I’m at Dell’s IQT day. The IQ means, in this case, intelligence quotient and, as you’d expect, this is less about connecting stuff and more about pulling the intelligence out of what is connected. We are increasingly surrounded by dumb sensors collecting massive amounts of data, which is in turn transferred and stored. The process is not only doing ugly things to traffic but it is creating huge repositories of data that is nearly worthless because the cost of analyzing it centrally is prohibitive. Dell is arguing that to address this problem is to distribute the analysis as much as possible to the edge, reducing the traffic and making the result far easier to analyze and manage centrally.
What perhaps makes this most interesting is that this effort cuts across all of Dell, from the technology in its Embedded Technology division for the endpoints, to storage for retention, to RSA for security, to VMWare and Pivotal for software, to Dell Technologies Capital, which is investing in companies to fill holes in the resulting portfolio. Michael Dell did a nice job setting up the day, tying these elements together to argue that as we move to a world of people and machines, that it will significantly enhance people and prepare the world for the next industrial revolution.
Dell’s IoT Division
At the heart of the announcements today is that of the Dell IoT Division and its GM Ray O’Farrell, who gave an update in detail on Dell’s progress in this segment. He built on the premise that we are in the midst of another industrial revolution tied to this IoT trend. What is significantly enabling this trend, according to O’Farrell, is the availability of very low-cost compute at the edges coupled with software advancements in AI and deep learning in the cloud.
In effect, O’Farrell is redefining digital transformation into the successful implementation of intelligent IoT adoption. The end goal, for instance, when applied to a customer, is not only knowing where the customer is but instantly knowing the customer’s physical location and everything around them real time. One example of an implementation was in a cruise line that used badges to track passengers’ activities very granularly, altering the mix of passenger-focused activities based on how customers were behaving.
Conceptualizing a system where much of the activity is at the edge, he highlighted the advantages and critical requirements. O’Farrell highlighted this as a system that ranged from the edge, to the core, and finally to the cloud. The higher the performance requirement, the closer to the edge you need to be. If cost is the bigger driver, the closer to the cloud you’ll likely be. Most solutions will be a balanced blend of these items. He once again pointed out that the resulting solution included DellEMC, Pivotal, RSA, SecureWorks, Virtustream and VMware.
The purpose of this new Dell division is to define Dell’s IoT strategy and drive the implementation under it. The company intends to make the IoT real.
Aero Farms was brought to the stage to showcase the need for an effort like this. It is an industrial organic farm that grows inside warehouses, using about 10 percent of the water, no pesticides, and massive yields per square foot. It is an interesting implementation because the food is grown on racks with individual LED lighting to maximize the growth speed of the various crops. It uses the technology to manage the crops and the result has been improvements not only in savings but in taste. For instance, it produces a kale that is far softer and more favorable than what is typically on the shelf. It gathers around 130K data points during a typical growth cycle.
You can place these facilities in cities and massively offset the problem of farming, using 70 percent of the water and creating 70 percent of the pollution. This would be incredibly powerful for states like California, which have massive farms and equally massive water and pollution problems from those farms.
One of the demonstrations on stage was Jeremy Burton, Dell’s CMO, ordering what looked like a Tesla S with lots of customizations and delivery in one day. Given that it typically takes three months to three years to get a Tesla you might order today, I’m thinking Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, should call Michael Dell and get a deal. I should point out that to get the highly custom paint treatment on the car, you’d likely have to use a wrap. These wraps increasingly are indistinguishable from paint and it still amazes me that no major car OEM has implemented wraps yet.
This apparently used something called VMware Pulse IoT Center, which could allow ops and IT to have full control over all the IoT devices across the enterprise or, in this case, the manufacturing floor. Now, you would have expected a car to roll in after this was done but I’m guessing one of the other analysts drove off in it. (It wasn’t me, I’d never DO that…) Granted, getting the thing up on the second floor, where the event was, would have been problematic, as would getting through the New York traffic.
I do think, particularly with electric cars, which are highly modular, that being able to deliver one, with a custom wrap, the same day it is ordered using robotics and a combination of printing technologies (wraps and 3D printing), would be amazing.
Wrapping Up: Dell’s IQT Pivot
A lot of times, I hear of an IoT effort and it comes across like a hobby: under staffed, underfunded, and the execution is, as you’d expect, lacking. This isn’t that. This has the feel of a company pivot. The amount of resources Dell is focusing on this effort is unprecedented in the space and it is becoming a showcase for Dell Technologies the company.
This also showcases how quickly we are moving to fully automated factories and farms, which can be placed closer to the consumer and provide real-time services we can only imagine today. Things are moving at unbelievable speeds. Typically, a company of Dell Technologies’ size would lag a trend like this. Dell is trying to drive it. This speaks to the power of a founder-run company and one at scale that is private and doesn’t have to focus that much on keeping the hedge funds happy.
Rob Enderle is President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, a forward-looking emerging technology advisory firm. With over 30 years’ experience in emerging technologies, he has provided regional and global companies with guidance in how to better target customer needs; create new business opportunities; anticipate technology changes; select vendors and products; and present their products in the best possible light. Rob covers the technology industry broadly. Before founding the Enderle Group, Rob was the Senior Research Fellow for Forrester Research and the Giga Information Group, and held senior positions at IBM and ROLM. Follow Rob on Twitter @enderle, on Facebook and on Google+