Reflections on Three Years of IoT Solutions World Congress: 2017 the Year of IoT ROI
Originally published in Wipro Digital
IoT Solutions World Congress 2017, with over 13,000 visitors, 250 speakers, and 240 exhibiting companies, truly solidified its position as the leading Industrial IoT Conference this year. Big Kudos to Dr. Richard Soley, Terry McElrath, and the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC), as well as Roger Bou, Pedro Sanchez, and the Fira Barcelona for putting on an incredible show. Even with the political turmoil associated with the Catalan independence vote two days before the opening of the show, the event went on and was even more successful than in years past.
Below I share my reflections on three years of IoTSWC. You may also view our daily video recaps and Microsoft Azure IoT announcement from the main stage of IoTSWC.
“3rd Time’s a Charm” – Discussion Shifts to ROI
Having been at all three IoTSWC’s now, whether you wanted them or not, I figured I’d share a few observations about the evolution of the show.
The first year (2015) seemed to be more about teaching everyone (and everyone teaching each other) “what is IoT” – if we hopped into our time machine and revisited the 2015 event, I think we’d all get a chuckle at how many presentations actually ‘defined’ IoT on a slide or two, before going on to share how their company’s (usually existing) products and services squarely addressed the IoT market.
The second year (2016) seemed to be summarized by “how do we effectively pull off a proof of concept (PoC)?” – I think that analysts, the media, and the industry at large helped everyone to see that IoT was not a ‘fad,’ but, rather, a paradigm shift bringing IT and OT together, and providing a physical - digital convergence point for people to begin to realize the benefits of another (still) hot term and topic – Big Data. As odd as it may sound, these things/sensors/actuators/devices provided a physical lens for people to look through to realize that the need to start to properly ingest (often stream)/cleanse/store/ analyze/derive insights from and send actuation based on…data. As companies accepted this notion, the PoCs and Pilots took off – and these were very much in focus during year two of IoTSWC.
This year (2017), many of those same companies have moved well beyond “IoT for the sake of IoT,” or “IoT because the board wants it,” and have migrated to “IoT for ROI.” All of the same fundamental business drivers of the past – make money, save money, improve customer satisfaction, etc., apply to IoT as well. Further, the “wow factor” associated with having the coolest IoT deployment has quickly dissipated as it is more broadly adopted. Now, PoC’s which haven’t borne fruit have been shelved or cancelled, and those which have had substantial, material impact, have become front and center. As a result, this year was all about the end users (baby)!
Having been a member of the IoTSWC program committee myself this year, I was blown away by the team’s collective effort to put together over 250+ sessions – and the major requirement for each and every session was customer inclusion, and a focus on the use cases, ROI and success metrics of each deployment. This resulted in a schedule of presentations which were a lot less “our company is great because we sell this product or service,” and a lot more “this product or service is great because it delivered this much cost savings or revenue for a customer.” In other words, while marketing and product pitches are a necessary evil at large conferences, the way that these are ‘plugged’ at events can be done poorly or well. By pushing all companies presenting, including top Sponsors of the event, to frame their discussions around customer impact and specific outcome-based stories of implementations, product and service coverage went beyond being just palatable, and into being insightful in most cases.
“At the Intersection of X and Y” – The rise of ML/DL/AI
Another observation is that there was what appeared to be an inflection point associated with the fact that some of the discussion in the M&A landscape seems to be drifting away from once red-hot ‘edge analytics’ startups, and towards startups “at the intersection of X and Y,” where X is always IoT, and Y is increasingly becoming Machine Learning (ML), Deep Learning (DL), and Artificial Intelligence (AI). This was highlighted in multiple keynote talks, with several key examples being Intel’s scoops of Mobileye (AI for AVs) and Nervana (Silicon for DL), Microsoft acquiring Maluuba (NLP and DL) and Genee (DL for Personal Assistance) and Google’s 2017 shopping spree, acquiring Kaggle (AI Community), AIMatter (Image Processing), and Halli Labs (ML/DL, India-based), among others.
I don’t think that the shift away from edge analytics acquisition sprees is occurring because we’ve necessarily “nailed” the right models and methods for edge analytics, but, as companies large and small begin to accept that they need to reduce footprints for anything edge-deployed, as containerization and kernelization become more ubiquitous at the edge, and as people seem to embrace distributed architectures as inherently requiring distributed analytics models (to ingest, analyze, and actuate based on the right data at the right place at the right time), the conversation seems to have shifted to other IoT-enabling technologies.
It also makes sense that this shift was visible at the show as it seems to confirm the 2017 Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies – where IoT Platforms, alongside Machine Learning and Deep Learning, all ride triumphantly atop the ‘Peak of Inflated Expectations.’
In a chat with Joe Paradiso (MIT) and Jonathan Ballon (Intel) we discussed this inflection point and the exponential increase in computational and processing power found in ever-evolving GPUs and on silicon itself (think of the Nervana acquisition referenced earlier). As models and neural networks are able to self-train more and more quickly, Machine Learning becomes simple, Deep Learning becomes more refined and actionable, and true Artificial Intelligence becomes more and more real.
