Tag Archives: innovation and technology

IIoT: Tomorrow Thinking for Supply Chain

The Internet of Things (IoT) is designed to make our data more useable. What opportunities and concerns does it present within logistics, where it is referred to as Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) ?

The trends of Supply Chain technology are shaping the future of logistics management.

The common thread is the push toward hyper-interoperability, where technology, people and process collaborate to create true visibility, accurate orders, and happy customers.

It is impossible to ignore the pressure on retailers and distribution centre (DC) to re-engineer operations to meet the Omni-channel fulfilment mandate. The evolution of the Internet of Things (IoT), designed to make data more usable, is quickly becoming a reality across global supply chains.

The Industrial lnternet of Things

Definitions of IoT spin around connecting sensors, programmable logic controllers, and RFID data with the internet so that other systems or analytical software can respond to or make sense of the data. An RF gun, voice recognition, and RFID in the warehouse all provide IoT–style sensor data; it is called the “Industrial Internet of Things” (IIoT) to differentiate from consumer applications.

The order management system needs to orchestrate the fulfilment by interacting with inventory allocation, warehouse, management, transportation, and workforce scheduling systems using user-configurable business rule. The overall goal for Omni-channel is to satisfy more consumer demand with acceptable profit margins.

Logistics management in the warehouse

Many opportunities for improvement through smart forklifts, diagnostics of the equipment, speed controls, anti-slip technology, collision detection, fork speed optimisation, promoting new process flows, autonomously trip to a shipping dock for unloading, etc., are some of the applications and possibility a multi-channel system provides for the improvement of the overall process.

Transportation management

Tracking trucks based on RFID, GPS, RF scans, temperature, sensors embedded in the freight -all of these fit the definition of IIoT, the benefits being: improving network-based routing, the use of a smart phone for routing to determine congestion and better alternative routes.

Security

Security is the number one concern around IIoT, working hand in hand with public cloud solutions. It helps to detect Cyber attackers’ techniques quickly and avoid being tricked by them.

Inventory Management

This is a  hidden key to success. A major application of Omni-channel is a customer ordering a product and the retailer fulfilling the order from within their store network versus a distribution center. This introduces the requirement of advanced information systems to provide awareness of inventory throughout the store network. The omnichannel system would identify the stores with the right inventory and determine the most cost-effective location to fulfill from to provide the promised service level. Retailers challenge is the implementation of new order of management systems, to build a single view of inventory availability – foundation of Omni-channel fulfillment – and to recognize the new consumer’s expectation, the goal being to optimize inventory deployment so that the required inventory is where it should be to satisfy consumer demand at a lower cost.

Ordering

The first step is for the retailer to understand the Omni-channel strategies and how the customer’ buying patterns have changed (ordering an item online, by a mobile, from a store and picking it later, the item being shipped to the customer’s home, the customer calling to a call centre, etc. A fully-functional technology Omni-channel fulfilment operation has to be integrated according to the various selling systems.

Shipment and Delivery

Omni-channel technology, as the one IIoT provides,  plays a vital role in this environment by enabling store employees to efficiently navigate the store floor to find the ordered inventory. Once the item is retrieved, store employees utilize packaging stations to prepare order for shipment and utilize small parcel carriers to pick-up and deliver the orders. Using the same trailers scheduled for normal store delivery, however, separating these pre-ordered items on the trailer is the critical piece in this strategy. Loading these items at the front of the trailer, labeling them with special tags utilizing barcode-scanning technology, and using colored totes are a few ways to flag the inventory.

Returns processing

Returns processing is still an improvement opportunity for many Omni-channel retailers. The goal is to allow a consumer to return purchases to either stores or a central returns facility regardless of where the sale originates.

