All posts by Black Box

5 Essential Network Monitoring Tools for Network Administrators

A network administrator is an IT professional who manages a company’s network and IT infrastructure. Network admins keep the company’s network operational by monitoring, managing and troubleshooting the data center and local area network. They also install, maintain and upgrade the servers, routers, switches and other hardware and software that run the network.

Why Do Network Administrators Need Tools?

The right network monitoring, management and troubleshooting tools give network administrators clear visibility into what is happening on their network(s), allowing them to fix any issue that is causing problems or downtime.

So what tools are essential to a network administrator? Let’s start by detailing which tools you need to troubleshoot your network locally.

Local Network Monitoring Tools

USB Cables

USB cables are an important tool for any network administrator. They allow you to connect all the different network devices in your environment with ease. Simply plug in the device and it works. And there’s no need to turn off your device or reboot when making or changing a connection — USB devices are completely hot-swappable. View shop 

USB to Ethernet Adapters

USB to Ethernet adapters allow you to connect devices that do not have Ethernet ports, like notebooks, tablets and laptops, to the wired local area network. These adapters are plug-and-play and provide the same network speeds as normal Ethernet cable. View shop

USB to Serial Adapters

Serial console ports are used by IT admins to reconfigure, reboot or reimage IT equipment. The challenge is that laptops and tablet computers carried by technicians do not support RS-232 console ports. USB to serial adapters solve this challenge enabling admins to use USB-A and USB-C ports on laptops to connect to serial DB9 and RJ-45 console ports. View shop

Remote Network Monitoring Tools

Console Servers

Console servers provide out-of-band (OOB) network management. Network administrators can use OOB management with console servers to reconfigure, reboot and reimage remotely across the internet or WANs, even if the primary data network is down.

Console servers are a good solution for large distributed enterprises with multiple branches — such as banks, insurance companies, hospitals, utilities, retail and school systems — that may not have IT staff on-site. Network administrators can choose from a wide range of port densities to suit the application. For example, one console server may have as many as 48 RJ-45 serial ports for remote management of assets in data centers. Other console servers may have just four ports and are suited for connecting LAN switches and routers in data closets.

Console servers can be connected to a management network separate from your data network to ensure access to your system and devices at all times. Backup paths are achieved in several ways:

  • IP/Ethernet over LAN or WAN
  • Dial-up POTS
  • Cellular wireless

View shop

Environmental Network Monitoring Tools

Environmental Monitoring System

An environmental monitoring system consists of monitoring hubs and intelligent sensors. This comprehensive system actively monitors the conditions in your rack, server room, data center or anywhere else you need to protect critical networking assets. Use it to monitor for extreme temperatures, humidity, power spikes and surges, water leaks, smoke and chemical materials that can harm your network equipment. Black Box’s AlertWerks™ environmental monitoring system automatically alerts you to any environmental conditions that can adversely affect your mission-critical equipment, so you don’t have to worry about overlooking critical information. It also allows you to remotely manage every network device in your data center to ensure your servers operate at peak performance.

Additionally, you can use AlertWerks™ to protect your data center and work environment from criminal activity. You can connect security cameras, smoke detectors, motion detectors, sirens, strobe lights and other security sensors to the AlertWerks™ system and control them from one location, ensuring no malicious activity takes place.

AlertWerks™ is truly designed to protect your network equipment and keep it running at all times, making it the essential environmental monitoring tool for network admins. View shop

Network Monitoring Tools Made for Network Administrators

Black Box is your one-stop shop for network connection, monitoring, management and troubleshooting tools. We have USB cables and adapters, console servers, monitoring hubs, sensors and other powerful products that can help you optimise your network and maximise uptime. Discover them all on our networking solutions page.

Not Sure Which Tools You Need for Your Network?

If you aren’t certain what tools would work best for your network, contact us today. One of our networking experts will be happy to find you the exact tools that can take your network to the next level.

How to Create a Complete Workspace from Your Laptop

Laptops offer convenient portability when you need to work on the go. However, they leave something to be desired as a complete workspace, particularly in small size of the display and keyboard and the cumbersome usability of the touchpad. A multiport USB-C docking station can improve productivity by allowing you to connect a 4K monitor, mouse and full-sized keyboard to your laptop.

