Recognising Intelligence at the Edge: AI Earns a Degree at CMU

In May 2018, CMU (Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh) announced that it is offering, what is believed to be*, the first undergraduate degree in Artificial Intelligence in North America. It will be a B.S. in AI (BSAI).

Artificial intelligence is changing the way we work, play, and live. We interact with AI every day, even though we may not realise it. Think Siri or Alexa. Smart offices. Self-driving cars. Music recommendations. IoT devices everywhere from hospitals and transportation hubs to the factory floor. AI is the embodiment of the intelligent digital edge and its impact is growing exponentially right alongside the demand for AI specialists. This new undergraduate degree is designed to address the increasing need for talent in the incredibly tight AI job market.

The leaders in AI have been the movers and shakers in the tech industry. Think Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Uber. They’re fuelling the demand for AI expertise.

“Specialists in artificial intelligence have never been more important, in shorter supply or in greater demand by employers,” according to Andrew Moore, Dean of the School of Computer Science. “Carnegie Mellon has unmatched depth of expertise in AI, making us uniquely qualified to address this need for graduates who understand how the power of AI can be leveraged to help people.”

A statement from the university says the new AI program is intended to give students in-depth understanding of “ways to transform large amounts of data into actionable decisions.”

The program is intended to educate students to think broadly about methods that can accomplish a wide variety of tasks across many disciplines, said Reid Simmons, Research Professor of Robotics and Computer Science and director of the new AI degree program. It will focus more on how complex inputs like vision, language, and huge databases can be used “to make decisions or enhance human capabilities,” he explained in a statement. But he also says the curriculum will include classes on ethics and social responsibility to encourage students to use AI for social good, such as healthcare and transportation.

“We believe that students will be well prepared for graduate work in AI and related disciplines, such as machine learning, robotics and language technologies. The coursework will give students a very solid foundation in math, statistics and computer science, along with a comprehensive exposure to the breadth of subjects in artificial intelligence, including symbolic and probabilistic reasoning, search and planning, graphical models, robotics, computer vision, language understanding, and human-AI interaction. Students will learn the fundamental theory behind these subjects, along with how to use and develop AI techniques. Many opportunities will be available for undergraduates to do research, which will further help prepare them for graduate work.”

The Original Tech Incubator
For more than half a century, CMU has been at the forefront of computer science and AI. The first AI computer program, Logic Theorist, was developed there in 1956. The school launched the first computer programming course in 1958, the world’s first PhD program in robotics as well as the world’s first Machine Learning Department. In 1982, grad students developed the first IoT device, a Coca Cola vending machine that checked stock and measured temperature. The school has always been ahead of the tech curve and it still is. In 2018, U.S. News and World Report ranked CMU’s School of Computer Science (SCS) as the number one graduate school for artificial intelligence in the USA. Now it will be the number one school for undergrads as well.

Tough Competition
The program, set to begin in autumn 2018, will only accept 100 students who can choose AI as a major after their first year. So that’s about 30-35 students per year. Competition for spots will be tough as SCS enrols approximately 700-750 students a year. That means the AI program will account for only about four percent of newly enrolled students.

CMU is known as a hotbed of talent and student start-ups and spin-offs are common. On graduation or before, student AI projects may end up in commercial applications. CMU’s Centre for Technology Transfer and Enterprise Creation helps undergrads and grad students take student projects to market.

The Tech Talent Grab
Pittsburgh is also a hotbed for talent in the tech industry. The city is home to CMU’s Robotics Institute and its National Robotics Engineering Centre, which develops robotics solutions from concept to commercialisation. CMU’s Entertainment Technology Centre is also a geek haven and has been called the Disneyland of video game schools and interactive entertainment.

Adding to the mix in Pittsburgh and the grab for talent are some high-tech giants. Google landed in Pittsburgh in 2006 and has recruited many CMU SCS grads to develop new digital edge applications such as voice assistants. Facebook recently announced that it is opening new artificial intelligent research labs in Pittsburgh and Seattle, Facebook AI Research Labs (FAIR), making competition for recent grads even stronger. In addition, Uber is developing self-driving technologies at its Advanced Technologies Group, which is right down the road from the Robotics Centre. Pittsburgh is also on the shortlist for Amazon’s HQ2.

Lastly, south of Pittsburgh, is Black Box’s headquarters and where we are quite proud to be considered one of the leading providers in intelligent digital edge solutions, including those used to make AI possible. AI is big and getting bigger. The artificial intelligence market is predicted to be a $100 billion industry by 2025. The question now is how can businesses use AI to give them a competitive edge. To do that, they need the right partner to help them embrace digital transformation and leverage the right technologies at the intelligent digital edge.

To learn more about how we can help you with your transformation at the Intelligent Digital Edge, go to BlackBox.co.uk

 

  • The Milwaukee School of Engineering announced a Computer Science degree focused on AI that’s also scheduled to launch in September. The school said it will offer a bachelor of science in computer science with a focus on artificial intelligence.

 

Smart Office – 3 Steps in Planning a Smart Office

3 Steps in Planning a Smart Office
First, what is a smart office? The BIoT (Building Internet of Things) is an environment in which everything is connected at the intelligent digital edge to reduce energy consumption, improve productivity and increase operational efficiencies.

If you’re considering investing in your building’s IQ, take a look at these guidelines.

Step 1: Identify goals
Currently, the rate of smart office adoption is low. Industry experts estimate that by 2020 only one in five buildings will be smart supporting up to 50 billion connected devices.1 That may be because there is no set standard as to what constitutes a smart office and each organisation has its own requirements. Here’s how you can establish yours.

Begin by enlisting all relevant stakeholders including representatives from IT, facilities, infrastructure, operations, business analysis, finance, and other affected departments, such as sales and marketing. Next, identify what problems need to be solved and what goals everyone wants to achieve. The key is to identify what can be fixed with intelligent solutions at the digital edge.

Next, consider which goals are the highest priority and should be implemented first. What’s more important, open space utilisation, automated HVAC or LED lights. Sometimes if a project is too complex, it becomes overwhelming causing deployment to stall or be abandoned. This is where an outside partner can help map out a smart building strategy and implementation plan.

Step 2: Budget
After you’ve established your smart office goals, work with a strategic partner to get accurate budget figures. As with any IT deployment, there is the cost of the actual products/solutions. Then there is the cost of the implementation. Both can vary greatly depending on if it’s a new building or a retrofit. Don’t forget to budget for end user education as well as post-deployment system management.