The top three priorities identified are inventory planning, fulfillment capabilities and returns processing. Retailers have to keep working on the enterprise-wide visibility of available inventory. Inventory must be deployed differently in an Omni-channel world; many retailers are beginning to address that challenge, developing flexible fulfillment capabilities that leverage stores, DCs, and vendors to fulfill consumer demand. However, store fulfillment processes are not as efficient as they are in a DC where conditions are more controlled. Omni- channel is having a profound impact on supply chain organizations-especially logistics across all levels of maturity, being better equipped to embrace Omni-channel from a people, process and technology perspective.

So what new approaches are you applying to your Supply Chain? Let us know in the comments below.

This article was first published on LinkedIn

What’s The Catch-22 In Procurement Technology?

From here to eternity: what does the future of procurement technology  look like? Download Wax Digital’s Procurement 2020 report here

Procurement technology has undergone a long road of change that has consequently altered procurement functions, processes and the very nature of the business itself. But while we spend much of the time understanding how technology is governing what we do today, it’s how technology is shaping the procurement role in the future that should be our focus.

There is a widespread belief that procurement ‘intelligence’ could significantly change the goalposts for the profession, and go beyond informing and processing data, to predicting, learning and deciding.

Procurement technology’s Catch 22

With analytics and intelligence comes a dilemma. Do you outline the questions you need to answer before you perform analysis, or use the data to work out the answers to ‘what you didn’t know, you didn’t know’? It’s a catch 22 scenario.

Thanks to big data and artificial intelligence (AI), this dilemma is becoming easier to manage. A procurement system using intelligence exhibited by machines can learn from users’ mouse clicks, purchases, and line of information to make its own choices, rather than requiring approval from users.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that procurement skills and knowledge will become any less sought-after. But those in demand are likely to change, perhaps even for the better, if cognitive technologies allow experts to think, consult and use their human skills more wisely.

Our panel’s three key intelligence priorities were:

  1. Anticipating supply and demand decisions

    The power of big data enables procurement systems to foresee the needs of the business, such as anticipating demand based on historical spending or seasonal demands. And the data that systems are based on will only expand as new internal and external dimensions are added to the mix, such as social media and newsfeeds, assessing demand more accurately. Intelligent systems may then begin to question human decisions, such as the validity and need for supplier orders and assessing the risk and ongoing performance of suppliers. Supercomputer IBM Watson’s ability to answer questions shows AI’s and sophisticated analytical software’s ability to surpass a human’s ability to answer high-functioning questions, and to work as an instructor to human processes.

  1. Uber-personalisation

    From marketing to IT, departments across the organisation use purchasing systems, meaning that there are different roles and backgrounds to accommodate. Through machine learning, procurement could lead the way in uber-personalisation, in which its systems are integrated with others such as ERP and CRM to determine and define each users’ preferences and needs.

  1. Intelligent supply relationships

With the introduction of AI comes a potential new landscape of supplier management, as eTendering, eSourcing and contract management have the potential to become more automated. This could see systems monitoring supplier behaviours and performance based on buyer feedback, or keeping a close check on adherence to contract terms; and possibly even interpreting eAuction behaviours and leading negotiations to make sourcing decisions on the procurement professional’s behalf. 

Even with vast use of intelligence, the procurement department will still require human involvement. While intelligence can be used to purchase everyday office products such as paper, strategic projects like building a new office will require procurement’s involvement in business planning and meetings, meaning that procurement professionals should strengthen their strategic skills in this area to ensure that they’re indispensable. But a new type of ‘colleague’, which is highly efficient and has extreme attention to detail, could well be on the way. Combining intelligence with vital people skills is how you can make procurement a strong and effective force in the business.

Learn more in Wax Digital’s Procurement 2020 report, a set of future gazing in-depth interviews with global senior procurement professionals and experts.  Integration of procurement technology in the wider business was the first topic. 

How To Inspire Creativity With The Three Fs!

To achieve creative cultures  within our organisations and inspire creativity in individuals, we need to Fund, Foster and Fill!

Register as an online delegate for the London Big Ideas Summit 2017 here.

