Attracting and retaining talent in the Channel

Guest blog by Jessica Hadleigh, Marketing Manager at Thames Distribution Ltd

Last Tuesday, I was lucky enough to be invited to be part of a panel at the new format Channel Live conference, discussing a topic that I am very passionate about; attracting and retaining new talent into the tech channel.

Hosted by Adam Simon, the Global Managing Director of CONTEXT, the panel was truly a wealth of experience that included David Jones, Chief People Officer of Daisy Group, Leon Conway, Co-founder of Channel People, David Pitts, Partner and Founder of Trust Business Partners, and myself.

Our industry is constantly evolving and with every new advancement – technological or otherwise – comes the need for a new skillset to keep our businesses current. Continue reading

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Filed under Enterprise IT, IT Distribution, Market Analysis

7 Critical retail questions requiring new metrics and collaboration

by Chris Petersen, CEO at IMS

At the most basic level, retail is a simple business about selling products for more than the retailer paid for them. Historically, retailing was based upon selling from shops. And even when retailers opened virtual stores online, the core metrics have been most focused on sales, revenue, margin, growth, and market share. In today’s real-time retail marketplace, the customer is now the new POS – Point of Sale. Customers determine where they purchase, how they pay, and where they collect. Retailer, distributor and even vendor systems were not designed to track “flow” to the consumer. Today’s consumer expectations are creating new business questions that will require new data, metrics and benchmarking. Continue reading

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IFA 2017: The Smart Home Comes of Age

CES and MWC may attract the bigger crowds early in the year, but for many, the original and best consumer electronics show remains IFA. The Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin – to give it its full name – has been around for nearly a century, but it can barely have witnessed technological change on quite this scale before. This year VR headsets vied for attention with the usual smartphones, gaming devices, and laptops.

But perhaps the biggest buzz could be found around the smart home, in the proliferation of connected appliances and voice assistant technology, as well as a new agreement behind the scenes designed to drive forward a global market said to be worth over $14bn.

Gadgets galore
As usual, all the major consumer brands were represented this year, from Samsung and Huawei to Sony, Asus, Acer, Panasonic and many more. Smartphone fans were treated to a first look at LG’s high-end V30 device, while Sony unveiled three new models: the Xperia X71, X71 Compact and XA1 Plus. As far as laptops, the Asus 2-in- 1 ZenBook Flip 14, Lenovo’s Yoga 920 ultra-thin notebook, and Acer’s “slimmest ever all-in- on desktop” the Aspire S24 all caught the eye.

VR fans were treated to a major announcement: the introduction of Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality headsets, with partners Acer, Asus, Dell, Lenovo and others all showing off their wares. Elsewhere there were new smart watches from Samsung, plenty to keep gaming fans interested, and even new 360-degree digital cameras from Acer.

But it was in the smart home that arguably the most eye-catching kit could be found, as the battle for consumer hearts and minds really begins to heat up. There were plenty of connected appliances on show, from a new Nest thermostat and Hive smart security camera to the Miele Dialog Oven and even a smart floor cleaner from Neato Botvac.

But notably it was in the virtual assistant space that vendors really vied for consumers’ attention, which isn’t surprising given that these platforms will increasingly sit at the centre of the smart home.

That’s why we saw Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, Google’s Voice Assistant and Samsung’s Bixby, built into an increasingly wide range of products on show at IFA. Lenovo’s Alexa-powered Home Assistant for the Tab 4 offers an Echo Show experience for a much smaller price tag, for example. There’s also been signs that some players are prepared to work together: Amazon and Microsoft announced that their voice assistants would integrate to allow users to access Windows and Office through Alexa and Amazon sites via Cortana.

Driving smart home success
Behind the scenes was perhaps where the most significant event at IFA 2017 took place, with the signing of a major agreement between three smart home associations in the UK, Germany and France.

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The UK’s Smart Homes & Buildings Association (SH&BA), Germany’s SmartHome Initiative Deutschland e.V. (SHD) and the Fédération Française de Domotique (FFD) represent over 600 OEMs, retailers, distributors, ISVs, integrators, telcos, and energy suppliers. Under the terms of the new agreement, they’ll form a European committee to better coordinate joint activities.

As Global MD for CONTEXT and Chair of the SH&BA, I believe the deal will help the organisations share key knowledge, develop common standards and drive sales. As smart home technologies become increasingly important to us all, that’s great news for the industry, and ultimately consumers.

by AS

 

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Filed under Market Analysis, Mobile technology, Home automation, IoT, Smart Home, Retail

What to expect in IFA 2017?