Step 3: RoI
This is probably the hardest challenge of all.

Some goals may be easier to quantify than others. For example, the EPA estimates that the typical commercial facility wastes 30% of its energy.2 So building managers and facilities teams may be able to easily produce numbers on how much energy can be saved with an IoT-enabled HVAC or smart lighting.

You may also be able to estimate the RoI from increased user productivity gained from unrestricted mobility and collaboration in terms of time efficiencies. Harder, though, is to estimate the RoI from increased user satisfaction.

A study by The World Green Building Council found 81% of workers have a difficult time concentrating if the temperature is higher than they’d like, while 62% say it takes up to 25% longer to complete a task when they are too hot.3 Lighting systems that mimic daylight and pump extra oxygen in the air after lunch to combat that mid-afternoon slump make workers more productive.4 Intelligent temperature, lighting and ventilation controls can seamlessly make workers more contented and thus more productive. A 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report cited a study in which 79% of executives said the employee experience was important/very important.5

Implementing a smart building now can pay back dividends well into the future. Smart buildings attract more tech savvy employees and the digitally literate workforce just keeps growing. It’s estimated that by 2025, millennials will make up 75 percent of the workforce.6

The Master Plan
If you’re thinking about implementing intelligent digital edge technologies in your building, talk to Black Box first. With our extensive knowledge of technology, operations, and global deployments, we can design, deploy and manage a smart office solution customised for your organisation.

Contact us to learn how to begin your smart office transformation.

  1. Put Your Buildings to Work: A Smart Approach to Better Business Outcomes. 2015
  2. The Smart Buildings Sectors Needs to Get Specific on ROI; https://www.memoori.com/smart-building-sector-needs-get-specific-roi/
  3. Will a Smart Office Really Make Us More Productive?; https://www.memoori.com/will-smart-office-really-make-us-productive
  4. 2017 Deloitte Human Capital Trends
  5. Social Chorus, Rethinking Communication for a Multigenerational Workforce. 2016.
  6. How to Calculate the Value Proposition of Smart Buildings; http://info.osram.us/blog/how-to-calculate-the-value-proposition-of-smart-buildings

IEEE 802.11ax: The Game Changer

Why is there so much hype around the proposed IEEE standard? We can sum that up in three words; speed, agility, capacity.  But, three words may not do the new Wi-Fi standard justice, so read on for a more indepth look at why 802.11ax is a game changer.

802.11ax, the latest IEEE 802.11 Wi-Fi standard, is expected to be released in early 2019. Because of its speed (four to ten times faster than 802.11ac) and capacity it’s going to become a critical component of mobile-first strategies. While 802.11ax will be used everywhere, it’s especially intended to solve wireless connectivity problems in high-density edge environments such as transportation hubs, office buildings, sports venues, etc.

802.11ax is a game changer (literally) because it will be able to accommodate a large number of users and IoT devices accessing the network simultaneously. Think about going to the big game. Before it starts, you have no trouble accessing the internet. Then the big play happens and you have thousands of people trying to get online to tweet, snapchat, text and otherwise share the news with friends not lucky enough to snag a ticket to the game. The result? Spinning, spinning and more spinning. Frustrated, you give up. 802.11ax will end the frustration and get you online pronto.

Reduce network congestion
AX is expected to have a maximum data rate of 1.3 Gbps, will operate in both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies and will be backward compatible with 802.11ac/n.

To achieve the significant speed and capacity increase, AX will layer MU-MIMO (multi-user, multiple-input, multiple-output) with orthogonal frequency-division multiple access technology. This enables a large number of devices to use the same access point at the same time rather than sequentially. Imagine a cashier in a store being able to wait on four people at the same time. While customer one pulls out the credit card, customer two is being rung up, and so on.

Technologically, AX will provide more efficient spectrum utilisations as well. It creates broader channels and splits them into narrower subchannels, each with a different frequency. That enables eight simultaneous streams, which can then be split into four additional streams boosting the effective bandwidth per user by four times.

In addition, 802.11ax is truly next generation Wi-Fi with the ability to accommodate an equal amount of simultaneous uploads and downloads. Previous generations of Wi-Fi were based on the premise that there would be mostly downloads rather than uploads, which was true. Not anymore.

AX and IoT
802.11ax will be a boon for Internet of Things sensors and equipment in congested environments, such as hospitals and smart buildings where you’ll have tens, hundreds, maybe even thousands of devices demanding simultaneous access. It won’t just increase the speed of the network, it will also quadruple the speeds of the individual wireless clients.

Extend battery life
A side benefit of 802.11ax is that it will improve battery life of devices. A time-wake feature enables access points to tell devices when to go to sleep and when to wake. Although these may be very short periods of time, seconds, it adds up over time and results in extended battery life. If you’re enabling hundreds of IoT sensors, that’s a big deal.

When to upgrade
The answer is upgrade when you need to, which could be now in terms of accommodating more users and improving wireless capacity. Although the IEEE 802.11 releases new standards approximately every five to six years (g in 2003, n in 2009 and ac in 2013), forward-thinking IT administrators typically upgrade their wireless networks every three years. It’s estimated that 802.11ax will have wide-spread adoption by 2020, but manufacturers are already producing equipment with ax chipsets. Once 802.11ax is ratified, compliance can be as simple as a firmware update. So if you need more speed, bandwidth and capacity, don’t wait.

If you’re thinking about your mobile-first strategy, talk to Black Box now. We can help you make mobility happen with the right intelligent edge foundational technology.  When you enable mobility, you enable connectivity at the digital edge.

Learn more at Blackbox.co.uk

Learn more about all the IEEE 802.11 standards here.

 

Five Benefits of the Smart Office

A smart office is most likely in your future whether you’re ready for it or not. Industry experts estimate that by 2020 one in five buildings will be smart offices and will need to support up to 50 billion connected devices.1  

Technology is driving digital transformation and changing our workplace behaviour and the work space itself. The smart office will enable your digital savvy employees to work whenever they want to and wherever they are. Millennials are an important force in driving this digital transformation. It’s estimated that by 2025, millennials will make up 75 percent of the workforce2. Much of the smart office technology we’re seeing is a result of their cultural preferences.

