Alexa and Aging: more on voice as THE interface for “SmartAging”

 Amazon Alexa & services it can trigger!

Amazon Echo & services it can trigger!

I predict every elderly person will soon have a personal home assistant, ready to respond to their every command.

However, that home health aide may not be human, but sit on the kitchen counter, and look suspiciously like Amazon’s breakthough IoT device, The Echo.

The late Mark Weiser, “the father of the Internet of Things,” famously predicted that “the best computer is a quiet, invisible servant,” and that’s certainly the potential with Echo, or the just announced Google Assistant (how sexy is that name? I like the fact it’s so impersonal. Let’s you fire one voice “assistant” and hire another without becoming personally attached, LOL), or the much-rumored Apple version, which might also include a camera (disclaimer: while I work part-time at an Apple Store, I ain’t privy to any inside dope, no way, no how).

That’s particularly the case when it comes to seniors, and my SmartAging vision of an IoT-based future for them combining Quantified Self health monitoring devices that can motivate seniors to improve their fitness levels, and smart home devices that can make it easier to manage their homes as they age, to avoid costly and soul-deadening institutionalization (or, even better, combining the two, as with one of my favorite IFTTT “recipes,”  programming your Jawbone to wake you gently at the best time in your sleep cycle, AND gradually turn on your Hue lights. How better for a senior — or anyone — to start their day on a positive note (OK, I know what you’re thinking: better turn on the coffee maker automatically!).

      KidsMD for Amazon Alexa

What really got me thinking about the advantages of a voice-activated future for seniors was a recent story about a similar app for the other end of the age spectrum, developed by our Children’s Hospital, for Alexa: KidsMD. What better for a harried mom or dad, with his or her hands full, AND a sick child to boot, than to simply ask for advice on temperature, fever and the like? That got me thinking that the same would apply to seniors as well, needing advice with some of the unwanted aspects of aging (I could mention here an example from a senior I care for, but that would be most unpleasant…). As I’ve said before, this would be helpful under any circumstances, but when the person needing help is a frail, tech-averse senior, it would be superb if s/he only had to speak a simple command or request to get needed help, or advice on something such as the proper amount of an over-the-counter drug to take.

There are tons of other life-improving reasons for such an approach for seniors, including:

Of course, and I can’t emphasize this enough, especially since seniors are already victims of so many scamming tricks, because these counter-top devices are always on, listening to you,  and because much of their possible use could be for reporting confidential health or financial data, privacy and security MUST be THE top priority in designing any kind of voice-activated app or device for seniors. Think of them as the canaries in the coal mine in this regard: protecting vulnerable seniors’ privacy and security should be the acid test of all voice-activated apps and devices for people of all ages.

Having said all that, as I noted in a piece last week about what a stunning combination of services Amazon has put together to become the dominant player in the retail IoT sector, one of those offerings is the $100 million Alexa fund to fuel advances in the voice-activated arena.  I’m ready to put their money where my mouth is  (LOL) in this regard, to design voice-activated devices and services for seniors.  If you’d like to partner, E-mail me!!

Industry Week Survey: Most Manufacturers Don’t Get IoT

A new Industry Week survey shows that most manufacturers are, at best, just testing the IoT waters, and few have made the management changes necessary that show they understand the IoT’s revolutionary potential to change every aspect of their products, manufacturing, and even their management.

 The Internet of Things: Finding the Path to ValueThe survey, “The Internet of Things: Finding the Path to Value,” (underwritten by SAS) was conducted late last year.  478 companies completed it.  The survey’s major finding was that:

Despite the fact that they’re already collecting such (i.e., IoT) data, and two- thirds believe the Internet of Things technology will be critical to their future success, only one third of manufacturers report that they have a specific IoT technology strategy.” (my emphasis)

One finding was particularly damning, because it shows senior management really doesn’t get the full value of IoT data and how it must radically alter their decision making:

“… two out of three say they rely more on management experience [than the IoT] when addressing key business issues.”

On the other hand, 28% said they think they’re outpacing their competitors in use of the IoT. Pardon my skepticism..

