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Posts From December, 2015

Market Gravity predicts business trends for 2016 

18 December 2015 06:16:00 Categories: Comment

Technology is set to have an even bigger influence on British businesses and their product development strategies in 2016, with growth expected within connectivity, omnichannels, financial and payment technology and Artificial Intelligence. In addition, the way big businesses discover and implement innovation is set to shift, with the launch of venture teams and accelerator panels or internal ‘incubators’ to bring a start-up mentality to corporate organisations. 

Gideon Hyde co-founder of Market Gravity, the specialist innovation and propositions design consultancy, shares his predictions on emerging technology and innovations and how businesses can embrace these to enhance their offerings, launch new products, services and ventures to stand out in the competitive marketplace.  

Get connected  

Homes around the UK are going to be smarter and more connected than ever as consumers embrace the benefits of using devices and smartphones to control energy and thermostats, lighting, security and safety systems and even fridges and washing machines. Energy, utilities and home appliance organisations should ensure they are up to speed with the latest product offerings so development teams can embrace the trend for ‘connected homes’ and the Internet of Things. Cisco estimates that by 2020, there will be between 30 and 50 billion connected entities so businesses should act now to avoid getting left behind.  

Onmichannel retail strategies 

Retailers and marketers are understanding the benefits of offering customers multiple ways to shop – via the internet, through social media channels and apps and the ability to sell, cross, sell, upsell, reward and personalise the shopper experience is a highly attractive proposition. Beacon technology, geo-location services, and content filtering based on personal preferences, purchase patterns and history all enhance the interaction and we expect to see even more retailers adopting an omnichannel strategy across all their sales channels next year. 

Fintech, banking and payments

Mobile banking and payments are already gaining traction as there has been an influx of new tech companies, start-ups and retail banking organisations launching disruptive and innovative new products and services. Established banks need to be proactive with disruption and accelerate change so may need to offer new capabilities and facilities, while also investing in traditional systems to open their offering up to customers of all ages. Digital and mobile services are key but enhancing and personalising the customer experience also plays a big part in retaining and attracting new users so ensuring new products and services are seamless, secure and convenient is more important now than ever before. 

Artificial Intelligence 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not as futuristic as it sounds as there are already UK businesses embracing the benefits of this technology. We predict that 2016 could be AI’s biggest year yet, especially within customer services. It’s algorithms can process ‘big data’ far more efficiently than humans and it can recognise speech, images, text, patterns of online behaviour, for example to detect fraud as well as appropriate advertisements. Smart machines and technology can turn data into customer insights and enhance service provisions, bringing the digital experience closer to the in-store interaction for consumers. 

Innovation within big businesses

Big businesses are embracing the concept of ‘intrapreneurship’, an entrepreneurial approach where teams and individuals are driving new venture ideas from within the organisation. We are witnessing an increase in the launch of venture teams, or internal ideas incubators, as well as in investment in research and prototype development. It’s essential for businesses to work collaboratively with experts in this field, listen to creative new ideas from all levels of the company and encourage a culture of change and innovation to facilitate commercial growth. 

For further information on Market Gravity please visit the website http://marketgravity.com/

Better demand management needed’ to handle rising complexity of electronics supply chain, Future Electronics conference is told 

14 December 2015 05:25:00 Categories: Comment

OEMs need to re-think the way they manage their demand for electronics components if they are to handle the risks inherent in an increasingly complex supply chain, a speaker from STMicroelectronics told a conference hosted by Future Electronics in Leipzig on 12th November.
    
The conference, which was dedicated to the theme of ‘Supply Chain Innovation’, was organised by Future Electronics and held in a Leipzig hotel close to its EMEA Distribution Centre (EMEA DC), one of Europe’s largest stores of electronics components. Some 150 invited customers of Future Electronics from all over Europe attended the event, which also included visits to the EMEA DC and to the largest DHL logistics hub in the world, on the site of Leipzig airport.

Alberto Della Chiesa, Vice-President for Supply Chain Solutions at STMicroelectronics, told the conference that e-commerce retailers such as Amazon have opened to the market and to consumers the possibility of next-day delivery of almost any electronics device. This can lead, together with the wide and different product options and flavours, to extreme day-by-day swings in demand for specific parts. At the same time, he explained that semiconductor manufacturers typically require between 8 and 12 weeks to produce a finished, packaged IC.

Mr Della Chiesa added that the increasing complexity of the interactions among semiconductor manufacturers, foundries, packaging facilities, test establishments, OEMs and end users meant that the supply chain’s traditional reliance on inventory management alone was becoming ineffective. He said that it is only by combining demand management, demand propagation and inventory management with an intensified focus on manufacturing excellence that the entire electronics supply chain can handle the increasing volatility in demand that it is facing – something that STMicroelectronics calls flexible networking.

