Visibility into edge of enterprises is key to generate actionable insights, says Zebra’s Deep Agarwal

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Deep Agarwal, Regional Director – India, Zebra Technologies
Deep Agarwal, Regional Director – India, Zebra Technologies

Zebra Technologies expects 2019 to be the year when the edge of enterprises will become increasingly important as that is where real-time data is captured for enhanced visibility and analytics to generate actionable insights. “There will be a shift towards a more connected, collaborative system where physical and digital entities will converge across multiple channels and models,” said Deep Agarwal, Regional Director – India, Zebra Technologies, adding that “with further development of new technologies people will be increasingly dependent on the immersive experience offered by the smart edge devices that surround them.”

Dominating technologies

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality – Augmented Reality (AR) is an interactive experience where the real, physical world is augmented by computer-generated information. Virtual Reality (VR) is a computer-generated scenario that simulates real-world experiences. While most people think about AR or VR as consumer-centric technologies, both technologies will see increased usage in the enterprise space.

Advanced automation driven by AI – Artificial intelligence (AI) is permeating into virtually everything in a data-rich environment, to deliver more adaptable, flexible, and autonomous systems. Enterprises are seeking to enhance their AI-powered capabilities to deliver a performance edge in a data-rich environment. This will bring more actionable intelligence to workers within their respective workflows and drive higher engagement and better experiences with customers.

5th generation wireless systems (5G) – 5G is a new wireless network technology that has immense potential to be maximized soon. 5G will be mission critical as more devices are connected and more data is being created and will help with mitigating latency challenges as the requirement for more compute power to process data in real-time at the edge continues to grow.

Blockchain – Think of blockchain as a secure digital ledger. Digital information is loaded onto the ledger by trusted sources, to only then be used by trusted sources. Some early areas enterprises are focusing on to leverage blockchain is to solve problems around food safety, the fight against counterfeit goods and fraud, and smart contracts across the supply chain continuum.

Impact of AI, blockchain retail, transport and logistics sector

While adoption of AI and automation technologies is steadily increasing globally, we are seeing an increase in adoption by the retail and T&L industry. For instance, supply chain fulfilment transactions are growing exponentially for both B2B and B2C engagements. This exponential growth is driving customers to seek advanced automation. When combined with machine learning (ML) and AI-driven solutions, it’s augmenting the human workforce for enhanced productivity.

Inventory management is another area that is leveraging automation and AI to improve worker productivity and accuracy, identify stock outs and order products. Drones are being utilized to complete cycle counts in warehouses. Moving the process of data capture into the air provides on-demand checks and avoids the additional time and expenses spent on having employees access difficult to reach locations within the warehouse. In terms of product delivery as well, delivery drones and robots are used to cross difficult terrain and carry larger objects. Amazon and UPS are using delivery drones to reach customers in remote locations. An integrated solution with autonomous vehicles and robots or drones demonstrates a more collaborative way of leveraging automation.

Meanwhile, think of blockchain as a secure digital ledger. Digital information is loaded onto the ledger by trusted sources, to only then be used by trusted sources. Some early areas enterprises are focusing on to leverage blockchain is to solve problems around food safety, the fight against counterfeit goods and fraud, and smart contracts across the supply chain continuum.

Advance data capabilities

As the world becomes more complex and data-driven, businesses want better ways to navigate and automate these complexities without the expense of human capital. Successful enterprises of the future will rely on real-time data and insights into that data to run their businesses efficiently with a competitive edge.

Enterprises have sought for years to obtain insights from “Big Data” – large amounts and volumes of data that businesses collect and store on a daily, sometimes instantaneous basis. But in 2019, priority will shift towards “small actionable data” accessible naturally within a workflow, where it is specific to a use case to solve a problem and achieve desired outcomes.

In terms of data capture, two-dimensional (2D) bar code scanning continues to gain acceptance and outpace the global market as the preferred track and trace method. In the bar code scanning handheld space, the transition from 1D to 2D imaging comprises more than 70% of total handheld scanner sales today.

UHF RFID will continue to expand beyond the item level inventory use case in retail back into the supply chain and manufacturing spaces. Over 10 billion UHF RFID tags will be used throughout the retail, manufacturing and transportation industries in 2018. Healthcare use cases have also started to emerge and show promise in clinical and hospital settings for track and trace use cases.

In the future, machine vision holds great promise once some of the constraints (cost, size, speed) are more optimized for historical use case scenarios. It will provide additional value to business applications including pattern recognition, colour recognition, etc. In addition, advanced image recognition software will augment the capabilities to serve many additional applications, such as recognizing produce directly on a grocery scanner, measuring the size of a box or providing quality checks on printed circuit boards in an electronic manufacturing operation.

Businesses are looking to expand the capabilities of data capture and the way it is employed to track and trace assets and critical data in an automated fashion. They demand integrated data solutions that not only take data capture to the next level but are also integrated with analytics that offer real-time guidance – generating directional and actionable insights for real-time decision making.

In today’s on-demand economy, advanced analytics capabilities enhanced by AI and ML are critical as businesses need the predictive (providing anticipation of what will happen) and prescriptive (providing recommendations on what to do to achieve the desired outcome) insights to turn dark data into actionable data. General AI is applied to identify things when you don’t know what you are looking for. ML is utilized when you know what you are looking for, and you can utilize ML to sharpen your knowledge around known areas and build in rules and logic to create a best next action.

With enhanced analytics, businesses are moving from forecasting to intelligently anticipating and predicting both operational and customer needs.

Savanna in India

To address the customer need for advanced data capabilities, Zebra introduced Savanna – a data services platform that collects and analyses data to develop and create intelligent insights at the edge for businesses.

The response has been positive, and we are currently working with select partners on an early adopter program using Savanna to solve many of the challenges that customers are facing today by jointly developing applications powered by Savanna Data Services and leveraging technologies such as AI, ML, third-party data services and blockchain.

Savanna helps enterprise applications to collect and crunch data from Zebra mobile devices, scanners, printers and third- party devices, and analyses it in real-time by delivering quick analytics that businesses can translate into actionable insights. We plan to make this new data services platform more widely available in the very near future.