Category Archives: IoT

Latin American Consumers Ready for Smart Home

Over three quarters of consumers surveyed in Latin America’s leading economies say they want to know more about Smart Home products, according to CONTEXT’s new survey. With no one retailer dominating the Smart Home market in the countries surveyed, this potential demand for the new global wave in technology products and services presents significant opportunities for the IT channel in Latin America.

Carried out in January 2017, the CONTEXT Survey was announced at the Global Technology Distribution Council Latin American IT Distribution Summit in Miami, USA, and covered 2,000 consumers in Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Chile.

The general picture for Smart Homes in these countries with a combined GDP of $USD4.4TN is good, with an encouraging level of awareness. However, it is clear that this awareness is not rooted in a deep understanding of the concept. This is partly down to limited exposure to Smart Home products or ideas, with very few people seeing or hearing things about Smart Home on a regular basis.

Such limited exposure is hardly surprising, given that no one channel is doing a good job of explaining or showcasing the concept. Where people have picked up on Smart Home, it tends to be from online sites – both retailers’ and manufacturers’ – rather than from in-person contact via things like store displays. This limits the degree to which consumers can interact and engage with Smart Home products.

As well as highlighting the opportunities, the CONTEXT Survey found that worries surrounding the idea of the Smart Home are prevalent, with 9 out of 10 people having at least one concern. Some of these are serious, including views that products may malfunction, causing harm or damage to the home. Privacy concerns and a fear of identity theft are also high on the list of worries.

When asked what user scenarios were encouraging them to buy Smart Home products, the top three responses were “arriving home”, “waking up”, and “advanced security”. In terms of the Smart Home hubs people would be most likely to trust, the Survey found that while there are variations across different countries, Apple, Amazon and Google dominate. Amazon has a clear lead in Brazil, while Apple leads in Mexico and Chile. Google is in the lead in Argentina.

In summary, despite the lack of deep knowledge and the barriers this creates, the good news is that across all countries there is an appetite to learn more. This is especially in terms of how they can save money, and how they can make home living more enjoyable, easier and better.

by JD

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Tech Predictions: 2017

Untitled.pngPC’s in 2017
In 2017 European PC sales in the business segment are likely to benefit from a gradual pick up of Windows 10 refreshes. In Western Europe in particular, the commercial PC segment is expected to also benefit from the need for enterprise mobility solutions which will be a co-driver in sales of both notebooks and mobile 2-in-1 products.

The consumer PC segment is expected to remain more challenged across Western Europe. There is a possibility that component shortages, which impacted product availability in 2H 2016, will lead to price increases in the first half of 2017which could affect demand. However, on a positive note, the market is likely to benefit from continuing high demand for gaming PCs. While this segment remains small in terms of volume, new technologies – including virtual reality – will also drive growth that will have a positive effect on revenue and margins.

From a wider, macroeconomic perspective, PC sales in a number of EMEA countries are likely to continue to be affected by uncertainties including currency fluctuations and political instability.
Marie-Christine Pygott, Senior Analyst, PCs

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View on Apple
Although you never know what Apple will pull out of the hat when launching new products, the last few years have been quite staid. The last “new” new Apple product was the Watch: but this was heavily trailered so, when it finally arrived, it wasn’t a surprise. We have waited in vain over the years for an Apple TV, and recently yawned when the new MacBook’s Touchbar was announced. In 2017 we have the prospect of yet another phone, the iPhone 8, and not much else.

Except, after much speculation, Apple has acknowledged for the first time that it is investing in autonomous car technology. In a letter to US transport regulators, Apple said the company was “excited about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation”. Apple was first rumoured to be working on an autonomous vehicle in early 2015, when reports suggested that the company already had 600 employees working on an electric car design. Later that year, more rumours suggested that the company hoped to launch an electric car to the public by 2019.

So maybe Apple can surprise us next year. The race for electric vehicles is hotting up, and with the word being that Apple has been in talks to buy luxury-supercar maker McLaren, we may just see a prototype iCar roll onto the stage in 2017 after hearing those words, “one more thing”.
Jeremy Davies, CEO & Co-founder

Enterprise
CONTEXT will be closely tracking the evolution of storage systems and converged architecture: as cloud-managed wireless network service companies slowly but surely replace in-house wireless LAN appliances, we expect continued strong growth on these two fronts. Companies to watch: Cisco Meraki, Open-Mesh, Zebra (part of Extreme Networks), Ruckus.

