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Women in IT: A step ahead — and back?

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by Peter Krass on 10/20/2016
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The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing is underway this week in Houston. That makes now a good time to consider the important role of women in technology — as well as what could be a troubled outlook for women technologists in the future.

Grace Hopper, of course, was among the early computing pioneers. She was a programmer back in the 1940s, inventor of the first compiler, and widely if perhaps inaccurately known as the originator of the term “computer bug.”

grace hopper

The conference named for her is billing itself as “the world’s largest gathering of women technologists.” It’s being produced by the Anita Borg Institute, a social enterprise that works to advance women in tech, in collaboration with the ACM. Scheduled speakers include Megan Smith, CTO of the U.S. federal government; Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM; Latanya Sweeney, a professor at Harvard and director of the Data Privacy Lab; and two executives from Intel, CEO Brian Krzanich and chief diversity officer Danielle Brown.

Computing pioneer Grace Hopper — minus her bug.

Celebratory conferences aside, the outlook for women in IT is less than great, according to a new research report, released today by Accenture and Girls Who Code. They find the number of women in the U.S. computing workforce declining. Their report, Cracking the Gender Code, says that roughly a quarter (24%) of the U.S. computing workforce is now women, but by 2025, that will drop to about a fifth (22%).

“Despite unprecedented attention and momentum behind the push for universal computer-science education, the gender gap in computing is getting worse,” says Reshma Saujani, CEO of Girls Who Code, a nonprofit organization dedicated to closing IT’s gender gap. “The message is clear: A one-size-fits-all model won’t work.”

In theory, at least, there could be more women in the workforce, not fewer. Demand for computing skills far outstrips supply, as you undoubtedly know if you’ve tried to hire anyone lately! Last year, Accenture says, the U.S. had half a million open computing jobs, but fewer than 40,000 new computer-science graduates to fill them.

Girls in School

What’s the best way to get more women into IT, including the channel? Accenture and Girls Who Code have 3 main suggestions:

> Spark girls’ tech interest in high school: It may take special effort. Even when high-school boys and girls are exposed equally to computing, boys show a 26 percent higher interest in computing as a major.

> Sustain girls’ tech interest in high school: One key may be adding female teachers. That drives girls’ interest in computing is significantly higher, Accenture says.

> Inspire young women to pursue tech careers after college: A good way, Accenture says, would be to offer all undergrads programs in computing and programming. A related degree is not required; in fact, more than half the women in computing studied for the report didn’t major in computer science while in college.

How effective could these changes be? Very, say the report’s authors. They believe their “fresh approach” could help increase the number of women in computing to 3.9 million by 2025. That would lift women’s representation in the U.S. computing workforce from today’s 24 percent to nearly 40 percent.

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Women of the Channel 2016: CRN

Looking to make your business more diverse? Here’s expert help

How women are transforming the IT workplace and channel

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Which technologies will your clients clamor for next year? Gartner predicts

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by Peter Krass on 10/19/2016
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Research and advisory firm Gartner presented its top 10 predictions for IT organizations and users in 2017 and beyond this week at its Gartner Symposium/ITexpo in Orlando, Fla.

Here’s a look at what Gartner’s market analysts predict your clients will be doing next year and beyond:

> IoT scalability: The Internet of Things will grow to some 21 billion endpoints by 2020, yet IoT will only increase total data-center storage demand by less than 3 percent. Gartner says this proves how IoT can scale and deliver business insights while remaining storage-manageable.

> IoT savings: The Internet of Things will save consumers and businesses $1 billion a year in maintenance, services and consumables by 2022.

> Augmented reality: By 2020, 100 million consumers worldwide will use AR for shopping on their mobile devices. AR apps will let consumers layer digital information, including text and video, atop the physical world.

> Screenless web browsing: Speech-controlled devices such as Google Home and Amazon’s Echo will proliferate. This will let people use the web while driving, cooking, socializing, operating equipment, etc.

> Algorithms: By 2020, algorithms will alter the behavior of more than 1 billion workers worldwide. Contextual algorithms can dip into their huge data files, then present “just in time” information that helps people complete their tasks, maybe even appreciate life better.

> Fitness trackers: By 2020, 40 percent of employees can cut their healthcare costs by wearing a fitness tracker device. To reap the benefits, companies will add wearables to their employee fitness programs.

> Blockchain: By 2020, a business based on blockchain, the distributed ledger technology, will be worth $10 billion for the first time. Gartner calls blockchain “the next revolution in transaction recording.”

