Technology Trends In Response to COVID-19 with Jose Avalos (Intel VP of IOTG & GM RBHE Vertical Markets)
This is a recap of a webinar that took place on the 8th of October 2020. For more information on upcoming events, please sign up to our newsletter or follow us on LinkedIn.
The pandemic has been a major disruptor in 2020. Not only has it disrupted individual lives, but also businesses — as many are struggling to adapt to changed consumer behaviour and the ever-changing government regulations.
Join us in conversation with Jose Avalos, Intel’s VP of IoT Group and General Manager of Retail, Bank, Hospitality and Education Vertical Markets, where we will explore present and future technology trends — in response to COVID-19.
meldCX: First off, we have Jose Avalos, who is the VP of IOT Group and General Manager of Retail, Banking, Hospitality and Education Vertical Markets at Intel. Hi Jose, thank you so much for joining us. How are you today?
Jose Avalos: I am doing fantastic, Rachel. Thank you so much for having me. It’s certainly an honour and pleasure to be able to talk to your ecosystem and your customers today.
MCX: Yeah we’re really excited to have you here today with us to share your knowledge as well, because I know you’ve been an industry for a long time — being with Intel for more than 30 years and now leading its IoT wing. Before we can you tell us more about yourself and your background at Intel?
JA: Yeah! I did have the privilege of founding the digital signage business for Intel and also the vision solution business for Intel. We did that about twelve years ago and the business is significant now. We created a number of product categories for Intel — from digital signage to interactive kiosks, to interactive panel displays, to edge compute, just to mention a few. And a bunch of different form factors for hardware and software enablement. So yes, I’ve been in the industry for a little bit of time.
MCX: So Jose, being such an industry expert; I know you’ve participated in the tech realm for a long time now — can you tell us about some of the key trends you see prior to COVID?
JA: Yeah. Probably the most important trend pre-COVID in the Internet of Things industry is that for the last 10 to 15 years as an industry we’ve focused on making devices connected and intelligent. And one of the things that really help us with that is that the cost of sensors compute and bandwidth dropped significantly in the last fifteen years.
Pre-COVID key trends:
- Autonomous connected devices
We did a study four years ago where we looked at the costs of sensor compute and bandwidth in the previous 10 years, and what we learned was that the costs of sensors have dropped in half and the costs of bandwidth have dropped fifty times.
And what that means, the implication is that solutions that would have cost us hundreds of millions of dollars or millions of dollars (in the past); today, we can manufacture for just a few hundred dollars or a few thousand dollars. So that created an opportunity in a lot of different industries.
But the biggest trend that I see today is that in addition to the devices becoming connected and intelligent, they are also starting to become autonomous. So you know there are a number of new technologies that are playing a key role in that we’ve seen the advent of computer vision increase compute, 5G, analytics engine and artificial intelligence engine. Well you take these technologies and you integrate them into a solution — you get a solution the capability to start making decisions. And as devices start to make decisions, they can also learn from those decisions and make their own decisions over time.
So that’s one of the key trends. Not only devices are getting more connected over time, but they’re also becoming autonomous. And everybody talks about autonomous cars, but in the future we’re going to have autonomous retail, autonomous healthcare, autonomous manufacturing… there are going to be a lot of devices that are autonomous.
- Consumers wanting convenience and experience
And there’s a second trend that I want to talk to you about. This is more of a consumer trend.
One of the things that analysts talk about — consumers are focusing on two key behaviours. One is that they really like experiences that are convenient. This is what I call “productivity mode”. So consumers want to buy milk and eggs, and when they come into the store, they want a frictionless experience and to walk out of the store quickly.
And then there is another mode where now the consumer says, “Well… it’s the weekend. I want to go to the mall, I want to search for new products, I want to investigate new products, I want to play with those products…” So the consumers are looking for a more fun, richer experience.
The implications of that is that analysts are telling us that the retailers that do one or the other — focus on convenience of focus on experience — are doing fairly well. And that the ones that are focused on trying to do both, are having a difficult time. So those are the two key trends that we identify pre-COVID.
MCX: Right. And when COVID hits, we see businesses impacted, individuals impacted as well. Cities going on lockdown and public health become people’s utmost priority. So Jose, taking into account these changes, do you see the aforementioned key trends change in the industry as well?