James Bannerman, a creative change agent and author of Non-Fiction best-seller Genius! firmly believes that everyone has the capacity to be creative and innovative. He’ll be speaking at the Big Ideas Summit 2017 in London on 23rd February but we’ve picked his brains ahead of the event to find out his top tips for inspiring creativity and his plans for the future..

What is a creative change agent?

A creative change agent is essentially a ‘lateral thinking’ specialist. It’s someone who combines creativity with psychology to help businesses innovate and perform more effectively in a rapidly-changing world.

What’s one thing you know now, that you wish you’d known at the start of your career?

When I was younger I was a laid-back song-writer and did not fully appreciate how important it is, in business and life, to ‘make your own sunshine’. Over the years, however, and especially  when I wrote my books Genius! and Business Genius! I came to realise that books don’t write themselves; they ended up taking me far longer to write than I ever imagined, and involved far more hard work than I ever envisaged. However, fortunately the hard work paid-off – because they ended-up becoming best-sellers in the UK and then being translated into multiple languages from Chinese to Japanese, and Italian to Thai – and that taught me that ideas alone are not what makes the difference; it’s turning those ideas into reality that makes the difference.

What are your three top tips for inspiring creativity in organisations?

My three top tips for inspiring creativity in organisations would be what I call The 3 Fs: Fund, Foster, Fill.

Fund (i.e. invest in) ‘Creative Thinking’ training

Upskill people by teaching them ‘how’ to be more creative. Evidence suggests, for example, that virtually all of us were incredibly creative up until the age of about 5, but then this natural creativity was ‘schooled’ out of us by the double whammy of criticism and conformity. Effective ‘Creativity Thinking’ training can help to redress this situation by inspiring people to re-become creative.

Foster an atmosphere of Psychological Safety

Einstein once said that ‘a person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.’ With this in mind, if an organisation genuinely wants to inspire creativity, it needs to provide employees with enough ‘wriggle room’ to make the occasional ‘excusable’ mistake – rather than ‘inexcusable’ mistake (which is a very different matter).

Fill the well 

I’ve long believed that in order to inspire others we need to feel inspired ourselves. Psychologists refer to this as ‘mood contagion’. So, if an organisation wants to inspire creativity, it needs to keep ‘Filling the Well’ (as the author Sheila Davis describes it) by encouraging people to branch out and watch new films, read interesting books, travel to different places etc… After all, bang in the middle of the word ‘Innovation’ we find the word ‘Nova’ – which meant ‘new’ in Roman times – so a constant inpouring of fresh stimulus is likely to inspire a culture that goes beyond ‘what is’ to explore ‘what could be’.  

You’ve composed hit pop songs, written best-selling books and work as an innovation consultant. What’s next?

I’m currently working on a wide range of projects – linked to ‘Lateral Thinking’ in business and academia. However, longer-term, I’d love to take my Business Genius and ‘Lateral Thinking’ work to whole new level, and develop Lateral Thinking TV, movies, and animations etc…

How do latest technology developments influence the way you consult with organisations and drive innovation?

To be honest, although technology developments have influenced the way I consult with organisations and drive innovation – eg. by making it far easier for me to communicate with clients around the world without always having to ‘be there’ in person – technology itself does not influence me as much as it helps other innovation consultants I know.  I tend to focus more on ‘innovativeness’ than ‘innovation.’ In other words, I focus more on the people-side of innovation – the psychology side.

It’s easy to think that our modern age is infinitely more ‘innovative’ than any other with its amazing advances in technology. Without a doubt the ‘pace’ of change does keep getting faster and faster, which academics label ‘accelerated evolution.’ However, just look at the Edwardian Age. Within ten years along came the Car, the Plane, the Radio and the TV. Each one of them radically transformed the world we live in, far more than the latest XI78 or X189, that will soon end up somewhere in a design museum like the DVD or the first Blackberry.

I work with the ESA,  European Space Agency, who are putting 3-D printers on Space Stations. In fact, there are even 3-D printers now that can make 3-D printers ! We must not lose sight, however, of how technology is driven by ‘people’, and inspired by ‘people’.  The human factors that make innovation happen can also ‘stop’ innovation from happening if they are not addressed and resolved.