Today’s smart offices are outfitted with technologies not possible so many years ago. Who would have thought that by driving into the parking garage at work, the building will act as a virtual secretary? Or that a sensor can recognise your license plate and tell your smart phone where there’s an open desk and when your next meeting is.

The smart office is one with unrestricted mobility, no assigned desks, anywhere connectivity, and IoT-enabled environmental elements such as doors, lights, shades, cooling and heat. It’s designed to help you increase productivity, reduce costs, streamline operations and improve end-user satisfaction across your enterprise. Here are five points to consider when evaluating your smart office evolution.

  1. Understand the opportunity 
    The smart office will enable your digital savvy employees to work whenever and wherever they want. A smart office will also help you optimise space and provide more dynamic, collaborative spaces designed to promote creativity and productivity.

2. Build on a robust foundation
A strong foundation is the bedrock upon which the smart office is built. An integrated wired and wireless network infrastructure will give you a flexible growth model and a way to implement the ever-evolving technologies of smart buildings and hundreds or even thousands of IoT sensors. It will also integrate existing equipment and new cloud-based applications.

3. A digital-ready network means smart business
63% of enterprises are still using manual or minimally enabled networks. But enterprises with digital-ready networks report two to three times the rate of growth in revenue, customer retention and profits compared to organisations with less mature networks.

4. Extend intelligence throughout the building
It’s estimated that 50% of all energy in a commercial building is wasted3. You can use smart building technologies to reduce costs, increase user comfort and monitor security. IoT sensors can close the shades on a sunny day; turn off the lights at night; regulate HVAC temperature/maintenance; and monitor building access and security.

5. Empower collaboration 
Provide communications capabilities that help employees and customers easily come together using a variety of devices and media such as interactive white boards, collaboration applications, and personalised customer communications.

Find the right partner
Implementing a smart office building requires a strategic partner that can guide you every step of the way from design, deployment and management. We can help with:
• Smart edge/IoT devices
• Unrestricted wireless connectivity
• Advanced network infrastructure
• Network switching and routing
• On-premises collaboration tools and cloud connectivity

For more information about Black Box smart office services, contact us

  1. Honeywell. Put Your Buildings to Work: A Smart Approach to Better Business Outcomes. 2015
  2. Social Chorus, Rethinking Communication for a Multigenerational Workforce. 2016.
  3. IBM, Energy and Environment. https://ibm.com/ibm/green/smarter_buildings

 

802.11 Wireless Standards Explained

The explosion of mobile devices continues to drive not only digital transformation of businesses, but also how those businesses’ employees work. According to Gartner, in 2017, 50% of employers required employees to supply their own devices for work and 89% of employees accessed business applications through personal mobile devices.

Think about it: what device do you have with you all the time? Your phone. But you probably also have a tablet and laptop that you use to access work applications. Most people have three mobile devices and Wi-Fi is a critical component of how we connect at the edge, whether that edge is the office, your car, the airport or even your kitchen table

Mobility is changing how we work and where we work. The base of that transformation has been the IEEE wireless standards: from the original standard, which left many of us looking at a spinning wheel and waiting for connectivity, to the latest proposed standard that will give us all simultaneous wireless access. End-users now demand anytime, anywhere, any device connectivity- fast and with high availability. The question is, can your wireless network provide that?

This tutorial will decipher the alphabet soup of the most common IEEE 802.11 standards and describe how they have evolved over the years and what standards your enterprise needs to enable digital transformation.

 

IEEE 802.11 Standards
Standard Released Frequency (GHz) Speed Range
IEEE 802.11 1997 2.4 2 Mbps Indoors: 20 m
Outdoors: 100 m
IEEE 802.11a 1999 5/3.7 54 Mbps Indoors: 35 m
Outdoors: 120/5000 m
IEEE 802.11b 1999 2.4 11 Mbps Indoors: 35 m
Outdoors: 120 m
IEEE 802.11g 2003 2.4 54 Mbps Indoors: 38 m
Outdoors: 140 m
IEEE 802.11n 2009 2.4/5 600 Mbps Indoors: 70 m
Outdoors: 250 m
IEEE 802.11ac 2013 2.4/5 450 Mbps/1300 Mbps Indoors: 35 m
IEEE 802.11ad (WiGig) 2012 60 6.7 Gbps 3.3 m
IEEE 802.11ah (HaLow) 2016 0.9 347 Mbps 1 km
IEEE 802.11ax 2019 est. 2.4/5 GHz 450 Mbps/10.53 Gbps TBD


802.11/a/b
. This was the original standard created in 1997. It only provided data throughput of 2 Mbps in the 2.4 GHz frequency, which was too slow for most applications. The A version (5 Ghz) boosted data rates to 54 Mbps. The B version (1999) went back to the 2.4 GHz frequency and boosted data rates to 11 Mbps. Your first home router was probably 802.11b.

802.11g. Released in 2003, this was the next significant wireless standard with speeds of 54 Mbps in the 2.4 GHz frequency making it backward compatible with 802.11b.

802.11n. Approved in 2009, 802.11n enables operation in both the 2.4 and 5 GHz frequencies, a game changer at the time. It was the first standard to use MIMO (Multiple In, Multiple Out) and offered better speed, 300 Mbps, better range, more resistance to interference and backward compatibility with 802.11b/g.

802.11ac. This is what we use now for Wi-Fi connectivity. Introduced in 2013, AC provides speeds of 1300 Mbps in the 5 GHz frequency and 450 Mbps speeds in the 2.4 GHz frequency. 802.11ac access points are widely used in large enterprise networks to complement DAS and small cell wireless networks. 802.11ac access points also provide the primary wireless connectivity in smaller businesses, retail establishments, and most likely, your home.

802.11ax. Expected to be released in 2019, 802.11ax is a game changer in terms of Wi-Fi. AX is expected to be anywhere from four to ten times faster than 802.11ac, with a maximum data rate of 1.3 Gbps. AX operates in both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies and is backward compatible with 802.11ac/n. To achieve the significant speed and capacity increase, AX will layer MU-MIMO (multi-user, multiple-input, multiple-output) with orthogonal frequency-division multiple access technology. This enables a large number of devices to use the same access point at the same time rather than sequentially. AX is designed for high-density digital edge environments and will be able to accommodate large numbers of users and IoT devices.

