It’s the Message, not the Medium

I have five children aged 12 to 24 and I’ve never seen one of them voluntarily pick up a newspaper and read it. This is not as alarming as it may sound because they are appropriately educated, informed and engaged – they just don’t get their information from the daily printed page. Many newspapers in the US and around the world have floundered because, in my opinion, they defined their business model as providing printed pages that contain articles and advertisements. Personally I love reading a great daily newspaper as often as I can, but I’m part of a dwindling population. People are voting with their actions and dollars when they consistently rank the message higher than the medium. My children and their generation feel very comfortable getting their information from on-line sources – it is more timely, more customizable than the printed page. Similarly, nobody asks their local Cable or Satellite TV supplier for a Cisco or Motorola set-top, the two largest suppliers of such devices in the U.S. Ridiculous, right? They say I want this or that package, HBO or Showtime, MLB or whatever. The equipment is necessary to get what they want, it is not the main focus of the transaction.

Lantronix is going through a similar transition. Traditionally we have always been the connectivity guys offering the little silver modules or the little gray boxes. Although very sexy to us, truth be told, increasingly what people want is actionable data so they can run their businesses and hospitals more efficiently and effectively. Notice how I didn’t say WiFi, cellular, or wired connectivity. These are a means to an end – albeit an indispensable means to an end. With the launch of AccessMyDevice™ on Sept. 30 of last year Lantronix took a big step toward offering our customers a platform and framework for accessing timely data, making it actionable, easily routing it to cloud based computing and storage and customizing the form in which it is viewed. AccessMyDevice works with all of our new products via software called VIP Access™. Embracing the fact that customers want actionable data has led us to integrate VIP Access onto customer’s controller boards, work with microprocessor companies to integrate VIP Access and enable customers to use smart phones (iPhone, Android, etc.) to access cloud based applications that interact with their devices via AccessMyDevice. For our customers, as with the newspaper industry and television programming the message is more important than the medium.

IT, Meet OT

As I continually meet with customers and engage with industry analysts, it is becoming more apparent the benefits of M2M communications are starting to accelerate. This is a welcome realization for those of us who have been anxiously anticipating this day. M2M technology has already enabled smart grid applications, built management systems, and improved industrial process controls — but always as standalone solutions and systems commonly referred to as Operations Technology, or OT. Often, OT systems are not well integrated with the other business or Information Technology (IT) systems.

Operations Technology Has Taken Us Far
When we sit back and look at the impact of OT Systems, we see a profound impact of these systems. OT is the backbone of businesses that use automated machinery to produce food products, monitor environmental systems in data centers, power robotic welding machines on assembly lines, deliver fuel, and monitor our safety. M2M technology is the core foundation that captures and delivers the operational data within individual machines, equipment and devices—and allows this data to be distributed to people and systems for effective management.

Now Let’s Take Things Even Farther
As we build the enabling technology for M2M communications, our customer engagements become more exciting. Today, we can demonstrate what happens when an OT system is connected with an IT system. The benefits of OT are deepened with a business context placed around the data. An unbridled creativity is unleashed with the possibility of having accurate, real time information access with a company’s OT system tied into its IT systems. At one recent customer meeting, we demonstrated the effectiveness of using M2M technology to access real time data of fuel tanks and tie that into the company’s fleet tracking systems, inventory forecasting system, and finance systems. Armed with this information, the customer can now develop strategic initiatives that were previously out of reach for them due to cost and complexity.

Tying OT and IT Enable Amazing Business Potential
The strategic benefits for companies that embark on this effort have significant operational payback. Our customer engagements are validating these research findings. And it’s time to get on board to learn more. Gartner Research has put forth research showing the strategic benefits of tying together IT and OT closely together—I encourage you to read for yourself.

Getting Lost in Alphabet Soup

IEEE802.11n is Everywhere

IEEE802.11n is really picking up steam since being ratified a little over a year ago, with products showing up not only commercially but even in products sold at retailers like Wal-Mart and Amazon. There is a lot to this standard (over 500 pages of documentation alone!) – including potential for higher throughput and better interoperability due to the extended review period, early products, and extensive testing.

Not All Devices Are Equal

However- not all 802.11n devices and equipment are created equal. While the standard allows for operating on either of two unique RF bands (2.5GHz and 5 GHz)–it is not mandatory–so a lot of equipment is ‘single-band’. Be sure to read the fine print and know what you’re buying. In real-world installations, customers are finding that the existing 2.45GHz band has become congested; so being able to operate at the less-crowded 5GHz and segregate traffic between the two bands is a key success factor. Combining this capability with antenna diversity makes signal integrity and reliability better. Antenna diversity allows the device to select the best antenna to maximize signal strength. (A quick plug: Lantronix’ PremierWave EN is one product that supports dual-band 802.11n allowing the attached equipment to communicate on either band. It also incorporates Antenna Diversity). IEEE802.11r is another interesting member of the alphabet soup. Look for that in an upcoming blog!