How USB-C docking stations work

USB-C docks have a range of ports, card readers and power options to offer full workspace functionality using your laptop. Black Box’s USB-C Docking Station includes one USB-C host port and cable to attach to your laptop or mobile device. It also features one port for charging, one HDMI HD video port that supports 4K resolution at 30 Hz, one Gigabit LAN port, three high-speed USB 3.0 type A ports (one of which supports charging up to 7.5W) and one SD or micro SD slot for memory card readers.

Advantages of USB-C docking stations

  1. Quick setup: Connecting a laptop to the network, keyboard and mouse is as simple as plugging in one USB-C cable.
  2. Portability: Users can quickly take their work with them wherever they go—whether to a shared workstation, sales call or home.
  3. Flexibility: USB-C docking stations are compatible with various operating systems and laptop brands. They are also backwards compatible with USB 2.0 equipment, so you aren’t limited by legacy hardware.

Applications for USB-C docks

USB-C docking stations are ideal for enterprise applications. Users who share workspace stations can work at a larger screen with keyboard, mouse and a wired LAN connection. Executives and sales professionals can use a USB-C dock to create a workstation at home or to connect laptops, tablets or phones to conference room screens and projectors. A docking station is also ideal for student dorm rooms or mobile professionals who operate from a coworking space.

Today’s workspaces are increasingly flexible and often extend beyond one desktop. USB-C docking stations offer all the convenient portability of a laptop while enhancing productivity by adding full-sized accessories. They are easy to use, relatively inexpensive and interoperable between your MacBook Pro or Windows laptop.

Learn more about how to create a complete workspace from your laptop using USB-C docking stations. Watch our USB-C Docking Station video, visit our product page or contact us for more information.

ANSI/TIA 568.2-D Approved and Includes Big Changes

On June 12, 2018, the TIA TR-42.7 Copper Cabling Systems Subcommittee approved the new TIA 568.2-D standard for publication. The new Balanced Twisted-Pair Cabling and Components standard will replace TIA-568-C.2. There are a few changes included in this standard that sets it apart from its predecessors.

What’s in a Name
First, you might think that the name of the standard is backwards. But the TIA changed its naming convention by swapping the last letters and numbers. Remember 568-A, 568-B, and 568-C? The letter indicated the revision. Then, within the series (568-C.1, 568-C.2, 568-C.3) the numbers indicated the components. 1 defines general requirements; 2 is balanced twisted-pair cable; 3 is for fibre cabling. The TIA thought it made more sense to put media first (number) and the revision last (letter). We do too. But, after all these years, we’ll just have to remember that we need to swap things around.

Slim is In with 28-AWG Cable
The biggest change in the new standard is the recognition of 28-AWG patch cables, which are becoming more and more popular in high-density racks. The cables are almost half the diametre of 24-AWG cable providing more space, better airflow, easier handling, and a better bend radius. There is a caveat with 28-AWG cable though. If you’re using 28-AWG patch cables, you won’t be able to run a standard 100-metre channel. So if you use 10 metres of 28-AWG patch cables, your horizontal cable run will have to be reduced to 82.5 metres.

Straight to the Point with MPTL
Another big change in the standard is the inclusion of the modular plug terminated link (MPTL). Instead of terminating the horizontal cable in an outlet, you can terminate it on one end with a RJ-45 plug that connects directly into a device. This is extremely practical for connecting IP security cameras or wireless access points where it may be too difficult or expensive to install a traditional outlet. The standard also covers how to test the MPTL.

CAT8 Joins the Party
Although Category 8 cabling was ratified in the TIA 568-C.2.1 revision published in November 2016, it now has a place at the table in the new standard alongside CAT6A. There are some major differences. Developed to support the IEEE 25GBASE-T and 40GBASE-T specs, CAT8 has a maximum channel length of 30 metres with two connectors and is tested from 1 MHz to 2000 MHz as opposed to a 4-connectors, 100-metre, 500 MHz channel for CAT6A.

Get Powered Up
TIA 568-D.2 also includes Guidelines for Supporting Power Delivery Over Balanced Twisted-Pair Cabling. This provides recommendations for cables that will support DC power, which is important in terms of supporting 4-pair PoE. DC resistance unbalance testing within and between pairs is also now specified in 568.2-D.

