Artificial Intelligence 2019 – The year of data

The era of big data with a simultaneous increase in computing power in recent years has propelled us to faster and greater analysis through Artificial Intelligence (AI). The year 2019 will see this trend continue especially given the expansion of data collection through streams such as IoT.

There are four trends which shed a light on the current BBC forecast of “the year of data”, namely, data storytelling, AI development, cloud computing and hardware trends. We also saw the start in 2018 of a potential change in the use of mobile computing for AI. Continue reading

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CES is Back and Stirring Up More Excitement in the Smart Home Space

It’s CES time again. The world’s biggest consumer electronics show will this week welcome an estimated 180,000 visitors, with over 4,400 exhibitors filling nearly three million square feet around Las Vegas with the latest innovations. Turning 52 this year, the event is showing no signs of slowing down in its middle age. Rather, it continues to be one of the biggest events in the tech calendar and a useful place for crystal ball-gazers to gauge where the industry is headed.

This year smart devices once again dominated, especially home systems integrating AI-power voice assistants and apps. From the quirky to the more traditional and everything in between, here’s a round-up of some of the highlights.

Smart home

A sign of the smart home’s growing position at the mainstream of the consumer technology space is the sheer range of gadgets on offer at CES. Many of these, like the Currant smart wall outlet, the C by GE smart lighting range and Onelink Bell smart doorbell integrate voice assistant tech from the key players like Google and Amazon. Some include robotic technology, such as the Temi personal butler which now has Alexa support, and the FoldiMate laundry folding machine.

Smart toilets come this year in a surprisingly large number of varieties, including Kohler’s Numi 2.0 Intelligent Toilet featuring Alexa integration. Their pet equivalents were also in attendance, courtesy of Inubox (dogs) and LavvieBot (cats). In fact, the pet theme continued to CES innovation award winner Mookkie, a device which uses AI to identify individual animals in order to dispense food intelligently.

IoT everywhere

The Internet of Things (IoT) is all pervasive at this year’s CES. If not manifest in smart home devices, it can be found in wearables like smart nappy monitors which detect when the wearer needs changing, and smart belts which track the user’s waistline, gait and walking speed. An AI-powered wearable camera captures contact details and promises the wearer will “never forget a face again”, while the Urgonight headband claims to help train the brain to sleep better.

Connected cars have also made major impact again this year, notably the electric M-Byte from Chinese startup Byton. Not to be outdone, Mercedes showed off its 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class, Nissan debuted its Leaf e+ vehicle, Honda showcased its DreamDrive infotainment system and Qualcomm its AI-powered car “cockpit” platform.

A new spin

Although the smart home and IoT gadgets have garnered a great deal of attention on day one of the show, there were other notable appearances highlighting continued innovation in the consumer tech space. These included bendable smartphone the Royale FlexPai, which seems to have beaten Samsung to the punch in launching first.

Other new takes on established technology included a solar-powered smart watch. In the smart TV space, LG’s 8K OLED model has a screen which doubles as a giant speaker, while the same firm’s 65-inch Signature OLED TV R is a slick, rollable model which it is claimed will “liberate users from the limitations of the wall.”

By AS

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Filed under Market Analysis, Smart Home, Smart Technology

3D Printing – a year in review and a look at what’s ahead

2018 was all about the Industrial side of Additive Manufacturing. On the metals side, the industry saw shipments of new, lower priced multi-ASTM process printer technologies like Material Extrusion solutions from Markforged and Desktop Metal. Interest also gathered around forthcoming alternative multi-process metal technologies like the various Binder Jetting solutions from HP (Metal Jet) and Desktop Metal and for Stratasys’ LPM. “Green part” was indeed the phrase-du-jour at many a trade event this year as metal printer vendors explained the steps by which they envision lower priced metal parts being cost effectively mass produced in the not too distant future. Continue reading

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Displays: a glimpse into 2019

Desktop monitor sales are expected to continue growing in 2019, although not as strongly as over this year.