M2M Device Connectivity in Health Care: Stat

At the close of 2010, approximately 1.5 million medical devices across 10,000 different categories were in use around the world according to the World Health Organization. By 2015, the global medical device market will approach $300 billion (Espicom, 2010), with machine to machine (M2M) revenues predicted to increase at a rate of 17% annually through 2014 (Harbor Research, 2010). This begs the question, how many medical devices are currently connected?

There’s no easy answer to that question. Given the variations in different health care environments – like hospitals versus a patient’s home, for one – tracking estimates of connected devices quickly becomes overwhelming. We do know that in the hospital environment for starters, there are numerous opportunities for M2M connectivity. According to IHE (Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise) in 2007, “for every connected IT device in the hospital, there are 4 patient care devices that are not connected.” Pair this with the fact that in the U.S. alone, there are 5,795 hospitals with 944,277 staffed beds (American Hospital Association), and it’s easy to understand why health care is forecasted to be one of the fastest growing M2M vertical markets through 2015.

A variety of factors are contributing to the acceleration of medical device connectivity:

  • Connected medical devices provide for safer patient care. Mistakes are less prevalent thanks to easy access to accurate information.
  • “Smarter” devices offer immediate gains in efficiency and productivity. With a shortage of qualified care professionals like nurses, this makes quite an impact.
  • More chronic care patients are also being monitored from home. As new wireless technologies proliferate both inside and outside of hospitals, IT groups have more options in how to connect new or existing devices. This makes it possible to extend quality care outside of the hospital – and also to support more patients.
  • Meaningful use legislation whereby hospitals are reimbursed at better rates for implementing and utilizing electronic medical records (EMRs). This has created significant momentum in connectivity for both hospitals and device manufacturers.

This confluence of factors is pushing the increased use of connectivity solutions in an industry considered behind those such as financial services and retail.

Lantronix recently co-sponsored a whitepaper with HIMSS (Healthcare Information Management Systems Society) to gauge EMR connectivity progress across 825 U.S. hospitals surveyed. Only one-third of those hospitals surveyed indicated that an interface was present between their devices and EMRs. While progress is being made, there is much work to be done. At the recent HIMSS annual conference attended by over 35,000 health care professionals in Orlando, Florida, meaningful use and connectivity efforts were discussed extensively. This is an area where we are seeing not just significant growth, but new and exciting improvements that have the potential to change how care is delivered for years to come!

White paper with HIMSS

Going Back-to-School at Embedded World

EmbeddedWorld Student Day at LTRX booth Going Back to School at Embedded World

EmbeddedWorld 2011 – Student Day at the Lantronix booth

Throughout the late ‘80s and ‘90s, if you wanted to be taken seriously as a technology provider, you had to exhibit at all the top shows.  It’s no secret that over the past decade, technology trade shows and events in the U.S. have fallen out of favor with marketers. The time and costs associated with exhibiting heavily outweighed the return on investment.  This isn’t necessarily the case in the rest of the world – especially in the EMEA and APAC regions – where trade shows often play a critical role in furthering strategic partnerships, building brand awareness, driving press coverage, and pushing leads through the funnel.

Last week I had the privilege to attend and exhibit our products and services at the annual Embedded World 2011 event in Nurnberg, Germany.  With an estimated record attendance of 250,000 attendees, the show was and will continue to be a “must-have” for Lantronix marketing efforts.

What was of particular interest was the final day of the show – Student Day – where more than one thousand students from around Europe were provided free admission.  Throughout my conversations with several dozen engineering students, I was surprised to hear almost unanimously the lack of support they and their universities received from technology companies.   In the days before the Internet, high tech marketers often implemented “University Programs” – in effect, seeding the market with their products in hopes that after graduation, a new pool of talent would hit the market, already well-versed in their company’s products and technology.  The Internet, coupled with the proliferation of wireless devices (iPads, smartphones) has led to a reliance by technology manufacturers on the newest distribution mediums.  This, in turn, has created a void – and an opportunity for companies such as Lantronix, as these students are our future customers, partners, investors, and employees.  By providing access to our products and related development kits in the actual classroom, we can nurture these future evangelists for the long term.

Case-in-point: I had the opportunity to meet Georg Ottinger, an Austrian grad student, who recently took second prize in our XPort Pro contest for his creation of the OggStreamer, a unique audio-streaming device based on XPort Pro. His enthusiasm around the industry was so inspiring that Lantronix agreed to “sponsor” his research by providing him and his colleagues with up to 10 free XPort Pros for research, development and prototyping.  Covered in the Austrian press, we are thrilled to be working with Georg. If you understand German, check out the below links to learn more about Georg and Lantronix:

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