In a panel discussion I moderated entitled “Connected Cars in a Disconnected Environment,” with Dr. Said Tabet (Dell Technologies) and Ankur Bhan (Nokia), we discussed the implications of AI for Autonomous Vehicles. Coincidentally, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect, with the California DMV announcing incredibly progressive changes to regulations on driverless cars – pushing to allow autonomous vehicle testing, without humans in the test cars, as soon as June 2018. Ankur may comment that this has nothing on the Flying Taxis he’s seen out of his window in Dubai, but still, pretty cool. As unmanned vehicles give way to fully autonomous (no longer human controlled) vehicles, interesting ethical questions emerge about how we train vehicles to make decisions on their own (and potential bias inherent in this process) – i.e. what to hit if an accident is about to occur and you have to hit something; what happens if hackers gain access to not only one car on the road, but all cars under a particular badge/brand connected via a mesh network in a certain geography; etc. Really interesting questions without solid answers at this point.
All of this said, I suppose that the point is, I think this “Intersection of IoT and ML/DL/AI” is a theme we’ll see persisting well into IoTSWC 2018, and likely beyond.
“Wipro Debuts in a BIG Way” – Wipro’s Presence in Numbers
While I’ve attended every year of the IoTSWC, I had done so in the past through previous companies. This was my first time attending as a Wiproite, and, it was also the first time Wipro sponsored the event – and at the top level as a Diamond sponsor, no less. Long story short, we made our presence known at the show in a BIG way, and I was honored and humbled to be a part of team Wipro. Here are some quick stats from our impact and presence at IoTSWC ’17:
Countless visitors at the large Wipro Digital booth with standing room only
Wipro on stage in 9 sessions (I had the pleasure of being in 2)
17 Wipro Customers and Partners on stage with us (4 in Jayraj Nair’s Keynote alone)
2 Major Launch Announcements: Microsoft Azure/Wipro CoE & IIC Academic Task Group (ATG)
7 Wipro IoT Solutions at the booth, showcasing: Asset management, Predictive Analytics, Connected Healthcare, Smart Manufacturing, PLM to IoT Closed Loop (w/ PTC), Connected Car with AR, Smart Spaces, Dozens of formal/focused customer, partner, and analyst meetings
1 Finalist Testbed: Connected Worker Safety & Operations, showcasing joint solutions from Wipro, HPE, and Aruba Networks, was selected from nearly 100 submissions to be one of 11 testbeds showcased in the Testbed Area at IoTSWC, and also made it to the list of the top 3 most impactful testbeds of the year. Huge thanks to Ron Morgenstern and Jeff Carlat for their partnership in pulling off this huge success, and a special thanks to Dr. Madhusudan Pai for anchoring the testbed effort from inception to demo-day, as well as Dr. Sanjoy Paul and his team for their leadership, team work and technical contributions to the connected worker solution.
The level and quality of engagement Wipro had across the IoT ecosystem at IoTSWC ’17 was impressive, and I have full confidence that this event solidified the fact that, working alongside our partners, we can help to fuel both business and digital transformation for our clients.
“Many Hands Make Light Work” – The Thanks Abound…
Lastly, multiple hands and minds went into making this a phenomenal show for Wipro, but I have to include a shameless plug for a few people in particular.
First, to my IoT Partner Engineering leadership team - Dr. Madhusudan Pai, Dr. Manjari Asawa, and Samir Vyas – unless we were sitting in a meeting or a meal together, I feel like the most we saw of each other at the show was a blur as we rushed past each other in multiple directions – our divide and conquer strategy worked well, however; and the trust we have with one another and across our partner ecosystem, as well as the impact we’ve been able to make in the past 6 months is exceptional - your hard work and dedication really paid off at this event, and I can’t thank you enough for that.
Next, Alex Beal and Suvajit De – Our booth itself (not to mention the coordination of all activities, and the herding/shepherding of multiple Wiproites) was top-class, and exceptionally well executed. Thank you for representing Wipro and Wipro Digital in the best light possible.
Of course, Jayraj Nair deserves a specific call-out for his Executive Leadership, for having faith in his teams’ execution at the event, and for leading by example by not only giving Wipro’s keynote, but also spending every free moment with the team ‘in the trenches.’ Jay also had unique insight into, and guidance over, the event itself, as he has served on the event’s Advisory Board for the last three years.
Speaking of Executive Leadership, both Rajan Kohli and Anita Ganti were instrumental to Wipro’s success at the show. A presence this big and impactful couldn’t take place without the proper vision and investment to make it happen. Thank you for your belief in the One Wipro team, and in our ability to execute.
And, last but not least, the fact that this event extended well beyond only one service line or business unit at Wipro. IoT is an ecosystem play for our clients and that is true within Wipro as well – it is an ecosystem play, requiring many different teams to collaborate and work together with our clients as one team to enable business transformation. Product Engineering Services, with on-site leadership by Anita, Global Infrastructure Services, with Ashish Khare leading the charge, Business Application Services & Analytics all worked hand-in-hand with Wipro Digital and Designit to cut across Service Lines and represent one team and one company. That, coupled with the vertical knowledge and subject matter expertise contributed by Manufacturing & Hi-Tech, led by Dr. Paul on-site, as well as Health & Life Sciences, Retail & Consumer, and Energy and Natural Utilities, all led to an outstanding presence for Wipro on the whole.
Long story short, great show for Wipro, and great show in general – Looking forward to IoTSWC 2018!
At the Connected Worker Safety and Operations Testbed, a shop-floor worker, outfitted with a connected helmet and other IoT-enabled devices, demonstrates how IoT technologies can improve worker productivity and safety.
After three days, the Wipro team is ready to celebrate a great event for clients and team Wipro with a fun and informal team photo, using the six demo kiosks as props. Brownie points if you can find Calvin, and/or for your comments on “who wore it best,” regarding the kiosk outfits we all seem to be donning. My vote goes to Trevor Diffley, at far right (still not sure how he got completely horizontal for this pic).