Do you ever get tired of thinking up ideas?

Yes and no. I personally get a buzz from ‘divergent thinking’ – i.e. thinking outwards towards multiple possibilities – more than ‘convergent thinking’ – i.e. analysing and dissecting data.

However, when I’m working with groups on Idea Generation, I fully appreciate that ‘thinking up ideas’ can be deceptively tiring for some people. Especially those who have a strong preference for sequence and structure.

Tony Buzan,  the inventor of mind-maps, is a great inspiration of mine. I spoke with him a few years ago and  was struck by how well he manages to fuse the two. Mind-maps, for example, can energise people by stimulating ‘radiant thinking’. They also make it easier for them to think up new ideas, yet at the same its ‘systematic’ approach can also give people a flexible structure to prevent them feeling overwhelmed and swamped by imaginative solutions.

It’s important to remember that everybody has an imagination. We continually ‘think up ideas’ whether we see ourselves as creative or not. In fact, one of the biggest buzzes I get in business is helping people to realise that they are a lot more creative than they give themselves credit for…

Join the conversation and register as a digital delegate for Big Ideas 2017 in London. 

Taxi! Have Google & Uber Been Pipped to Self-Driving Cabs?

A number of major companies are developing self-driving taxis. But have they been pipped to the post by a Singaporean start-up?

Self-driving Cars - nuTonomy

Over the past few years, a number of organisations have been in a race to develop, and launch, self-driving vehicles.

Google and Ford have both entered the market for self-driving cars, while Uber has been more active in the taxi market. It’s even rumoured that Apple are set to join the competition in 2021 with ‘Project Titan‘.

But it appears that they have all lost the race to put a car on the road to a small, US and Singapore-based start-up.

Self-Driving Taxis in Singapore

nuTonomy was founded in 2013 by two MIT researchers, Karl Iagnemma and Emilio Frazzoli. It has both a US and a Singapore base of operations.

On Thursday last week, nuTonomy started a trial of its self-driving taxis in the business district in Singapore. The company is starting its test with just six cars, but hopes to double this number by the end of the year.

However, the timing of the test makes Singapore officially the first country to allow autonomous, self-driving cars on its roads.

Passengers in the business district will be able to hail the cabs using a smartphone app. In the early stages at least, nuTonomy engineers will be sitting in the vehicles, partly to monitor performance, but also to take over driving if needs be.

Significant Market Developments

The nuTonomy testing marks a significant development in the self-driving car market. Ford has made large investments in new technology companies, and increased its development team in Silicon Valley.

This is all part of the company’s ‘Ford Smart Mobility‘ plan, which aims to make Ford a leader in autonomous vehicles, particularly those for ride-sharing.

Uber have also confirmed that they will start testing of autonomous taxis in the coming months in Pittsburgh. As with nuTonomy, cars will be hired via their smartphone app, and a driver and engineer will be in the vehicle too.

However, there are questions about how much autonomy the cars will be given on the Pittsburgh streets. Experts have pointed out that there are still limitations behind Uber’s, and other companies’, vehicles, and that completely self-driving cars are still a way off.

“The reality is these cars will be closely supervised systems because it doesn’t matter if they are 80 percent self-driving or 99 percent self-driving, you will still need a human involved for the bit that is not,” says Bryant Walker Smith, an assistant professor of law and engineering at the University of South Carolina.

Significant Issues to Overcome

It raises an interesting question as to when truly driverless vehicles will be on the road, and on the market. There still appears to be a number of issues that must be overcome before this can happen.

As one article from The Register points out, no matter how advanced the technology has become, there are still glitches. While the rules of the road are common nature for many of us, it takes a lot longer to programme this into a computer.

Google’s self-driving cars are prone to be confused by traffic lights (or things that look like them), poor road markings, and glare from sunsets. Junctions, cyclists, bad drivers, and adverse weather conditions also create issues that need to be solved.

