Gartner: 10 Emerging Mobile Technologies to Watch

Gartner Mobile Technologies to Watch Today, more people are working through remote or mobile access than ever before. To stay competitive in an interconnected world, enterprises need to extend their resources, data, and connectivity to individuals wherever they are: in face-to-face customer engagements; in operational settings, such as retail, logistics, or field service; and on the road, whether they’re in their car, on a plane, or in a hotel.  Mobile technologies will all play such an important part in the development of mobile applications, solutions, and services and we all need to monitor how they are adopted over the next few years.

In advance of Gartner’s Wireless, Networking & Communications Summit, Gartner has released a list of 10 mobile technologies that it says will impact the growth of mobile applications and solutions for both consumers and enterprises.  The list covers a wide variety of technologies from widgets, to security, to location based technology.  Here is my summary of Gartner’s list

  1. Bluetooth (3 and 4):  Gartner says to expect enhanced Bluetooth versions that will speed data transmission and enable communication with a wider range handsets and PC peripherals.
  2. The Mobile Web:  Gartner says that as mobile devices with larger screens hit the market, we’ll want to use those devices to access websites.
  3. Mobile Widgets:  Gartner says that widgets will play a big part in the emerging mobile application market.
  4. Platform-Independent Mobile AD Tools:  Developers need tools that help them develop platform-independent mobile applications.
  5. App Stores:  Gartner expects that App stores will be the primary way to distribute mobile application solutions and services.
  6. Enhanced Location Awareness:   Location awareness technologies, including GPS, Wi-Fi and cell ID systems, will be used to exploit location-based services and applications. .
  7. Cellular Broadband:  The growth in mobile applications and services will require enhancements to the broadband networks.
  8. Touchscreens:  Touch and touch-related technologies will play an important part in the emerging mobile application solution marketplace.
  9. M2M:  Gartner says to watch machine to machine technologies in many applications areas, including meter reading, security/surveillance, automotive systems, and retail.
  10. Device-Independent Security:  Gartner says to expect a focus on emerging security technologies as CIOs look to deliver applications across a wider range of devices, while still controlling security risks.

I think we can all agree that mobile and wireless is a very hot area in 2010 and that it will continue to heat up over the next few years.   So its pretty important to keep an eye on the emerging technologies that will become important in the mobile application infrastructure.   It certainly is one of the top trends on my radar screen. 

For more information, check out these resources from Gartner

A Primer on the Consumer Market for Household Robots

Slide2 This primer on Personal Robots is meant to be a quick introduction of the trend towards personal robotics – a trend that will have a significant impact on our lives in this and future centuries.  I’ve previously authored primers on other emerging trend and technology topics…for those check out my category “Primers”.

Little by little we are all starting to share more of our space with robots as prices drop and new innovative technology makes its way into new robotic products that are designed to make our lives easier, more fun, and safer.  Yes, adoption of personal robots is beginning to ramp up.  My house now has two Roombas (one upstairs, one downstairs).  While I still like to use a traditional vacuum as I know the carpets get cleaner, my wife and kids love the Roombas as they can turn it on, leave the room, and let it do its job while they do other things.  Both my parents and my in-laws also have Roombas and they absolutely love them.

Market Environment 

The concept of a machine that performs tasks normally done by humans has captured the imagination of people throughout the ages.  The term robot describes a machine that performs programmed tasks normally performed by humans, while robotics refers to the design, construction, and use of robots.  A robot does not need to be in human form, nor does it need to be controlled remotely. 

The toy market is where allot of the action is at these days.  Robotic technology is increasingly being embedded into all sorts of toys from dinosaurs to plush toys.  Entertainment robots have expanded in capability and fallen in price as well.  There are robotic toys for entertainment, such as the Pleo, the Prime-8 Gorilla, and the Lego Mindstorms line of toys robotic companions.  

However, there is a significant personal robot market waiting to be developed beyond just toys and entertainment…a wider range of task robots are already on the market like Paro the harbor seal, that comfort the elderly.   Household robots that perform chores, provide entertainment and monitor home security have become increasingly prevalent over the last few years.  Personal Robots are being used for tasks like vacuuming.  There are also robotic lawn mowers, duct cleaners, surveillance systems, and alarm clocks. 

I found the following video that provides an overview of some of the latest consumer robot enhancements.  While I found the video a little dry and the focus is more on entertainment robots, it does gives you a feel for what is new in 2010.