> Bigger brothers: By 2021, 1 in 5 of all activities will involve at least 1 of the 7 digital giants: Alibaba, Amazon, Apple, Baidu, Facebook, Google or Tencent. Mobile apps, payment systems, smart agents and digital ecosystems will make these companies integral to our daily lives.

> Bye-bye, mobile apps: In what’s essentially a negative prediction, Gartner predicts that 20 percent of brands will abandon their mobile apps by 2019. Why? Because levels of mobile-app adoption, customer engagement and ROI are far lower than expected. Some companies will cut their losses on mobile apps and adopt other approaches instead.

> Costly deployments: IT managers leading digital-transformation projects are likely to be surprised by the final cost. Through 2019, for every $1 the average enterprise spends on digital innovation and ideation, it will later spend $7 on deployment.

Yes, all this presents a mixed bag. But cheer up: Gartner also predicts that global IT spending will rise nearly 3 percent next year, to hit $3.5 trillion. The biggest growth, Gartner expects, will come in software and services. Software spending will grow 7 percent globally next year, it predicts, while spending on IT services will grow by nearly 5 percent. If you’re in either or both of those markets, a rising tide should lift your ship.

How about the upcoming U.S. elections — will they affect IT spending? Not much, Gartner says. “Typically, there is a slight pause in IT spending leading into the election,” says Gartner researcher John-David Lovelock.  “However, trends have shown that IT spending in the U.S. is not dependent on presidential leadership, so neither candidate should have a significant impact on IT spending in the near term.”

And don’t miss:

PC market: A glass half empty — or half full?

Flat IT spending, staffing in U.S. next year: Spiceworks survey

Why tomorrow’s computing devices may be controlled by speech

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How Dell is renewing its commitment to the channel

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by Peter Krass on 10/18/2016
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With the 2016 Dell EMC World conference kicking off today in Austin, Texas, now’s a great time to review Dell’s recently renewed commitment to the channel.

Earlier this month, Dell expanded its Internet of Things solutions partner program to include systems integrators. Previously, the program was limited to independent software vendors (ISVs).

AlMichael Dell, CEO and founder of Dell Technologies so, as CRN has pointed out, Dell has assembled a strong lineup of channel executives. Notably, Dell has assigned Gregg Ambulos, formerly channel chief for EMC — which Dell now owns, having completed the acquisition last month — to be its channel chief for North America. CEO and company founder Michael Dell recently told CRN that the channel is “becoming a larger part of our business, so therefore, it’s more important. That’s pretty simple. The level of innovation we're delivering, these solutions require a fair amount of expertise, and partners play a big role in that, in applying these solutions.”

“Partners play a big role,” says CEO Michael Dell.

IoT Expansion

The expansion of Dell’s IoT solutions partner program was announced on Oct. 10. The Dell program had already attracted more than 50 ISVs, the company says. Now, with the addition of systems integrators, Dell hopes for what it calls a “more holistic ecosystem” of IoT solutions.

Dell says a few systems integrators have already been enrolled in the IoT program. They include Action Point, Datatrend Technologies, L&T Technology Services and Mobiliya.

Many IoT customers are interested in working with IoT integrators, Dell says, pointing to a recent survey report from Technalysis Research. The report, entitled The Promise and Peril of Change: Enterprise IoT Survey Report, states that 40 percent of respondents deploying IoT are now working with large systems integrators.

Looking forward, nearly as many respondents (38%) expect to work on IoT projects with vertical-specific systems integrators. The survey also found that two-thirds of all IoT projects are managed outside the IT group. The survey, conducted this past March, reached 620 employees of U.S. organizations who are working on IoT solutions.

The agenda for Dell EMC World 2016 includes several topics of interest to solution providers in the channel, including:

> Why it’s time to break up with your old PCs

> Cloud trends and Dell’s point of view

> Migrating to Windows 10: A CIO reports from the frontlines

> Leveraging security best practices to secure your brand

Can’t attend Dell EMC World live? You can watch a live video stream of selected sessions. And you can view a library of Dell EMC World content on demand.

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In the Zone

PC market: Is the glass half full or half empty?

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by Peter Krass on 10/17/2016
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How’s the health of the PC market? Lately, that depends on who you ask.

If you ask research and advisory firm Gartner, the situation is quite grave.

“The PC is not a high-priority device for the majority of consumers, so they do not feel the need to upgrade their PCs as often as they used to,” said Gartner research analyst Mikako Kitagawa last week. “Some may never decide to upgrade to a PC again.”

Never upgrade a PC again? That’s serious.