And, of course, there’s no accounting for human interactions. Tesla have recently been forced to tweak the definition of their ‘Autopilot’ software to a “driver assist function”. This comes after confusion that it was actually a self-driving function you might find in an aircraft, or science-fiction movie.

There is an argument that people want a self-driving car that doesn’t require them to have any input. But, without the technology to support this, there will be a reliance on some level of human interaction for some time yet.

Would you be happy to get into a self-driving taxi? Or buy a self-driving car? What would be holding you back from taking this journey?

In a week full of scandal in the procurement press, we’ve been scouring the headlines for the hottest topics…

Major US Retailer to Investigate Fake Cotton Claims
  • Major US stores are investigating if bedsheets and pillowcases are made from non-Egyptian cotton despite being labelled as such.
  • The investigations follow Target’s severance of ties with large textile manufacturer Welspun India.
  • Walmart, Bed Bath and Beyond, Costco and Macy’s are all supplied by Welspun India.
  • Welspun has announced the appointment of an external auditor to audit supply systems and processes.

Read more at the Chicago Tribune

Australian Companies Embroiled in Foreign Bribery Scandals
  • Two major Australian companies have been implicated in bribery scandals relating to foreign contracts.
  • Staff from mining company, Sundance Resources, have allegedly bribed the leader of the Democratic Republic of Congo to secure approval for a major iron ore project.
  • Additionally, Snowy Mountains Engineering Company staff allegedly bribed officials to secure a $2.3 million sewerage project in Sri Lanka, and a $2.2 million power plant project in Bangladesh.
  • The list of Australian companies implicated in foreign bribery continues to grow, with recent allegations implicating Tabcorp, Leighton Holdings and BHP Billiton.

Read more at The Age

Safety fears as Mylan Hikes EpiPen Prices

  • Pharmaceutical company Mylan is under intense scrutiny after raising the price of its epinephrine delivery system, the Mylan EpiPen, from $57 to over $500 in the US.
  • Mylan acquired the EpiPen auto-injector in 2007, but has only recently raised the price after the demise of its competitor Auvi-Q.
  • The single-use EpiPen delivers approximately $1 worth of epinephrine per injection. 
  • Commentators fear patients will stop buying the EpiPen, opting instead to inject by syringe. This risks an incorrect dosage or accidental injection in a vein, which can be fatal.  

Read more at Forbes

Fire Services Told to “Collaborate” on Procurement
  • The UK Government has told fire authorities across the country that they need to collaborate more on procurement.
  • It comes after a report that many authorities are paying vastly different sums for similar items.
  • The government said in a statement it was “determined to help authorities adopt a collaborative approach”.
  • This is the first time nationwide statistics on fire authority procurement have been released.

Read more at Supply Management

Procurement Turns to Supplier Relationships for Innovation

As procurement seeks to increased its involvement in innovation, it’s turning to its supplier relationships to drive change.

Supplier Relationships

This article was written by Daniel Ball, Director at Wax Digital.

Wax Digital’s Procurement Innovation Pathway research is based on 100 interviews with the UK’s senior procurement professionals, to canvass their opinions of the key topics in the profession.

Previously, we highlighted that procurement wants to be more involved in innovation. However it is the risk averse nature of procurement that appears to be holding it back.

In this article, we assess the importance of good supplier relationships.

Mutually Beneficial Relationships

Achieving effective, mutually beneficial relationships with suppliers can be a great way for procurement to drive positive change. That’s just one reason, according to new research, why procurement professionals are prioritising suppliers in their quest to innovate.

In fact, Wax Digital’s research showed that procurement’s top two innovation areas relate to working with suppliers.

In first place, 57 per cent cited supplier relationship management as an area that can aid innovation. Sourcing suppliers for product innovation came in second, with 49 per cent. Reducing supply-chain risks also scored highly.

Turning to Supplier Relationships

Compared to lower scoring areas, like automating processes to save time/resource, and improving spend management by empowering people, the supplier is clearly where procurement is turning its attention to innovate.

