Accelerate Cloud Migration Success with The Right Tools

Take any business today, and they are likely to have at least one of their workloads running in the cloud. More and more businesses are making the move, with email and productivity being one of the first workloads to be migrated. Cloud migration brings new levels of agility, scalability, and cost efficiency to an organization, but the process can be challenging without the proper tools. It is imperative for an organization to setup a well-designed process before initiating the migration. Without suitable planning, the migration is likely to take longer, cost more, and fail to provide the expected benefits.

Small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) generally lack IT resources and expertise and often look toward Managed Service Providers (MSPs) to aid in the migration process. As mentioned earlier, SMBs typically migrate their email and related productivity tools as the starting point for their move to the cloud. WW SMB spending on services like Office 365 are expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 25% to $40 Billion by 2022. More and more SMBs are relying on trusted partners like MSPs to lead them and provide ongoing support as they traverse unknown territory. MSPs, in turn, are collaborating with vendors that can provide the right solutions to bring the benefits of the cloud to their customers.

In a recent study conducted by AMI-Partners, we uncovered several benefits that MSPs accrue by using the right tools and processes when migrating their customers’ emails and related data to the cloud. This study was an expanded follow-up to AMI’s 2015 email data migration tools study. The results of the latest study were published on June 12th, 2018 in our whitepaper titled Accelerate Growth and Profitability with Office 365 Migrations and Ongoing Cloud Services: How MSP-ISV Partnerships Are Empowering Small and Mid-Sized Business in The Cloud. The study focused on vendors that offer email migration tools, such as BitTitan, Microsoft, SkyKick, and region-specific vendors such as CloudMigrator365 and CodeTwo in Europe. Continue reading “Accelerate Cloud Migration Success with The Right Tools”

Moving Towards an Era of “Everything-as-a-Service”

We are living in an era where everything can be availed with a click or a tap. Whether it be cab services, entertainment, food, hotel stay, software applications, IT services or anything in between. In other words, all services and products, that are not yet, will soon be available “as-a-service”. This model is known as Everything-as-a-Service or “XaaS” in the IT world. Its origin comes from various technology-based products, services and applications that can be accessed through the internet or via a traditional purchasing and delivery mode.

Everything as a Service (also referred to as “Anything as a Service”) has evolved in recent times. This is due to the popularity of the cloud and expanded through various “as-a-service” (aaS) models such as infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS), software-as-a-service (SaaS) and many more.

It all began with SaaS. From there, various service models have evolved. Then along came the cloud enabled environment where any device, service or technology solutions could be delivered on a pay per-month model or simply based on the amount of usage by the consumer. These services can be accessed over the internet or through a traditional delivery model. Some examples of such as-a-service models in recent time are Device-as-a-Service, Personal Computers-as-a-Service and Printer-as-a-Service among many other bundled services offered on a pay-per-use basis.

Three levels of a Cloud-based Service Model

With the explosion of data now be capture, there is an increased need for more data analysis and it is essential to make this data relevant for businesses. Most companies are eager to adopt this model and plan to migrate to cloud based infrastructure if they have not already.

There are some key reasons for the migration to a cloud-based model.

  • Be it hardware, software or services there is a reduction in overall cost, maintenance, time consumed by their IT staff in day-to-day IT activities with a cloud-based model.
  • All new applications and technologies are developed and supported by the cloud. Hence, it is easier for the businesses to adopt by just downloading an application.
  • By handing over all the IT related services and maintenance to a cloud-based model, companies can utilize all their capabilities to develop and expand their business.

XaaS leads to Digital Transformation
Globally, the XaaS model has been expanding and getting more traction from all vertical industries and service sectors. XaaS has covered all possible services and solutions be it technology-based services or day-to-day requirements ranging from food-delivery to baby care services and everything in between.

Some major reasons for XaaS as a business model to grow and expand worldwide are:

  • Now a day’s work isn’t confined to the office or to fixed office hours. Rather the modern workplace has a growing number of mobile workers who need to connect with their client and business associates 24/7. These workers need near real-time updates. With the changed work culture, the everything-as-service model will develop and grow.
  • For a company to further their journey on the digital transformation path, they need more flexibility, agility and scalability. All of these are essential for any company to accomplish this transformation. XaaS allows any company to select the service package that is suitable for their present business needs with the option to make any changes as their needs evolve.

 The Future
Everything-as-a-service has vigorously disrupted the traditional business model and given a significant advantage to those businesses that are eager to take their environment to a higher level.  The as-a-service model will not only provide more opportunities to managed service providers (MSPs) but also more challenges. MSPs will need to cater to the growing needs of their customers developing and suppling more customized solutions and on-demand models that will be able to meet the more varied needs than are presently required.

This model offers equal business opportunities for channel partners who with their strength of customer knowledge, can be important players in the changed business environment. A hybrid business ecosystem with equal opportunities for all the stakeholders will be available through an everything-as-service model there by improving overall business efficiencies. With the continuation of new technologies and innovations to come, the everything-as-a-service model will continue to gain more traction and will flourish in the coming years.

~ Arpana Bharti, Research Analyst

Major Industry Verticals are Turning to AI

There’s no doubt that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the next big thing in the tech industry today, mainly due to the research and development initiatives led by top technology companies. These technological innovations have greatly influenced key industry verticals such as healthcare, manufacturing, automobile and finance making technology the core of these businesses instead of just a part of it. Applications of AI in businesses are vast, ranging from medical equipment to self-driving vehicles. Top technology companies such as Microsoft, Apple and Amazon are dedicated to advancing on this front, making AI accessible to all businesses.

It all begins with finding use cases in various industries:

  • What each industry wants?
  • What kind of decision making needs to be supported?
  • What kind of predictions they want to make?

The next step is to figure out what tasks an industry needs automated. Various industries have various needs, law firms need to automate their document discovery process, manufacturing companies would like to automate the quality control processes among other things.

One of the industries that stands to benefit greatly from this innovation is the healthcare industry. With time, it has become evident that AI could soon be able to provide accurate solutions for various health issues. One of the biggest use cases in this industry is predictive diagnoses/analyses. The key here is to reduce the time between test and treatment. There are numerous health records, but not enough time to process them and this is where AI comes into play. Using AI, data mining as well as analysis can be done within minutes. The correlations between various datasets is difficult for humans to identify whereas an AI platform can do it in a matter of seconds, and this allows physicians to make quick but accurate decisions and act efficiently.

Another notable use of AI in healthcare is precision medicine, not only in precise prescriptions but also in treatments. For instance, hospitals are increasingly utilizing robots for AI driven robotic surgeries. It allows for more accuracy in performing and making real time alterations in surgeries as compared to human surgeons. To sum up, AI in healthcare allows for faster handling of all the data that is generated and reduces the analysis time from days to seconds.

In addition to healthcare, AI is also finding its footing in the manufacturing industry. Robots are not only faster and more reliable than humans, but they’re also performing tasks beyond human capability. The application of AI in manufacturing goes beyond programming robots to do certain tasks. AI is also finding its niche in the projection of market demand which then drives sourcing and staffing needs, inventory, equipment maintenance, and much more. Another application of AI is in predictive maintenance wherein sensors embedded in the processing equipment as well as at the suppliers’ facilities track operating conditions, performance of factory tools to predict breakdowns or suggest preemptive actions.

Although AI is still in an evolutionary stage as far as complete automation is concerned, it won’t take too long to make things better, cheaper, and faster using AI. The purpose of AI is not to replace workers altogether, but to free them to perform design and programming related tasks. Automation and AI will improve efficiency and productivity by keeping schedules and budgets in check, which will allow businesses to take on more work and employ more people without effecting the bottom line.

~Kunika Sodhi, Associate

Success in the Age of Digital Transformation? Design Thinking!!

Most businesses have always applied a systematic approach to generating concepts and turning them into successful products. This approach usually begins with noticing an opportunity or an unmet need, followed by brainstorming to come up with several concepts, one of which eventually makes the final cut into production.

Design Thinking elevates this process by injecting empathy for the customer and other audiences that the proposed product will touch at any point. As a result, a Design Thinking led product is based on a wider set of considerations and an emphasis on user experience, compared to a product developed via a straight out qualitative + quantitative market research study.

As Digital Transformation takes hold, Design Thinking takes on even more importance. Key to developing truly transformative customer experiences is understanding how technology can be deployed within a product and its ecosystem to deliver experiences and solutions that are highly tuned to the target audience’s needs.

This blend of digital and design will define successful businesses from hereon. It is visible across all products coming out of big tech, and will expand to products across other industries as well. This will add fuel to product replacements and upgrade cycles across industries as innovative ways of accomplishing tasks bubble to the surface.

Besides objects, the impact of Design Thinking will increasingly be observed in services as well. Customer interaction is a key area where firms will differentiate themselves as they redesign systems and retrain their workforce to become more tuned to what customers feel during any interaction.

Workforce retraining will perhaps be the biggest challenge in creating success down the road. Clearly, with Design Thinking the world is leveling up from technical competence to a softer skill set that is difficult to learn and master.

The implications for technology vendors will be more pronounced within their ecosystems. With most vendors driving a significant portion of their revenues from indirect, channel-led sales, ensuring their channel partners are up to speed with this skill set will become imperative.

~Deepinder Sahni, Senior VP

 

3D Printing – A Revolutionary Technology

3D Printing is indeed a revolutionary concept. It is literally makes something out of nothing. To define the technology in short, 3D printing is a process where material is joined together under computer control to create a three-dimensional object, with material being added together layer-after-layer.  This is done by the joining of liquid molecules or by powder grains being glued together. These processes are also known as “additive manufacturing”. Technology behind 3D-printing is extremely flexible since the objects being joined can be of different shapes.

Who discovered the first 3D printer? I would imagine one should name Charles W. Hull since he used the stereolithography technique in mid-1980. However, this was not meant for regular or frequent use since stereolithography is an extremely expensive technique with the machines often costing $100,000 or more. Prices of these machines have come down substantially since then.

The 3D Printing Process: The Basic ABCs in a Nutshell

The very first step in 3D printing is to create a 3D Model on a PC. This digital aspect can be done by creating a file in a computer aided design (CAD) program and utilizing the vital role of the 3D modelling software to create a 3D model. This model is now ‘cut’ or ‘sliced’ in different layers using a ‘slicing software’. The 3D sliced model is sent now to the 3D printer using various connectivity methods – e.g. wi-fi or US depending on the nature of the 3D printer. Now the file is slowly and gradually ‘3D printed’ layer after layer.

Different 3D Printing Technologies

There are various 3D printing technologies mainly depending on the types of printers. Some of these processes are listed below:

  • Stereolithography
  • Digital Light Processing
  • Fused Deposition Modelling
  • Selective Laser Sintering
  • Selective Laser Melting
  • Electronic Beam Melting
  • Laminated Object Manufacturing

 3D Printing Material

3D printers can use a wide variety of materials. Some of them include –  ABS plastic, PLA, nylon, epoxy resins, silver, titanium, steel, ceramic and gypsum, just to name a few.

Advantages and Disadvantages

There are numerous advantages to 3D printing. One can manufacture various customized products, create fast prototyping of designs, incur relatively low cost of manufacturing, provide employment for expert designers, enhance accuracy and reduce errors substantially.

As with any new technology there are indeed some associated grey areas. Some of the possible problem areas can lie in the fears of fabricating fake items, manufacturing hazardous items like weapons or guns (someone even reported 3D-printing a rifle using a model downloaded over the Internet), restrictions on material sizes, inability of using a combination of different raw materials, expensive 3D print software and less channel partners with expertise in the field.

The 3D Printing Ecosystem

Many major associations play a vital role in propagating growth and knowledge concerning 3D printing in various countries across the globe. Some are The 3D Printing Association, Association of 3D Printing, Additive Manufacturing Society of India (AMSI), Hong Kong 3D Printing Association, Australian 3D Manufacturing Association (A3DMA), World 3D Printing Technology Industry Alliance, Inside 3D Printing Conference and Expo, and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

3D Printing – Various Applications

3D printing can be utilized in numerous field such as say Aerospace, Architecture, Automotive, Consumer Goods, Defense Industry, Education and Medicine. Some illustrative examples include:

  • Making attractive and lasting models for architectural/construction industry.
  • Building medical devices and prosthetics.
  • Prototyping parts for cars.
  • Printing molecular structures in the chemistry industry that can also be shown to students when teaching chemistry.
  • Customizing products for the retail industry. Just to name a few

Future Trends

At present, various companies are exploring the many applications of 3D printing to see how they can be commercially useful. Estimates show that global 3D printing spending is likely to enjoy a bright future in the long-term. The future growth rate of as high as 20% per annum over the next 3 years. This would equate to an estimated rise from $12B in 2018 to $20B by 2021 (Source: Statista). In the next decade, 3D printing may cause a paradigm shift in the manufacturing arena for different industries worldwide and its future applications may be massive.

In conclusion one must mention that an unlikely albeit interesting example of 3D-printing application is in the field of medicine specifically in replacement of human organs where a major hurdle is the lack of availability of donor organs. The day is not very far off when successful bioprinting can combine cells and tissues. These biomaterials would be able to create bio-medical parts such as complex human organs. Say the human heart or pancreas. This would certainly be a godsend for organ donation and could possible save many lives. At some point in the future, we might all become the “Bicentennial Man”.

~Dev Chakrabarty, Senior Manager – Research

ITaaS – The Next Step Towards the Software-Defined Data Center

Nowadays consumers are moving towards an “Everything-as-a-Service” model and businesses have similar expectations for their IT departments. Hence the advent of “IT-as-a-Service” (ITaaS). Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC) can provide a strategic approach to support the business goals of a firm and provide the speed, agility & elasticity to thrive with digital transformation.

For years businesses have had to adapt to greater competition and changes in the economic purchase cycle. Now organizations are embarking on a path towards digital transformation with an objective of building newer competencies around being more adaptable to an ever-changing landscape as well as becoming more consumer-oriented, cost-effective, aligned to consumer needs, less complex and more efficient. This transformation is vital to counter competition from new sources, small startups, and often from companies born in the cloud. Small startups can create turmoil in the industry thus causing problems to established market leaders.

The above facts are almost universal for all businesses and have always existed for chief experience officers (CXO). But what has changed now is enhanced competition from new sources.

The Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC) – a key tool for Digital Transformation

SDDC can provide a strategic approach to support business goals and provide flexibility to thrive by embracing digital transformation. At the fundamental center of this transformation is the data center which is constantly evolving in an effort to keep up with business objectives.

It’s an accepted fact that the ability to bring new applications and services to market fast is crucial to success in today’s rapidly-moving marketplaces. Consequently, organizations are adopting public cloud services, or implementing hybrid cloud strategies, as they deliver business agility beyond the capacity of internal IT infrastructures. SDDC can support all workloads in a holistic approach optimally across the entire data center. To achieve this, a properly configured SDDC must display the following main principles:

  1. The SDDC must be dynamic and adaptive to respond to changes in resource workload. The adaptability should be automated and built on defined configurations as per the demands of the applications it runs.
  2. It must be ‘intelligent’, eliminate complexity and create elastic computing without direct human intervention.
  3. The SDDC must be robust to compensate for hardware and software problems and continue with the highest level of availability.

Modernize the Data Center

While businesses understand the need to modernize data centers and complete the journey to a hybrid cloud and SDDC, they still face significant challenges.

According to Sanjay Deshmukh, VMware’s vice president of End User Computing – “Apps drive various changes in enterprise infrastructure. Companies born in the cloud can integrate a modern data centers into operations from the beginning. The challenge for most other firms is how to advance the existing infrastructure to take advantage of new cloud-application capabilities without losing critical functionality from the legacy technology on which the business relies.”

Software and Automation

“Modernizing data centers is about altering the organization’s mindset from hardware to software, and embracing automation,” says Sanjay. “Companies mistakenly think they’re automated when they run scripts, but if the hardware changes, the company must then rewrite those scripts. That’s not true automation, which means delegating to the software.”

For modernizing, change is not always limited to technology; it also asks for changes to staff roles & the policies needed to accomplish work efficiently. In many cases, that means updating technologies developed over years specific to the business and have been working reliably.

Bottom-Line Savings and Top-Line Growth

Immediate benefits of modernization may be difficult to demonstrate to top management. An SDDC model delivers ROI / cost-savings through automation, reduced labor costs, improved security, and simplified IT management, but these savings are not visible in the short term and will take time to seen in the bottom-line.

There are immediate bottom-line savings, but significant top-line value, too, e.g. driving new business models. Once a business changes to SDDC, it is far more agile and able to rapidly respond to business needs.

Faster agility increases go-to-market strategies and drives innovation. New apps and services can be quickly developed, tested and improved through accelerated iteration. Also, modern data centers enable companies to scale up to meet demand and scale down when necessary.

Businesses with modernized data centers save money, innovate better and react to market changes faster. Other businesses innovate slowly and spend more time & money attending to hardware infrastructure issues & repairs.

It is better for companies to modernize data centers focusing on automating manual IT, modernizing infrastructure with virtualization software across the entire data center stack, focusing on unified management and laying a foundation for running both traditional and modern cloud-native applications.

Conclusion

Utilizing SDDC to create IT as a Service provides a strategic roadmap for IT leadership. It sets the basic principle on how a data center needs to evolve; it creates an evolutionary path for the data center. SDDC is a strategic approach to ensure the data center supports business goals and provides the flexibility required to enable businesses to embrace the digital transformation and thrive.

~Subrata Sarkar, Senior Research Analyst

Augmented Reality the Next Step in Product Design and Manufacturing

Augmented reality (AR) is a type of interactive, reality-based display environment that takes the capabilities of computer generated display, sound, text, and effects to enhance the user’s real-world experience. Basically, it overlays 3D graphics on real-world surroundings using devices like mobile, tablets, or smart-glasses.

AR was supposed to transform the consumer industry but could not live up to its expectations. Even the Pokémon GO craze faded away after few months. Interestingly, AR in the B2B world has far better news. A recent study found that one out of three manufacturers expect to adopt virtual reality (VR) or AR technologies by 2018. In hindsight, this makes perfect sense because it is easier to find business uses for AR than consumer ones.

Let’s look at consumer versus business uses for AR. Does the average consumer really need to see restaurant menus or apartment listings while walking down the street?  However, a technician who needs to fix a jet engine in 30 minutes or less can benefit greatly from a hands-free way to identify potential issues and their fixes.

AR in Product Design:
Driven by extreme consumerism, products and services for consumer and commercial customers are going through massive changes. This is affecting the ecosystem of designing and delivering smarter products and services. As a result, not only products but also the tools we use to design those products are evolving.

For example, an engineer is designing the interiors of a rocket. Augmented reality tools will let that engineer sit inside that design while creating it, which quite literally sounds like a scene from a Marvel’s Iron Man movie. Designers are constantly looking into leveraging AR technology to visualize various prototypes and hypotheses by overlaying virtual design elements onto a real environment.

AR can be used to perform post design checks as well. Designers at Volkswagen use AR to overlay a CAD model of a car on top of a real car to check anomalies between virtual and physical designs. Also, engineers no longer need to compare each 2D drawing with a prototype which shortens the product development cycle.

Apart from improving quality of a product, AR can be used to design the next generation of products. Once AR is out in the field, all the embedded sensors can collect various data points that can be analyzed to see how users interact with these products under a range of real-world conditions. The results can appear in AR while designing the product and suggest improvements based on collected data.

AR in Manufacturing:
AR in manufacturing can be divided into two logical sections: Assembly and Training.

Assembly:
Initially, multiple workers spent long hours to complete a single product. Henry Ford came along and changed everything with assembly line. The speed of production increased dramatically with the concept of the conveyor line. Now, in many instances, robots are replacing humans but there are still some tasks which robots cannot handle. Augmented reality will provide these factory workers with a visual display of the parts and instructions necessary for assembly. This eliminates the need to look at blueprints on laptops or hard copy, thus saving time and reducing errors. For example, Boeing currently uses AR glasses to guide technicians as they wire hundreds of planes a year. As a result, Boeing has cut production time by 25% and lowered error rates to nearly zero.

Training:
Product lifecycles are getting shorter and companies are expected to continuously update and upgrade product designs. As the product design changes the manufacturing and/or assembling process also changes. AR applications can be used to train the new employees or to provide new instructions to existing employees. AR combined with voice search allows employees to solve their questions on the go. AR training in production helps to prevent failures and reduces the training time for new workers. It also increases the quality of work as employees have all the necessary information available instantly with visual directions to complete the task.

The adoption of Augmented Reality is essential to drive growth of industry 4.0. The potential of AR tools is extensive in manufacturing and product design as it can be applied at every stage of the product development life-cycle from design to delivery. The technology is cost beneficial and scalable and has a huge potential in the B2B market.

~ Ankit Mehta, Associate

Travel, Expense, and Invoice Management Automation Boosting Business Performance

Managing expenses and invoices is an inescapable part of doing business. There is simply no way around it. But, firms have a choice as to how they track and manage their spending. They can do it the old-school way—updating countless spreadsheets, tracking and filing paper work (invoices and receipts), and running around for signatures. Or, they can leave the cumbersome processes behind and opt for an automated travel, expense (T&E), and invoice solution.

The digital transformation is rendering traditional methods obsolete, and organizations are increasingly automating business functions such as expense and invoicing to improve efficiencies and boost productivity. Small and mid-sized business with 1-999 employees (SMBs) are beginning to catch on. According to AMI’s Global Market Sizing Model, worldwide SMB spending on T&E and invoice solutions is expected to reach nearly $4.7 Billion by 2021. This represents an 18.6% compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2017. Cloud-based solutions are outpacing their on-premise counterparts with spending on SaaS T&E and invoice spend growing faster than 23% year over year through 2021.

There are dozens of brands to choose from including SAP Concur, Xero, MS Dynamics and Zoho to name a few. A top notch, comprehensive solution is one that offers, but is not limited to the following features.

  • Analytical tools for better tracking of data on spending
  • Auto-populate of expense reports
  • Receipt capture via mobile app
  • Flagging of non-qualified expenses
  • Integration with traditional Accounting/Finance/ERP software (i.e. QuickBooks, SAP ERP)
  • Integration with corporate credit cards
  • Travel and hotel booking in a user-friendly environment

Technology solutions really shine when they enable businesses to tackle key challenges and automated T&E and invoicing is a prime example of a software solution that does just that. Through its conversations with SMBs, AMI-Partners has found that companies using a well-rounded T&E and invoice solution benefit as they are able to:

  • Save time and money
  • Increase employee satisfaction
  • Improve employee and company compliance
  • Gain better visibility into spending and cashflow

These benefits tie together and are reinforced by one another.  For example, employees using a T&E application spend less time submitting expense reports which boosts employee satisfaction. Happy employees are more likely to use the application, which improves compliance. Since more information is captured, financial decision makers have better visibility into data on company spending, which they can more readily analyze. Finally, improved visibility helps firms to gain financially as it allows them to uncover cost saving opportunities.

Ultimately, a well-integrated T&E and invoice solution empowers firms to focus on overarching goals such as customer acquisition and business expansion.  Automation gives decision makers a clear picture of how money is flowing through the organization while giving back some of that ever-precious resource…time.

To learn more about how businesses are adopting automated solutions such as T&E and invoicing visit www.ami-partners.com or drop us a line at ask_ami@ami-partners.com

~ Joseph Bertran, Associate Director

ROBOTICS – Asia Rising to the Industrial Transformation

When all our eyes were on the athletes participating in XXIII Olympic Winter Games held recently in PyeongChang, South Korea; some were also eagerly waiting to see how their athletes performed in the “Olympics” ski challenge for robots. Robots of all shapes and sizes skied, and in some cases tumbled, down a course at the Welli Hilli ski resort, an hour’s drive west of PyeongChang. Eight robotic teams from universities, institutes and a private company competed for a $10,000 prize in the Ski Robot Challenge. The challenge was held to promote South Korea’s robotic technology.

Robotics are driving the industrial transformation of this century and Asia is driving the push. There are 3 ways to view robotics adoption in its current scenario. Industrial robots, professional use robots and personal/domestic robots with the latter being broadly classified as industrial and service robots.

Source: IFR Press Conference, 11 October 2017

Industrial Robots

There will be around 1.3 million new industrial robots entering the workforce globally by 2020. This is over 15% additional annually. Automotive and Electrical/Electronics industries are heavy adopters of these industrial robots. With competition putting pressure on every industry, the key players are looking to reduce their operation cost and make goods more cost effect. This can be accomplished by using robots. However, foreign direct investments or local government investments will be key to getting the real capital needed to drive the show.

With China being key, Asian countries are among the fastest movers when it comes to industrial robotic adoption. The major pull factors are rising labor cost, increasingly aging populations and global competition. China has made it well known that its “Made in China 2025” campaign will leapfrog the country into being a global power in the manufacturing of advanced technology rather than cheap, and often imitated, merchandise. The top five countries in the list contributes almost three-quarters of the WW industrial robot supply, among them the top three are China, South Korea and Japan. China is expected to have 40% of the global industrial robot supply by 2020 with 20-25% annual growth. To support the huge need for robots, China aims to produce 50% of the total robots required in country itself.

Taiwan, ranks 6th among all the countries globally with industrial robot supply from 2013 onward, growing at a 15% CAGR. Thailand is also a key market in Asia with high robot deployment, however due to local political turmoil, the market has not gained much momentum in the last couple of years. India witnessed strong growth in industrial robot installation, coming close to Thailand. Other ASEAN countries are also seeing positive momentum.

There are a few developments in advanced industrial robotics, which indicates the huge potential and an earlier inflection in the manufacturing sector.

  • Robots are a rational substitute for human labor – based on price and performance robotic labor is becoming cost effective. Robots and humans together are 85% more productive than either one individually.
  • Emergence of ultra-low-cost robot systems will expand potential markets in SMEs – new features have been introduced suitable for SMEs, as that is a significant contributor to the overall manufacturing sector.

The global average robot density is about 74 industrial robots installed per 10,000 employees in the manufacturing vertical. The most automated countries in the world are South Korea with 631 industrial robots for 10,000 employees, followed by Singapore with 488, Germany with 309 and Japan with 303. Overall the average robot density in Asia stands below the WW average at just 63.

Professional Service Robots

Professional service robots are mainly those deployed for logistic systems, defense, field, public relations and medical applications. These types of robots are expected to grow 20-25% on average annually through 2020. There is huge growth expected in household robots with the forecast unit supply reaching cumulatively over 32 million between 2018-2020. These robots are produced for a mass market with completely different pricing and marketing channels. Household robots are mostly used for vacuuming and floor cleaning, entertainment & leisure purposes.

Service robots are in high demand in the Americas. This is not true for Asian countries. However, there is strong growth potential in Asia by 2020. The demand for domestic robots is on the higher side in Asia, where deployment was closer to that of the Americas in 2016.

In Conclusion

Innovation is crucial for future productivity. By mastering innovation, Asian countries like China and Japan have gained control over productivity on the factory floor. They are removing the guess work by using advanced analytics and robotics to analyze the ocean of data thereby building actionable insights. The interesting part of this is, we have just started seeing some major changes using these insights.  The use of robots is still nowhere near scale. Once enterprises master the analytics, the technology leap-frog is bound to happen on a larger scale in regards to robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

~Surjyadeb Goswami, Regional VP, APAC

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) – Drones – Hawks in the Dawn of the IoT Era?