Closing the conference, Tom Galligani, Global Vice-President of Supply Chain at Future Electronics, echoed the theme, saying: ‘Supply chain complexity is not a threat that we have to think about preparing for in the next few years – it’s affecting OEMs and CEMs right now.
    
‘Electronics component distributors have a big part to play in helping OEMs and CEMs to manage the resulting volatility. Services such as Future Electronics’ Bonded Inventory Management (BIM) programme will help, giving manufacturers a three-month buffer stock and providing extra time to respond to spikes or falls in demand for specific parts. This long-distance backward visibility into the supply chain helps to make up for OEMs’ dramatically reduced forward visibility of end-user demand.’

Delegates to the conference also heard contributions from DHL, Witron, BMK, Artemis Group, IBM, Peiker, ADR International and Bird & Bird, as well as an introduction by Ole Gerkensmeyer, Regional Sales Director (Central Europe) of Future Electronics.
 

Have scientists cracked clothes to power your phone?  

10 December 2015 05:47:00 Categories: Comment
Industrial design researchers at Brunel University London have solved two of the major challenges which prevent everyday items of clothing being turned into power sources for smartphones, tablets and other personal tech.
 
Technology to produce supercapacitor thread capable of being made into cloth has been around for some time. But until now scientists have been unable to make it provide sufficient voltage for most devices or devise a method to produce it economically outside the lab.
 
Now patented breakthroughs made by colleagues Professors David Harrison and John Fyson, Dr Yanmeng Xu, Dr Fulian Qiu and Ruirong Zhang of Brunel’s Department of Design mean thread capable of storing and supplying enough power for common devices and of being manufactured at industrial scale are a reality.
 
Explained Prof Harrison: “Supercapacitors are already ubiquitous as back-up power in phones, PCs and tablets.
 
“They store energy without a chemical reaction so can be charged and discharged almost indefinitely. But in thread form they have never before been able to break the 1V barrier.
 
“What we have done is show we can produce a multi-layered structure with two sequential capacitive layers capable of producing up to 2V. Breaking the 1V threshold is important as in the real world we work on the voltage of common batteries – 1.5V.
 
“We also wanted to address mass production issues so developed a process to semi-automatically coat stainless steel wire the thickness of a human hair with eight separate layers.”
 
The work at Brunel is part of the EU-sponsored Powerweave programme which brings together researchers from seven countries to produce textiles which can both generate and store power. The Brunel paper can be found here.

Circular economy pivotal for electrical engineering 

09 December 2015 10:40:00 Categories: Comment

Nick Bull of Slaters Electricals gives an insight into the importance of remanufactured power and distribution equipment to the Circular Economy.

Remanufacturing end of life power distribution equipment provides a quick, cost effective, high performance and environmentally friendly solution that meets the best practice of a Circular Economy.

Transformers and their associated switchgear are an integral part of an electrical power network. Industrial transformers ensure that power is delivered to site at the required voltage, and industrial switchgear ensures the safe operation and maintenance of transformers and other electrical equipment.

Remanufacturing these units offers a cost effective means to complement the supply of brand new power distribution equipment.

Traditional business practices can lead to the over use of natural resources and energy and also produces large amounts of waste, potentially causing severe environmental impact. The Circular Economy concept offers the opportunity for businesses to mitigate the impact of their activities by adopting a more strategic and thoughtful approach to the use of materials, energy and labour.

According to the Ellen MacArthur foundation, the Circular Economy is: ‘One that is restorative by design, and which aims to keep products, components and materials at their highest utility and value, at all times.’

Recycling of materials is of course not a new concept. However, the Circular Economy process covers the whole length of the supply chain, from initial design to the product end life, ensuring the maximum value of a product is derived by retaining as much of the embedded materials, labour and energy invested in the original product.

Refurbishing or remanufacturing parts or the products themselves, and the re-use and redistribution of refurbished products, is critical in minimising the need for completely new components and units to be manufactured; with the attendant heavy demand for materials, labour and energy.

The evidence to support the circular remanufacturing process is strong. The All-party Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group (APSRG) recently produced two reports estimating that remanufacturing typically uses 85% less energy than manufacturing. Remanufacturing is currently worth £2.4 billion to the UK economy, with the potential to increase to £5.6 billion and the creation of thousands of skilled jobs.