New ways of engaging with suppliers, through self-service portals for instance, and ensuring supplier compliance through automated contract management, are key priorities.

But it’s equally about what suppliers can do for procurement. There’s a desire to find partners who can be a catalyst for innovation at the core of the organisation’s products and delivery.

Technological Investment

These priorities remain the focus into 2017 too. This means the future could see an even more supplier-focused innovation mind-set in the procurement function.

Adding weight to this, the two most commonly used procurement technologies are also heavily supplier-focused. 51 per cent of organisations favour supplier information management, while 49 er cent are looking to contract management systems.

And the most common technology investment planned for the coming 12 months is supplier relationship management (SRM) tools. Procurement is clearly doing more than talking the talk on supplier innovation.

Challenge of Involvement

The future looks promising in this regard but there are challenges ahead. Procurement sees the value of supplier focused innovation but it is not always in control of it.

84 per cent of respondents said they were currently involved in innovations around supply chain collaboration. However, less than half of these, 40 per cent, said that they were leading it. Although this figure rises to 50 per cent in the future, there’s still some way to go before procurement fully takes the reins of innovation.

Now that many procurement professionals have already achieved some of the more transactional and process based quick wins, it’s natural that we see more and more looking to strategic supplier management as the next frontier to conquer.

Building better relationships with the right suppliers, whether existing or new, is clearly uppermost in their thinking.

The Innovation 2016 research was conducted by Morar Consulting. The research involved 100 interviews to canvass the opinions of UK senior procurement professionals, working in small to large UK enterprises.

You can find out more about the research, and download the report, by visiting the Wax Digital website.

Dubai Securing Its Future Through Innovation

Traditionally a prime hub for trade, logistics and communications, Dubai, the UAE, are looking to secure the future as a hub of business innovation.

Innovation - Expo 2020

On the 27th of November 2013, Dubai was voted as the host city for Expo 2020, an event that aims to bring together a global audience to discuss issues pertinent to every person in the world. Based on central theme of “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”, Expo 2020 will also cover key sub-themes of sustainability, mobility and opportunity.

While the event will place the country at the heart of an event with an estimated 25 million visitors, it also helps to cement Dubai’s place as a centre for technology and business innovation.

Smart Cities

Dubai is already well on its way to becoming a ‘smart city‘, with huge sums of money being invested in making the emirate a hub for IT and technology. In September 2015, Dubai was named as the second-best city in the world for expats wishing to start a business, while the UAE was among the top 10 countries for expats to work in.

These titles run in line with Dubai’s aim to open its doors to the best and brightest technology innovators and entrepreneurs. As part of its investment in infrastructure during its ‘Year of Innovation‘ in 2015, provisions were made to assist small to medium-sized startups with technological assistance, aimed at creating growth in this sector.

And, as part of this drive to encourage more global technology organisations to come to Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, announced a $544 million fund to finance innovation in the city.

While the fund doesn’t actually go live in terms of investment until later this year, it is anticipated that it will provide funding to companies based in the UAE, as well as those providing “exceptional innovative ideas“, helping to drive growth and economic development across the region.

Innovation…and Procurement

All of this comes as part of the UAE’s ‘Vision 2021‘, which aims to make the country one of the most innovative in the world. And it’s good to know that procurement and supply chain have a key role to play in this process too.

In the coming months, a huge procurement and contracting effort will be undertaken to award build work for the site, infrastructure and transportation to support the hosting of Expo 2020. Dubai is forecast to spend around $8 billion on infrastructure mega projects in the build up to Expo 2020 including hotels, new metro links and malls.

Kicking it off last week, the RTA awarded a $2.88 billion contract for the construction of its Expolink metro. This will be followed by purchase of trains to service both the new, and existing, Dubai metro lines.

It’s estimated that Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority (RTA) will look to 30 per cent of the project cost through private funding, with public-private partnerships mooted for the remainder.