This gloomy forecast was due, in part, to Gartner’s discovery that global PC sales have declined every quarter for the last 2 years. That, Gartner says, is longest decline in the PC industry’s entire history.

In this year’s third quarter, worldwide PC shipments declined by 5.7 percent compared with the year-earlier quarter, according to Gartner. Still, that meant shipments of 68.9 million units, not a small number. In the U.S. alone, PC shipments were essentially flat, declining by just 0.3 percent, Gartner says.

This was mainly attributable to weak back-to-school demand and ongoing low demand in the consumer market, especially in emerging nations, Gartner explains. In those countries, unlike the U.S., many consumers have never owned a PC and perhaps never will.

Gartner also finds the market consolidating, with just 6 vendors commanding nearly 80 percent of all unit shipments in Q3: Lenovo, HP, Dell, Asus, Apple and Acer.

Is the glass half full or half empty?

IDC: The glass is half full

Yet looking at the same business, market watcher IDC last week had a very different take. The headline on its press release told the whole story: “PC Competitors Position for Share and Growth.”

Growth? Yes. Essentially, IDC’s position is that while the PC market is indeed declining, it’s still doing better than expected. PC shipments fell by 3.9 percent in Q3, IDC believes, for shipments of nearly 68 million units. That was about 3 percent better than IDC had earlier forecast. And for the U.S. alone, IDC says, PC sales actually grew by 1.7 percent, reaching 17.5 million units.

“We are very pleased to see some improvement in the market,” said Loren Loverde, a VP in IDC’s PC tracking group. “Improvements are accumulating, and set the stage for a stronger market going forward.”

So wait: Gartner says 68.9 million units shipped in Q3, a decline of 5.7 percent, but IDC says it was 68 million and a decline of 3.9 percent? Why the difference? Mainly, because Gartner and IDC define the PC market differently:

> Gartner defines the PC market as including desktops, notebooks and what it calls “ultramobile premiums” such as Microsoft’s Surface 2-in-1 devices. Gartner does not include in this category either Chromebooks or Apple iPad tablets.

> IDC, meanwhile, defines the PC market as including desktops, portables, ultraslim notebooks, and (unlike Gartner) both Chromebooks and workstations. IDC does not include in this product category either handhelds or 2-in-1 devices.

Regardless of those differences, both Gartner and IDC agree that a small number of hardware suppliers now have a dominant, possibly unassailable lock on the global PC market. These suppliers are now building up inventories that include new devices running Windows 10 and Intel’s 7th gen “Kaby Lake” Core processors. Here’s hoping the holiday season is a strong one.

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Lenovo adds cloud-based version of anywhere, any-device solution

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by Peter Krass on 10/13/2016
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Earlier this week, Lenovo introduced a service that could have big implications for your clients.

The new service, called Unified Workspace Cloud, is a hosted and cloud-based version of Lenovo’s Unified Workspace, an on-premises workspace solution.

Unified Workspace is actually based on webNetwork, a service Lenovo gained in 2012 with its acquisition of Stoneware Inc. Unified Workspace lets users work from pretty much anywhere and pretty much any device via a single-sign-on, customizable browser-based UI to files, applications and data.

The older on-premises version of Lenovo Unified Workspace has gained some 3 million users at 600 public- and private-sector organizations, according to Lenovo. The new cloud-based version, the company adds, is aimed at organizations with IT departments too small, IT infrastructures too limited, and IT expertise too lacking to run the solution themselves. Instead, the idea is, they can partner with Lenovo.

Lenovo Unified Workspace Cloud can be accessed from just about any device, regardless of its operating system. Users do not need to go through a virtual private network (VPN). Nor do they need to install a desktop agent.

Lenovo Unified Workspace.

Lenovo Unified Workspace acts as a remote-access proxy to data centers.

Once logged in, users of Lenovo Unified Workspace can gain access to web-based applications, legacy Windows applications, both virtual and remote desktop infrastructures, file shares and cloud-based storage.

‘Break the Status Quo’

What’s the big deal? Well, as Sal Patalano of Lenovo Software said, “Unified Workspace Cloud helps businesses and IT organizations break the status quo.”

He adds: “What users can and can’t do with their apps, devices and data is no longer the focus.  Empowering users to work seamlessly, in a manner consistent with how they ‘choose” to work, from the location and device of their choice, is no longer a luxury – it’s table stakes!”

He’s in good company. Lenovo cites a Gartner prediction of nearly 21 billion connected devices being used worldwide by 2020. And a Forbes survey that found 91 percent of employees believe they’re more productive when working remotely. 