Time to upgrade?
If you’re thinking about your mobile-first strategy, talk to us. We can help you make mobility happen with the right intelligent edge foundational technology that connect people and devices, drive collaboration and enable anytime, anywhere positive end-user experiences. When you enable mobility, you enable connectivity at the digital edge.

Learn more at BlackBox.co.uk

Edge Technologies Make Amazon Go

Amazon recently opened its revolutionary, no-check out convenience/grocery store, Amazon Go, at its headquarters in Seattle, WA. The store, announced in December 2016, opened to the public in January 2018 after beta testing for a year with employees.

We don’t know how the concept of a no-check out store will change the face of retail in the future. But for now, it’s truly marketing at the intelligent digital edge, the place where people and devices (and groceries) meet.

What is Amazon Go?

The Amazon Go concept is that customers can walk in, pick up items off the shelf and “Just Walk Out.” There are no baskets, no registers and no cashiers. But there are plenty of employees: shelf stockers, ID checkers in the wine and beer section and chefs making sandwiches and grab-and-go meals.

Here’s how it works. Customers download the Amazon Go app, which is linked to the customer’s Amazon account and the associated credit card. As they enter the 1800 square foot store, they scan their smartphone code at one of several glass security gates that are futuristic versions of subway turnstiles.

Shoppers then pick up the items they want. Once selected, the system adds the items to a virtual cart. If a shopper puts an item back on the shelf, it’s automatically deleted from the virtual cart. As customers leave the store, the app automatically charges the account and Amazon sends an electronic receipt logging what was purchased, how much it was and how long the customer was in the store.

Dilip Kumar, Amazon Go vice president of technology said “People are rushed. They’re in a hurry. People don’t like waiting in lines.” He added that the store concept is “to be respectful of your time as a customer.” The idea is to create an “effortless experience for customers.”

How Does it Work?

Amazon isn’t saying how the system works other than it combines computer vision, machine learning, artificial intelligence deep learning algorithms and sensor fusion technologies, much like the technologies that guide self-driving cars. Kumar says the idea behind the technology is to “push the boundaries of computer vision and machine learning.”

While the AI and machine-learning technology to make Amazon Go work was four years in the making, the foundational technology that enables the intelligence at the digital edge is based on wired and wireless connectivity.

Walk into Amazon Go and look up. You’ll see a hundred black, boxy cameras covering the ceiling. These cameras do the computer vision work, detect motion and see what interactions customers have with the shelves. (Amazon did say the cameras include infrared sensors, but that it is not employing facial recognition technology.) The cameras provide seamless detection as the shoppers move from area to area in the store. The computer vision enables computers to process the information and determine which items were selected.

The sensor fusion technology is embedded in the store shelves. It detects motion and registers when a customer picks something up or puts it back on the shelf. Because the system knows everything by its weight, customers can’t “accidentally” pick up two of an item. The last part of the technology is the artificial intelligence or the machine-learning algorithms, which enables the computers to determine what the item is and to learn by continuously collecting and analysing data.

What’s Next?

The entire concept of Amazon Go brings up some questions. Does Amazon plan to roll-out this technology to its recently acquired Whole Foods stores or to its current 13 brick-and-mortar bookstores? The company says there are no plans for a national rollout and it plans on using the no-register shopping technology only at this Amazon Go. There are no more Amazon Go stores planned at this point.

In addition, the data collection and tracking technology Amazon is using can raise some privacy concerns. The data Amazon is collecting from its customers will accumulate exponentially over time. How will Amazon use that data? What about Amazon Prime customers? Will Amazon Go purchases data be incorporated in regular Amazon shopping suggestions and recommendations? Every time an Amazon Go customer visits the store, the Go system learns more about their shopping behaviour and preferences. As a smart marketer, it’s a good guess that Amazon will use this data, tailor products and services for its customers and offer them a more engaging, personalised shopping experience at the digital edge in the store and online.

Foundational Edge Technology

Engineering the right foundational and enabling technologies for a smart store like Amazon Go is more than artificial intelligence and machine learning. It’s the right connectivity environment that makes it all possible. For instance, it’s the wired infrastructure that connects and powers the cameras. It’s the wireless capabilities that enable the system to talk to your smartphone. It’s the IT framework that provides 99.9% uptime. It’s a partner that understands the intelligent edge and can help you realise your digital transformation to some really cool technologies. Learn more at BlackBox.co.uk/Intelligent-Digital-Edge

 

A Guide to Mobility Technologies and Solutions

The explosion of mobile devices is propelling digital transformation in the workplace. 69% of organisations say they are more likely to provide mobile access to enterprise applications than they were last year. In addition, overall budgets for enterprise mobility are expected to grow by 10% over last year.

However, mobility is not a one size-fits-all-solution.

When planning your mobile-first strategy, the desired outcome is always unrestricted mobility and wireless uniformity within buildings and among geographically dispersed locations. But how you achieve that uniformity is different for every company and every vertical. A vital component of building out a successful mobile-first strategy is to consider all available wireless technologies, what will work best in each environment, and most importantly, to make sure they function in harmony.

At the foundational level, the first step is using intelligent networking that includes the basics of common structured cabling—fibre and copper CATx—plus carrier/internet connectivity. From there, you can layer on solutions for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, LTE and 5G, small cells, DAS, public safety and two-way radio.

Let’s look at large building deployments with high user densities of 1,000 plus wireless devices, such as company headquarters, conference centres, large manufacturing sites, airports, etc. Large organisations, such as these, with the need for advanced applications and performance requirements, would do well with a DAS (Distributed Antenna System) and premises Wi-Fi solution.

For organisations with a large number of distributed buildings, say even 1,000 or more, a small cell and cloud Wi-Fi might be a better solutions. Examples include hotel chains, bank branch offices, retail outlets, restaurants and more. Because it’s unrealistic to expect to have a dedicated IT staff at each location, you want a system that requires minimal IT support and is easily managed. But you still need a system that provides uniform mobility, especially when it comes to the customer experience.

Matching different solutions to building types enables you to meet all wireless technology requirements in a strategic way. While these solutions may appear unique, common monitoring and management, analytics, and security tie all of the solutions together at an enterprise level.

Location-oriented applications can get optimal performance through Wi-Fi as long as it is done correctly.  By designing a network specifically for density, plus supplementing with BLE beacons, you can gain accuracy, particularly in hospitality, manufacturing and hospital applications.

Collaboration, Internet of Things and vertical-specific devices can leverage Wi-Fi, but can also include network and traffic segmentation techniques to ensure mission-critical performance requirements are not affected by other non-critical applications.

You also need to consider smartphone and tablet usage. The question here is whether to leverage Wi-Fi for smartphones or use a separate DAS/Small Cells solution. Smartphones can bring additional traffic, including voice calling, that can unnecessarily burden a Wi-Fi network, especially in hotels, hospitals and office buildings. Using a dedicated DAS/Small Cell solution spreads the traffic among the Wi-Fi and DAS/Small Cell networks. In addition, while enterprises may select a single wireless carrier, support for all carriers is typically required.

Finally, there are two-way radio and public safety considerations. These are implemented on DAS and Small Cells exclusively and requirements are often specified by national, state, and local governments prior to facility occupancy.

When considering mobility, talk to Black Box first. Leverage our experience and expertise to design, deploy and manage a comprehensive mobile-first strategy through a combination of technologies, solutions and partners, making sure they work together to provide critical performance.

Learn more about our mobility solutions at BlackBox.co.uk/Mobility or by speaking to a Black Box representative.

Discover how to enable everything wireless at your enterprise by downloading the Make Mobility Happen eBook.

 

CAT6A Cable Delivers Enhanced Capabilities for PoE Applications

CAT6A cable, also known as augmented CAT6, meets a demand for higher data transmission rates over longer distances. It is a solid copper cable that offers enhanced PoE capabilities compared to alternatives, giving you maximum flexibility, including larger bundle sizes, without the heat build-up of previous solutions.

What is PoE?

PoE, or Power over Ethernet, allows you to transmit data and electricity over a single CATX cable. It saves money in reduced equipment costs, and it offers you the flexibility to install devices wherever they are needed, instead of near available power. Once common only for VoIP phones, PoE can be used to power an increasing range of devices. It is an ideal solution for wireless access points mounted to walls or ceilings. It is also frequently used for deployments of security cameras, which may be located in parking lots, on the sides of buildings, in public spaces or in other remote locations. Find out more.

Solid Copper Wire vs. Stranded Copper Wire

Cabling is commonly available in solid and stranded varieties. Solid copper wire has conductors made of solid copper. It is often used in horizontal applications, such as in walls, ceilings and conduit. Solid cabling is more rigid than stranded copper wire and can transmit signals over longer distances. Other features include lower attenuation and lower cost. One disadvantage is that it is more likely to break with repetitive bending.

Stranded copper has conductors made of fine filaments twisted together to create a thicker wire. It is more flexible than solid copper and can be used for patch cables or shorter network cables that require bending during use. Stranded copper results in high attenuation over long runs due to heat build-up, so it is better for use in shorter runs. It often comes at a higher cost than solid copper, but it is not likely to break, even when bent repeatedly.

CAT6A vs. Alternatives

CAT6A solid copper wire delivers higher performance than alternatives. It is capable of transmitting 10-gigabit Ethernet for a distance of 100 meters, which is significantly more than CAT6’s distance of 33-55 meters. CAT6A cable offers transmission bandwidth frequency of 500 MHz, double that of CAT6 cabling. Additionally, CAT6A cable has improved alien crosstalk characteristics due to insulation and additional, tighter twisting. CAT6A cable comes in gauges of 23AWG wire. By comparison, CAT6 comes in 23-24AWG wire. The increased diameter of CAT6A cable allows for reduced resistance, lower temperature and minimal power waste. If you’re planning a large installation in one place, be aware that it also takes up more space.

High-performance networks depend on the right cabling solutions to deliver speed and power when and where they need it. CAT6A cable is considered future-proof technology that can meet the needs of healthcare, educational institutions, the military and more. Click to learn more about the CAT6A solid copper wire portfolio from Black Box.

How Artificial Intelligence is Used Across Industries

In our last post, we took a look at how artificial intelligence is the digital edge. In this post, we’ll take a look at some examples of how AI is being used in different industries.

First, let’s define artificial intelligence (AI). It is automating processes that previously required human interaction. A high-end example is a driverless car. A simpler example is a chess-playing computer. AI is changing how we work and play and it is touching every aspect of our lives. AI is the intelligent digital edge. It’s where people and devices meet. It’s processing data on the spot rather than sending it to the cloud.

Banking/Finance
AI is becoming a game changer in the financial industry. Because AI learns through progressive, deep learning algorithms, it can be predictive. In the financial industry, that means AI can be used to prevent fraud rather than just detect it. AI can also be used to change the customer experience too. For example, Capital One became the first financial services company to enable customer account access through Alexa. Today, 20% of people do their banking digitally and most financial executives believe that AI will become the primary customer touchpoint by 2020.

Retail
In a survey of 2500 senior IT decision makers conducted by Opinion Research for Mitel, 95% say digital transformation is a key component in improving the customer experience. 56% say a better customer experience results in higher customer satisfaction.

Today, customers, especially millennials, already embrace digital technology. They expect a highly personalised experience that ties together voice, video, movie and online channels. AI has already changed shopping by providing personalised recommendations based on previous customer preferences. AI can also help with store management in terms of stock, layout analysis, sales predictions, and more.

Manufacturing/Industry
Machine learning, as a subset of AI, is already a fixture in factories and monitoring stations. But, AI has more critical uses in manufacturing and industry. By analysing IoT data, AI can forecast loads and demand, predict hardware failures and initiate recovery procedures so crews can be sent out for preventative maintenance. It’s estimated that by 2020, more than 50% of internet traffic could come from IoT sensors as the number of connected devices grows to 34 billion.

Security and Public Safety
AI is becoming a critical component in public safety. For security and surveillance cameras, AI can become the digital eyes, instead of human eyes, and analyse movement. This can help police spot crimes and monitor public spaces for accidents and disturbances.

In addition, facial recognition is a big part of security systems at borders, airports, etc. Computers can scan through thousands of images faster and more accurately than a human can. Facial recognition security is now also being used almost everywhere from smartphones and building access systems to credit cards and driver’s licenses.

Healthcare
Artificial intelligence is transforming every aspect of healthcare and 2018 is expected to be an explosive year for AI in healthcare. The possibilities are limitless. AI can act as a virtual assistant and help doctors diagnose patients, provide treatment plans, analyse lab tests, etc. It can also act as a life coach reminding people to take their pills, track medication consumption and provide pain management procedures. AI is becoming a critical component in healthcare from the OR and ER to remote patient visit systems.

Personalised AI
Artificial intelligence is personal too. You interact with it every time you ask Siri a question or tell Alexa to turn on the lights. Music recommendation systems, such as Spotify or Pandora, are based on artificial intelligence as well.

Smart buildings
Artificial intelligence is the basis for smart buildings. A great example of this is The Edge, possibly the smartest building in the world. It’s also officially the greenest office building in the world. The Edge is Deloitte’s headquarters in the Netherlands and a building that knows where you live, what car you drive, who you’re meeting with today, where to find a desk, your preferences for temperature and light, and more. The Edge is the most fully realised example of using intelligent edge technology and the IoT to change the way, how and where we work. For example, every light is powered by an Ethernet cable. The building is packed with 28,000 sensors. It’s a cool place where people want to work. Take a look at The Edge and see for yourself.

Learn more about The Edge in this Bloomberg article.

Begin your digital transformation
These are just a few examples of the rise of artificial intelligence. As the world of internet of things expands, many devices are being created to process data on their own. These intelligent IoT devices do more than simply collect and deliver data. Many process data on the spot rather than send it to the cloud for analysis. Intelligent IoT devices are beginning to effectively analyse diverse sets of data to produce value in real-time – and at the edge.

Learn how you can begin your digital transformation to the intelligent digital edge at BlackBox.co.uk

 

Industry Trends in Enterprise Mobility

Today, industries that embrace the digital transformation realise that a mobile-first strategy is not a luxury, but a necessity.

How IT administrators take advantage of mobility varies from industry to industry. Mobility in retail is quite different than mobility in heavily regulated environments such as healthcare or finance. But the end goal is the same: improve workflows and productivity as well increase customer engagement and enhance the user experience. Companies embarking on their digital transformation journeys now are setting the pace for how technology is redefining workflows.

“Basically the future of enterprise mobility is to deliver workflows that can run anywhere on any device without compromising the UX or security,” said Maribel Lopez, Owner of Lopez Research. “In an ideal world, we’d create apps that are better than their predecessors and applications that can leverage context such as location, motion and image capture.”

A report by the Enterprise Mobility Exchange: The Edge of Enterprise Mobility: Which Industries Lead the Way, which incorporates data from VDC research, provides data on how enterprise mobility is being embraced in different industries. There are two categories of mobility. The first is in company facing and focused on optimising systems and cost savings. The second is outward facing and focused on improving customer engagement and experience.

Take a look and see how your industry compares in terms of mobility.

 

 

 

 

 

Field service leads the way, but that is not unexpected. Field service is, by definition, having technicians working at the customer’s site or at the company’s remote sites, such as cable technicians, home nurses or mining engineers. Field service is literally working at the digital edge and enterprise mobility is enhancing the way users work, collect data and communicate.

Retail
. Retail has been a leader in digital transformation, including mobility, innovating new and dynamic ways to interact with customers from coupon sites such as eBates or Retail Me Not to predictive artificial intelligence algorithms that make shopping recommendations. And consumers are embracing it and expecting it. For example, 90% of traffic on coupon sites is from mobile devices and 80% of mobile device usage is through apps rather than web browsing (ComScore). Retail will continue to embrace mobility and introduce new ways to interact with customers.

Healthcare is aggressive in its digital transformation journey. More than any other industry, mobility is changing the face of healthcare from clinical care to compliance with regulations. Mobility in healthcare is mission-critical and touches patients, physicians and administrators everywhere from treatment programs to IoMT (Internet of Medical Things) devices. Fail-proof mobility is expected in healthcare and is integrated into how healthcare is administrated. For example, 80% of physicians use handheld devices and medical apps for patient care. It’s estimated that in 2018, 65% of interactions with healthcare facilities will occur on mobile devices.

Manufacturing. To improve processes and reduce costs, manufacturers have been embracing their digital transformation with the IoT, machine learning and artificial intelligence. Mobility plays an increasingly important role in terms of safety, monitoring equipment and preventative maintenance. It can also provide a redundant, fail-safe backdoor to remote sites if the primary cable connections fail.

Public Sector. The most surprising figure is the public sector rate. Government agencies and public safety providers, transportation, utilities and other public services have typically been slow to adopt new technologies due to budgetary constraints, security concerns and regulations. While lagging behind the private sector, the public sector is making headway in enabling mobile applications.

Moving mobility strategies forward

Digital transformation is being fuelled by enterprise mobility. It’s integrated into the daily lives of millions of workers and is fundamentally changing how we interact and our workflows.

“The number of organisations that are mobilising applications is accelerating,” said Eric Klein, Analyst with VDC, “specifically in industries where mobile solutions have been business-critical. We expect adoption in these industries to continue to gain steam, as organisations come to recognise that investments in new tools can help to save time in their coding and prototyping processes as well as minimise costs while improving communication and collaboration across their organisations.”

With enterprise mobility comes change and disruption. But that’s a good thing for IT administrators. It gives them the ability to drive innovation as they look for new ways to streamline processes. Change gives them the ability to become an influencer rather than an implementer.

Learn how to Make Mobility Happen in your Enterprise at BlackBox.co.uk

 

Artificial Intelligence IS the Digital Edge

In this post, we’ll take a look at how artificial intelligence is the epitome of the digital edge and some predictions on where it’s going in 2018. In a future post, we’ll look at how artificial intelligence is being utilised in different industries.

Artificial Intelligence Today and Everyday
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is now, not in some distant future. In 2018, we are going to see an explosion of AI in all industries and all verticals.

AI has changed how we work, play and live and its impact is growing—rapidly. AI improves the customer experience, increases productivity, protects the public, accelerates research, diagnoses patients, prevents machine failures, analyses data, recommends music, and the list goes on and on.

As consumers and professionals, we are the drivers of artificial intelligence. We expect personalisation and unprecedented levels of quality, agility and speed – and AI provides it.

We interact with artificial intelligence every day, although we may not realise it. Every time you talk to Siri or Alexa, you’re interacting with artificial intelligence. At the high-end, there are self-driving Uber cars. In between, there are IoT devices everywhere from factories and smart buildings to your home and car.

Every artificial intelligence touch is computing at the digital edge. It’s literally the place where people and devices meet. It is machines working and thinking for us. Analysing data. Giving us information. Making decisions for us and ultimately, making our lives easier on the spot—at the edge.

What is artificial intelligence? 

Artificial intelligence is automating processes that previously required human interaction. A high-end example is the aforementioned driverless Uber car (which our US colleagues can get in downtown Pittsburgh, PA). A simpler example is a chess-playing computer.

AI is often thought of as machine learning when it is actually a subset of it. AI is the ability of a machine or computer to think and learn from experience. Instead of robotic automation, AI learns from deep data and adapts through progressive, deep learning algorithms to let the data do the programming. For example, Alexa and Siri are all based on deep learning.

AI takes data analysis from hindsight to foresight with a greater ability to predict events, such as monitoring HVAC systems and sending out maintenance crews to prevent system failures. Another example might be a financial system that prevents fraud instead of just detecting it. But AI is very task specific. The system designed to detect financial fraud can’t monitor HVAC systems.

The future of artificial intelligence

AI is big and getting bigger. The artificial intelligence market is predicted to be a US$100 billion industry by 2025.

In a recent survey, 75% of executives say AI will be actively implemented in the next two years. It’s estimated that in 2018 alone, 1.3 million industrial robots will enter service and that data created by IoT devices will be 277 times higher than the amount of data being transmitted to data centres from end-user devices.

Consider this. Tech giants like Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Baidu have already spent over US$8 billion on dedicated AI investments. Recently, Sundar Pichair, Google CEO said “Particularly over the last three years, we have felt that with machine learning and artificial intelligence, we can do these things better than ever before. They are progressing at an incredible rate.”

Artificial intelligence is the intelligent digital edge. Intelligent devices do more than simply collect and mindlessly deliver data. They are able to process data on the spot instead of sending it to the cloud for analysis. Whether in industry, public spaces or even in your home or car, IoT devices are beginning to effectively analyse data in real-time—and at the edge. AI is at the heart of the digital transformation.

Whether it’s as simple as the wireless in your home to power Alexa and machine learning sensors on the factory floor to complex medical diagnosis and even self-driving cars, AI is driving new business outcomes and has forever changed our expectations of what’s possible. The intelligent digital edge is the foundational technology that enables AI and all the promises it holds in every facet of life. For instance, Uber has hired hundreds of self-driving car experts from Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute. Currently, AI experts are the most on-demand hires on Wall Street. In the not so distant past, these types of jobs didn’t exist.

The question now is how can businesses use AI to give them a competitive edge. AI is no longer an option. It’s critical for organisations to realise AI’s full potential and to take advantage of the specific strengths of humans and machines. Executives need to consider where AI can create the most long-lasting and profound advantage. To do that, they need the right partner to help them embrace digital transformation and leverage the right technologies at the intelligent digital edge.

To learn more about how we can help you with your transformation at the Intelligent Digital Edge, go to Blackbox.co.uk or contact us.

Why a mobile-first strategy is a necessity at the Intelligent Digital Edge

We live in a world where mobile connectivity is not a luxury, but an absolute necessity. According to recent reports, 70% of businesses will be completely mobile by 2020. The need for reliable, quality connections anywhere spans from the consumer’s daily life to the business world and everywhere in-between. The companies that will succeed in the long run are the ones that create a mobile-first strategy that focuses on the underlying technologies that will enable the experiences expected by today’s mobile users.

Unfortunately for most organisations, the wireless infrastructure needed to meet user and business demands is lacking. It’s time to rethink mobility initiatives in the larger context of digital transformation. When it comes to digital transformation, mobility is top of mind for CIOs and their IT teams. There is a sole focus from these stakeholders to adapt to the proliferation of mobile devices and applications.

Whether you need to ensure more speed, capacity and reliability for your mobile business-critical applications, or accelerate your next-gen Wi-Fi deployment — or in most cases both — the intelligent digital edge is your answer.

The intelligent digital edge is that space in and around virtually any facility where people and devices meet. It’s where users are located, where data is created and consumed and where applications are shared. This is where the real opportunity is for digital transformation, and wireless is a fundamental capability in enabling the digital edge.

However, with great opportunity comes great challenges. Capacity has reached critical mass at the edge and it is no longer acceptable to provide simple connectivity.  Connectivity must be mobile with mission-critical performance that can be dialled up on demand driving efficient and uninterrupted operations.

Comprehensive wireless networking expertise is required to optimise Wi-Fi networks and integrate 4G LTE (5G) service accessibility and reliability. It is important to note that wireless requirements can vary across enterprises. For those markets that are truly mission-critical, such as first responders and military, there are also public safety communication solutions to consider. The key is a purpose-built, mobile-first solution for your organisation’s specific needs. Mobility is not a one size fits all solution. With the right mix of intelligent edge solutions and by leveraging different types of wireless technology, you can mobilise more people and devices, dial-up capacity as you need to and keep the information flowing in and out of your enterprise.

Find the right mobility solution at Black Box. We can optimise the design, streamline the deployment and deliver ongoing management to establish a wireless network that you can rely on now and well into the future. When you unlock the digital edge, you set the groundwork for secure, uniform, robust mobile experiences that are expected anywhere and everywhere people and devices meet in your facilities.

Learn how Black Box makes Mobility happen.

How Virtual Solutions Are Changing The Air Traffic Control Landscape

Physical air traffic control (ATC) towers may soon be a thing of the past as virtual solutions offer cost savings and added safety. Instead of an on-site tower, virtual air traffic control rooms can be low-rise buildings located hundreds of miles away from the airport. Live video is displayed on screens for controllers, who can access and control cameras and other communication devices remotely. One virtual air traffic control room can manage multiple airports, perhaps even dozens at a time.

Improved Safety

Virtual ATC rooms provide improved visibility to air traffic controllers. IP-based cameras powered by PoE can be located anywhere throughout the airport grounds. They offer 360-degree views and remote PTZ capabilities to see places traditional control towers cannot. Cameras with infrared or other special sensors enable enhanced viewing at night and during bad weather. Additionally, the video images can be superimposed with flight information to help controllers manage traffic and improve communication with pilots.

Reduced Costs

Virtual air traffic control rooms are much less costly to build than traditional towers in terms of physical building and equipment costs as well as operating costs. The scalability of virtual technologies results in additional cost savings. Airports can add switches and cameras as they grow and pay for equipment only as it is needed.

Norway is currently consolidating ATC from 15 small airports into one central virtual control room—with the potential to add even more airports in the future. The country anticipates savings of 30 to 40% in reduced building, equipment, maintenance and personnel costs thanks to the virtual solution.

Enhanced Security

IP-based camera networks for air traffic control contain numerous redundancies to ensure network availability. These include dual power supplies and additional routes for data. Because the virtual ATC tower can be located far away from the airport, it can stay up and running even if an emergency—such as a fire, power outage or terrorist attack—happens at the airport.

Mission-Critical Reliability

The stakes are very high for virtual air traffic control towers. Visualization and communication must continue at all times to ensure the safety of travelers as well as the efficient management of traffic flow. Reliable equipment and redundancies are a must, and it is essential to maintain the security of the data being transferred to protect airports from hackers and terrorists.

Solutions for Virtual Air Traffic Control

  • IP-based cameras powered by PoE deliver high-definition video
  • High-performance IP-based KVM matrix switching solutions provide access to safe and climate controlled physical or virtual servers in a central equipment room
  • Industrial Ethernet switches are designed to withstand harsh conditions and provide instantaneous failover for mission-critical applications
  • PoE industrial media converters power cameras and backhaul video traffic over long distances when integrated with fiber
  • Dynamic video walls display data for air traffic controllers in real time
  • Network accessibility enables controllers and administrators to view video feeds from any web-enabled device

While virtual air traffic control towers are still very new (the first one began operating in 2015) and not yet widespread, the advantages they offer suggest that they will soon replace physical towers even at the world’s biggest and busiest airports.

Black Box has the equipment and expertise to help you plan and implement a reliable, secure and cost-effective virtual ATC infrastructure. Visit our airports solution page to learn more about Black Box ATC technology solutions or contact us today to get started.

Gaining Intelligent Digital Edge Benefits Without the IT and Operation Headaches

The rise of mobility and IoT can be daunting as you take the next steps to drive your digital transformation forward. The good news is that through the Intelligent Digital Edge, companies can secure a path to a scalable and streamlined digital transformation that taps into all that these technologies can offer; however, long-term success is contingent upon looking beyond the must-needed technologies and system implementation. It’s simply not enough to design and deploy an intelligent solution at the digital edge.

Once a system has been deployed, this is just the beginning in what is possible. To fully take advantage of what the Intelligent Digital Edge can deliver, companies must adhere to ongoing and proactive management with the tailored expertise that takes the burden of IT and operational challenges off the table. By alleviating these burdens, businesses can focus on what’s most important and what they do best – their business.

Consider the architecture necessary to succeed at the digital edge. There is foundational technology like mission-critical mobility with Wi-Fi, 4G/5G, and public safety. There is also the implementation of intelligent networking, featuring structured cabling and carrier/internet connectivity. Plus, a robust network and physical security are essential.

But even after that’s in place, an additional layer of enabling technology aimed at fulfilling specific business outcomes must be ingrained into the design. This layer can include location solutions to permit in-store wayfinding and inventory optimisation, unified communication and smart board solutions that enhance team collaboration, or specialised IoT devices that drive new outcomes.

The upshot is that even once installed, the job is nowhere near over when it comes to ensuring that an Intelligent Digital Edge performs smoothly and consistently over time. To do that, proactive managed services are vital, and to get this right means tailoring support to unique needs – needs that can include handling day-to-day operations like service desk, monitoring, maintenance, and trouble shooting. This also requires the transparency of best-in-class service level agreements.

Reaching these management goals necessitates a large staff of technicians with a depth of knowledge and experience. For most businesses, this means going outside the organisation to align itself with a partner who can deliver support regardless of the region. Whether in the U.S., Latin America, Europe, or Asia, the right management will make sure performance is consistent across all networks and devices.

Embracing the Intelligent Digital Edge isn’t just about a tailored design or installing the best solutions (albeit these two components are integral to the process); it’s about staying in front of changes and having the perfect team in place to anticipate evolving needs. For more information on how great management can support superior design and deployment, speak with a Black Box representative about making your Intelligent Digital Edge pain-free long after it’s deployed.

Devising a Deployment Strategy that Smoothly Integrates Digital Transformation

Every forward-looking business knows that to effectively compete they must shift their thinking to the Digital Edge. In fact, 60 percent of executives believe that failure to adapt to hyper-connectivity is their company’s biggest risk.

As discussed in our previous blog, the first step in creating an Intelligent Digital Edge is developing a design roadmap that not only accounts for an organisation’s specific goals and requirements but is also nimble enough to adapt to wider, ever-changing shifts in both technology and business needs.

That said, putting a rock-solid design plan in place is merely a first step; equally important is identifying the deployment solution that is uniform, consistent, and scalable. This is a stage in the process that should never be taken lightly. The larger and more broadly deployed your enterprise, the greater the complexity – and the greater the risk of dissatisfying customers and employees due to inconsistent and unpredictable user experiences.

More than 70 percent of most IT organisations’ time is spent simply ‘keeping the lights on’, according to 2016 Global Operating Model Research from Accenture Strategy. As a result, one of the biggest impediments to deployment for many organisations is the commitment it takes to focus on the physical roll-out.

There are best practices which utilise agile processes that consistently save clients time, headaches, and money. In most cases, a true partner that can establish a centralised command and control location to optimise deployments by geography during the planning and execution phases, and can provide uniform on-site standards and localised deliverables tailored to regions, will be the difference in ensuring that every solution is deployed the same every time.

Whether a deployment is scaling from the 100s to the 1000s or from the 10,000s to the 100,000s, a key to assuring a business is getting it right is aligning itself with a partner that boasts a depth and breadth of experience at the digital edge – this means a partner that has extensive experience updating hundreds of locations worldwide every night. It also means a company with a large army of highly-trained technicians – on a global scale – who can guarantee that any wrinkles in deployment can be smoothed quickly and competently.

The sooner you deploy your Intelligent Digital Edge, the faster you can unlock the value that digital transformation can deliver for your enterprise. To get started, you can speak with a Black Box representative about how we can devise and execute a deployment strategy that will seamlessly deliver your digital transformation