Here’s the finding that clearly indicated to me that these executives don’t get it that the vast amounts of data yielded by the IoT requires new analytical tools (HANA and its ilk) and new skill sets (i.e., data scientists): ”

It should come as no surprise … that well over half (57%) of manufacturers report that they are using spreadsheets to analyze sensor data.” (my emphasis)

Really?? Those guys gotta download the Managing the Internet of Things Revolution e-guide I wrote for SAP, which explained that the way to ease your way into the IoT is to begin by acquiring data mining and visualization tools and beefing up your cloud storage, which will benefit you with your current operations, as well as building the data analysis skills such as predictive analytics — and attitudes — necessary to capitalize on the IoT.  If you’re analyzing sensor data with spreadsheets, your priorities are totally out of wack…

On the positive side, 45% are integrating and supplementing IoT data regarding product quality, and 43% integrating production data.

I see little indication from the findings that most companies (a few, such as GE and Siemens, excepted) are fully integrating the IoT into day-to-day operations, resulting in what I’ve called “precision manufacturing.”

Long way to go, folks, long way to go…

 

Amazon Leads IoT With Comprehensive Services, Platform & Devices!

Several months ago I predicted that Amazon’s Echo might become the IoT’s killer device, primarily because it is voice activated. It appears that prediction is coming true, which should give the entire consumer IoT a boost because Amazon is also providing a soup-to-nuts approach of devices, platform, and storage meeting a wide range of IoT needs, which puts a real emphasis on customer ease of use.

 Amazon Flywheel

Amazon Flywheel

Even more exciting from my perspective, is that part of that success may be due to something I was unaware of that fits beautifully with my “circular enterprise ” vision of the IoT: Jeff Bezos’ back-of-the-envelope sketch when he founded the behemoth, of what he called the “Amazon Flywheel,” It’s as good an illustration as I can think of regarding my vision of circular organizations and strategy — not to mention their profitability!

Even the WSJ got on board with an article about Amazon in regard to the IoT, although it focused solely on Echo and its voice app, Alexa, and ignored the all-important mechanics that it also provides.

 Amazon IoT Button

Amazon IoT Button

The latest step in fleshing out the ecosystem was the announcement earlier this month of the AWS IoT Button, modeled on its highly successful DASH button, which allows ordering more than 100 different consumer products from Amazon by simply pressing the button (the “button” is also now also available in virtual form as a software service, so that a number of products, such as a Whirlpool smart washing machine, will determine that the owner is running low on detergent, and automatically send an alert to her phone. A simple touch on the phone triggers a refill order from Amazon). The 1st edition IoT button sold out instantly!

It joins a comprehensive, and growing, package of IoT devices and services from Amazon that I suspect will quickly make it the platform of choice for the consumer IoT:

You get the idea: this is a conplete solution, from platform to cloud storage to devices to highly-personal (voice) interface.


 

And there’s that matter of the Amazon Flywheel that I mentioned previously.  I came across it in researching this post, in a blog post by John Rossman in which he referred to the Flywheel as “a long-tested systems dynamic view of Amazon’s core retail and marketplace business” (music to my ears: it was exposure to Jay Forrester & Peter Senge’s work on systems dynamics that first got me interested in cyclical processes, back in the late ’80s). He explains how this continuous loop leads to dynamic growth, especially in Amazon’s infrastructure offerings:

“When thinking through an IoT solution, what is most obvious is the end device.  But this is the classic “tip of the iceberg” in creating an end-to-end solutions.  The IoT Value Chain is defined by devices, connectivity, big data, algorithms, actions, and connection to the rest of the enterprise.  As more and more IoT Devices get introduced, a greater amount of data (both big and small) is generated. This data, once integrated with algorithms create a greater overall customer IoT impact generating more demand for more devices. All of these devices and services can be hosted on AWS and utilize their infrastructure capabilities leading to greater growth of the infrastructure. At this point, the loop looks familiar: infrastructure growth leads to lower costs, which means more services and companies rely on the infrastructure locking into a cycle of higher customer impact.  Amazon Web Services has several existing IoT enabling products include AWS Redshift, AWS Kinesis, AWS Machine Learning and recent acquisition of 2lemetry show that the big bet for Amazon is not in creating devices for its retail business, but in providing cloud infrastructure and software to thousands of companies needing to build IoT devices and capabilities.  This is the AWS IoT flywheel and the real business in IoT for Amazon.”