Is it too much to ask for to have a little innovation in the procurement process? While traditional processes might still hold sway, we can only hope that the profession can get in on the act in the next few years.

Need something to chat about in the tea room? Or something to enjoy with your coffee? Here are the week’s big headlines…

States Come Together for Purchasing Agreement

  • TheNational Association of State Procurement Officers (NASPO) has been formulating a collective procurement agreement which is expected to benefit 34 states in America.
  • The Value Point platform will give states purchasing similar items cooperative buying power as one organisation, rather then by state basis. 
  • The Cloud-based platform will enable information storage and allow for different payment structures. 
  • The final agreement is expected to be signed off in August and will the states to move forward with a cohesive, cooperative approach to procurement.

Read more at Government Technology

Rolls-Royce Announce Robot Cargo Ships

  • The Rolls-Royce led Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications Initiative (AAWA) presented their vision of autonomous shipping at the Autonomous Ship Technology Symposium 2016 in Amsterdam.
  • The group is working on a series of virtual decks, where land-based crew would control every aspect of the ship
  • There will also be drones and VR cameras to assist with spotting issues that humans cannot control.
  • Rolls-Royce aims to launch first remote-controlled cargo ship by 2020, with the aim for automated fleets to follow soon after.

Read more at Futurism

New World Bank Procurement Framework Live

  • The new procurement framework at the World Bank was officially launched on the 1st of July.
  • The new Procurement Framework will allow the World Bank to better respond to the needs of client countries, while preserving robust procurement standards.
  • The Framework also enables the Bank to work more closely with country partners in improving their own procurement systems.
  • Hart Schafer, World Bank Vice President for Operations Policy and Country Services, said, “The Bank can now offer a more modern and nimble procurement system to help promote sustainable development.”

Read more at The World Bank

US-Japanese Underwater Cable Goes Online

  • A 9,000km, six-fiber cable linking the USA and Japan, and backed by Google, went online at the end of last week.
  • The $300 million ‘FASTER’ cable is a project backed by a consortium of six companies including NEC, China Mobile, China Telecom, Global Transit and KDDI, aimed at better connecting the two countries. 
  • The cable can deliver up to 60 terabits per second (Tbps) of bandwidth, about 10 millions times faster than standard cable modems.
  • The cable will support Google’s Cloud Platform East Asia region, with dedicated bandwidth supporting faster data transfer and reduced latency.

Read more at Tech Crunch

BBC micro:bit Launches to Generation of UK Students

In a landmark moment, the BBC are delivering up to one million micro:bit devices free to UK students to encourage more young people get creative with technology.

BBC Micro:bit

Every Year 7 student in England and Wales, Year 8 student in Northern Ireland, and S1 student in Scotland will receive a micro:bit. The device, launched as part of the BBC Make it Digital initiative, is a pocket-sized, codeable computer that allows young people to get creative with technology, whatever their level of experience, and aims to help develop a new generation of digital pioneers.

Students can program their BBC micro:bit to become anything they want – from simple games to smart watches and even fitness trackers. This is done by using one of the code editors at www.microbit.co.uk, or the mobile app, and by connecting it to other devices and sensors. The website also features a range of resources and tutorials to help teachers, parents and students take advantage of the BBC micro:bit’s vast potential.

It’s the BBC’s most ambitious education project in 30 years and builds on the pioneering role of the BBC Micro, which helped introduce the nation to computing in the 1980s. It has been made possible only through a ground-breaking partnership between the BBC and 31 organisations, including ARM, Barclays, element14, Lancaster University, and Microsoft.

Open-Source Technology

BBC micro:bits will be delivered nationwide through schools and made available to home-schooled students over the next few weeks, but they will be the students’ devices to own. This allows students to keep their device as they move up through the school, and to continue bringing their ideas to life outside of school and term time.

Some additional BBC micro:bits have been included in the rollout to enable teachers to extend their BBC micro:bit lessons to students in other year groups, giving the BBC micro:bit partnership an even better chance of inspiring an entire generation.