Sales of solid-state drives (SSDs) have increased throughout 2016 and, for the first time, surpassed those of hard disk drives. As the price of SSDs fall and their capacity increases, 2017 will see this trend continue. In 2014, we predicted that 90% of storage components would be SSDs by 2020, and the industry is well on track to achieve this.
Gurvan Meyer, Senior Research Analyst, Enterprise Team

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Displays
Large Format Display sales in 2017 are expected to continue to grow strongly with demand being driven by the education and corporate sectors. For AV providers, the corporate business market continues to be a huge growth opportunity, with a big shift towards interactive products for meetings rooms, as corporates increasingly collaborate over multiple sites, with numerous remote attendees.  The education market is also expected to be a key driver of growth in the LFD segment with educational institutions increasingly adopting display solutions to change and enhance the ways they communicate with students, staff and visitors.
Lachlan Welsh, Senior Analyst, Displays

Imaging
Printer hardware sales will continue to contract overall, though some segments are expected to register growth in 2017, such as business inkjets with higher end products due to be released in 2017 to compete with laser devices. The shift from hardware to contract sales continues, therefore, the importance of partnerships and focus on channel partners will prevail. HP’s acquisition of Samsung printer business is expected to complete in the second half of 2017, as companies join their efforts aiming to disrupt the A3 copier market business.
Zivile Brazdziunaite, Senior Market Analyst, Imaging

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3D Printing
2017 will continue to see the two sides of 3D printing – the personal/desktop side (those under $5,000) and the industrial/professional side – evolve separately.  Desktop 3D printers will become even more affordable (some already cost as little as $300!) while the some of the world’s biggest brands will increase their presence in the Industrial/Professional market where technology will continue to advance and improve.

Desktop market leader XYZprinting has already expanded its brick-and-mortar retail presence – at Best Buy, Toys-R-Us, and Barnes and Noble in the US, and Darty, Dixons and Media Saturn in Europe – and it is expected to continue with aggressive price points in to promote further retail expansion around the globe. Next year will see HP fully enter the 3D printing world with the first shipments of their professional Multi-Jet Fusion 3D Printers, and a new business is to emerge from GE after their acquisition of two of the top five metal 3D printing companies in 2016.  HP and others will champion a change of focus in the plastics 3D printing market from rapid prototyping to mid-range production.
Chris Connery, Vice President Global Analysis and Research

VR & Gaming
The world of eSports will continue to grow in both popularity and recognition, as a movie is planned starring Will Ferrell on the burgeoning phenomenon. Vendors and retailers will pay more attention to PC gaming as the category offers them the chance to make up for losses in a sector which has been declining in the last few years. High average selling prices for gaming products, excellent attach rates and margins for gaming accessories, and the availability of unsecured consumer borrowing will be major drivers. Virtual reality will also continue to grow in the consumer space, although still at a modest pace. However we expect to see more HMDs going into the B2B and corporate reseller channels for which products such as the Hololens are a gift.
Jonathan Wagstaff, Country Manager UK & Ireland

Smart Home – Battle of the Giants
Back in October 2015 we predicted that new forms of control for smart home devices would stimulate growth in the market. We highlighted three: voice activation, gesture recognition and mind control. The first two are already here: voice control has exploded since Amazon launched the Echo in 2016 and 5 million devices have already been sold. We predict that this trend will grow quickly in 2017 with the Amazon Echo continuing to sell and the launch of Google Home in 2017. Google will apply a massive marketing budget – in the US they are already paying for end-of-gondola slots for Google Home devices.