Yeah, but the bucks that it will get from Dash orders and from Echo ain’t shabby either. Keep up that cyclical thinking, Mr. Bezos!

 

PS: this also makes me more and more confident that Echo and Alexis can be the key to the robust “SmartAging” approach that I visualize because its use of voice will help seniors, especially the tech-averse, manage their health AND their homes and allow them to age in place healthily! Gonna have to get me some partners to go after Alexa Fund backing…

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Connected Cow: another thing you couldn’t do until IoT

Posted on 2nd May 2016 in agriculture, Internet of Things

I love IoT apps and devices that allow us to increase the efficiency of existing products and services, but long-time readers may remember that I have a special fond spot for “what can you do now that you couldn’t do before” when it comes to the IoT. These are things such as the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children collaboration that allows treating preemies for infections a full day before any symptoms, or the way Tesla did a recall without anyone having to come to a dealer. More often than not, the

More often than not, they stem from the fact that the IoT for the first time allows us to cure what I call “Collective Blindness,” and learn about the inner workings of things that were simply impossible to observe in the past.

Here’s a new one in that category: Fujitsu’s “Connected Cow” technology.  Like the IBM researchers and docs who found that preemies’ heartbeats changed when they were developing the infection, ranchers observing data from cows wearing pedometers realized that the cows’ took more steps when they were in heat, allowing them to time artificial insemination for the precise time when the cows ovulated, resulting in higher fertilization rates. The “step count data [is sent] via the internet, analyzed in the cloud, and generates an email alert when there are signs of increased stepping.” It may be possible in the future to use the system to choose the calves gender.

It’s in use in Japan and South Korea, and is being tested in Poland, Turkey and Roumania.

 

 

 

Zoe: perhaps even better than Echo as IoT killer device?

Zoe smart home hub

I’ve raved before about Echo, Amazon’s increasingly versatile smart home hub, primarily because it is voice activated, and thus can be used by anyone, regardless of tech smarts — or whether their hands are full of stuff.  As I’ve mentioned, voice control makes it a natural for my “SmartAging” concept to help improve seniors’ health and allow them to manage their homes, because you don’t have to understand the underlying technology — just talk.

Now there’s a challenger on the horizon: start-up Zoe, which offers many of Echo’s uses, but with an important difference that’s increasingly relevant as IoT security and privacy challenges mount: your data will remain securely in your home. Or, as their slogan goes:

“So far, smart home meant high convenience, no privacy, or privacy, but no fun. We are empowering you to have both.”

You can still get in on Zoe’s Indegogo campaign with a $249 contribution, which will get you a hub and an extra “voice drop” to use in another room, or the base level, $169 for a single room. Looks kinda cool to me, especially with the easily changed “Art Covers” and backlight coloring (the Che Guevera one looks appropriate for a revolutionary product) …  The product will ship in late 2016.

Don’t get me wrong: I love Echo & will be getting mine soon, but there is that creepy factor given government officials’ fascination with the potential of tapping into smart home data as part of their surveillance. Remember what US Director of Intelligence James Clapper said, ““In the future, intelligence services might use the [internet of things] for identification, surveillance, monitoring, location tracking, and targeting for recruitment, or to gain access to networks or user credentials.” Consider then, that Echo sits there on your kitchen counter, potentially hacked and then hoovering up all of your kitchen chit-chat to relay directly to the spooks.  Wouldn’t you rather that data remained totally under your control?

In addition to storing the data on site rather than in the cloud, Zoe also touts that it has advanced voice-recognition so it can learn IFTTT-style “recipes,” or be operated by apps. She comes with 1,500 built-in voice commands, or, if you stump her, (and only if you choose to, preserving that in-house-only option) web-based Advanced Voice Recognition steps in, with a cloud-based voice recognition system. Her recognition capabilities will grow over time.. Zoe will work with WiFi, Bluetooth, Z-Wave, and other standards.