Sound interesting for your clients? They’ll need to license Unified Workspace, and Lenovo currently offers 3 options: Named License, with an account for each user; Concurrent License, with gives access to simultaneous users; and Education License, which covers teachers and students in schools.

Lenovo hasn’t released pricing for its Unified Workspace Cloud. It looks like prospective users will have to ask Lenovo for a price quote. Still, this is a fascinating offering, one that offers a glimpse of how many IT departments will function tomorrow, if not sooner.

See this related content:

Lenovo moves beyond PCs into augmented reality, HPC, startups

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For a new market opportunity, think about drones

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by Peter Krass on 10/12/2016
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With the PC business in decline now for the last 2 years (according to this new Gartner report), you may be wondering, where’s the growth? One answer is drones.

The global market for drones is expected to hit $12 billion in 2021, up from about $8 billion last year, predicts a recent report from BI Intelligence. Much of that will come from governments, specifically defense. But in the consumer market, shipments will quadruple over the next five years, BI Intelligence forecasts, thanks to competition on prices and new technologies that make drones easier to fly for beginners.

Another emerging market is drones for business. According to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)’s June update on what it calls “unmanned aircraft systems,” business uses for drones include crop monitoring and inspection, power-line inspection, aerial photography and aiding rescue operations.

Intel Jumps In

Intel may not be the first name you associate with drones, but in fact the company has been pretty busy in this space:

> Earlier this year Intel showcased a consumer drone, the Yuneec Typhoon H with Intel RealSense technology. This drone retails for just under $1,900.

> Last month, Intel received a waiver from the FAA authorizing the company to fly as many as thousands of drones.

> And yesterday, Intel announced its first commercial drone system, the Falcon 8+. The Falcon is called a system because it includes not only a drone vehicle, but also a controller, the Intel Cockpit, and a “smart battery” power supply, the Intel Powerpack. The target market, Intel says, includes drone service providers (yes, that’s a thing) and other industries in North America.

Intel Falcon 8+ drone and Intel Cockpit.

Intel’s new Falcon 8+ drone and its Cockpit ground controller are designed for commercial use.

As you might expect from the chipmaker, Intel also offers drone components for developers:

The Intel Aero Compute Board is a $400 developer kit that packs a quad-core Intel Atom processor, storage, communications and I/O on a single card. 

The Intel Aero Ready-to-Fly Drone is a development platform that includes a quadcopter drone, Intel Aero Compute Board, Intel RealSense technology and the Linux OS. It’s set to ship by year’s end, and prices haven’t yet been announced.

The Intel Aero Vision Accessory Kit, retailing for about $150, offers three cameras for drones: RealSense, 8 megapixel and VGA. The cameras attach directly to the Intel Aero Compute Board, and cables are included.

So if you’re looking for a new market — especially one that’s marked for fast growth — you might look into drones.

Also see:

Why Intel RealSense is really catching on

IoT: New tools for smart buildings

How to create new IoT revenue streams with digital signage

The indispensable source for professionals who create, implement and service technology solutions for entrepreneurs to enterprise.

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IT spending, staffing will be flat next year: Spiceworks survey

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by Peter Krass on 10/11/2016
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IT budgets are stagnant. Cloud and hosted services are hot. Laptop spending will approach that of desktops. And artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), 3-D printing and the Internet of Things (IoT) are getting real.

These are among the findings of the 2016 survey on IT budgets and technology trends recently released by Spiceworks, an Austin, Texas-based professional network for IT professionals. The report is based on Spiceworks’ survey of nearly 900 IT pros, as well as social data from conversations on its own network.

For solution providers, the survey findings can help you focus your sales and marketing efforts on the areas that IT pros — your clients — believe are of highest importance and priority.

Here are the survey’s high points:

> IT budgets will barely budge in 2017. The average budget among respondents was $293,093 this year, and for next year, $294,081, a difference of less than $1K. In the U.K., budgets are actually trending downward, with respondents there expecting to see 2017 budgets down by 5 percent. This chart, courtesy of Spiceworks, shows the expected breakdown of overall spending by IT category:

IT budget allocation by sector chart; Importance of IT solutions and services chart.


> IT staffing is mostly flat, too. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of respondents said they expect no change in the size of the IT staff in 2017. Another 30 percent expect the IT staff next year to increase, and just 4 percent expect their IT staff to decrease.

