This year’s Microsoft Analyst Summit took place at the St. Regis hotel in Singapore, a prestigious place that hosted more than 90 analysts from the entire region. The Forrester team was impressed by Microsoft’s strategies in cloud, digital transformation and partnerships, and in particular, the main takeaway for us throughout the 2-day event was Microsoft’s innovation capabilities and ambition, especially in the APAC region.
HoloLens puts the spotlight on Mixed Reality. Unlike Augmented Reality, which is lightweight but has limited views and functionality, or Virtual Reality, which is very powerful but comes with bulkiness and dependence on a PC, Mixed Reality blends holograms with the real world to marry agility and powerfulness. HoloLens brings this concept to life, it is light enough for users to move around safely, and it is very powerful because it is a self-contained computer that doesn’t require tethering to another PC. There is even an emulator that allows developers to develop holographic apps for HoleLens without a device. HoloLens could drastically change the way people work, live or even think, we are all very eager to see if the first wave of HoleLens products will successfully establish an ecosystem that can sustain mass market deployments and future growth.
Marketers are always falling in love with mobile’s latest “shiny new object” and new technology acronyms — 5G, BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy), NFC (near-field communication), RWD (responsive web design), etc. — and they’re constantly looking for the next platform, whether it’s virtual reality (VR), bots, artificial intelligence (AI), or the internet of things (IoT).
However, it is time to stop this quixotic quest for a paradigmatic new platform to replace mobile! Instead, recognize that mobile will activate these adjacent technologies to enable new brand experiences.
Over the past decade, smartphones have become a sort of black hole, integrating a huge array of sensors, but mobile is now exploding back out to our environments. Sensors and connectivity are expanding beyond smartphones to our wrists, bodies, cars, TVs, and washing machines as well as to buildings and “invisible” places in the world around us. The IoT is generating tectonic shifts among digital platforms and tech vendors, signaling a new wave of disruption, and unleashing new forms of competition.
The IoT is also redefining brand engagement by enabling marketers to:
Listen to their customers and analyze their real behaviors.
Create more frequent and intimate consumer interactions.
As always each year, Huawei hosted its analyst event in April, with hordes of analysts descending on Shenzhen. Here are a few observations from the event:
In 2015, Huawei’s revenues grew by 37% to €61 billion and its EBIT grew by 34% to €7 billion, keeping the operating margin stable at just under 12%. Huawei’s strategy paid off across all of its divisions in 2015. Huawei’s Carrier Business pushed deeper into carrier transformation support and grew by 21% in 2015. Its Consumer Business operations entered the mainstream: The division grew by 73% in 2015, with Huawei gaining the No. 3 spot in the global smartphone league table. Huawei’s Enterprise Business is gaining traction and grew by 44% in 2015.
There are four distinctive aspects that go some way to explaining why Huawei keeps on outgrowing its peer group. First, Huawei’s heart beats in its R&D division, and most of Huawei’s top managers have come through the ranks of the R&D team. Second, Huawei benefits from strong internal collaboration and flexibility. Compared with other vendors, Huawei seems a lot less process-driven. Instead, Huawei seems to tolerate, even encourage, self-organization among employees — despite strict management hierarchies. Third, Huawei has a flexible and unconventional approach to customer experience. Huawei completes projects that overrun without overanalyzing whose fault it is. Fourth, Huawei is not listed and therefore not answerable to external shareholders. This gives it the freedom to experiment and take a long-term view.
Most enterprises aren't fully exploiting real-time streaming data that flows from IoT devices and mobile, web, and enterprise apps. Streaming analytics is essential for real-time insights and bringing real-time context to apps. Don't dismiss streaming analytics as a form of "traditional analytics" use for postmortem analysis. Far from it — streaming analytics analyzes data right now, when it can be analyzed and put to good use to make applications of all kinds (including IoT) contextual and smarter. Forrester defines streaming analytics as:
Software that can filter, aggregate, enrich, and analyze a high throughput of data from multiple, disparate live data sources and in any data format to identify simple and complex patterns to provide applications with context to detect opportune situations, automate immediate actions, and dynamically adapt.
Forrester Wave™: Big Data Streaming Analytics, Q1 2016
To help enterprises understand what commercial and open source options are available, Rowan Curran and I evaluated 15 streaming analytics vendors using Forrester's Wave methodology. Forrester clients can read the full report to understand the market category and see the detailed criteria, scores, and ranking of the vendors. Here is a summary of the 15 vendors solutions we evaluated listed in alphabetical order:
This year’s big technology themes at Mobile World Congress (MWC) can be summarized as big data, Internet of Things (IoT), 5G, and virtual/augmented reality (VR/AR). These themes will be important for B2B players and especially for revolutionizing customer experiences, optimizing industrial and operational processes, and boosting service enhancements. My recently published report, “Brief: Observations From Mobile World Congress That Will Shape Your B2B Digital Transformation,” summarizes our observations from MWC 2016 and the key takeaways for developing B2B digital transformation strategies. We observed that:
The main MWC themes are increasingly intertwined. VR and AR will enhance user experiences on mobile devices and expand mobile moments. Big data will provide context-based, and more relevant, insights and use cases — including for VR and AR solutions.
Mobile data is driving digital customer experience. Enterprise apps are increasingly integrated with business processes. In turn, enterprise apps help generate data-derived insights from mobile objects and devices. This will help transcend app silos to generate a single view of the customer who benefits from a better end-to-end user experience.