The company will ship the developers’ kit in six months. It will be open source.

Not being cloud based will mean it loses to Echo on two important counts. For many people, the ability to order things from Amazon simply by speaking may be more important than security concerns,. Also, I notice it doesn’t mention any speakers, so it may be lacking the ability to also serve as a music source (obviously it wouldn’t work with Amazon Music or Apple Music if it isn’t cloud-connected, but it would at least be nice to be able to use it to play your own collection — advantage to Echo on that one.

At least this means there’s competition in the field (and, BTW, I’d love to see Apple swoop in and make THE voice-activated device!)


BTW: Thanks to good buddy Bob Weisberg for the tip about Zoe! Follow him!

 

My IoT Day Interview With Sudha Jamthe

Oops: I’ve been preoccupied with all sorts of dreck since returning from my SAP event, so I haven’t been able to post.

Did want to call your attention to a long IoT Day interview I did with the estimable Sudha Jamthe, author of The Internet of Things Business Primer.  We covered a range of topics, including the state of the IoT in Boston (and my enthusiasm about GE’s move here, because of their track record of working with IoT startups and even individuals), how I got involved in my IoT-based “SmartAging” crusade, and how the IoT may make possible “circular enterprises” orbiting around real-time IoT data.  Enjoy!

Live Blogging from SAP’s SCM CRM IoT 2016 – Day 2

Greg Gorbach, ARC Advisory Group, Industrial Internet of Things:

  • ARC is an analyst firm, in Boston.
  • new service models
  • new products
  • new production techniques
  • new business processes
  • new competitors
  • new partners
  • new workers
  • new business opportunities.
  • innovation improves competitiveness: value-based competitiveness raises value of output.
  • Drivers:
    • reduced machine or asset downtime
    • more rapid service response
    • improved process performance
    • improved personnel productivity
    • reduced machine or asset lifecycle costs
    • improved asset utilization/RoA
    • opportunity for business innovation
    • ability to sell products as a service
  • manufacturing momentum for digital transformation: factors include 3D printing, IoT technologies, changing economies of scale, new service models
  • goal is digital transformation
  • software transitioning from monolithic to microservices

Richard Howells, SAP:

  • IoT is all about re-imaging things:business process, customer experiences
  • SAP solutions for IoT
    • SAP Connected Assets
    • SAP Connected Manufacturing
    • SAP Network Logistics Hub
    • SAP Augmented Reality Solutions
  • SAP Predictive Maintenance and Service: leverage operational insights to drive innovation & new business models
    • Deere putting sensors everywhere, doing predictive maintenance of tractors. In some cases, leasing instead of selling, so they have incentive to keep it operating.
    • Kaeser Compressors
    • Asset Intelligence Network
    • Connective Manufacturing: leveraging big data to drive new insights into operations.
      • Example of Harley Plant in York, Pa.  Many new design options (1,700 options), but do 25% more bikes with 30% fewer people. Went from 21 days for a custom cycle top 6 hours.
      • Pepsi: improving asset utilization with SAP Connected Manufacturing: collect all downtime and loss data in real time.  Went from 65 to 85% asset use.
    • SAP Networked Logistics Hub
    • SAP AR Warehouse Picker
    • SAP AR Service Technician

Where is IoT going??

  • 68% of companies see IoT being strategic or transformational to their business.
  • 78% plan to invest in IoT  in next 24 mo. — 24% already have.
  • Increasing productivity and improving customer experience are top business benefits
  • Challenges to deploying IoT include unclear ROI, lack of industry standards, costs, and data security.