Business-targeted monitors may still benefit from the PC refreshes that are accompanying the ongoing transition to Windows 10. Moreover, as many companies move towards creating more productive and flexible workspaces, they are looking for ergonomic devices and this should spur sales of monitors with adjustable stands, high resolution and ultra-wide screens, but also thin bezel monitors allowing dual screen setups.

Many vendors still have consumer monitors on their radar, especially high-end and gaming monitors. Esports are projected to rise to double digits in 2019 and, with variety of revenue streams in this still-nascent market, there is significant room to grow. Indeed, announcements from some vendors this year suggest we will see more ultra-large monitors designed specifically for gamers and an increasing number of 27-inch-plus and ultra-wide screens. Even if this focus on premium monitors results in an overall decline in volume sales, revenues should remain relatively stable.

Large-format Displays (LFDs)
In 2019, digital signage and collaboration will continue to drive sales of commercial large format displays (LFDs). This product category is still growing because it remains innovative: every year vendors and customers find new ways of utilising digital signage to improve customer experience, speed up service, track and target demand or simply improve productivity. In the coming year, we should see a shift in focus from hardware and display features towards personalisation and new applications. Vendors will offer customers fewer off-the-shelf products and more full solutions that include LFDs with additional business-ready functionalities and models with embedded operating systems and Wi-Fi which offer more operational flexibility. However, such technologies and capabilities will elevate some risks, especially where displays collect customer data, so vendors will also focus on enhancing data security in 2019.

The increasingly mobile workforce, which is driving trends in the desktop-monitors market, is also likely to lead to increased demand for interactive LFDs designed for collaboration hubs in corporate environments. Fully integrated solutions will help to transform the workplace and engage employees by enabling seamless connected collaboration.

Finally, another set of products which vendors will continue to promote are the direct-view LEDs used in outdoor and large venues. These panels allow customers to build videowalls for spaces of almost any dimension, shape or curve and have no signage-installation limits. Costs are high but the many advantages direct-view LEDs bring mean we should see slow but definite growth in this category.

by DK

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New for the IT channel in 2019: a look ahead with CONTEXT industry predictions

It’s been another fascinating year in the IT channel, and one characterised to a large extent by stability and reseller optimism. Distribution revenue was up 5.7% year-on-year in the nine months to 30th September, 2018, and the number of resellers partnered with distributors on the CONTEXT panel changed little from last year, with an increase in average spend per reseller. What’s more, in our ChannelWatch survey we recorded only four countries less positive about the next 12 months than when the survey was performed a year ago.

So, what can we expect of the year ahead? We asked our expert market watchers in three key categories. Continue reading

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Black Hat Europe takes centre stage as security spending rises

It was Black Hat Europe time again this week. For anyone in any doubt about the scale of the cybersecurity challenge facing organisations today, I’d encourage them to read up on the latest insights into forward-looking threats. What you will find out may be rather unnerving.

The good news for the channel, however, is that organisations appear to be responding to these challenges, in part thanks to the regulatory drivers of GDPR and NIS Directive compliance. CONTEXT data reveals that enterprise security revenues for IT distributors in the first ten months of 2018 were up 10.1% year-on-year.

Safety first
As the name implies, Black Hat Europe is unremittingly tech-centric: a show by and for cybersecurity professionals. But the very fact that it’s able to fill out a large part of the cavernous ExCel every year, and hold sold-out events in the US and Asia, is testament to how far the security industry has come since the show’s inception in 1997. In their opening keynotes, Black Hat founder, Jeff Moss, and Marina Kaljurand, chair of the Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace, echoed these sentiments. No-one was talking about cybersecurity in 2004, she said, but 14 years later it’s very much at the centre of governments’ national security plans and corporate risk management.

This has been driven in part thanks to a steady stream of major cyber-attacks and breaches over the years: originating from both nation state operatives and financially motivated cybercrime gangs. Most recently, incidents affecting half a billion Marriott International customers and 100 million Quora users have hit the headlines. The former could be on the receiving end of a major GDPR fine.

