Dell’s detailed its vision for increasing business value through IoT at its Toronto Roadshow event held on April 23.
IoT drives efficiency, customer experience, disaster mitigation, and value
IoT is a cyclic process of three stages: information collection, analysis, and creating a solution that improves upon the current workflow. Rinse and repeat. The most critical component — and the most difficult — is how to act upon the information collected. Without proper implementation, data is just a heap of useless digits.
Dell focused on four areas that gain the most value from IoT. It isn’t hard to imagine that IoT can help with operation efficiency: turning lights off, monitoring temperatures, regulating power flow, and so on. But improving customer experience, mitigating risk, and driving more value from data, are a little more foreign.
“That experience could be that I download software or download packages into their machine or equipment or whatever they have, and make it more personal for them, make it more valuable to them. “said Randy Thompson, Dell IoT solution planner. “It could also be that I tell my store associates at one of our big spenders just walked in the front door and you should go over and say hello to them.”
On the topic of mitigating risk, Thompson gave an example of monitoring produce in food safety.
“Food safety is a great example. Now, you know, we’re trying to barcode everything so that you can track food from the field all the way to the grocery store. So somebody gets sick, very fast to find out where it came from. Whereas in the past, you kind of isolated by a part of the country and then work down and sometimes took a long time.”
His example undoubtedly alludes to the E.coli lettuce contamination that infected over 20 Canadians late last year. It was a third time a serious E.coli outbreak has occurred due to lettuce in 2018. Because there was no way to pinpoint the outbreak’s source, a massive batch of lettuce was tossed from shelves and suppliers. Post-outbreak, the tech industry responded with several solutions to help track contaminated produce, among which included IoT and blockchain.
Dell’s focus on modularity and flexibility
According to Thompson, a mistake businesses often make when transitioning to IoT is committing to all-in-one solutions. While their ease of deployment and centralized support may seem superficially seductive at first, they often lock their customers into an ecosystem that won’t scale to meet the business’ needs down the road.
In contrast, Dell’s strategy is to create an open source IoT platform that enables interoperability at the edge. The company takes the modular approach and lets customers add and remove programs accordingly. Furthermore, it’s looking to make the data compatible with other platforms as well.
The goal for Dell is to create personalized IoT packages by integrating partner services into their own products. To offer an example, Dell spoke about how it’s looking to elaborate its video surveillance solution to monitor foot traffic, behavior patterns, places people visitors tend to stay, emphasizing the possibilities of video processing.
Adhering to this thinking, Dell updated its hyper-convergence infrastructure portfolio at the Dell Tech World event being held in Las Vegas, adding new models of its VxFlex server racks to its existing lineup. These turn-key based solutions are “suitable for server SAN architecture” and can be modularly deployed.
Yes, automation kills jobs — and that’s a good thing
With devices becoming increasingly smarter and efficient in their designated roles, the human touch is continuously being obfuscated in the workforce, especially in the low-end industries like the service and labor. And thus, automation has become a scary topic, and often begs the question “what job will it steal next?”
But IDC’s vice president Nigel Wallis has a different take on things. Appearing as a guest speaker at the event, he noted why people should embrace automation, not fear it.
To support his point, Wallis splashed a photo of a Brazilian mining operation taken in 1986 that depicted workers climbing up and down steep dig sites, carrying heavy weight in baskets, on ladders tied together with hemp.
“This picture was taken well within our lifetime,” said Wallis. “So when we look at this, I think the safety and insurance board would have some minor concern with the use of hemp to tie the ladders together. And the point that I mentioned, does automation kill job? Yes, it’s killed dirty jobs. It’s killed the dangerous jobs, it’s kill jobs you and I refused to do. It’s killed jobs we would hate for our children to do.”
“If your company’s plan for how you want to deal with competition is labor arbitrage will have cheaper employees, you’ve already lost. Those jobs have gone. They left in the late 80s. They left in the 90s. So what’s happened is those jobs move overseas into China primarily. But even China with wage inflation in China, those jobs are now leaving China and being eaten by robots in China, Foxconn, in one day, deployed over 400,000 robots. They fired an entire factory’s worth of employees to do that–transferring the work was people need to find new job new skills.”
While Wallis’ scenario provides a good overview of how automation is taking effect globally, it doesn’t alleviate the pain of the workers who have lost their livelihood. Granted, any business that wants to make money will always be looking to improve efficiency and reduce cost, but in an industry that’s being turned upside down by technology, the stability of low-level workers are continuously being jeopardized.
The natural conclusion, then, is to plan for a transition where everyone wins. The industry needs to reallocate these workers to more meaningful positions. In a featured insight published by McKinsey&Company, a paragraph is dedicated to the dire need to support the worker transition.
“To achieve good outcomes, policymakers and business leaders will need to embrace automation’s benefits and, at the same time, address the worker transitions brought about by these technologies. Ensuring robust demand growth and economic dynamism is a priority: history shows that economies that are not expanding do not generate job growth.”
“Midcareer job training will be essential, as will enhancing labor market dynamism and enabling worker redeployment. These changes will challenge current educational and workforce training models, as well as business approaches to skill-building. Another priority is rethinking and strengthening transition and income support for workers caught in the crosscurrents of automation.”