With this in mind, we see four, and potentially five, giants battling for the smart home in 2017: Amazon, Google, Apple (with Homekit), Samsung (with Smart Things) and Microsoft. The ace up their sleeve for Amazon is entertainment (access to Prime Music), for Google it is search, for Apple and Samsung it is interoperability (potentially using the TV), and for Microsoft it is building out from the PC. We are optimistic that consumers will benefit: with a more coherent offer, small start-ups will no longer be able to create proprietary systems and existing systems will make themselves linkable to the big five in order to survive. It is too early to place bets on a winner, but Amazon has rapidly taken advantage of being first-mover. Gesture control will grow and develop in 2017, but mind control will need to wait for another year!
Adam Simon, Head of Retail

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Is Black Friday dead? A US perspective

Guest blog by Chris Petersen, CEO of IMS, Inc.

Is Black Friday dead, or just rapidly waning? Data indicates the demise of the premier kickoff to holiday shopping in the US. It’s not just about the economy and consumer confidence, although those are key factors. The retail phenomena unfolding right now is about universal changes in consumer behaviour, regardless of socio-economic status.

Black Friday has declined in US retail … will the same trend happen in Europe?
In the not too distant past, stores were the premier focal point of holiday shopping. Black Friday was an event created by bricks and mortar retailers to entice consumers to come shopping on the Friday after US Thanksgiving, which always falls on the 4th Thursday of November. Since many US customers take off from work on Black Friday, it became the quintessential retailer marketing event to lure shoppers to the stores with “best deals” of the season. The theory was that if shoppers came early to find a deal, they would come back to stores for the rest of their shopping.

Not surprising, the UK and other European retailers adopted Black Friday as a promotional event to kick off the holiday selling season and draw traffic to stores. CONTEXT’s analysis of distribution trends in 2015 was very predictive for UK retail sales spiking for Black Friday. Will the trend continue in 2016?

Black “Friday” — death by a thousand clicks
Increasingly retail stores have been jumping the gun on Black Friday by offering Black Friday sales before the actual Friday. The result in the US is that there is no longer a singular event. Black Friday has suffered scope creep, and it literally has become a “Black Week” of promotions and deals.

More importantly, consumers don’t see Black Friday as just “stores” any more. Amazon and other online retailers have creatively capitalised on “Black Friday” by offering daily online deals across an entire week, or more. This has created a new trend for “Cyber Monday” which is the first Monday after the traditional Black Friday. In the US, workplace productivity actually drops on Cyber Monday as people at work scramble to get better deals on stuff they didn’t buy or couldn’t get on Black Friday. Cyber Monday is projected to be the single largest volume day of the entire holiday shopping season.

Did the same trend happen in the UK and other countries? Compared to the US, the UK has a higher % of sales occurring online, especially for technology. Many of the UK promotional ads in 2016 now in fact show the Black 5 days of deals: Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Cyber Monday.

The net result is that today’s consumer is an empowered consumer. They are not bound by place or time of event. This translates into a much diminished effect of single retailer store events like Black Friday.

Large retailers have privately confided that Black Friday needed to “die”. The traditional approach of cramming all deals into a single day dramatically lowers prices and margin. It would be healthier for both if retailers and consumers could evaluate offers and spread shopping over a period of time. In fact, that is how today’s omnichannel shoppers are already behaving – shopping multiple days in multiple ways.

So what happened in the UK for 2016?
Were Black Friday sales up again this year? Or, did consumers shift more of their shopping purchases to Cyber Monday? How much of their Christmas budget have they spent? The final store sales numbers won’t be tallied for a couple of weeks.

However, CONTEXT is conducting consumer pulse survey right now. We are asking consumers when they shopped, and how much they purchased on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It will be interesting to see how much they expect yet to spend in the rest of holiday season.

 

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Filed under IoT, IT Distribution, Market Analysis, Mobile technology, PCs, Retail, Retail in CONTEXT, Smart Technology, Tablet PCs

Chester Gould was Right

It wasn’t until I was loaned Apple’s new Watch Series II that I put one on. When the Watch was launched I decided it would not be something I’d wear, much less buy. But I’ll admit, I was pleasantly surprised to get it, and welcomed the chance to give my 26-year old Rado a rest while I tried the Watch out.

I’m not going to get into the technicalities because a watch is for wearing, it’s personal, apart from saying what an amazing piece of kit the Watch is: beautifully crafted, fabulous screen, snappy performance, even GPS, and so easy to set up and incorporate into living alongside an iPhone.