> In the hardware spend, laptops will get nearly as much budget next year as desktops. Respondents say desktop spending will fall from 21 percent of the total hardware budget this year to 18 percent in 2017. That will bring it just 2 points higher than laptop spending, which is expected at 16 percent of the hardware budget next year.

> Software spending will be flat next year. And the highest priority projects will include virtualization (accounting for 15% of the software budget), productivity (13%), operating systems (13%) and CRM/ERP (10%).                                                                                                  

> Cloud spending in 2017 will go mainly to email hosting (19% of the hosted/cloud budget), online backup/recovery (14%), web hosting (11%) and productivity solutions (9%).

> What spurs buyers to buy new products? Mainly, equipment at the end of its useful life, cited by 70 percent of respondents. Other drivers include business growth (cited by 63%), upgrades/refresh cycles (59%) and project need (58%). (Multiple replies were permitted.)

> The most important IT initiatives for 2017 are security, networking and storage, as shown by the following chart, courtesy of Spiceworks:

IT budget allocation by sector chart; Importance of IT solutions and services chart.

> AI, VR, 3-D printers and IoT were increasingly hot topics of conversation among IT pros. Spiceworks tracked the number of mentions in its social network between January and August of this year, and all four were trending sharply upward.

Actual adoption of these advanced technologies, while not quite as robust, is nonetheless real, Spiceworks finds. IoT adoption was cited by 13 percent of respondents, with another 10 percent planning to use IoT in the future. 3-D printing is used by 7 percent, and planned by 5 percent. VR is used by 4 percent and planned by 3 percent. And AI is used by just 2 percent and planned by 3 percent.

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New tools for the ‘smart buildings’ Internet of Things

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by Peter Krass on 10/07/2016
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You know about the Internet of Things, but did you know those “things” could be in an office or apartment building?

“Smart buildings” is a new and growing segment of the IoT market. Most of the action involves what are known as building management systems (BMS) or building automation systems (BAS).

There’s a big need, because buildings use — and often waste — huge amounts of energy. The U.S. Green Building Council, a trade group, says that buildings consume 70 percent of the electricity load in the U.S. and account for nearly 40 percent of all carbon-dioxide emissions.

To help, Intel yesterday introduced its Building Management Platform. The platform connects disparate building equipment and devices that use a variety of protocols, then sends their data to cloud-based services and applications for business intelligence, analytics, dashboard and other applications.

Intel says use cases for its new BMP include:

> Monitoring and analyzing building energy usage

> Remote monitoring of assets, such as space utilization and equipment usage

> Gaining insights into disparate building systems used to optimize operations

Smart, energy-efficient buildings are the goal of Intel’s new IoT management platform.

Key Features

Key features of the new Intel BMP platform include:

>Easy access to building data and devices, thanks to the integration of CANDI Power Tools. These let users manage secure data flows to and from third-party applications and services. They also include built-in discovery tools and a drag-and-drop interface to help installers quickly find and provision devices.

> Over-the-air updates to remotely provision, manage and maintain device drivers, security fixes and application software.

> Cybersecurity protection with McAfee Embedded Control. This lets only signed software run on the gateway during the boot sequence, prevents unauthorized software from running, encrypts data transfers to the cloud, and accesses the gateway remotely when addressing new security threats.

> Flexibility and choice for ecosystem solutions. An out-of-the-box, Linux-based software appliance reduces development time by eliminating the need to work with low-level software components.

So if you’re looking to get started in the IoT marketplace, consider smart buildings. The market is big, growing and important. And new tools make it more attractive than ever.

Explore the new Intel Building Management Platform:

> Download the BMP product brief (PDF)

> Read an IoT@Intel blog post, Addressing IoT for Smart Buildings

> View the BMP overview

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Digital signage: creating new revenue streams with IoT

IoT roundup: Asia-Pacific growth, SAP investment, self-driving car survey

With IoT moving from concept to reality, what’s in it for you? (A lot!)

The indispensable source for professionals who create, implement and service technology solutions for entrepreneurs to enterprise.

In the Zone

Digital signage: creating new revenue streams with IoT

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by Peter Krass on 10/06/2016
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Wondering how to get started with the Internet of Things? It’s a big opportunity — maybe too big. To narrow it down, many solution providers are focusing on a fast-growing segment of the IoT market: digital signage.

To help solution providers understand and enter this market, our sister site IoT Solution Provider held a live social chat yesterday with two executives from Ingram Micro: Alex Khalil, business development executive; and Eric Kenyon, senior channel account executive.