 

Next was my presentation on “Getting Started With the IoT,” in which I emphasized that companies that have hung back from the IoT are still in the majority, but had better heed John Chambers’ warning that they’ll be toast in just a few years if they don’t start now.  I emphasized that an ideal early focus is to build the efficiency or “precision” of your existing operations, and to build operating safety (especially in inherently dangerous settings such as construction sites), then move on to more radical transformation.  I cited GE’s rather modest goal (I think they’re understating it, based on their own internal results) of a 1% increase in productivity for the IoT as something that most companies could achieve, and then talked about GE’s Brilliant Factories as a model for increasing operating efficiency, zeroing in on my favorite example, the Durathon Battery plant, where a sensor on every battery and 10,000 on the assembly line give them tremendous flexibility to cope with differing situations and to increase efficiency.  Finally, I suggested that the companies begin to rethink the role of their products and to begin considering the “circular enterprise” vision I’ve articulated as they look to the future.


 

Kris Gorrepati, SAP “IoT: from Big Data to Smart Data to Outcomes.”

  • OK, I’d never heard of a Brontobyte before…
  • “IoT relevant to all industries.” Agreed.
  • Amazon Dash service (Whirlpool now building it in!)
  • Uses same curve that other SAP guys do: from connect to transform to reimagine (latter being empowering new biz models, value-added products and services.
  • HANA Cloud Platform for the IoT.

Live Blogging from SAP’s SCM CRM IoT 2016

I’m back in Sodom and Gomorrah in the desert, AKA Las Vegas, to speak at another SAP IoT conference: SCM CRM IoT 2016, and to live blog again!

Keynoters: Hans Thalbauer, sr. vp of extended supply chain solutions at SAP, and Dr. Volker G. Hildebrand, global vp or customer engagement & commerce for SAP Hybris:
Hildebrand:

  • theme: move beyond traditional CRM: look at entire customer journey
  • you have to meet customer expectations for convenience, relevance, reliability, and in real-time.
  • real lesson from Uber: customers upend markets, not companies; carry power of internet in their pocket; if you’re fighting alone, you have no chance of success;
  • when London cabbies went on strike, Uber membership went up 850% in 3 days.
  • “74% of execs. believe digital transformation is improving value for customers”
  • must thinking beyond CRM: 2 of 3 companies don’t think their CRM doesn’t support their future needs for customer engagement.
  • blend marketing & commerce.
  • personalization is key to digital commerce.
  • beyond service: customer served before, during & after buy; flawless field service. 53% abandon online purchase if they don’t be quick answers to questions.
  • why no app from cable provider allowing you to get assistance Uber-style? Instead, hold on phone.
  • One-to-one future is here.
  • Omnichannel selling
  • By 2020: 1 million fewer B2B sales reps (@Forrester)
  • EY: enabled collaboration with 15,000 client partners
  • “Engage your customers like never before:” commerce, marketing, service & sales.

Bob Porter, Pregis (protective packaging):

  • liked ease of use with Hybris (vs. Salesforce)

Thalbauer (digital transformation of supply chain):

  • end-consumer driven economy
  • very related to IoT
  • tech adoption accelerating
  • biz model transformation
  • instant notification if the equipment malfunctions
  • change of business transformation
  • disruption in every aspect of business:
    • customer-centric (demand sensing, omni-channel sales, same-day delivery)
    • individualized products (configured products, digitalized inventory, lot size of one)
    • resource scarcity (talent, sustainability, natural resources)
    • sharing economy (social networks, business networks, asset networks)
  • sweet: combo of 3-D printing at warehouse & Uber-based model for final delivery.
  • extended supply chain demo: sweet (literally): 3-D printing of chocolates at high-end stores! — wonderful example of IoT data-centric enterprise
  • SAP increasing pace of innovation
    • fastest-growing planning solution in history
    • only live logistics platform in the market
    • product innovation platform re-defined
    • demand-driven manufacturing
    • digital assets.

Next up: Sacha Westermann, Port of Hamburg, on how it uses IoT to streamline operations, improve efficiency & reduce accidents through “smartPORT”:

  • it’s very big (largest port in Germany), and very complex! Ships, rail (largest rail hub in Europe), trucking. 24/7.
  • big emphasis on environment: need to reduce emissions, improve sustainability.
  • can’t expand area, but must be able to handle more volume.
  • key factor is connectivity between all parties.
  • smartPORT includes energy & logistics.
  • smart maintenance: use mobile to call up SAP order & create messages, take photos. Example of malfunction with a drawbridge. Technician got new button from stock, installed it, customers didn’t even know there was a problem.
  • port monitor: digital map with all info to operate the harbor. Mobile version on iPad.
  • SmartSwitch for rail: sensors on the switches to measure conditions. Automated data flow to maintenance company.
  • dynamic info on traffic volumes: combines all real-time data on traffic. Detects available parking spaces. Created “PrePort Parking” as holding area for trucks that are early or late. Trucks park bumper-to-bumper for maximum efficiency.
  • special traffic lights: cycle changes based on real-time traffic flow. Warning messages if pedestrians cross.
  • smartROAD: smart sensing of the bridge-structural load — identifies interdependencies and to do predictive maintenance.
  • Take aways:
    • good application requires lot of data
    • must share data
    • data privacy critical for confidence
    • everyone gets just info they need
    • more participants, higher the benefit for each
    • open interfaces basic
    • application must be self-explanatory

Next up: me!, on 4 Essential Truths of IoT & how that translates into strategy.


 

Mike Lackey, IoT Extended Supply Chain, SAP explaining their IoT strategy & direction, with emphasis on “driving customer value”:

  • he’s using universe of 75 billion connected devices by 2022.
  • case study: STILL, the smart lift truck from Germany. Forklift sold as service, based on weight of materials carried. They will communicate among themselves, M2M.
  • “It is not about Things, it is about what the Things can do to radically transform business processes!”
  • oil & gas: reducing spills. They worked with the company that made the platform that failed in Deep Horizon — hadn’t been maintained in years.
  • Burbury: want to know exactly what you looked at, share the info among their stores. Creepy: invasion of privacy??
  • UnderArmour: why do you have to wear a band — build sensors right into clothes.
  • Hagleitner (I reported about them at last SAP event) provides supplies for corporate washrooms, etc. Paradigm shift: sensors let them know which dispensers need new materials. “big washroom data
  • applications: drive adoption with a few killer applications. Differentiate with “Thing to Outcome”
  • cloud: leading cloud experience for customers and partners at lowest TCO
  • platform: open big data platform. high-value services for SAP, customer & partner
  • Kaeser Compressors also made paradigm shift: no longer sell air compressors, but air — must guarantee it works constantly. Million data points per compressor daily. Differentiates them from competitors.
  • one tractor company now can recommend to farmers what they should plant based on data from sensors on the plows.
  • Asset Intelligence Network: great example of data sharing for mutual advantage. To be released soon.
  • Enables connected driving experience.
  • SAP IoT Starter Kit can get you started.

The Internet of Things Enables Precision Logistics (& Could Save Planet!)

A degree of precision in every aspect of the economy impossible before the IoT is one of my fav memes, in part because it should encourage companies that have held back from IoT strategies to get involved now (because they can realize immediate benefits in lower operating costs, greater efficiency, etc.), and because it brings with it so many ancillary benefits, such as reduced environmental impacts (remember: waste creation = inefficiency!).

       Zero Marginal Cost Society

Zero Marginal Cost       Society

I’m reminded of that while reading Jeremy Rifkin’s fascinating Zero Marginal Cost Economy which I got months ago for research in writing my own book proposal and didn’t get around to until recently.  I’d always heard he was something of an eccentric, but, IMHO, this one’s brilliant.  Rifkin’s thesis is that:

“The coming together of the Communications Internet with the fledgling Energy Internet and Logistics Internet in a seamless twenty-first-century intelligent infrastructure, “the Internet of Things (IoT),” is giving rise to a Third Industrial Revolution. The Internet of Things is already boosting productivity to the point where the marginal cost of producing many goods and services is nearly zero, making them practically free.”

Tip: when the marginal cost of producing things is nearly zero, you’re gonna need a new business model, so get this book!

At any rate, one of the three revolutions he mentioned was the “Logistics Internet.”

I’m a nut about logistics, especially as it relates to supply chain and distribution networks, which I see as crucial to the radically new “circular enterprise” rotating around a real-time IoT data hub. Just think how efficient your company could be if your suppliers — miles away rather than on the other side of the world, knew instantly via M2M data sharing, what you needed and when, and delivered it at precisely the right time, or if the SAP prototype vending machine notified the dispatcher, again on a M2M basis, so that delivery trucks were automatically re-routed to machine that was most likely  to run out first!

I wasn’t quite sure what Rifkin meant about a Logistics Internet until I read his reference to the work of Benoit Montreuil, “Coca-Cola Material Handling & Distribution Chair and Professor” at Georgia Tech, who, as Rifkin puts it, closes the loop nicely in terms of imagery:

“.. just as the digital world took up the superhighway metaphor, now the logistics industry ought to take up the open-architecture metaphor of distributed Internet communication to remodel global logistics.”

Montreuil elaborates on the analogy (and, incidentally, places this in the context of global sustainability, saying that the current logistics paradigm is unsustainable), and paraphrases my fav Einstein saying:

“The global logistics sustainability grand challenge cannot be addressed through the same lenses that created the situation. The current logististics paradigm must be replaced by a new paradigm enabling outside-the-box paradigm enabling meta-systemic creative thinking.”

wooo: meta-systemic creative thinking! Count me in!

Montreuil’s answer is a “physical Internet” for logistics, which he says is a necessity not only because of the environmental impacts of the current, inefficient system (such as 14% of all greenhouse gas emissions in France), but also its ridiculous costs, accounting for 10% of the US GDP according to a 2009 Department of Transportation report!  That kind of waste brings out my inner Scotsman!

Rifkin cites a variety of examples of the current system’s inefficiency based on Montreuil’s research:

  • trucks in the US are, on average, only 60% full, and globally the efficiency is only 10%!
  • in the US, they were empty 20% of miles driven
  • US business inventories were $1.6 trillion as of March, 2013 — so much for “just-in-time.”
  • time-sensitive products such as food, clothes and medical supplies are unsold because they can’t be delivered on time.

Montreuil’s “physical Internet” has striking parallels to the electronic one:

  • cargo (like packets) must be packaged in standardized module containers
  • like the internet, the cargo must be structured independently of the equipment, so it can be processed seamlessly through a wide range of networks, with smart tags and sensors for identification and sorting (one of the first examples of the IoT I wrote about was FedEx’s great SenseAware containers for high-value cargo!)

With the Logistics Internet, we’d move from the old point-to-point and hub-and-spoke systems to ones that are “distributed, multi-segment, intermodal.” A single, exhausted, over-worked (and more accident-prone) driver would be replaced by several. It’s a  little counter-intuitive, but Montreuil says that while it would take a driver 240 hours to get from Quebec to LA under the current system, instead 17 drivers in a distributed one would each drive about 3 hours, and the cargo would get there in only 60 hours.

Under the new system, the current fractionated, isolated warehouse and distribution mess would be replaced by a fully-integrated one involving all of the 535,000 facilities nationwide, cutting time and dramatically reducing environmental impacts and fuel consumption.

Most important for companies, and looping back to my precision meme, “Montreuil points out that an open supply network allows firms to reduce their lead time to near zero if their stock is distributed among some of the hundreds of distribution centers that are located near their final buyer market.” And, was we have more 3-D printing, the product might actually be printed out near the destination. How cool is that?

Trucking is such an emblematic aspect of the 20th-century economy, yet, as with the neat things that Union Pacific and other lines are doing with the 19th-century’s emblematic railroads, they can be transformed into a key part of the 21-st century “precision economy” (but only if we couple IoT technology with “IoT thinking.”

Now let’s pick up our iPads & head to the loading dock!


 

PS: I’ll be addressing this subject in one of my two speeches at the SCM2016 Conference later this month. Hope to see you there! 

 

FedEx package…

Digital Twins: the Ultimate in Internet of Things Real-Time Monitoring

Get ready for the age when every product will have a “digital twin” back at the manufacturer, a perfect copy of not just the product as it left the factory floor, but as it is functioning in the field right now. That will be yet another IoT game-changer in terms of my 4th IoT Essential Truth, “rethink products.”