Market Opportunity

As evidence that there is a market for consumer and household robots beyond just toys, the iRobot Corp published a press release in January 2010 that indicated it has sold more than 5 million Roombas (home robot vacuums) worldwide since 2002.  As I mentioned above, I have two of those Roombas in my house alone.

Projections about the overall market opportunity for personal robots range dramatically.  According to a 2009 report by ABI Research, by the year 2015 personal robot sales in the U.S. will exceed $5B.  The report, Personal Robotics 2009: Task, Security & Surveillance/Telepresence, Entertainment and Education Robot, and Robotic Components Markets Through 2015  found that the personal robotics market will quadruple from 2009-2015, when worldwide shipments will be valued at $5.26 billion.  ABI defines personal robots as those robots that perform tasks for consumers that usually have something to do with security, a simple household chore, entertainment, or education.  ABI’s report singles out North America as the largest market for personal robots right now, followed by Japan (where the culture embraces robots) and the rest of AP. 

Market Drivers / Inhibitors

The growth in the market for personal and household robots will be driven by a number of factors.

  • Toys/Entertainment:  The toy/entertainment mass market, with its lower price point, will continue to grow and is the place where many companies experimenting in robotic technology will have success in the short term.
  • The 4 D's:  Consumers will be interested in buying robots that can help them do any task that has one of the ‘4D’ components – Dirty, Dangerous, Dull, and/or Difficult. 
  • Better technology:  Improvements in hardware, software, and design allow for enhanced robot applications.
  • Reduced prices:  Personal robots prices will continue to drop as 1) component prices drop and 2) demand for robots increases
  • Skills shortages:  As skill shortages happen, robots can assist and even boost productivity.

Inhibitors to rapid growth include cost justification, the current economic environment, limited performance, and fear, uncertainty, and doubt factors related to the use of robots. 

Technology

Major developments in microelectronics, (sensors/actuators), analytics software, and computer technology have led to significant advances in robotics.  The underlying technology in a robot contains some of all of the following components.

  • A physical device capable of interacting with its environment.  This would include sensors on or around the device that are able to sense the environment and give useful feedback to the device.
  • Systems that process sensory input in the context of the device's current situation and instruct the device to perform actions in response to the situation.  This would include operating systems and application software. 
  • Services for robots are similar to other emerging application areas (consulting, implementation, and maintenance), but the services are customized for specific application areas (security, cleaning, healthcare, etc.).

Advances in military and commercial robots continue to trickle down to the consumer personal robot market.  As the
market for innovative components grows (e.g., laser rangefinders in the
military and automotive industry), we’ll see continued advancement of robotic applications
in the consumer market.

Anticipated Developments

The main personal robot market segments that have thrived in recent years are toy/entertainment robots and vacuum cleaner robots.  I expect these segments to continue to continue to grow and thrive in the coming years.  Overtime, I expect to see more robots designed for the elderly and dependents to make their way to the market.  And I also expect to see more home security robots coming to the market.

The excitement surrounding the consumer robot market is in what lies ahead in terms of innovations.  We should expect innovations that enable increased precision, better controls, lower costs, and improved technology.  Not only will new robots have more computing power, but they will have improved knowledge based systems, speech recognition, wireless capabilities and improved power (fuel cells).  All these enhancements will greatly enhance robot use.

Other anticipated developments include:

  • Telepresence applications making their way to personal robots, allowing remote users to interact with the robot’s environment.
  • Future personal robots will be able to interact with their owners, express basic emotions, and help make decisions.
  • Advanced software in the area of analytics and artificial intelligence will result in improved robot decision making capabilities
  • Advancements in machine to machine communications will lead to robot networks, multi-robot systems, and remote/distributed robotics.
  • Long term, as nanotechnology enhancements come to market, we will see a new breed of Mini, Micro, and Nanobots

There should be no doubt in our minds that the future looks bright for personal robots.  They will have a significant impact on the lifestyles of our future generations.  Personal robots will improve our productivity by taking care of everyday chores.  They will improve our safety.  They will help us make better decisions. 

Eventually personal robots will become our constant companions.  Along the way, future generations will have to resolve a whole set of new issues relating to personal robots, including security/privacy issues, robot rights, robot/human ethics, and social/cultural issues.