But when I first put it on, it took a while to get used to the sheer bulk of the 42mm screen, and the gold colour with a beige woven nylon strap was to my taste a bit bling. It took a few days to get used to having it on my wrist, and get through the inevitable mixed reactions from staff, family and friends.

Then I started using it, responding every time the haptic tap alerted me to a message, meeting, or exhortation to stand up, or breathe. I discovered Siri on the Watch – and started leaving text messages everywhere to try out, in the style of Chester Gould’s comic book detective Dick Tracy, the experience of talking to your wristwatch. It worked very, very well. I got hooked on Activity monitor, and was thrilled the day I completed 230% of my daily exercise requirement.

Interestingly, Apple seemed to have learned from the Series I that their Watch will never make it as a desirable piece of luxury jewellery along the lines of a Rolex or Cartier, despite sales – according to the company – ranking the Watch as number two in the world in terms of value. Instead, sensibly, the Watch is now pitched at the health, leisure and up market lifestyle sector and in that vein, especially with the GPS, I reckon it fits very well indeed.

As I said at the beginning, a watch is a personal thing. I wonder if everyone who has a Watch goes through the same stages I did: first, fascination for and playing with the technology. Second, using every alert and app available so that the taps on your wrist begin to run your life. And third, settling down to a modus operandi where only the important things that complement the Macbook/iPhone partnership are allowed through.

I was sitting on a plane writing this blog, and as the steward leaned over dispensing snacks, I could see a silver colored Apple Watch – with metallic strap – sitting on his wrist.
“Aha,” I said, “an Apple Watch. Is that a Series I?”
The steward saw my Watch. “Is that the new one?” he asked.
“Yes, I’m trying it out,” I replied. “What do you think of yours?”
“Actually, I never wanted one,” he said. “I was given this as a present.”
“Do you like it?” I asked.
The steward glanced at his Watch, paused for a second, and replied, “It’s growing on me.”
Which just about sums it up. Apple’s Watch – it’s growing on me.

by JD

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A look at Canon in the future

Canon EXPOs have been held every five years since 2000 in New York, Paris, Tokyo and Shanghai (although the fourth Shanghai event is scheduled for 2016). Each event has a different theme, but all have the same purpose: to introduce and define Canon’s five-year vision and strategy.

I had the chance to attend the Canon EXPO Paris last year and have to admit that the event was an impressive exposition of existing and future imaging products, technologies, services and solutions. Some of the prototypes showcased – such as MREAL and the Rich Collaboration System – made me feel like I had travelled ‘back to the future’.

In his keynote speech, Fujio Mitarai, chairman and CEO of Canon Inc., reviewed current economic challenges and explained his vision for the future of Canon. Currently, most of Canon’s products are manufactured in Japan but he said this is to change in the near future. Canon is to broaden its operations and collaborate more globally: products for healthcare business are to be produced in the US while in Europe Canon will focus on printing and network solutions. Canon sees the EMEA region as ‘the brightest spot for growth’ and will be seeking partners across all regions to innovate and to change the ways in which people interact in the future.

Canon believes that the Internet of Things will depend on ‘Imaging of Things’ and this is where it sees vast opportunities for growth. The company wants to be involved in every stage of the process, and believes that every image will be connected via smart devices that can capture, record, store, edit, share and print. Canon plans to build an ecosystem of products and services by adding solutions for every part of the imaging experience in B2C (digital consumer services) and B2B.

Rokus van Iperen, president and CEO of Canon Europe, Middle East and Africa, stated that Canon will continue to focus on its core businesses while expanding globally, and also emphasized the importance of the rapidly growing markets that Canon will target in years to come: 3D printing, graphical arts and network visual solutions (NVS) to respond to the demand from security and retail markets.

Like many other vendors, Canon has explained and introduced new services and solutions for the B2B market in order to help businesses improve productivity and efficiency and enhance end-users’ experiences using one face to the customer approach. The company builds tailored solutions for vertical markets that have specific needs, such as finance, insurance, manufacturing and health. At the moment, such solutions account for one fifth of Canon’s total revenue in Europe – a figure which it expects to double in the next few years by increasing the number of partners with direct and indirect IT competences.