Bigger is not necessarily better. MWC feels near its zenith in terms of visitor numbers and industry impact. In 2016, nearly 101,000 attendees from 204 countries made it to MWC — more than ever. Yet, for business users MWC still falls short of translating mobility into tangible business benefits for digital transformation.
More than 100,000 people descended on Barcelona, Spain last week to be part of Mobile World Congress (MWC), one of the world’s largest annual technology events. My new report,IoT And Insights Are Two Sides Of The Same Coin, recaps some of the MWC 2016, including expectations for new 5G networks, the Internet of Things (IoT), and applications that will deliver value from the multitude of connected things — and people. A few of those highlights include:
5G Networks Promise Speed But Require Patience.
Telecom operators and network equipment providers eagerly discussed the faster speeds and lower latency of new 5G networks. And, fast it will be. While reports vary, network tests show download speeds peaking at more than 20 Gbps; average 5G speed is expected to be 100 times faster than current 4G networks. With that kind of speed, true video streaming becomes a reality for consumer and business uses. And, that reality can be with virtual or augmented: AR and VR were all over the exhibit hall. I successfully fought with a dragon but had to bail out of the helicopter I was flying as the experience got a little too real.
But alas, these good things only come to those who wait. The 5G standards will not be finalized before 2018; and commercial availability not before 2020 at the earliest. Large-scale network rollouts will likely take much longer. For now, we’ll all have to live with 4G reality as it is.
Interest In The Internet Of Things Is Exploding – Well Beyond Things.
After experiencing some of the most exhausting days in the life of a “mobile” analyst, I am back from Barcelona. Here are my key takeaways from the 2016 event.
MWC 2016's "Mobile Is Everything" theme summarizes two ideas: the disruptive power of ubiquitous mobile devices and their ability to connect things and objects in our surrounding environment. This year, innovation and key announcements did not so much come from new flagship smartphone manufacturers but instead focused on solutions that enable mobile devices to activate adjacent technologies — like VR, 360-degree cameras, 5G, and the IoT — to build the next generation of connected experiences. Let's cut through the hype to look at what the headlines really mean for B2C marketers:
VR is really still hype. Samsung massively surfed on the VR "wow" effect and heavily promoted its Gear VR headset while Facebook's CEO insisted that VR is the next-generation platfrom and will shape the future of social. After the distribution of five million of Google's Cardboard VR Viewers since June 2014, the buzz will continue with Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR (to be launched mid-March at the Game Developer Conference), creating awareness for digitally immersive experiences. But reach will be extremely limited, as the technology will only attract a niche set of users — especially gamers — in the first two years. However, marketers at retail, automotive, travel, or luxury real-estate companies with a digital innovation agenda should keep an eye for signs of VR adoption beyond the "techno-few."
Use mobile to unlock IoT consumer experiences. IoT remains first and foremost a B2B and industrial play. However, B2C marketers can combine mobile and IoT to activate new brand experiences.
From February 22 to 25, Barcelona will be the center of the business world. Do not expect a specific industry focus but expect announcements impacting any industry: from payments to automotive. Why? Because “mobile is everything”.
Presenting and hosting a panel on digital transformation at this year's CES gave me the opportunity to wander the 2 million square feet of exhibit space and assimilate some of the changes coming our way:
Welcome To The Age Of Invention. For me, the most exciting aspect of CES is the sheer volume of innovative, inventive startups that are tapping into the power of sensor-enabled technology to create new products and services. Many of these companies are funded through crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, gofundme and indiegogo. The pace of innovation will accelerate as high-school kids use their fertile imaginations to tap into the technology that’s now second nature to them.
The Internet Of Things Will Fuel Rapid Digital Transformation. Based on the sheer volume of internet connected devices coming on the market this year, we’re going to see an explosion in the Internet Of Things (IoT). Everything – from wearables that track everything from your health and fitness to the temperature of a newborn child, and in-home appliances that interconnect to create a home environment tailored to your preferences – everything is now designed with sensors that collect data that's used to deliver better customer outcomes. Or at least that’s the promise. Sensors can and will improve our lives – giving us more data and insight about our environment and allowing us to tailor experiences to be more finely tuned to our personal desires. The data provided by the sensors in the Internet Of Things is the fuel for further digital transformation.
The Internet of Things, or IoT, finds its way into a lot of conversations these days. CES in Las Vegas last week was awash with internet-connected doo-dahs, including cars, fridges, televisions, and more. Moving away from the home and into the world of business, the IoT furore continues unabated. Instead of connecting cars to Netflix or a teen-tracking insurance company, we connect entire fleets of trucks to warehouses, delivery locations, and driver monitoring systems. Instead of connecting the domestic fridge to Carrefour or Tesco or Walmart in order to automatically order another litre of milk, we connect entire banks of chiller units to stock control systems, backup generators, and municipal environmental health officers. And then we connect the really big things; a locomotive, a jet engine, a mountainside covered in wind turbines, a valley bursting with crops, a city teeming with people.
Wind turbines in Ayrshire. (Source: Paul Miller)
The IoT hype is compelling, pervasive, and full of bold promises and eye-watering valuations. And yet, despite talking about connected cars or smarter cities for decades, the all-encompassing vision remains distant. The reality, mostly, is one in which incompatible standards, immature implementations, and patchy network connectivity ensure that each project or procurement delivers an isolated little bubble of partially connected intelligence. Stitching these together, to deliver meaningful views — and control — across all of the supposedly connected systems within a factory, a company, a power network, a city, or a watershed often remains more hope than dependable reality.