dynamic areas of the digital transformation arena to Munich is noteworthy for several reasons. The move underlines that:
IoT has a very strong B2B component. Yes, IoT will play a role in consumer segments such as the connected home. But connectivity limitations and costs, compliance, and security will put many IoT ambitions in the consumer space to rest. The real action will be in the B2B space, where IoT will be elemental to drive activities like predictive maintenance, fleet management, traffic management, supply chain management, and order processing. Forrester expects the market size for B2B eCommerce, of which IoT is a subset, to be about twice that of B2C by 2020.
IoT and big data are closely intertwined. The real value of IoT solutions will not come from the hardware components of connected assets but from the data they generate and consume. In order to manage and make sense of the data that connected assets generate, cognitive systems and machine learning will play a fundamental role for the evolution of IoT. “Employing” Watson in the IoT context elevates IBM’s role in the IoT market significantly.
The big public cloud providers, most of which are still from the United States, sometimes have a hard time finding ways to balance their legal obligations at home with the quite different sensitivities they encounter amongst their new international customers. For a long time, the toolkit has been pretty consistent: site data centres as close to the customer as possible, vehemently support political efforts to harmonize laws, and ocassionally be seen to stand up to the worst execesses of Government over-reach.
(Source: Flickr user Luigi Rosa. Image licensed under Creative Commons Attribution License)
Microsoft's announcements in Germany today appear, on the surface, to follow that model pretty closely. But there's a twist that's potentially very important as we move forward.
First, the standard bit. Microsoft, yesterday, announced new data centres will be operational in the UK next year, joining existing European facilities in Dublin and Amsterdam. Big competitor Amazon did much the same last week, announcing that a new UK data centre will be online in the UK by "2016 or 2017." Given the vague timescales, it might be easy to assume that Amazon was trying to steal a little of Microsoft's thunder with a half-baked pre-announcement. And then, today, Microsoft announced two new data centres in Germany. Amazon already has a facility there, of course.
A few days ago, at an event hosted by Continental, Deutsche Telekom AG, Fraunhofer ESK, and Nokia Networks, I came across an interesting example of an emerging mobile Internet-of-Things (IoT) solution: the initiative to “connect the Autobahn” in Germany. The goal of the Digitales Testfeld Autobahn initiative is to develop a platform that allows a wide range of players to access a common platform for digital services in the context of Germany’s road infrastructure. The event also included a test drive to highlight how driving “assistants” in connected cars could communicate with a latency of about 15 milliseconds. Discussions at the event underlined several insights that CIOs should consider when devising mobile IoT solutions:
Ecosystem partnerships create more value for IoT solutions than standalone approaches. At the event, Deutsche Telekom’s CEO, Continental’s Head of Interior Electronic Solutions, Nokia’s VP of Strategy, Fraunhofer-Institute’s Head of Embedded Systems, and Germany’s Minister for Transport all pointed to the necessity for close cooperation to make the “digital Autobahn” platform work. Proprietary OEM technologies will not boost the connected road infrastructure. Continental told us that open IoT systems create more value than closed systems for the company and its customers. To uncover its true potential, the “digital Autobahn” platform will also need to be open to third parties like weather forecasters, retailers, and entertainment companies. This means that CIOs need to support open APIs.
Personally, I can’t wait. Which is why I’m delighted to offer up Roland’s answers to some of our pressing questions – right now.
I hope you enjoy what he has to say and I look forward to seeing some of you in London!
Q: When did your company first begin focusing on the customer experience?Why?
It is always important to us that our customer experiences DiBa in the way that we promise it. We want to turn our customers into fans, and this is something that we work on everyday – for over 8 million customers. We would like to make satisfied customers feel inspired, and unsatisfied customers inspired once again.
Henning Dransfeld, Ph.D., Clement Teo, and Brownlee Thomas, Ph.D.
We recently attended T-Systems' Analyst And Sourcing Advisor Summit in London. T-Systems has made some progress since its last analyst summit, not least of which is the development of a clearer overall market message and further developments of its portfolio. Its overall market message centers on what Forrester calls “the age of the customer.” The vendor emphasizes enhanced network/solution performance, innovation, and execution. Our key takeaways were:
The deepening the relationship between T-Systems and parent Deutsche Telekom is sensible. During the keynote, and in the breakout sessions, there were several references to how T-Systems’ assets complement Deutsche Telekom’s. T-Systems is moving ever closer to its parent Deutsche Telekom, in particularly in the B2B2C space. T-Systems can provide solutions to its business customers that are brought to market through Deutsche Telekom's consumer customer base. Such an approach is limited to Deutsche Telekom's footprint. However, this strategy could also be extended to other carriers as white-label solutions, where no competitive conditions exist (e.g., in Spain or the Nordics). This approach clearly makes sense for both Deutsche Telekom and T-Systems and is reflected in T-Systems "zero-distance" marketing message.
