Category Archives: Connectivity

Immersive Technologies in the Arts

At one of Vastari’s Frieze breakfast briefings last week, the panel of leading art world figures discussing the “The Evolving Gallery” seemed almost entirely in agreement that virtual and augmented reality is going to play an enormous role in the future of art.

For the gallery, VR is both a tool and a new platform, enabling them to reach a much wider audience than might be able to visit any given location in person. Beyond the simple novelty of an exciting new technology, parallels with social media’s unexpected prevalence were drawn and VR and AR are seen as a way to fundamentally redefine the relationship between exhibitions and the public. Both Facebook and Snap have announced plans to augment the world with digital public artworks viewable through their respective apps, while DSLcollection has partnered with Ikonospace to curate and market their exhibition in virtual reality in ways not previously possible.

For the artist, VR is particularly exciting as a medium newly open for exploration. It isn’t limited merely to the art programs like Tilt Brush, Medium, Blocks or Quill passed down from on high by tech giants like Google or Facebook, although these tools are themselves immensely popular with artists. Those with more ambition and technical knowledge such as the infamous Android Jones are creating their own tools with a specific aesthetic quality in mind. In the case of his latest work, Microdose, it is the tool itself which almost becomes the work, blurring the line between creator and spectator.

In theatre too, there is a trend towards immersive experiences, of which virtual and augmented reality may well play a part. While some traditionalists will scorn the invasion of new technologies into their craft, there is no doubt that there is significant overlap in the skills required to develop narrative experiences in virtual reality and on stage, which has always had to use creative approaches to direct the audiences attention. As such it may be that “theatre in VR”, such as the National Theatre’s Draw me close turns out to be far more successful than attempts to shoehorn VR into theatre.

While not every artistic endeavour in VR will suit all tastes, and some are very rudimentary in their execution, this is fundamentally a rare new medium for expression, the rules for which have not been written yet. As with the early days of cinema, artists will be instrumental in exploring the language and capabilities of immersive technologies, setting the ground for commercial applications as the industry matures.

by BB

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Smart Home Summit: Assessing the Routes to Market

Was the panel I was on a fix?

  • Tripling smart home revenues from John Lewis partners, according to Katrina Mills, Audio & Connected Home buyer, and the continued investment in dedicated smart home areas, growing to 5 stores by the end of October
  • Doubling revenues at Lightwave, with acceleration driven by the introduction of voice control in the Echo, and with the latest range of Homekit-enabled products, announced by Andrew Pearson, CEO, about to be launched in Apple stores from 3rd October
  • 500,000 Hive thermostats forecast to be sold in 2017, doubling the installed base to one million in the course of this year, and a new range of innovative customer focused solutions announced by Jo Cox, Commercial Director of Centrica
  • O2 steadily growing its pilot stores, with plans to sell smart home in all stores, as presented by Richard Porter, head of smart home products

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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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Service is at the heart of Dixons Carphone’s long-term ambitions

While positive short-term results may grab the headlines, the real story is how longer-term transformation positions Dixons Carphone for future success

Positive financials are the backdrop
Given the potential pricing and downward margin pressures of BREXIT, investors were pleased at the end of June with Dixons Carphone producing an enviable set of retail results. Much focus was on the impressive growth in profit before tax of 10%, to above £500 million, with 4% increase in like-for-like revenues.

The other bottom line from the CEO: “Customer relationships are everything”
While the top line numbers headline the financial achievement of Sebastian James and team, it is the long-term transformation plans of Dixons Carphone which capture the imagination, and forecast the pillars of future success. Sebastian James highlighted transformation strategies focused on building a long-term future for Dixons Carphone:

  • Channel agnostic
  • Service as core offer and differentiator
  • Transition from ownership to consumption
  • Lifetime value relationships

Personalisation for consumption + differentiate services = Lifetime Value
The commentary highlighted the transformation of how service is now a core offering, not just an attach to the sale of a product. Services such as warranty, maintenance, and repair are creating a predictable, profitable revenue stream and a deep ongoing relationship with consumers.

Whilst mobile and phones were highlighted as one of the most challenging categories due to the rise of SIM free phones, James’s commentary emphasised how there is an aggressive plan for both financing and leasing to increase phone replacement.

To differentiate service, Dixons Carphone will roll out same day phone repair services. Plans also indicate a breakthrough 7-day repair promise compared to 28-day market standard. These strategies not only differentiate Dixons Carphone, but create positive lifetime relationships beyond the sale of a handset. A NPS (Net Promoter Score) in the 90s is particularly noteworthy and evidence of positive customer response.

Last year Sebastian James pledged to increase service income from £500mn to £1 billion. We did not hear any specific numbers on the investor call on progress towards this goal. At £1bn, services revenue would represent 10% of today’s revenues, and would outstrip Best Buy currently at 7%. Clearly both national tech retailers are seeing a bright future in services both as a differentiator and profit stream to offset product margin pressures.

Dixons Carphone is well positioned to profit as the “Digital Plumber”
One of the most exciting and innovative long-term developments is Dixons Carphone’s journey to becoming the digital plumber of the nation in its joint venture with SSE, briefly referred to in the presentation. It is all about occupying a place of trust in people’s homes, making life easy for the customer through leveraging the Knowhow expertise of Dixons Carphone and supporting SSE’s 5 million smart-meter customers. If the two companies can make this work, they will have moved the point of sale from the store and the smartphone into the home, a new offline revolution for tech retail.