If you’re planning on upgrading your structured cabling system, or deploying a new one, talk to us first. A smartly planned structured cabling infrastructure can enable transformation at the intelligent digital edge for many years to come. Your structured cabling system is now more important than ever and you should expect it to support all your applications including IoT, APs, and more, for a minimum of 10 to 15 years. For more information, please contact us or take a look at our website, bboxservices.com, for more information on our comprehensive services.

 

Intent-Based Networking’s Next Evolution: The DNA Centre Platform

For more than 20 years, organisations have been running their networks pretty much the same way. But recently, that way has become increasingly difficult, fragmented, and expensive. Modern networks need to be both more integrated, and yet more flexible.

So a year ago, we launched our most ambitious network re-think in our history: our intent-based networking offering, Cisco DNA, and its centrepiece control software, DNA Centre. It treats every network device — be it wired, wireless, or wide-area — as part of a unified fabric, giving IT a simpler, more cost-effective way to take control of one of their businesses’ most valuable assets: network infrastructure.

DNA Centre makes it possible for network operators to react to business needs and security threats at machine speed, across their entire network. This means, first, that they don’t have to rely on time-consuming human-powered workflows, making changes one network device at a time; they can interact with the network as a single fabric. And second, that when there’s an issue with the network (like a cyber attack), the network can react to it in real time.

More recently, we rolled out DNA Assurance, which provides deep visibility and insights into everything that happens on a network, and everything that has happened previously. When there’s an issue to solve, it gives network administrators the capability to go back in time and see exactly what was happening at the precise moment that the user or device experienced a problem. It makes troubleshooting immeasurably faster, and more proactive, than it is today.

Now DNA Centre is an Open Platform
And now we’re opening the network fabric itself to developers. DNA Centre’s new open platform capabilities mean all its powerful, networkwide automation and assurance tools are available to our partners and customers. With the network as a programmable platform, they will be able to make IT and business applications run better and more securely, deliver better experiences to employees and customers, and extract the value of the data that their networks are collecting.

The first uses of the new DNA Centre platform capabilities will be IT applications. Already, the IT service management system ServiceNow has an integration into DNA Centre. With it, DNA Centre can automatically create trouble tickets in ServiceNow. The tickets are enriched with insights that IT personnel can use to resolve network, user, and application issues. IT operators can also trigger remediation events using ServiceNow, that take advantage of DNA Centre’s reach across the network. Together, DNA Centre and ServiceNow can create and close out a ticket — faster and more accurately than either system could independently.

Other partners are creating services for things like software image updates (Accenture), power management (Presidio), physical security (Italtel Netwrapper), mobile operations management (WWT), 3rd-party device provisioning (HCL), and other IT solutions.

Our platform for intent-based networking is built on DNA Centre. It allows customers and partners to develop network-centric applications without having to program devices directly.

As more customers learn what DNA Centre can do, its applicability will extend into line-of-business applications. For example, new platform capabilities will expose location data from network devices, which can be used to dramatically improve logistics. In healthcare, location data (for personnel and equipment), can improve care and lower costs.

Open to Ideas
We’re proud to be able to open up this rich and valuable resource to our customers. But it’s still early in the evolution of intent-based networking, and we want to help people learn and share new ways to make their assets work better for their organisations. Our DevNet program is where this all comes together. We have 500,000 developers on the program already, and we continue to add resources to help everyone grow. We also launched this week three new programs for DevNet: Ecosystem ExchangeCode Exchange, and DNA Developer Centre.

Cisco’s Services group is also working to help business leaders take full advantage of the new DNA Centre platform.

The new platform capabilities that DNA Centre offers are based on a flexible architecture that will make new business processes and flows possible, both through the control it enables and the data it makes available. We can’t anticipate all the innovations that people will build on it. We’ve already been surprised by what some of our earliest partners have done.

DNA Centre is our most ambitious and flexible platform ever. It builds on 30 years of knowledge across all areas of networking, on all the rich relationships we have with customers and partners, and on top of the vision our engineers have about where networking is going in the near future. We hope you find it valuable.

By Scott Harrell
Cisco Senior Vice President and General Manager
Enterprise Networking Business
This post is from the Cisco Executive Platform blog

 

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.