Category Archives: Big data

How PC Gaming Is Driving AI, Cars, and the UK Treasury’s Technology Policy

At CES 2017 back in January, Jen-Hsun Huang, CEO of Nvidia announced that “GPU-powered deep learning is driving the ability for computers to perceive the world… But one day, AI researchers met the GPU and the big bang of AI occurred.” Up until more recently, when most ICT analysts thought of Nvidia, the first thing to come to mind would have been gaming, and for a good reason. The core of Nvidia’s business is still PC Gaming where they continue to dominate the GFX hardware market. Jen-Hsun went on to explain that the “GPU had the benefit of being fuelled by the largest entertainment industry in the world, video games.” Indeed, PC gaming is one of the most processing-intensive activities a PC can be asked to perform, and that industry has gone from strength to strength over the past few years. Jen-Hsun was right to tout the success of PC gaming: CONTEXT’s data shows that sales of high-end VR-ready PCs shot up 1057% in terms of revenue y/y for the top 6 EU economies in Q4 2016, and figures from the Entertainment Retailers Association put gaming as contributing more to the UK economy in 2016 than either music or video sales at £2.96bn.

Several thousand miles away from Sin City, the importance of AI and driverless cars was being carefully noted by strategists and civil servants in Whitehall, culminating in the most recent budget announcement. The British government has promised £270m in funding for disruptive technologies such as driverless cars, AI, and robotics. Given the current hard-Brexit policies being pursued by Teresa May’s administration they are wise to support such green shoots; CONTEXT’s figures for professional GPUs back both this decision and Jen-Hsun’s assertion. Screen Shot 2017-03-16 at 13.21.25Sales of professional GPUs in the UK reversed a previous decline in Q3 2016, with Nvidia’s own Quadro series of GFX cards enjoying +25% y/y growth in revenue. More and more GPUs are being purchased to power deep learning and AI for large datacentres, rather than in their more traditional roles for 3D modelling and computer aided design.

It’s not uncommon for devices to be developed with one purpose in mind then being very successfully appropriated for another. Even Atari’s failed Jaguar gaming console ended up being cannibalised and used in dental equipment. The GPU is also the critical lynchpin of another emerging technology: Virtual Reality. In one profound statement, Jen-Hsun declared that “…all gaming was Virtual Reality,” and in many cases this rings true where a player inhabits a virtual world. It might not seem immediately obvious, but components built for PC gaming now power both AI and VR. As a result Nvidia’s share price has soared in recent months, finishing 2016 +224% up from the previous year, and promising to continue to rise as their partnerships and new ventures bear fruit, with professional visualization growing +11%, datacentre at +144% and automotive up +52% for Q4 2016.

This success eventually caused Nvidia’s shares to drop in February when the Q4 results were released as investors weighed up the risks of long-term returns (as driverless cars are still many years away from being commonplace), versus selling stock at an apex. To some extent, the UK government is taking a gamble on driverless cars becoming the norm, and this might reflect the modest £270 sum compared with much higher investment promised by other governments. Academic commentators have also welcomed this news due to the environmental benefits promised by AI-driven vehicles. The immediate future of AI and its importance to the UK economy is very encouraging, but much like Brexit, the longer-term outlook is beyond the most complex algorithm to accurately portend.

by JW

 

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Filed under Big data, Connectivity, gaming, IoT, Mobile technology, Smart Technology

First impressions from CES

The buzz on arrival at CES Unveiled, a pre-CES event aimed at journalists and analysts, was the new OLED Lenovo laptop, a first in the PC and displays industry. The screen resolution was so beautiful that I fear that people will spend their time looking at it rather than working. That was almost the only old tech company out of the 180 exhibitors.

The prize in the smart home and wearables arena goes to French Tech – maybe they negotiated a good block deal with CES or else there is something to be watched for in the buzz of activity in what the French call “The Hexagon”. Here they are:

  • Withings, an established player, has launched a new temporal smart thermometer with 16 sensors.
  • Mother, which caught the imagination in CES 2014 with its array of sensors for tracking activity in the home, has come of age with Silver Mother, essentially the same hardware, but with clever marketing targeting the care of elderly relatives.
  • A new start-up called Hydrao has launched a smart showerhead and related app which allows you to track your usage of water in the shower – the colour on the showerhead changes at preset levels and an app gives you warning – teenagers beware!
  • Ubiant, a start-up, has won a prize for its energy saving product “Luminion”
  • Bee-Wi, with its Bluetooth range of products has launched a watering system which was sprinkling inquisitive people pressing the right buttons on the stand; and also a smart oil diffuser which smelt pleasant and contrasted nicely with the foodie smells of the free buffet being served opposite
  • SevenHugs, named touchingly after the embrace the founders of the company give to their 7 children every night – the family is alive and well in France – have launched the first contextual remote control, designed to make objects in the home easily controllable from one device
  • But the prize for innovation goes to Qarnot, a start-up, which has invented a computer serving as a heater, in an ecologically friendly way of using the heat which would have been generated and lost in a data centre. Its clients know that instead of having banks of computers in a data centre, they are sitting in people’s houses. The device can also be used to charge your smartphone and can be used as a hub for smart home products

There is a UK tech as well. A company called Smarter has developed a nice range of products, some already well-established in UK retail, that make your fridge smart, detect noises in the kitchen (eg the washing machine has come to the end of a cycle) and weigh products in the fridge to let you know if you have run out – all at an attractive price point of under £100.

I end day 1 with Lowe’s, the only retailer to be present at CES Unveiled. Lowe’s has led the way in the US in smart home with its Iris range, and announced today that it is moving into professional monitoring. With a partner it will operate a service of emergency response to alarms for fire, carbon monoxide, and intrusion in return for a monthly fee. This is the way that Dixons Carphone in the UK has said that they are going, and the latest CONTEXT Smart Home Survey (to be published on Thursday 7th January at our Retail CEO breakfast in CES) shows that there is an appetite in Europe for similar services.

by AS

 

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Melco Forum 2015: Innovation – lifeblood of technology companies

“You aren’t disruptive innovative until you create a need” said Jorge Lang the head of Innovation at Intel Spain as part of his masterclass at this year’s Melco Forum in Valencia last week. “The innovation manager challenges the status quo, and sometimes loses friends in the process.” “Disruption is what it is all about”.

MelcoThis is challenging stuff from a company that is a leader in technology innovation. “But there is no room for complacency, as we find ways of doing more than increasing computing power, such as improving social connection with human values, and making the internet of things happen.” Jorge calls this the red queen hypothesis from Alice through the Looking Glass. “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

Improving products sustains companies and is evolutionary but disruptive innovation is what really counts. Jorge Lang highlighted three factors which impact the success of innovative products – technology, user experience and the business model. In his opinion, the challenge for smart home is not technology – it is to find a business model where people are prepared to pay for the new products.

Innovation is about creating an environment where people take risks. This year Intel is innovating helping people move from 18 passwords per person to a product which bypasses password. We are trying to give you more freedom such as no cable to power the TV.

Jorge gave us a glimpse into the future – we are moving away from the age of the typewriter to the age of the personal assistant. We will relate and talk to our home computers and to our smart homes like Hal in the iconic film “2001 A Space Odyssey.” Already there is digital signage with video which learns from your body language. The future is individualised customer marketing because of the availability of data.
by AS

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Wellness is Wearables

by Theo Gibbons

Following our previous posts, which pitted Microsoft’s Band against Apple’s Watch, we turn this week to the theme of wearables and wellbeing. ‘Wellness’ was once a straightforward matter of kale concoctions, Pilates posturing, and Whole Foods foraging. No longer. Wellness is wearables. Wellness is big data.

Why? Well, amongst much uncertainty as to what, exactly, wearables have to offer, wellbeing and health have emerged as key value propositions.

The pitch goes something like this: ubiquitous wearable sensors are set to revolutionise healthcare by providing real-time, ongoing, and personalised data points; health professionals will be able to gain a complete picture outside of clinical settings and adjust treatment plans accordingly; individuals will be able to acquire new perspectives on their relevant behavioural patterns (think diabetics learning about how their dietary habits affect their blood glucose levels).

Indeed, Microsoft argues that its Band’s real value is realised through Health, a “cloud-based service that helps you live healthier by providing actionable insights”, drawing in information from “a variety of devices and services to give you insights into your entire day across nutrition, work, fitness and rest.” And it’s already a crowded market. Several tech companies are vying to develop the health tracking ecosystem of choice: Google Fit, Jawbone UP, and of course, Apple HealthKit all propose to bring together data from your favourite apps and hardware.

Wearables are growing up, graduating from glorified pedometers to bonafide health tracking devices. As Fitbit’s CEO, James Park puts it: “there’ll be a next big leap in benefits once we tie into more detailed clinical research and cross the hurdles and dialogue with the FDA about what we can do for consumers and what’s regulated or not.” Apple’s ResearchKit is already on the way to achieving just that. An open source framework that aims to bring iPhone owners and medical researchers together, it pushes the scope of wearables into new territory. Indeed, several big-name medical studies are already under way, establishing Apple’s sensors as research grade.

Success in this field would bring huge rewards, enabling tech companies to tap into a multi-billion health market (some $6.3 billion are spent each year on blood glucose test strips in the US alone). What’s more, the chronically ill make for a loyal customer base. It isn’t like they can just decide to drop their wearables on a whim. And even for the healthy, unifying ecosystems such as the Apple HealthKit inaugurate a new era of intimacy and dependency, capturing ever more of our bio-digital identities.

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Internet of Everything: channel opportunity or over-hyped dead-end?

While the Internet of Everything (IoE) keeps cropping up in conversation amongst the vendor community, it’s not hard to spot the opportunities for the channel – not only in the proliferation of internet-connected smart devices, but in the cloud storage, processing, pipes and software needed to manage and enable the flow of data.

Take the example of IP-connected CCTV cameras – one of the first IoE technologies to come of age over the past two or three years thanks, in part, to growing public sector investment in town centre surveillance. It created demand for the cameras themselves; specific types of network attached storage (NAS); and even Big Data and facial recognition systems developed to enable better crowd control and security. The London Olympics also gave sales a massive shove. CONTEXT recorded unit sales growth of IP cameras at a whopping 430% from first half of 2012 to 2013 on the back of the Games.  In Europe as a whole the figure stood at 157.7%.

The stats from 1H 2013-2014 may seem underwhelming by comparison; -55% in the UK and just +6.4% in Europe, although this is more than likely because 2012-13 was such a special year. I’d predict the second half of 2014 or next year will see sales getting back into positive growth, especially with the rise in consumer demand for such systems.

Other opportunities exist in the “smart home” space with internet-connected TVs and audio equipment – not just in supplying these products for end users, but also the cloud storage and bandwidth needed to deliver content. Earlier this year the new 802.11ac standard was adopted, which will provide a major driver for upgrades as the IoE continues to demand ever greater bandwidth and faster access to data. There’s even a push coming from the healthcare industry – where gadgets like heart rate monitors and internet connected weighing scales are finding a new customer base amongst the elderly.

With this backdrop it’s easy for channel players to get carried away and jump on the first IoE bandwagon they can find. But we’d advise caution.

Revenues will be linear so the need for education, training and associated services will be key to succeed in a very competitive environment with many new emerging vendors. If you can associate with the right vendors, there’ll be a great opportunity to capitalise on this new era in ICT. There may even be a chance there to reinvent yourself as a cloud-ready infrastructure or software and services channel player.

But the trick is in knowing which partnerships to foster and which to leave alone.

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Big data – still a challenge for CIOs?

Many companies, whether big or small have vast amount of data stored in traditional databases in-house or in public and private clouds, often without much knowledge around how much value this data has for:

  • increasing operational efficiencies
  • adding relevance to marketing towards more targeted audiences
  • understanding customers better in order to develop products and services more aligned with their demands and needs and hence improving relationships
  • gaining a competitive edge by better understanding trends and predicting market demands whilst preparing for their next strategic moves

CIOs already have a hard time storing and managing data in a way that is cost efficient, secure and accessible whenever required, as the scale of information to be stored has exponentially increased over the past years.

While public and private clouds have become an effective alternative to store “cold” data, companies need to ensure that both structured and unstructured data can be classified in terms of when and where it has left the network premises.

Against a backdrop of vast amounts of data, many companies are still faced with the challenge of being able to query the data as well as selecting big data hardware and software that will deliver insightful information.

Many CIOs are currently anxious about moving data to the cloud due to the costs associated, the challenges of choosing adequate partners, questions over security and reliable access to this data.

However, there are a number of vendors that offer approaches to helping companies take the first steps.

DELL amongst others are shifting towards tiered storage and flash technologies, closer to the processing units (servers), analysing what data should be stored where so it can be efficiently utilised and in a rapid manner in big data applications.

HP, for example, is also working closely with its customers, by supporting them in their projects with tools and technology, resources and software to test, evaluate and validate big data uses and scenarios.

There are also a number of companies, specialised in big data and dedicated to certain industries and applications, with tools and data scientists capable of taking on data, analysing it, querying it and according to requirements providing insights into that data.

However for many CIOs these companies are still to provide a blue print on how the process can be streamlined to their own applications in a costs effective way, besides other projects that may be more critical to them.

Big data management remains one of the technologies where one size does not fit all and is still very much a ‘personal’ case for the CIO and industry consultant who can guide their companies through a new area of aggregation, syndication and adoption of best practices.

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