As IoT Solution Provider editor Patricia Schnaidt pointed out in a recent blog post, digital signage isn’t only for big retailers anymore. Acquisition costs have dropped, and turnkey bundles have emerged. As a result, Patricia writes, “solution providers targeting SMBs can pitch affordability and simplicity as key selling points.”

digital signage wall

Digital signage: the market opportunity

Here are some of the high points from yesterday’s IoT Solution Provider social chat with Alex Khalil and Eric Kenyon of Ingram Micro:

> Definition: Digital signage is a way to display the right message, at the right time, to the right audience. Displays can be interactive, too.

> Market size: Digital signage was a $35 billion business in North America during 2015. It’s projected to hit $42 billion in North America in 2017. That translates into some 27 million digital-signage devices being shipped this year.

> Related revenue opportunities: Solution providers can offer digital-signage services that include site surveys, system design, content creation, installation, programming and break/fix. Margins for these services are typically in the range of 25 to 40 percent.

> Vertical market opportunities: Solution providers should find demand for digital-signage services in verticals including retail, bars and restaurants, education, healthcare, sports arenas, transportation and houses of worship.

> Applications: What can digital signage be used for? Top uses include advertising, wayfinding kiosks, check-in, touch/gesture walls, interactive tables and shelf media.

How to get started? Start by knowing the specific markets, their language and hot buttons; you’ll need that to sell effectively. Then get ready to educate your clients, as they may not really understand the technology. Next, prepare your sales message to hit your clients’ hot buttons, answering their question, “What’s in it for me?”

Finally, prepare to explain to your clients the digital-signage return on investment (ROI). Talking tech isn’t enough. Clients also want to hear how digital signage will help them save or make money.

Explore digital signage:

> View the Digital Signage Solutions social chat presentation deck.

> View the Digital Signage Solutions social chat transcript.

> Listen to a recording of the full 30-minute Digital Signage Solutions social chat.

And also see:

Why tomorrow’s computing devices will be controlled by speech

IoT roundup: Asia-Pacific growth, SAP investment, self-driving car survey

With IoT moving from concept to reality, what’s in it for you? (A lot!)

The indispensable source for professionals who create, implement and service technology solutions for entrepreneurs to enterprise.

In the Zone

Will tomorrow’s computing devices be controlled by speech?

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by Peter Krass on 10/05/2016
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Yes, if Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and now Google have their way.

You (and your clients) will talk to a wide range and variety of computing devices. These devices, in turn, will use voice recognition, artificial intelligence (AI) and other technologies to listen and respond.

Apple and Microsoft are already out there with their Siri and Cortana voice-activated assistants. These are good early efforts, but many users them both somewhat limited and a bit clumsy to use.

More successful has been Amazon’s Echo, a 9.3-inch-tall intelligent speaker that uses the company’s Alexa voice service. It currently retails for about $180.

Last month, Amazon upped the ante by introducing a smaller (1.3 inches tall) version. Called the Echo Dot, it retails for just under $50 yet features seven far-field mics. Amazon says that means Alexa on the Echo Dot can hear the user even in a noisy, music-filled room. Requests can include not only the user’s choice of music, but general questions and requests such as “Find me an Italian restaurant” or “What’s on my calendar today?”

Google is Listening

Now Google has raised the voice-recognition bar. Yesterday the company introduced several products, including a new smartphone, the Pixel, and a home-automation system, Google Home. Both use Google Assistant, the company’s voice-activated AI system.


Google Pixel smartphones

Google’s new Pixel is the first phone to use the voice-activated Assistant.

Google says Assistant lets users have a “natural conversation” with their Pixel phones. The user switches on Assistant either with a voice command (“Okay Google”) or by touching the phone’s Home button. Then they can ask (and get answers to) requests and questions such as “How long will it take me to get to work this morning?” and “What’s on my agenda for next Wednesday?”

Google also offers a “smart messaging app” called Google Allo. It lets users get help from Google Assistant while chatting with other people, either one-to-one or in a group. For example, imagine that you and a friend are using Allo to chat about dinner plans. You both agree on pizza. Now you can activate Assistant with a text command and ask it to recommend a pizza restaurant that’s both good and nearby.

In a recent blog post, Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, calls this “the beginning of this journey” to AI.

“In the next 10 years,” Pichai adds in his blog, “we will shift to a world that is AI-first, a world where computing becomes universally available — be it at home, at work, in the car, or on the go — and interacting with all these surfaces becomes much more natural and intuitive, and above all, more intelligent.”

Assuming Pichai is right, your clients will soon be clamoring for voice-controlled computing devices. Do you hear them yet?

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