The remanufacturing of transformers and industrial power distribution equipment is commercially and technically feasible when the product meets three conditions. Firstly, when the product has a high embedded value, through the materials and/or labour used in the original construction. Secondly, when the product has a slow technological evolution rate and is not subject to legislative restrictions or can be upgraded to overcome these. Thirdly, when the product design allows for re-constructability, including disassembly, overhaul, re-assembly and testing.

For nearly 70 years, Slaters have remanufactured power distribution equipment – returning end of service transformers and switchgear to their original performance. Today, we have developed a business model offering customers, new or remanufactured equipment either on a permanent sale or temporary leasing basis. Slaters can also remanufacture customer equipment using our in-house stock of power distribution spares – one of the largest in the UK.

Temporary leasing can be advantageous for customers requiring short-term transformer equipment for extra power requirements, in emergencies or due to budget restrictions, as no large upfront investment is needed and can be paid for over the hire period.

Whilst newly manufactured transformers tend to be more expensive than remanufactured units, they are produced in accordance with the recent EU Ecodesign directive which requires new transformers placed on the market after 1st July 2015 to meet strict energy efficiency requirements.

It must be stressed that remanufactured units are not subject to the Ecodesign directive, allowing us to reuse and remanufacture transformer units and components whilst being fully compliant with EU legislation.

There are challenges to remanufacturing power distribution equipment. Some customers may be unfamiliar with purchasing equipment that is not new, or perceive remanufactured units to be ‘second hand’ and therefore ‘second rate’.

However, they come with many advantages. Remanufactured units can be installed on a like-for-like basis or configured to specific orders and customer requirements. They can also be supplied with shorter lead times, are typically 35-40% cheaper than a new unit, and are offered complete with an extended warranty to that of a brand new equivalent.

Offering new or remanufactured transformers and switchgear means that we can be flexible to our customers’ requirements, as well as upholding our business philosophy of trying to be ethical wherever possible by mitigating waste and reducing the environmental impact of the manufacturing process.

More details at www.slaters-electricals.com

New development kit for smart home and IoT devices runs Brillo from Google 

08 December 2015 05:12:00 Categories: Comment

Imagination Technologies has launched a new development kit called Creator Ci40 on Kickstarter. The Ci40 microcomputer has been specifically designed for smart home, IoT and other connected devices (drones, robots, etc.) – but it also has the hardware requirements (802.11ac 2x2 Wi-Fi, an Ethernet port, SD and USB storage) needed to be used as a high-speed wireless router.

The Creator Ci40 board runs not only Linux (Debian, OpenWrt) but also Brillo, the new operating system from Google. In fact, Creator is one of the few platforms selected by Google to be part of its Brillo golden reference program – these boards can be seen as the equivalent of the Nexus phones/tablets, receiving regular updates and patches from Google every six months: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2rPkbyyviGI
 
Hardware-wise, the microcomputer packs a powerful dual-core chip that has been optimized for IoT and networking applications. Many existing IoT dev boards reuse existing mobile chips but this leads to increased power consumption and short battery life – a phenomenon recently noticed in wearable devices. Instead, Creator Ci40 includes an innovative, custom-built chip called cXT200 that delivers high performance but also includes a balanced feature set aimed at low power consumption and is manufactured using a low power process node from GLOBALFOUNDRIES. 
 
In addition, whereas other boards today might use only 802.11n Wi-Fi or Bluetooth (or don’t have any form of connectivity at all), Creator Ci40 includes a full wireless connectivity package: 802.11ac 2x2 Wi-Fi, Bluetooth (Classic and Low Energy) and 802.15.4. The latter represents the foundation for many IoT standards including the Thread protocol, ZigBee and 6LoWPAN (Imagination is a member of the Thread Group as well as the Qualcomm-backed AllSeen Alliance).
 
Some developers are already using Creator during an initial trial; for example, a company is using the kit to monitor the temperature and humidity of the soil on several farms and adjust irrigation accordingly. Another developer is using it to monitor multiple car parks and send notifications to an iOS and Android  app that directs drivers to the nearest space available.
 
Prototyping an IoT device using Creator Ci40 is a simple process: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8DpZlxtOIJQ. The board supports over 200 sensors today - and more are being released every week.

Imagination Technologies is a UK-based company that designs the PowerVR and MIPS processor technology inside billions of devices around the world; its customers include companies like Apple, Broadcom, Intel, LG, MediaTek, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sony and many others.
 
 

 

Michelle WinnyMichelle Winny

With a combination of news, products and feature articles, Michelle provides up-to-wire commentary on new technology and legislation. Coupled with in depth coverage for specifiers and purchasers of electronic components and equipment, Michelle brings everything within the electronics market directly to her readers.