At the half mark through 2013, both the global and the European tech markets have pockets of strength and other pockets of weakness, both by product and by geography. Forrester's mid-2013 global tech market update (July 12, 2013, “A Mixed Outlook For The Global Tech Market In 2013 And 2014 –The US Market And Software Buying Will Be The Drivers Of 2.3% Growth This Year And 5.4% Growth Next Year”) shows the US market for business and government purchases of information technology goods and services doing relatively well, along with tech markets in Latin America and Eastern Europe/Middle East/Africa and parts of Asia Pacific. However, the tech market in Western and Central Europe will post negative growth and those in Japan, Canada, Australia, and India will grow at a moderate pace. Measured in US dollars, growth will be subdued at 2.3% in 2013, thanks to the strong dollar, and revenues of US tech vendors will suffer as a result. However, in local currency terms, growth will more respectable, at 4.6%. Software -- especially for analytical and collaborative applications and for software-as-a-service products -- continue to be a bright spot, with 3.3% dollar growth and 5.7% in local currency-terms. Apart from enterprise purchases of tablets, hardware -- both computer equipment and communications equipment -- will be weak. IT services will be mixed, with slightly stronger demand for IT consulting and systems integration services than for IT outsourcing and hardware maintenance.
Reflections from the 10th Safer Internet Day Conference in Berlin, February 5th 2013
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Safer Internet Day Conference in Berlin, organized by the Federal Ministry of Consumer Protection, Food and Agriculture and BITKOM, the German Association for Information Technology, Telecommunication and New Media. The conference title, ‘Big Data – Gold Mine or Dynamite?’ set the scene; after my little introductory speech on what big data really means and why this is a relevant topic for all of us (industry, consumers, and government), the follow-up presentations pretty much focused either on the ‘gold mine’ or the ‘dynamite’ aspect. To come straight to the point: I was very surprised, if not slightly shocked at how deep a gap became visible between the industry on the one side and the government (mainly the data protection authorities) on the other side.
While industry representatives, spearheaded by the BITKOM president Prof. Dieter Kempf and speakers from IBM, IMS Health, SAS, and others, highlighted interesting showcases and future opportunities for big data, Peter Schaar, the Federal Commissioner for Data Protection, seemed to be on a crusade to protect ‘innocent citizens’ from the ‘baddies’ in the industry.
The longer we spend researching mobile banking, the more convinced I become that mobile banking is the most important innovation, or cluster of innovations, in retail banking in years, arguably in a century. Here’s why I think mobile banking is a much bigger deal than cash machines (ATMs), credit cards or home-based online banking:
In developing economies that lack a dense infrastructure of branches, ATMs and fixed-line telecoms, mobile banking and payments are bringing millions of people into the formal banking system for the first time.
In developed economies mobile banking will become the primary way many, perhaps most, customers interact with their banks. Banks need mobile banking to provide a platform for mobile payments and to protect their retail payments businesses from digital disruption as mobile payments start to replace card payments in shops.
The past five years have been awful for most European retail banks. The financial crisis, and the resulting recessions in most of Europe's economies, nearly destroyed some banks and crushed the profitability of many of the remainder. Worse than that, it was a problem that was partly or largely of (some) banks' own making. Banks are being forced to shrink their balance sheets, sell off non-core businesses and cut costs (i.e. fire employees) just to survive. And Europe's ongoing financial crises are far from over as banks' fortunes are closely entwined with those of their indebted governments.
There's one small silver lining among these dark clouds. Over the past 15 years, eBusiness has evolved from providing an electronic brochure to become a fundamental strategic function within retail banks. One of the effects of the financial crisis has been to force most European banks to focus on how to generate profits in their core retail banking operations by serving customers efficiently. Digital banking is a big part of the answer. So, despite the bleak economic outlook, most retail banking boards know that they must continue investing in digital channels. Digital strategy is an increasingly important component in overall strategy.
I'm still surprised when I find heads of eBusiness who remain marginalized within their firms, reporting into IT or marketing rather than a centralized distribution channels function alongside branches. The leading banks no longer make that mistake. That has greatly increased the power and influence of digital banking executives, but also their responsibility for the overall success of their businesses.
Here's our view of the top five priorities for eBusiness and channel strategy executives at European retail banks: