Posted By Simon Montford on March 16, 2016
Day two of the Wearable Technology Show was just as enjoyable as day one. The highlight of the second day was meeting the exhibitors (see photos and videos below), and attending talks in the IoT Keynote Theatre. Saverio Romeo (Principal Analyst at Beecham Research) talked about "The Current Status of the Internet of Things Vision". I wasn't exactly sure what his talk was going to be about, but I was intrigued by the word "vision", which appeared to have been tacked onto the end, which caused me to speculate. Was he going to give us a kind of "State of the Nation" type address containing lashings of stats about market adoption etc, or was he going to dish out something completely different?
Well it turned out that Saverio's talk was less of a State of the Nation address, and more of a Facebook-type status update, that had a rather concerned looking emoji attached to it. After sharing a load of detailed data about how far the IoT has progressed, he then went on to compare said data with what had been promised in the past. It was a bit like when a teacher gives you a rather damning school report, that you're afraid to take home to your parents!
A trip to the IoT Keynote Theatre offered further interesting insights, and one awkward moment
Having (metaphorically) given the Industrial IoT sector a B minus, he then went on to say that the lack of progress would, in his opinion, result in a failure to meet the magic number of 50 billion connected devices by 2020, which has been so famously touted around by almost everyone within the tech sector for the last few years.
His sobering reality check, combined with his collective telling off of all those naughty hype-mongers, could also be regarded as a thinly veiled call to action. From his presentation, it was clear that there are still many challenges that have yet to be overcome, a lack of standards being chiefly among them (Saverio counted more than 500 different IoT connectivity platforms before he gave up counting).
If Saverio turns out to be incorrect, and the hype does end up meeting reality resulting in the predicted 50bn devices becoming connected within the next four years, then all will be vindicated, and forgiven, but in the absence of a time machine, there's no way of currently knowing how things will pan out. For now, therefore all we can do is sit and wait, and continue to count in the hope that when 2020 does finally arrive, we'll be counting all the way to up fifty billion.
Following on from Saverio was a talk by Alex Bazin (VP & Head of IoT at Fujitsu) titled "Delivering Business Value in the Hyper Connected World". Ironically, Alex started his presentation by quoting the very stats that Saverio had only moments earlier, attempted to debunk! The controversial stats that were now being projected onto the screen were: 50B connected devices by 2020, +44ZB of data generated per year by 2020, and $11T of potential economic impact per year by 2025 - awkward.
After sheepishly acknowledging that his stats were at odds with Saverio's less optimistic predictions, he went on to explain how Fujitsu is working with clients to help them use connected technology to capture value in the real world. He did, however, echo what Saverio had said about the industry having too many standards. In fact he estimated that there are around thirty different consortia within the industrial IoT sector attempting to create their own separate standard. This is, he said, something that's slowing adoption and needs to change, because it's creating a great deal of confusion and uncertainty. Consolidation is, therefore, urgently needed to enable the industry to move forward.
Another issue he raised was that there's a propensity by IT vendors to push data to the cloud unnecessarily. The problem with doing this is that, instead of allowing edge devices to do their own processing, they push data to the cloud unnecessarily which takes up bandwidth and adds latency. This then increases the likelihood of security breaches, and causes customers to waste money connecting devices that don't really require connectivity in the first place.
Alex then went on to talk about how Fujitsu is deploying connected technology to help field engineers become more efficient and effective. In the business-to-consumer maintenance sector, only around 70% of household visits result in a positive outcome, the remaining 30% of unsuccessful call-outs are due to engineers lacking the necessary skills, bringing the incorrect tools, or not carrying the correct inventory. In most cases this is as a result of poor communication between the engineer and the resource centre.
To help solve this problem Fujitsu developed a connected fleet of "smart vans" that operate like nodes within a mesh network. Each van comes with a mobile hotspot that provides engineers with their own secure WiFi connection. I can imagine that within the near future, this will enable less experienced engineers out in the field to communicate directly with more experienced engineers remotely, and in real time, via wearable devices such as AR headsets, resulting in a significant increase in productivity.
In addition to the aforementioned example, Fujitsu is also using connected wearable technology to monitor the welfare of their field engineers and divers. By using sensors that are embedded within clothing, for example, things like stress levels, temperature, and even drowsiness can be monitored to avoid fatigue, heat stroke, cold weather exposure, and stress.
A final example of how IoT is being used to increase operational efficiency is in the dairy industry. Apparently Fujitsu is installing fitness trackers onto cows! By monitoring their movement, it's possible to increase their pregnancy levels, leading to an increase in milk production. The wearable technology can even accurately predict if a cow is ready to be fertalised simply by tracking the animal's movements, and the gender of the calf before birth. This is of course critical to dairy farmers as male calves are far less desirable than females, for obvious reasons. According to Alex, Fujitsu's tracking technology has enabled farmers to increase their revenue per head of cattle by $200.
The only other talk I managed to attend took place in the Wearable Disrupt Theatre. The talk was by a business acquaintance of mine, Marcus Kirsch, who's a Creative Strategist and Design Consultant. His presentation gave an interesting insight into how products and services can be designed in a modular fashion, a bit like Object-Oriented programming, to create superior products and services that, ultimately not only fulfil customer needs, but also delight them in the process.
My Tour of the Wearable Technology Show Expo
On the second day of the show, I did a tour of the main exhibition floor starting, very aptly, at the Business Start Up Theatre area, where live pitches took place throughout the day. I then wandered into the Launch Pad zone where an assortment of very early stage companies had set out their wares.
First up was Barcelona-based Babypod that's created a wearable, or more accurately an insertable, that plays music to unborn babies during pregnancy. According to a clinical study, benefits can be obtained by playing music directly into the womb prior to birth.
Next up was GatorWatch, a wearable phone and tracker for kids aged 5-11. It will cost £99, but there will also be a monthly phone plan (2G only) with either Vodafone, EE, or 02. It'll be available next month. I then shuffled along to the next stand where I found a startup called MainTool that has developed a smart watch strap that can be attached to any regular horological watch. It has the same features as most fitness trackers; heart rate monitor, steps, temp sensors, notification vibrate, and it also allows the wearer to reject or accept calls from their phone, and it has a twenty day battery life.
I then headed over to the Digital Health Technology Zone, and swung by Beddit's stand, which is a sleep tracker that attaches directly to the mattress. It can be purchased for £199 directly from Beddit, or the Apple Store. I own one, and highly recommend the product. Next was Best in Show winners, MyZone that has developed a exercise motivation platform that uses gamification and social instruments to encourage gym-goers to stay committed to their fitness goals, and increase their level of effort during workouts. I then visited Ato-Gear by Arion, which is a coaching device that comprises of a smart insole and an app which monitors running technique, and offers corrective guidance when necessary. Briefly before leaving the health and fitness area, I stopped by TomTom to check out their soon-to-be-launched Golfer 2, and the impressive Bandit Action Cam.
I then entered the Technology Zone, where I found Silicon Labs, a leading provider of software and hardware system solutions for the consumer and industrial IoT.
Next, I headed over to the AR Enterprise Zone where I found a Sony Smart Eyeglass headset. Keen to attract the attention of potential customers within the emergency response and industrial sectors, the company showed video footage of their Augmented Reality headset being used to aid firefighters and warehousing staff. There was, however, a rather incongruous application for AR on show - opera translation! Smart Eyeglass now comes with an app that overlays augmented subtitles during opera performances - now I've seen everything!
Sony wasn't the only show in town. Epsom and Vuzix both had an impressive selection of VR and AR devices on display. Compared to previous iterations, these new and improved devices were noticeably lighter, and more robust, because they have been specifically created for the demands of heavy industry. When leaving the VR and AR area, the thing that really struck me was how wearables are starting to look a lot less geeky, but the form factor is still not quite refined enough to appeal to consumers. I'd expect to wait another couple more years before we see AR devices going mainstream.
I then sauntered over to the Smart Home Zone where I came across an innovative startup called NCube, that recently graduated from Wayra, Telefonica's illustrious accelerator programme. The company won the IoT Category Award for most innovative product.
My journey then took me to the Smart Textiles Zone where I went to have a look at a British industrial design company called Smallfry, but as soon as I arrived, I was ushered over to Infi-tex, a smart sensor company, that have created a line of clothing made with pressure sensitive materials, which enable switches and sensors to be printed onto textiles.
A short hop took me to the Innovation Zone, where I found a little gem of a product called SunnyCam by a British company called Nemesis GB, that have created the world's thinnest, and only wide-angle full HD video recording glasses. They are very reasonably priced at £129, and the camera is so small, I didn't even notice it! When I asked the company's Managing Director, Chris Chance, where the camera module was, which I was expecting to buy as a separate attachment, he proudly explained that the camera was integrated within the frame. For me, this was one of the stars of the show, not because it is a radical innovation, there's nothing novel about the concept of a wearable camera. The reason why I liked this product so much was that it's an excellent example of incremental innovation in action, where a company has taken an existing concept, and improved upon it by using, in this case, superior product design to make the form factor really appealing. In fact it was one of the very few wearables I'd be happy to wear in public! I'd even take SunnCam over a GoPro Hero or a TomTom Bandit, because it is so sleek and lightweight.
Another stand I was eager to check out was Oura, which is the world's first ring and app that accurately measures sleep quality, and tracks activity. It is clearly aimed at women and features leading-edge technology backed up by scientific research. It works by measuring pulse strength, time between heartbeats, hand movement and changes in body temperature. The accompanying app displays insights and plots trends to promote a balanced healthy lifestyle.
Another startup I really like, that was also located within the Innovation Zone, was Chipolo. The company, hailing from Slovenia, has developed a product that can be used as a Bluetooth locator or tether. What that means is that the small disk-like object can be attached to anything that's important to you, particularly valuable objects that are easily lost such as keys, wallets, phones, and umbrellas. I came across the startup during their successful Kickstarter campaign three years ago. Chipolo has one more trick up its sleeve - you can also use it to take pictures on your smartphone, so apparently it's ideal for taking selfies, so what's not to like?
After leaving the Innovation Zone, I found myself back in the Fitness Zone standing next to Mio's stand. They boast a very competitively-priced range of fitness trackers, but I wasn't convinced by their desire to create a proprietary standard for health tracking called PAI (Personal Activity Intelligence). Apparently it is a way they plan to attach meaning to activity. Nike tried something similar when it launched the FuelBand, but no one really understood what a FuelPoint was, which is possibly why the product was eventually discontinued. Having never personally used or owned a Mio product, I'm not really in a position to judge, so I'll go for an open verdict for now.
With that my tour was almost at an end, but I kept the best till last. Arriving at the Jaguar stand, which was conveniently located near the exit, was the car company's newest addition; The F-Pace. I have to report that it is one seriously gorgeous vehicle in the flesh, but that's exactly what you'd expect with such an eye watering price tag. The model on display was on sale for a whisker under one hundred thousand Euros!
Results of the Wearables Technology Show Awards
AR developer Octagon won Best App and Rising Star yesterday at the Wearable Technology Show in London. The overall winner was the sports and performance company, MYZONE. The awards took place at the third annual Wearable Technology Show at ExCel in front of an audience of wearable tech enthusiasts.
The awards ceremony was first introduced in 2014 to recognise excellence within the wearable sector, but it now extends to both smart devices, and IoT innovation. This year there were more than 200 entries received across 11 categories. The organisers selected 64 companies that were shortlisted for the final battle. Three new awards were created for 2016: Rising Star, IoT Connect and Smart Home.
A full list of the winners is available to view on the Wearable Technology Show Awards page.
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