JA: Those key trends are still there. We still see devices becoming autonomous. We still see consumers wanting experiences that are sometimes productive, and sometimes immersive. But there are some new trends that have developed; like for example, one of them is the rise of the digital consumer.
Post-COVID key trends:
- The rise of the digital consumer
I mean, today, I order more of my needs through digital channels. I order my food through digital channels, all my entertainment comes from digital channels, my necessities around the house are delivered to my home. So to some extent, the big trend is that consumers have adopted and embraced digital transformation. And now some consumers, from a digital transformation perspective, are even in front of the enterprises.
Because pre-COVID, some enterprises really invested in digital transformation, and that has really paid off for them. But there are some companies that kind of waited, and some of them never did it. And today, because the consumer has become digital, these companies no longer have a choice. They must raise digital transformation.
- Consumers wanting a frictionless experience
The other trend that we see is that consumers are looking for frictionless solutions. They are looking for interactive kiosks, where they can interact with the kiosk or the vending machines with their cellphones. They are looking for robotics that can provide products or provide services. So for example, we are seeing a lot of robots that are focused on antibacterial solutions, especially in education and also healthcare. Some of these robots have integrated ultraviolet light, and these lights can disinfect and kill bacteria. So for example, if unfortunately someone passes away in the hospital for COVID, not the robot can come in and with ultraviolet light disinfect the entire room, and the hospital personnel can come in. That reduces the risk of infection for hospital personnel.
We also see this type of technology deployed in transportation, for example, in New York City to disinfect the trains. We’re starting to see frictionless stores, or autonomous stores, that are being deployed by some of our customers in China, the US and Europe.
- Edge computing
Lastly, there is a third trend. And that third trend is really that computing is moving towards where data is. So today, a lot of the data is being generated at the edge by computers, end customers as well as consumers. And we see the need to analyse that data in real time, sometimes because of security reasons, sometimes because of latency — so that compute is moving towards where data is, and that’s creating a very big opportunity for edge compute across many different industries.
So those are some of the trends that we are seeing:
- The rise of the digital consumer
- Compute moving towards where data is
- Consumers looking for frictionless experiences
MCX: Jose, that is a great point. So the consumer now leads the path of digitalisation and IoT transformation for businesses.
JA: To a large extent, yes, because the consumers embrace digital transformation. If you’re an enterprise that have not invested in digital transformation, you’re really going to suffer because you’re not going to be able to meet the necessities, needs or expectations of the consumer.
As I mentioned, most of my needs are met through digital channels today, and there is very little friction! When I want food, it gets delivered to my home. All my entertainment I order through different services on my television. So, yeah, those are my expectations. I want to live in a frictionless world where I don’t have to spend a lot of time looking for a product that maybe doesn’t provide an experience for me, but is more of a need, right.
Now there are times where I do want to have an experience, I do want to go on vacation, enjoy the beach and drink a fruity drink. But, you know, most of the time, I just need to get the product and get it in a relatively easy way.
MCX: Yeah Jose, that is exactly our driving force behind meldCX as well. We are passionate in equipping businesses and individuals to grow, by giving them the tools to excel in their digital transformation journey. It’s been a great pleasure for us to partner with Intel on that aspect. On that note, can you tell us about what Intel is doing to drive modern architecture?
JA: Yeah, you know, we’re making a significant investment to utilise some of the technologies that previously have only been used in the cloud. And as compute moves to where the data is — as compute moves to the edge, (we want to start) utilising those technologies at the edge. So we’re making a significant investment on all the technologies that we talked about: increased compute, increased bandwidth, networking, more efficient memory, analytics engines, computer vision, artificial intelligence.. So yeah, Intel is making a really big investment in this area.
And you spoke about the objectives of meldCX. We have been working with meldCX for a long time. We have been working with meldCX for the last three years or so. And as you know Rachel, meldCX has been at our booth at NRF for the last three years. So we have an extensive relationship.
What we have found is that meldCX is a company that has significant technical capabilities. They’ve been able to be early adopters of a lot of our technology, not just from the compute, network and memory (standpoint), but also in computer vision.
meldCX was one of the first companies to utilise our Movidius technology for computer vision acceleration. They were also the first company to utilise our open source Intel OpenVINO software to accelerate computer vision and inference at the edge type of applications.