In March 2018, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced it will start testing the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) like drones at 300 air traffic facilities covering 500 airports in the US on incremental manner on April 30.  This deployment is scheduled for completion by September 13, 2018.  Commercial drone usage is expected to surge. This surge is being made possible in part by the LAANC system that is expected to automate the approval process of airspace authorization requests for operations in the entire US. In addition, FAA rules and regulations that clarified previously identified as potential issues are also assisting this growth. The FAA expects commercial drones to grow fourfold within 4 years from 110,000 to 450,000 units in the air in 2022.  But the impact on IT and cloud service providers is expected to be much larger.

Drones have long been in a trial phase for business use in various industries – delivering foods, packages & medical goods, monitoring agricultural crops and fields, responding to disasters, inspecting facilities, monitoring worker safety and mapping/surveying landscape to list a few. Powered by cloud platforms and the increasing availability of software applications, drones are able to function as robots in the air generating an enormous amount of data to feed cloud storage space and big data analytics.

Growing Usage of Imaging Apps

Photography and video are major drone applications. According to the FAA, 43% of commercial drone usage is for taking aerial photos, films and videos.  Photos and videos are already must-have items for almost all industries for marketing materials, brochures, how-to-use videos, and so on.  Increasing usage of social medias for marketing among businesses in any size has also been fueling the trend.  In the realm of social media today, eye-catching visual materials are must have while the role of language is decreasing.

Virtual reality (VR) is still in the nascent stage.  But it should be easy for everyone to foresee that it will play an important role in various fields in the near future – not just gaming, but we have already started to see its usage in tourism, entertainment and industrial design. The role of drones in the VR field is almost limitless.

The significance of these trends for cloud service providers is the data volume that drone operations will generate. Generally, image files are much larger than regular document files. In addition, an increasing number of commercial grade drones are equipping 4K cameras with 360-degree view for superior image quality. Drone photos will be a key driver for cloud storage consumption as, on average, a 4K video file is nearly 10 times larger than that of the standard definition.

Vertical Expansion and Applications

The core functions of drones in the traditional sense are transporting and monitoring. But their operation areas are widening. Power and energy companies, manufacturers and insurance companies are using drones for inspecting facilities.  Telecommunication carriers are using drones to carry cellular network, especially in the isolated remote areas and disaster sites.  Also, drones are convenient tools to manage inventory in huge warehouse facilities.

There is even a case where drones are used for time management by monitoring employees and work sites within an office building to reduce unnecessary overtime. This may look a bit awkward and employees may feel uncomfortable to be monitored but as insider threats by malicious users or employees are increasingly recognized as a major security concern, it will not be surprising to see drones hovering overhead in offices in the future.

Drone-Related Solution Providers

There are several players providing cloud-based drone tools for commercial use. Most of such tools are equipping functions of autopilot, data management, processing, analytics, planning and reporting. Most pricing are subscription models and quite affordable even for small businesses.

Key ISVs specializing in drone-related solutions include:

Flight/Operation Management

AirMap Kittyhawk
Drone LogBook NV Drones
Everdrone Skyward
Flyte
Microsoft UAV simulator (an open source aerial informatics and robotics platform for engineers/designers to test and train machines)

Mapping and Data Processing

3DR DroneMapper Raptor Maps
Agribotix Esri Sentera
Airware Gamaya Skycatch
Avision Robotics GeoCue Group Skydio
Bentley Maps Made Easy SLANTRANGE
Botlink Pix4D Uplift Data Partners
Datumate Pix Processing WebODM
DroneDeploy PrecisionHawk  

The market landscape is already quite crowded and M&As and vertical expansion strategies have already taken place. Verizon acquired Skyward in February 2017. This pairing is a good marriage of a wireless network and the aerial app.  DroneDeploy is pursuing vertical expansion via launching App Market to integrate its solutions with external apps such as Audodesk and John Deere to appeal to manufacturers and farmers.

Commercial drones are clearly becoming a key market dynamic in the cloud landscape at the dawn of IoT era.  IoT solution vendors and cloud service providers should gear in on these players.

~ Yuki Uehara, Senior Director