Following the nationwide rollout, the BBC micro:bit hardware and much of the software will be open-sourced, and BBC micro:bits will be available to buy from a range of retailers. Money generated from these commercial sales will be used to further encourage as many people as possible to join the coding revolution. Further details will be announced soon.

British Innovation

Tony Hall, BBC Director-General, said: “This is a very special moment for us, our partners and most importantly for young people across the country. The BBC micro:bit has the potential to be a seminal piece of British innovation, helping this generation to be the coders, programmers and digital pioneers of the future.

“Only the BBC could attempt a project this ambitious, on such a large scale, and I’m thrilled we’ve persuaded so many people to get behind this and make it happen.” 

Sinead Rocks, Head of BBC Learning, said: “The BBC micro:bit has seemingly limitless potential, especially when paired with other hardware, and we can’t wait to see what students will do with it. They’ve already come up with all kinds of ideas during testing and at events around the country – some ideas help solve some of life’s daily challenges, some could have business potential, and others are just great fun. Teachers have been quick to embrace it too, which is so important to the success of the project, and they have already made valuable additions to our online resources.”

Jessica Cecil, Controller, Make It Digital said: “BBC micro:bit represents a major milestone in our bid to inspire a new generation of digital innovators. As part of our Make it Digital initiative we want everyone to discover more about the digital world. We’re offering easy-to-use devices like the BBC micro:bit, up to 5000 Make it Digital traineeships across the UK, and shows on the BBC such as Girls Can Code and Calculating Ada, to achieve just that.

“Working with our many partners to create opportunities for children to code, make and to discover, together we aim to build the chances of the next generation.”

The BBC micro:bit is the result of a ground-breaking partnership on an unprecedented scale. The BBC micro:bit’s product partners have led on the software, hardware, design, manufacture and distribution of the device. This includes:

  • ARM: The BBC micro:bit was created using the ARM® mbed™ hardware and software development kits and compiler services. The project builds on the organisations’ collaboration on the original 1981 BBC Micro computer.
  • Barclays: Supporting the distribution and manufacture of the BBC micro:bit by incorporating it into their digital education programmes
  • BBC: The BBC micro:bit project has been conceived and convened by the BBC, bringing together partners to deliver a digital literacy project on an unprecedented scale.
  • element14: element14 manufacturers the BBC micro:bit and has worked closely with all partners in areas such as component selection, cost optimisation and design for manufacture. In addition, element14 has leveraged its manufacturing, logistics and packaging capabilities to safely deliver the first 1 million units into the UK.
  • Lancaster University: Designed and developed the BBC micro:bit runtime; the essential core code that makes the BBC micro:bit do all the amazing things it does. The University will continue to support the micro:bit community as it grows.
  • Microsoft: Developed the BBC micro:bit website (www.microbit.co.uk) to host code editors for all one million micro:bits and has also supplied two coding languages.
  • Nordic Semiconductor: Supplied the ultra low power Bluetooth® chip that integrates the micro:bit’s computer brain, and allows the micro:bit to both wirelessly communicate with other micro:bits, and sync to or be updated from smartphones, tablets, and computers via Bluetooth.
  • NXP Semiconductor: Provided the micro-controller that manages the BBC micro:bit’s USB connection, the accelerometer and magnetometer that enable the micro:bit to react to motion and the direction it’s facing.
  • Samsung: Developed the Android app for the BBC micro:bit.
  • Technology Will Save Us: A London-based start-up that designs ‘Do It Yourself’ tech kits that spark the creative imagination of young people. Tech Will Save Us led the BBC micro:bit design, producing the distinctive look & feel that encourages kids to get hands-on with technology.
  • Wellcome Trust: Through direct initiatives to schools, Wellcome Trust will provide exciting real life contexts for teachers and learners around the UK to use the micro:bit.

For more on the BBC micro:bit, the project partners and product champions, visit the ‘Make it Digital’ website.