So, meldCX is using all these ingredients that Intel has created — from compute, to memory, to analytics, to computer vision software — to create these devices and applications that are autonomous. (These devices can) make decisions, automate manual tasks, and learn from their decisions to make better ones over time.
MCX: Jose, earlier you mentioned that one of the autonomous technologies being introduced recently is robots doing antibacterial cleaning. Can you tell us more about other edge technologies that are used today to fight COVID?
JA: Oh there are a number of edge technologies. I mean, the robots can play a really big role.
Technologies in response to COVID:
- Robots in hospitals (Wuhan China)
I talked about the applications in hospitals. Those robots were used in Wuhan China. In many cases, they were able to deliver as much as 96% of the supplies to the different rooms. This cuts down on the risk of infection. They also are used to disinfecting rooms, and again, that also cuts down the risk of infections.
- Telehealth solution (Texas USA)
There have also been applications with telehealth, for example. We helped one of our customers with a telehealth solution in Texas, where a doctor is now able to stay in touch with a thousand customers online, in a very efficient way.
- Smart kiosks (Taiwan, Phoenix USA)
We’ve also seen an explosion of kiosks. Kiosks everywhere, for a lot of different uses. In Taiwan, we saw kiosks that are utilised to dispense face masks. So for example, if you’re going to the train station and you forgot your face mask, you can go to a kiosk, provide your ID, and get a free mask that you can utilise for your journey on the train.
Here at the airport in Phoenix, when you come and want to buy an antibacterial cream or additional masks, or some sort of shield protection for your eyes, you can buy them on the vending machine.
So, we’ve seen a lot of vending machines, robots, and telehealth applications — there are a lot of different opportunities for companies to utilise IoT technology to really fight COVID.
MCX: Yeah, these are very exciting solutions, Jose! Do you see them being used as well, even beyond the pandemic?
JA: Yeah! Of course. Even beyond the pandemic, during recovery, I think people are going to be more careful about monitoring. So, we’re going to see the utilisation of analytics for monitoring behaviour in a way that protects privacy for the consumer, right, where you are monitoring behaviour to make sure that you are not getting into a similar situation that we are in today. So yeah, I expect these technologies to continue to be used.
Before the pandemic, we’ve already seen an explosion of kiosks, intelligence signage and edge compute. We’ve seen lots of edge compute being deployed for education and banking, for example. Edge compute today are driving digital transformation in banks and classrooms, making it more effective for students to learn and for teachers to teach.
So yeah, all of that is going to continue. I think there is an incredible opportunity for the Internet of Things to help fight COVID, to help with the recovery post-COVID, and to continue to drive business development post-COVID.
MCX: Jose, can I just ask you, where does Intel see partnerships lie? Because I know Intel’s internal team itself is very big — if I’m not mistaken, 110,000 employees globally, I read somewhere. Where does partnerships lie in this extensive Intel ecosystem?
JA: Well, Rachel, at Intel we have a saying that says, “We know the future because we are building it.” But the truth is, we cannot build this future by ourselves. We have to build it with our partners, like meldCX, and our customers.
So, we developed building block technologies, and in some cases we create recipes with our partners like meldCX. We rely with companies like meldCX to deliver a complete solution or software stack, where the end customer just has to focus on the application, right. They don’t have to focus on the piping. So for that reason, we really value our relationship with our partners.
We think that foundationally, customer satisfaction is based on productive relationships. So we value our relationships, we really value our ecosystem, we scale through system integrators and ISVs, and we also work with the end customer to understand their needs and drive digital transformation by solving the challenges that they and the consumers have.
Because at the end of the day, as you’ve said, the joint goal that we have is that we want to improve the lives of the consumers. We want to make their lives better. The only way to do it — the only way to invent this future that benefits everybody — everyone in the value chain from the technology building blocks provider like us; to scaling partners, system integrators and ISVs; to the end customers is through working together. So yes, we really value the relationship.
We really value the relationship with meldCX. And I thank you Rachel for having me here, for giving me the opportunity to speak with your ecosystem and customers about our collaboration and some of the exciting technologies that we have, and the future technologies that we are developing.
MCX: Thank you so much Jose for being here. We really appreciate you taking some time off your busy day to lend your knowledge. And I’ll speak on behalf of the team — although I’m sure all of them would agree, it’s been such an amazing journey with Intel and Intel has been such an invaluable partner. We really appreciate Intel’s continuous support in businesses like ours who are working to put AI into action.