The store as destination for new technology
There is one area where Dixons Carphone is lagging the market, and that is making the store a destination for experiencing new technology. Given that Oculus Rift and HTC Vive were launched at the end of last year, not enough has been done to create experiences for customers. The price-point of Virtual Reality is evidently beyond the purse of most consumers, but customers are looking to retailers to take a lead in demonstrating this and other new technology such as smart home. We did note, however, that in next year’s plans Dixons Carphone will be introducing a new in store gaming proposition and look forward to seeing what they do for this growing category.

Positive short-term results complimented by strategy with promising trends
Beyond the top line numbers, reaching more than £1 billion in online electrical sales is a significant milestone. The projected 24% average annual growth in home delivery, and one day delivery coming in the next year, Dixons Carphone is strategically positioned i) to capitalise on one of the largest customer bases ii) to be more profitable than a pure play business, with the capability to leverage its personalised “My Account” approach iii) to sustain customer relationships that translate into profitable life time value.

by AS

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Filed under Connectivity, IT Distribution, Market Analysis, PCs, Retail, Retail in CONTEXT, Smart Technology, Tablet PCs

The Facebook Generation are leading new technology adoption

I went on to Facebook in 2008 to check up what people could see about my aspiring 17-year-old daughter who wanted to be a doctor. That was when the deluge started –the year after I joined, Facebook went from 100 million to 300 million members. That same daughter is now 26, and is part of the millennial generation, who surprisingly, at first sight, are dropping behind the younger Generation Z in driving technology adoption. Continue reading

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SH&BA – Convergence of the transformation of our digital lifestyle

The SH&BA – Smart Home and Builders’ Association – Retailer & Manufacturer Panel met this past week in London. The attendees were truly a reflection of the convergence of the devices and technology in our homes and lifestyle. Participants represented a variety of industries and sectors including: manufacturing, vendors, retailers, associations, government agencies as well as academia and industry experts. What does such a diverse group of attendees gather to discuss?

Panorama

Smart Home – The hub of a digital lifestyle
IoT (internet of Things) devices have been in existence for a couple of decades. They enable connecting a variety of devices to the internet to send and receive data. That capability is not very exciting for most customers. But the ability to use IoT to monitor household utility connections to save money becomes a much more compelling reason for consumers to consider a “smart” home.

Many of the examples discussed in the SH&BA forum were about the increasing ease of use for consumers, and the value the smart devices play in making life convenient. Steve Moore from Dixons Carphone illustrated how their Honey Bee becomes a hub to connect many devices in the home. And even more importantly, it becomes the homeowners’ support centre where they can get answers to questions about devices they own. Steve Moore perhaps best summarised the key to Smart Home expansion by saying that we are at the stage where our “Goal is to take the friction out of life”.

Maybe we shouldn’t be calling it “Smart”
Rick Hartwig from the IET (Institute of Engineering and Technology) made the interesting point that we shouldn’t be using the term “Smart” home. Smart implies futuristic … a long way off. Mr. Hartwig argued that in many ways aspects of the digital “smart” home are already here. Most customers who are online already have at least one device beyond a PC connected to an internet. In the near future, energy and power consumption will be prime drivers for the home owner to adopt “smart” connected technology which adapts its settings to hours of the day in order to save energy.

The Power of Voice is rapidly accelerating adoption
One of the most exciting buzz factors in the smart home arena is the power of voice control. Initially propelled by Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple and Microsoft are all rushing ahead with voice control speakers which become more humanised “hubs” for a variety of smart devices throughout the home.

Keynote speaker Theunis Scheepers brought some cutting edge examples from the evolution of the Amazon Alexa ecosystem. The speaker is the “human portal”, but the real genius is the Alexa cloud platform. The Alexa cloud is essentially an API system that enables partners to connect their devices to Alexa for voice control. In reality the Echo device is an array microphone and speaker – the “smart” is in the cloud that enables the customer to interact in a very natural way of using their voice to direct their digital lifestyle.

Theunis Scheepers

The Future of Smart Home
Adam Simon, from CONTEXT and Chair of the SH&BA Association, updated the group on the latest CONTEXT Smart Home Survey. The trends are clear, and consistently upward.   More consumers are aware of “smart home” and more plan to purchase a device for their home, but the patterns vary significantly by country.

From a consumer perspective, smart home adoption is still a “mid-term” play with purchases planned on 3 to 5 year horizon.   The exception is in the builder market where whole house adoption is accelerating because it is “built in” as the backbone of the home and constitutes a relatively small part of the overall home market.

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If there was one clear consensus and predictor for Smart Home it is that the power of voice will rapidly accelerate adoption. Amazon reported that Echo is now selling at 9X the holiday rate, and the Echo Dot is being bundled as a 6 pack so consumers can cover every room of their house. With the speaker hub and API cloud system we have now reached a stage similar to that of the smartphone with apps that make a connected life possible and convenient.

The next Retailer & Manufacturer Panel will be on 14th November, 2017.

For more information about SH&BA or if you are interested to attend the SH&BA panel please email marketing@shaba.eu

Guest blog by Chris Petersen, IMS

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