Value-added solutions go well with services (outsourcing, data and document management, workflow automation and marketing communication management, etc.), therefore, Canon continues to focus on these areas and simultaneously invest in its capability to build services by integrating and adapting their added value, and also creating partnerships that will help it to collaborate and remain competitive in the rapidly changing world of technology. Canon strives not only to digitize customers’ business processes but – in common with other vendors – to automate workflows. The next few years will show how well Canon manages to compete in this highly competitive space.

by ZB

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A Glimpse at Emerging Technologies in 2016

The brand landscape of 3D Printing will continue to change in 2016
In 2016 the influence of major IT brands will be seen in the high end of the 3D printing market even if these companies are not yet shipping products. While most revenues in the 3D printing space come from the industrial and professional high end of the market where brands such as HP, Canon, Ricoh, Toshiba Machines and others will enter, the landscape of the nascent desktop/personal 3D printer space is set to change as well. No major IT company has announced any great plans to enter this side of the market in the near future, but at CES 2016 we did see the likes of the licensing company Polaroid toss its name into the ring and others are expected to follow.

The desktop/personal 3D printer market is still regionally fragmented and start-ups can quickly gain share by way of crowd sourced efforts. A global market leader has yet to emerge but XYZprinting currently carries that banner, having taken it away from the previous poster-child MakerBot (now owned by Stratasys). In the near future, it seems, both sides of the 3D printing industry are set for brand shake-ups.

The Internet of Things – we need some education about benefits
For the last few years, people have been predicting that the following year will herald the big take-off of the Internet of Things (IoT), particularly in the home environment. However, 2016 will be a year of steady progress, rather than ‘the year’ for IoT as many are forecasting.

What we’ll see is more jostling between vendors as tech firms try to firm up their foothold in the developing market. They will do this primarily with single-use devices – smart lights, IP cameras, sound systems and thermostats. No one ecosystem will emerge as dominant yet, although Samsung SmartThings, Google Nest, Apple Homekit, AllSeen Alliance, Amazon Echo and others will all try in 2016.

Ultimately, until product standards improve, prices fall, and there is a greater level of education about the benefits of the IoT, it won’t hit the mainstream. Our recent smart home survey supports this: a whopping 63% of Europeans do not yet understand the smart home concept, while over a third (37%) fail to see the benefits of smart home products.

..and steady progress in wearables
Even if there truly were such a thing as the year of anything, 2016 would not be it for wearables. There will be no killer app, no single added software functionality that will redeem its hardware host. Apple Pay? Come on! People are simply not that inconvenienced by classic card usage – especially now most of us have contactless cards. And this reflects a larger problem for tech companies trying to carve out a space in the emerging consumer IoT: there simply aren’t that many problems left to be solved.

Of course companies will continue to successfully build solutions for the myriad minor ‘challenges’ we face day to day, like wielding out wallets or getting up to turn the lights off, but no single solution will lead to anything like the stratospheric rise of the smartphone. Rather, we can expect to see a more gradual uptake over the next few years as wearables increasingly integrate with the rest of the consumer IOT and find ever more small ‘wins’ for their owners, eventually building up to a compelling purchase proposition.

Virtual reality – substance over hype
2016 is going to be the year that retail VR products start rolling into the market but they won’t snowball. At CES, Oculus announced the launch date and price for the first retail version of their headset and accessories at £500 which looks quite high. For those of us who have been waiting almost their entire life for truly immersive gaming – ever since the rise and fall of the risible Virtual Boy – the next three months should be enough time to save up. However the vast majority of consumers, who have not yet been able to experience sitting in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon and reaching out to stroke Chewie’s mane, will see the technology as a luxurious curiosity.

Oculus and other manufacturers are looking to the product life cycles of other emergent technologies which often started off expensive before coming down in price as they became more mainstream. Oculus CEO Palmer Luckey recently spoke out in defence of their pricing, stating that they didn’t want to compromise on quality in the first-generation of headsets. It looks like the lessons of Virtual Boy have been learned: substance is more important than hype.

by AS, TG, JW & CC

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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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