Companies to Watch

There are hundreds of companies that manufacture robots and robot components.  Many of these companies are focused on the commercial or military robotic industry.  Some large consumer-oriented electronic companies like Honda, and Electrolux are attempting to address the consumer robot market.  However, most robot companies are small businesses and start ups.   Here’s a list of various companies focused on the consumer market.

Cleaning Robots

Lawnmowers

  • Belgium Robotic Systems – Robotic Lawnmower
  • Husqvarna – Sells a line of robotic lawnmowers
  • Precise Path –  Has introduced the RG3 Robotic Greens Mower for golf courses.  Long term plans includes a fleet of robotic vehicles designed to tackle for every aspect of golf course conditioning and maintenance.
  • Zucchetti – sells a robotic lawnmower called the Robotica

Companionship / Entertainment

  • Bossa Nova Robotics – Is focusing on innovative robotic toys, like the Prime-8 gorilla and the Penbo Penguin
  • GeckoSystems – Based in Atlanta, GA, it sells the CareBot™ line of Mobile Service Robots for the elderly care market
  • Hitachi’s EMIEW2 – Is a prototype mobile service robot with that can conduct basic services.
  • Mistubishi’s Wakamaru – A robot designed to provide companionship to elderly and disabled people. 
  • NEC’s PaPero – is a prototype entertainment/companionship robot designed to interact with humans.
  • AIST’s Paro – This robot looks like a seal and has been designed to provide animal therapy to patients and the elderly.
  • robosoft – Based in France, the company has introduced its Kompaï robot for home elderly use.
  • Toyota – Has a research arm focused on developing future robot systems titled Toyota Partner Robots designed to interact with humans and perform basic services.
  • Yujin Robotics’ iRobi –  iRobi is an entertainment/companionship robot that will interact with humans and perform basic task.

Security 

  • Fujitsu’s enon – a prototype service robot designed to perform various tasks, including security, surveillance, guidance/assistance, and transporting items.
  • Rotundus – Sells the GroundBot security robot, a remote-controlled sphere with embedded camera that can move silently inside and outside a building
  • Spykee Spy Robot – A remote controlled security robot packed with features, including camera, microphone, VOIP phone, flashlight, sound effects, and mp3 reader.
  • WowWee Group Ltd – Hong Kong based company offers the Rovio Wi-Fi Enabled Robotic WebCam, a household security robot 

Components/Solutions/Research

  • Anybots Inc. – Telepresence solutions for robots
  • Barrett Technology, Inc. -  Core technology includes improving flexibility in robotic arms and hands
  • CoroWare, Inc -  Expertise in personal telepresence and mobile robotics
  • dRobotics – Online retail store providing a wide variety of robot components and solutions.
  • General Vision Inc – Develops and sells image recognition systems (e.g. the CogniMem neural network chip) that can be applied to robots
  • Gostai – Is focused on developing and applying artificial intelligence capabilities and software platforms to robots.
  • Hitec RCD – Distributor of component parts for robots
  • Honda’s Asimo – Honda has a long history of researching robots, with a focus on Asimo and related humanoid technology.
  • Karto Robotics – Is developing software that can provide high accuracy navigation, mapping, and exploration functionality across a broad range of mobile robot platforms.
  • KumoTek LLC – Based near Dallas, Texas, KumoTek is a robotics design and manufacturing company focusing on consumer and service robots
  • MobileRobots Inc – Designs and manufactures autonomous mobile robotic systems, including the Motivity guidance and control technology.
  • OLogic Inc – A design company focusing on the design and packaging of internal components (sensor, processor, and mobility) and devices for robotics.
  • RoadNarrows Robotics – A Colorado company developing open-interface hardware and software robotic solutions.  Focuses on research and education markets.
  • Readybot – Based in Silicon Valley, this company is focusing on developing an easy-to-use, modular, off-the-shelf, robotic work platform.  One of their target markets is robots for the elderly. 
  • Speecys Corporation – Based in Tokyo, the stated main focus of Speecys is to develop a humanoid robot and the surrounding system that enable the robot to download content via the Internet so that it can provide entertainment and perform various tasks.
  • Surveyor Corporation – A California based developer of small robots, robot controllers, and other robot components for research and education.
  • White Box Robotics – Sells the 914 PC-BOT platform to researchers, academics, and developers. It is a mobile robot with an embedded PC complete with inputs for keyboard, monitor and mouse
  • Willow Garage – Is a team of experts in robot design, control, perception, and machine learning that develop hardware and open source software for personal robotic applications.