Oh, and did I forget to mention that we’ll each have a personal body twin from birth, to improve our health?

For the first time we’ll really understand products, how they work, what’s needed to improve them, and even how they may be tweaked once they’re thousands of miles from the factory, to add new features, fix problems, and/or optimize efficiency.

Key to circular organizations

Even better, the twin can play a critical role in accomplishing my vision of new circular organizations (replacing obsolete hierarchies and linear processes), in which all relevant departments and functions (and even supply chain members, distribution networks and customers, where relevant) form a continuous circle with real-time IoT data as the hub).  Think of the twin as one of those manifestations of the real-time data to which all departments will have simultaneous access.

GE Digital Twin visualization

               GE Digital Twin visualization

I’ve often remarked how incredible it was that companies (especially manufacturers) were able to function as well as they did and produce products as functional as they were despite the inability to peek inside them and really understand their operations and/or problems. Bravo, industrial pioneers!

However, that’s no longer good enough, and that’s where digital twins come in.  In a WSJ blog post this week, General Electric’s William Ruh, my fav IoT visionary/pragmatist, talked about how the company, as part of its “Industrial Internet” transformation, is making digital twins a key tool:

“Every product out there will have one, and there will be an ability to connect a system, or systems of digital twins, easily. The digital twin is a model of an asset, a product such as a jet engine or a model of the blades in a jet engine. Sensors on those blades pull the data off and feed them into the digital twin. The digital twin is kept current with the data that is run off the sensors. It is in sync with the reality of the blade. Now we can ask what is the best time to change the blade, how the blade performs, options to get greater efficiency.”

Proof of the pudding?

Ruh says they’ve created a wind turbine and twin they call the “Digital Windfarm,” which generates 20% more electricity than a nearby conventional turbine.

PTC is also working on digital twins. According to the company’s Executive VP for Digital Twin, Mike Campbell,:  “It’s a model that uniquely represents a physical occurrence in the real world. This one-­to­one mapping is important. You create a relationship between the digital data and a unique product occurrence from a variety of sources: sensors, enterprise data on how it was made, what its configuration was, its geometry, how it is being used, and how it is being serviced.”

Predix

The key to digital twins is GE’s “Predix” predictive analytics software platform, which the company is extending across its entire product line. As always, the key is a constant stream of real-time data:

“weather, component messages, service reports, performance of similar models in GE’s fleets—a predictive model is built and the data collected is turned into actionable insights. This model can perform advanced planning, such as forecasting a ‘plan of the day’ for turbine operation, determining a highly efficient strategy to execute planned maintenance activities, and providing warnings about upcoming unplanned maintenance events, all of which ultimately generates more output and revenue for the customer.”

Digital doppelgängers

Here’s where the really sci-fi part kicks in: Ruh also predicts (Predix??, LOL) that GE’s medical division will soon create digital twins for you and me — at birth!

“I believe we will have a digital twin at birth, and it will take data off of the sensors everybody is running, and that digital twin will predict things for us about disease and cancer and other things. I believe we will end up with health care being the ultimate digital twin. Without it, I believe we will have data but with no outcome, or value.”

And, frankly, there’s also a spooky aspect to what GE’s doing, working with retailers to create psychographic models of customers based on their buying preferences. I’m dubious on that account: I do appreciate some suggestion about what might interest me, especially books, based on my past purchases. On the other hand, a couple of weeks I shopped for — but didn’t buy — biz cards online. Now, I get AdSense ads for these cards everywhere — even on this homepage (sorry for stuff that isn’t IoT, dear reader) Get over it, OK? Count me out when it get’s down to really granular psychographic profiles — too many risks with privacy and security.

I suspect digital twins will become a staple of the IoT, yielding critical real-time info on product status that will enable predictive maintenance and, as Ruh has written elsewhere, speeding the product upgrade process because, for the first time, designers will know exactly how the products are functioning in the field, as opposed to the total lack of information that used to be the norm. Stay tuned.