For growth in the tech industry it’s all about Internet of Things and of course the Internet of Playthings – this year’s IFA will be an exciting place to witness this. The pre-show announcements point to make or break smart watches from Fitbit, new wearables from Samsung, a new connected toothbrush from Philips, a “behemoth” gaming machine from Acer, and new mixed-reality headsets from Microsoft.

The agenda of the various conference programmes, shows that IFA, just like its sister shows CES and MWC, give most airtime to the new, and hardly any to how technology companies can optimise the vast but legacy categories such as PC’s, printers and displays. So, for example, the keynotes will focus on digital health (Philips & Fitbit), “building the possible” (Microsoft – could this be related to their mixed reality offering?) and an intriguing topic of mobile and AI from Huawei – are they launching their own Siri/Cortana competitive offering? The IFA+ summit is focused on IOT, wearables, integrating tech in smart home, and the latest on immersive computing. It’s all about the next level – nothing stands still, although there is a timeless element about the IFA show, with its long history stretching back to 1925.

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As you wander around the 155,000 square metres of space, and get to meet the 1,805 exhibitors, do not forget to put the innovation areas on your itinerary.

Here are two of them: in hall 6.2 there are 78 companies presenting smart home offerings – covering security, lighting, home automation, cloud platforms and gateways. Look especially for the advances in voice control and the linking of smart home solutions to this technology, which is less than one year old in Europe and has already made an enormous difference to the smart home market. Then, not far away, there is hall 26 – this is the innovation pavilion where IFA Next is housed (it used to be known as IFA Tec Watch). Here you will find start-ups and all those next generation products, the ones to watch.

In pavilion 26, there is also another smart home area, with another 10 vendors, and associations, which is also not to be missed. And especially at 4pm on 4th September, when three smart home associations – the Smart Homes & Buildings Association (UK), Fédération Française de Domotique (France), and Smart Home Initiative (Germany), will sign an international cooperation agreement working together to build the category across Europe. CONTEXT is associated with all three associations, having been a force in bringing them together, and already collaborated on a number of pan-European projects.

Lastly, and not least, CONTEXT is looking forward to hosting its annual IFA dinner with clients and partners – the opportunity to hear the latest CONTEXT research on Smart Home and Immersive technology, will be delivered in a delightful Berlin venue, providing a great opportunity to relax, meet up and network.

by AS

 

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Filed under Connectivity, Home automation, IoT, Market Analysis, Mobile technology, Retail, Smart Home, Smart Technology, Wearables

Immersive Technology in the Workplace – Part Two: Automotive and Aerospace Industries

In this second post in a series of blogs, we are looking at Immersive Technology, the blanket term for virtual, augmented and mixed reality and associated techniques and specifically where it is currently being used in the workplace.

In the last part, we looked at how this technology is being used in Healthcare. This time we’ll be looking at the engineering sector, specifically as it relates to Automotive and Aerospace.

Design

Even from the earliest concept stages, VR sketching tools allow designers to visualise their creations at full scale in interactive and collaborative environments, even with remote colleagues, as demonstrated recently by Seymourpowell.

The real power of immersive technology is that it gives designers and technicians all of the same advantages that other digital tools offer, but allows them to interact with projects spatially and at the scales they are used to from traditional prototyping techniques.

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Production

Collaborative production planning via virtual environments also allow certain classes of issues to be spotted early, as demonstrated by Lockheed Martin who were “seeing a significantly reduced error rate in the construction stage”. Even NASA is well documented as having promoted the use of VR to share work and “break down the barriers of understanding”.

The high tech engineering sector has also taken readily to incorporating immersive technologies into the production work flow. Volkswagen for example, recently announced partnerships with HTC for workers to collaborate on both production and logistics via virtual reality to “make daily teamwork much easier and save a great deal of time”.

Meanwhile, Ford has been using virtual manufacturing technology to analyse assembly line workflows via its ergonomics lab. This has reportedly seen employee injuries be reduced by 70% and ergonomic issues lowered by 90%.

Maintenance

Much like we mentioned last week in the medical industry, visualising a complicated, three dimensional piece of machinery clearly can be difficult on a two dimensional screen. With virtual reality, however, inspecting complex systems and communicating with colleagues about those systems becomes much easier.