For More Information

Well, that’s it…a basic introduction into the emerging world of personal robots.  I think we can only attempt to imagine what the world of robots will be like in 100 years from now.  There is no doubt in my mind that the impact will be significant. 

I hope you enjoyed this primer into personal robots.  For primers into other emerging trend and technology topics…for those check out my category “Primers”.

Friday Gadget: Yotaro the baby robot

Yotaro is another interesting robot idea coming out of Japan.  This robot is designed to be a baby. 

It has baby blue eyes and it makes cute baby sounds.  It also cries, sneezes, smiles, has runny noses, and even sleeps.  It reacts to touch. Facial expressions change. In fact it shows all the emotions of a typical baby and communicates those emotions pretty effectively. 

The researchers behind Yotaro are hoping that the robot can be used to help young parents learn parenting skills before the real baby arrives.  For more on Yotaro and the researchers at Tsukuba University who created it, check out this article I found at Physorg http://www.physorg.com/news187419450.html

InfoBoom: How Can CIOs Leverage Social Computing?

InfoBoom Mar16 This week I have authored the featured article on The InfoBOOM! community site (www.theinfoboom.com).  The article is written for CIOs, CTOs, and IT Leaders who have yet to get involved in the social media or who are wondering how to implement social computing solutions. 

If you know of any IT leaders, you may want to point them to the article.  It will be interesting to hear from CIOs what their challenges are with this disruptive trend.

About The Article

The article, Opening the Social Computing Door, provides some guidance for CIOs and IT leaders on how they can start leveraging social computing in their careers and for the enterprises they serve.  There is much work to do.  My research has shown that there are a relatively few number of CIOs that are truly demonstrating leadership in the social media today.

I break the article up into four sections

  1. Participating in Conversations
  2. Gaining Business Leverage
  3. Getting Smarter
  4. Jumping In

I provide links to research I’ve done that shed some like on what leading CIOs are doing in the social media and how it can be leveraged in the enterprise environment.   It’s my hope the article helps CIOs and IT leaders get started.  I’d be interested in any feedback you may have. 

About InfoBOOM!

The InfoBOOM! community has been developed via a partnership between CIO.com and IBM.  The site is about a year old and is an online community environment that fosters the free exchange of ideas among experts, midmarket CIOs and technology leaders.   The focus is on giving IT leaders at small and mid-sized firms the insights and perspectives they need on vital issues.  Each week, a new expert is featured and an article is written by that expert that provides a point of view on an important topic.  Then, Jim Malone, Senior Editorial Director a CIO.com authors a complementary or contrarian view.   As a result of the two articles, important discussion and collaboration happens each week on the selected topic.   Thus each week InfoBOOM! fosters open dialogue and contrary points of view between the editor, experts and members.  I encourage you to check out the site at http://www.theinfoboom.com

A Primer on the Smart Grid and Intelligent Utility Network Trend

Smart Grid2 In a world where increased focus is on reducing CO2 emissions, governments and energy & utility companies are looking for ways to modernize and transform their utility infrastructure in order to improve energy efficiency and reliability. 

For developed economies, the traditional way power has been generated is based on a central generation model with one-way power and information flow from large, often distant generating stations, via transmission and distribution lines to end consumers.   Most of these generation systems contain an aging infrastructure with some equipment dating back 60 years.  This traditional infrastructure lacks sufficient technology and communications at the distribution and end-use level that would enable grid automation & monitoring capabilities.   The model has been a push model, meaning that there is little to no automated information coming back to the central sites from those that use the power.  So if the user suddenly has no power, the only way the utility company knows about it is if they get a call from the users.  Furthermore, the user has very little information available to help them understand how much power they are using, when they are using it, and what they are using it for.

The Smart Grid (also called Intelligent Utility Network) technology is an important emerging trend within the Energy and Utility Industry.  As consumers, we are increasingly aware that the way we consume and save energy can be improved.  Within the energy and utility industry, energy efficiency is also on the minds of the industry leaders.  And our governments are all interested in finding new sources of energy.   By embedding technology into the electrical distribution network, a Smart Grid can transform the way power is distributed and used.  Intelligence throughout the grid can dramatically reduce outages and faults, improve responsiveness, handle current and future demand, increase efficiency and manage costs.

The following video from IEEE will provide some additional introduction into the concept of the Smart Grid.

Produced by IEEE and ScienCentral, Inc.