As CONTEXT noted a fortnight ago, the data protection legislation will continue to be the biggest single driver for increased security spending in the months to come. We can also expect a bump in spending after the first major fines are issued. So far, just one regulator has imposed a financial penalty, when €20,000 was levied against German chat app operator Knuddels. This is likely to change soon. Although it has garnered less publicity, the NIS Directive is also important: maximum possible fines levied under the regime go as high as the GDPR. We can therefore also expect to see firms in certain critical infrastructure sectors like water, healthcare, and transport to increase spending.

Where is spending targeted?
In the meantime, we noted growth in IT distribution revenues across all major cybersecurity categories. The biggest came in data protection and recovery products (62%), albeit from a much smaller base. Endpoint security (11%) and enterprise network security (6%) spending accounted for most sales. These are likely to continue to increase going forward as organisations look to get ahead of current threats and stay compliant.

The growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) will help to drive this spending, as security teams look to gain visibility and control over an expanding number of smart endpoints. Research from Trend Micro at Black Hat highlighted serious vulnerabilities and security shortcomings associated with two of the most common M2M protocols, MQTT and CoAP. Over just a fourth-month period the researchers claim these channels exposed over 219 million messages globally, putting firms at risk from targeted attacks, industrial espionage and DoS.

To manage this kind of risk effectively going forward, security bosses will need to make the right investment decisions to support a comprehensive security strategy fit for the new regulatory regime.

by AS

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Engaging young leaders in building the tech industry of the future is not an option

Two weeks ago, I was at a panel meeting of the Smart Home & Buildings Association. SH&BA, which was founded in 2000, is the knowledge base for smart homes and buildings and people who live and work in them. At this meeting, young leaders from Google, Sky, Signify, Bosch Smart Home, Energenie, & the Beacon Agency presented their solutions to a competition on “how to overcome the barriers to smart home adoption.”

Tech Data, one of CONTEXT’s close partners and panellists, had agreed to sponsor the competition. Andy Dow, Group Marketing Director of Tech Data UK and a well-known figure in the channel had expressed delight to recognise the vital role that these young leaders have in shaping the smart home industry of today and the future.

After the winner was announced – 24-year-old Thomas Joy, co-founder of the Beacon Agency – we saw the video. You must watch it! SH&BA Young Leaders Winner – the Beacon Agency . Here is what one seasoned expert on smart home said when he saw it:

“As a CABA member, I learned about Beacon Agency’s video and am writing to share my praise. Their video offers some of the most sensible advice in the Smart Home space in decades…by mentioning AI and the need for tech to disappear discreetly into devices, it touches on a missing component of the “smart” home: the ability to learn and adapt automatically… I very much like Beacon Agency’s view of this market, looking at the service model instead a collection of partially connected but rather dumb products that quickly go obsolete as tech innovation evolves exponentially.”

To those of us interested in the future of smart home, Thomas delighted us with his considerable creativity and marketing flair for his vision of Smart Home as a Service.

So, this is the point – thirty-five years ago, a bunch of young twenty-year olds entered the new and emerging PC industry, and, sticking with it over the years, ended up by running it. We need to give the voice today to those young leaders who are going to run the smart home industry in future decades. This is vital because they get the underlying motivation of consumers and how to frame the proposition to them. This is perfectly illustrated in the Beacon Agency video – Thomas had very little prior experience of smart home, and yet he powerfully captured its potential.

As another seasoned smart home individual said, who has been working on smart home for the last twenty years, “we got in a top consultancy firm to assess smart home – they spent months on it and the most powerful concept they came up with was Smart Home as a Service”. Thomas got there quicker, and it is here for you to see. How do we build it? Surely with the help of our empowered young leaders.

TechData

Winner Thomas Joy is pictured with Teresa Johnston from Tech Data and Adam Simon, CONTEXT

by AS

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Filed under IT Distribution, Market Analysis, Smart Home