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This is one of a series of live blog posts directly from the site of the 2013 IFS World Conference in Barcelona. Business journalist Adam Tinworth is a veteran of Reed Business Information and a lecturer on digital journalism at City University in London. His first-hand impressions are accompanied by illustrations of Matthew Buck, cartoonist for Drawnalism.

Chris Barker, senior vice president, Oracle

We have over 2.3 billion internet users, and over 1.1 billion 3G users. Between 3 billion and 5 billion devices are connected to the internet. Before 2020, that will hit 50 billion. Many of them won’t be screen-based- they’ll be sensors and devices.

For example, Oracle has an Americas Cup boat. It has 300 sensors, tracking 3000 variables 10 times per second. That’s 1Gb of raw data every sailing day. It was just used to win the Americas Cup. The sensor information is supplied to both the people who design the boat – and those who run it. Every sailor has a device on their arm, which gives them the information they need to know to do their job. Some of that comes from the boat, some from the cloud. The boat does 55 mph, over double the average speed of a decade ago.

The Internet of Things does what it says on the label. It’s about everybody being connected to everything all the time. A suit filled with sensors could alert you to take antihistamines if you move into an area containing allergens. Ruggedized GPS sensors can be put in trees, so you can quickly detect unlicensed deforestation. The smart grid could drive down the cost of energy use by making it more efficient.

The challenge is to actually do all of this – to connect together all these devices and make the data useful. Some people talk about Big Data. It’s not just about volume, but variety; structured data, unstructured data. We believe that the Internet of Things is not about technology. If there are 50 billion devices, and you have to write code for every device, you will never manage. You need a layer of abstraction – like Java Embedded. You move identification and security down to the edge, because identifying the sensors is as important as the people. The data needs to become more that analytics – it has to be actions. Systems need to talk to systems and make decisions without human action.

This is all about applications – on the device and in the data center. Our job is to provide this. People spend too long in technology, and not enough on business. Improving fuel efficiency by 1 percent would save the airline industry $30 billion. From a business perspective, it’s not how that’s delivered, but the fact that it is that’s important. If we can take away the delivery, you can focus on the business.

This is what we call a platform.

Dan Matthews, CTO R&D, IFS

WoCo2013_RoadmapMost of our investment is in the core processes that we support. That will continue to be our main area of investment, of course, but we make other strategic investments. We talked about mobility yesterday, and we’re investing more in that this year than next, and that will grow every year.

User experience is very close to our hearts. It’s more than usability, it’s about emotional reaction and positive surprises. The bar for that keeps moving all the time. We’re working hard on moving from a “forms and grid” user experience, to a visual one. We want to bring you closer to your data. This will continue to be a key investment area for us.

Global business support is also an area of focus. The new norms are projects with management and financial lines running through multiple companies across the world. We’re completely rethinking how we deal with HR, for example, to better support parallel approval lines, for example.

We also have to support an increasing pace of change. The days of installing IFS and just leaving it for five to 10 years are gone. You’re being pushed to adapt the way you work, and we need to adapt to that. We have to help you dramatically reduce the cost and time it takes to reconfigure IFS Applications. We’re moving towards the situation where most customers can use our standard system with a lot of configuration, with minimal or no customization.

Cloud Strategy

Where cloud is the natural thing to do – like connecting mobile users to the back office  – that’s what we do. We are also offering IFS Applications in a private cloud configuration. About 25 percent of new installation in North America have selected that option. We haven’t seen that in other regions yet.

People are moving their mail servers into the cloud, some are switching to Office 365. When a server is retired, do you buy a new one, or rent one in the cloud? We want to enable a deployment choice for you. As of Monday, IFS Applications is installable on the Windows Azure Cloud, just as easily as installing on your own servers. You have a choice.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

This is even cooler than the cloud. We’re introducing Artificial Intelligence (AI) into IFS Applications in a small way. The next version of 360 Scheduling contains neural networks to make suggestions for changes to business strategies.

Big Data

What is it? There’s not a good definition of it. It’s data that’s too big, complex or unstructured to deal with in a traditional way. Think of social media, and how people analyze data to understand reactions to events. Can we analyze all the sensor data we could collect over the cloud using cheap, wireless sensors on equipment? You can, for example, identify unused generators on site and get them back to stores. Could you change parts based on vibrational exposure rather than a calendar-based schedule based on a number of days?

We’re an applications company, not a technology company. We want to understand the business applications of combining and analyzing the data in IFS applications in real time. Maybe IFS Labs can help with that…

David Andersson, IFS Labs

IFS Pulse is a new, developmental starting page on top of IFS Applications 8. It’s a real-time dashboard. It shows, for example, that there are 18 people online in the system – and who they are. You can see how long they have been online, and what they’ve been doing in IFS Applications.

IFS Streams allow you to be in control of what is going on. It’s a news feed that can show you both what people and tracked objects are doing.

This includes a live tag cloud, which shows activity around an object or company by increasing its size and brightness as activity increases. You can then drill down into the detail. That detail can be parsed against social data to see if there’s external events changing things. You can get ahead of those events.

This is just developmental, a look at where we are going with real-time analysis of data and activity streams in IFS Applications.


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