A Smart Grid can present many opportunities for consumers, businesses, and utilities to benefit from the efficient distribution of energy and availability of intelligent equipment and devices.  For governments, it offers significant opportunities to wisely manage a country’s fuel resources by potentially reducing the need for additional generation sources, better integrating renewable energy sources into the grid’s operations, reducing outages and cascading problems, and enabling users of power to better manage their energy consumption.

The Smart Grid technology will enable energy customers to

  • manage electricity consumption to meet specific household/business goals such as cost, availability, and environmental impact
  • seek energy providers, information, and technologies that help them meet their goals
  • do business with utility companies who communicate a set of energy-related values consistent with their own
  • seek convenient and more personalized ways to interact with their utility to negotiate customized solutions to allow them to meet their needs
  • act on their own wants and needs where regulatory representation does not provide results satisfying these specific needs, primarily through execution of alternative solutions (e.g., self-generation)

So what exactly are the characteristics of a Smart Grid?  The US Department of Energy has characterized a smart grid as having the following attributes:

  • Self-healing from power disturbance events
  • Enabling active participation by consumers in demand response
  • Operating resiliently against physical and cyber attack
  • Providing power quality for 21st century needs
  • Accommodating all generation and storage options
  • Enabling new products, services, and markets
  • Optimizing assets and operating efficiently

The consumer of power from a future Smart Grid will see many differences as a result of adding intelligence into the network.   Some examples are:

  • Smart electricity meters, water meters, and gas meters that collect real-time data on utility usage.
  • Distributed generation, such as solar panels and other micro generation.  These new generators could be located at the home, in the neighborhood, or in the local community.
  • Dedicated energy display units and smart thermostats that provide the user with feedback on energy usage in real-time.
  • Smart appliances with connectivity to the intelligent utility network via the in home meters and display units.
  • Plug-in vehicles as a both source and consumer of energy.  The vehicles, when plugged in would provide information on energy usage.
  • Linked connection to the in-home network and home PCs for further analysis of all the information collected.

The Smart Grid transformation is much more than installation of new technology in a piece-part fashion.  The call for the transformation to a Smart Grid impacts every part of the utility infrastructure including generation, distribution, and usage.  It will be a disruptive change, but a change that will provide huge rewards for the future.  For the utility industry itself, changes needs to happen in four key areas:

  1. Strategy.  We need a  fundamental rethink of business strategy and industry business models across the board.
  2. Collaboration.  Utility providers will need to develop a much closer collaboration with customers, regulators, financers, researchers, technology and service vendors, and other stakeholders than ever before.
  3. People.  The change will be very disruptive to utility companies.  They will need a renewed focus on staff, their roles, competencies, compensation, performance and structure.
  4. Process.  Utility providers will need to re-architect business processes and applications.

There is much work to be done to transform old utility infrastructures to a Smart Grid system.  The transformation will not happen overnight, but could happen over a series of decades.  When complete, countries that transform their utilities infrastructure to an Intelligent Utility Network will have a modern network of sensor-based interactive technologies that will give utilities and consumers unprecedented control over managing energy use, improving energy grid operations, and significantly reducing energy costs. 

There is a ton of information available on Smart Grids.  Here are a few example resources for you to explore….

For other “Primers” here on HorizonWatching, check out http://horizonwatching.typepad.com/horizonwatching/primer/

Enterprise 2.0: The Value of Online Communities

The trend of building online Communities of Practices and Customer Communities is an important trend I’ve been watching (and leading/participating in) for a number of years.  I often get asked:  What is the business value of online communities? 

Unfortunately community platforms are lacking tools for community leaders that would allow us to track and measure the impact that these communities have on business results.  So it is a very subjective measurement today.  Note to community platform vendors:  Community Leaders need better dashboard tools.

I have established a graphic that I use to explain the power of communities and the value it can generate to an enterprise.  The story line to the graphic goes something like this:  Community Participation leads to increased Enterprise Knowledge, which leads to improved Organizational Capabilities, which results in positive Business Value for enterprises.  

Here’s my stab at a graphic (Note:  Click on the picture to enlarge and reformat)

Value of Communities

(Click on picture to enlarge) 

Do you have any better graphics, reports, or slide decks that illustrate the business value of communities?  If so, please let me know!   For some resources I’ve uncovered on the value and ROI of social media and online communities, check out my previous post:  Learning About The ROI of Social Media and Online Communities