While not a commercial application, upcoming game prototype Wrench illustrates perfectly how useful interactive visualisations are in communicating how a complex product is assembled. For a more industrial example, look no further than ESI Group’s IC.IDO, who work with some of the largest aircraft manufacturers in the world.

Training maintenance technicians in virtual reality will encourage much better process adherence and understanding, reducing maintenance costs in the long run. Furthermore, as illustrated brilliantly in Microsoft’s promotional videos for the Hololense, the ability to have a maintenance professional remotely assist an unskilled on-site worker or end customer will allow those experts to work remotely and maximise their effectiveness.

Conclusion

It seems clear that large engineering companies are taking immersive technology seriously and seeing promising results across the scope of their business. Many of these techniques and others will also be relevant to other industries, including the ability to showcase products virtually, both in B2B and B2C settings. While this is clearly an attractive proposition for the aerospace and automotive industries, we will look at this in more detail in part three, Architecture and Real Estate.

by BB


*Photo Credits: Shutterstock.com & Editorial credit: Darren Brode / Shutterstock.com

 

 

 

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Filed under Connectivity, Market Analysis, virtual reality

Immersive Technology in the Workplace – Part One: Healthcare

At CONTEXT, in addition to providing world class data and insight into well established, multi billion dollar technology industries, we are also constantly looking to the future and keeping an eye on new emerging industries. In this series of blog posts we’ll be looking at Immersive Technology, the blanket term for virtual, augmented and mixed reality and associated techniques and specifically where it is currently being used in the workplace.

Our first industry in which immersive training is already gaining ground and may well be a game changer is Healthcare.

Surgical Training

Immersive technologies are already working their way into the medical training environment. Medical Realities was the first to allow medical students to experience the practical realities of an operating theatre from the perspective of the surgeon via spherical video but many others are hot on their heels.

There is an expression in surgery that for rare procedures the process is often to “watch one, do one, teach one”, highlighting the fact that it is difficult to practice such activities without a certain amount of risk to patients.

In an environment where risk and liability plays a major role, any technology which allows doctors to plan and practice a technique to perfection will be warmly welcomed by the medical industry, assuming that it is able to pass the necessary regulatory hurdles.

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Medical Device Integration

It is not just surgeons who will benefit from training in VR. Any specialised medical device requires strict adherence to designated procedures, the communication of which is extremely well suited to virtual reality. Rolling out new devices and procedures is no easy feat, but a fully simulated environment allows for staff to be brought up to speed as new technology is integrated into their daily workflow.

Virtamed and others are already providing physicians with the ability to practice certain device usage techniques via VR and we are likely to see more device manufacturers offering virtual training solutions in an effort to secure vital contracts.

Visualisation

Beyond training applications, there are increasingly sophisticated technologies for capturing rich, three dimensional patient data. As in many other industries, being able to visualise and interact with three-dimensional information makes it far easier to digest, both to the specialist and the layman.

Immersive technology not only allows medical professionals to better inspect a patient’s unique set of circumstances, but also to better communicate details to other members of the care team and even to the patient themselves.

For now, the use of headsets is likely to be limited in this use case, but as the form factor and capabilities of augmented reality devices improves, expect to see them replace many of the traditional props doctors use to explain conditions and treatments.

Conclusion

We’ve focused on a few ways professionals will use immersive tech and it seems more use cases will be identified as the technology develops. We’ve not even touched on therapeutic patient experiences like those from psious, Virtually Better and Bravemind which aid in the rehabilitation from anxiety, phobias, PTSD and other mental health issues.

It is clear that healthcare has been one of the first industries to open its arms to immersive technology, ripe as it is to disruption anywhere that costs and risks can be reduced while improving effective outcomes.

In the next part, we’ll look at how Immersive Technology is being used in the Automotive and Aerospace Industries.

by BB

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Filed under Market Analysis, virtual reality

Is blockchain an answer for Smart Home and IoT security?

by Chris Petersen, IMS

Unless you have been hiding under a rock, you keep hearing about the concept and new technology of “blockchain”. Typically blockchain is associated with the trending topic of “bitcoin” and digital currency.   A lot of people have been talking about blockchain, but exactly what is it?   Why is it revolutionary?

More importantly what does blockchain offer in terms of security that might address the vulnerability of Smart Home and the billions of IoT devices that will permeate our lives?   Confused? You are certainly not alone.   Blockchain is more than a buzzword for millennials and something that we need to better understand at least a basic level. Continue reading

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Filed under IoT, Security, Uncategorized