Digital Breakthrough: How 3D Printing Will Blow Your Mind

Maria Estrada

3D printing is shaking up how people engage in daily tasks at work, at school, and even at home. Recognizing the powerful potential of this innovative technology, many businesses are also beginning to leverage it for commercial use.

The fashion industry, for example, is using 3D printing to launch clothing collections based on the latest trends. The automotive industry is also tapping the technology to solve technical challenges. And healthcare organizations are using it to make lifesaving breakthroughs.

As 3D printing technology matures, it will be used in countless ways yet to be imagined. Here are some examples of how 3D printing is affecting manufacturing today.

1. Product design and development

Because 3D printing can minimize design constraints, developers can create products that are built to last without needing to first work through the problems of a physical prototype. Companies will be able to produce products quickly and easily.

Steve Swaddle, technology manager at Black & Decker, says, “It is the ability to design something in the morning and have a physical representation of the concept in your hand in the afternoon that is a priceless step forward in product design.”

2. Customization for a segment of one

Businesses can use 3D printing to easily customize products, such as a new concept of business cards, according to individual customer preferences. With product design limited only by the human imagination, many industries will be poised to undergo dramatic transformation.

However, such a shift also brings cost implications. Products will likely cost more, as 3D printers are expensive—many are priced between $10,000 and $20,0000, with some specialized models up to $50,000 or more. Over time, these prices will naturally decrease, but for now, consumers will pay a price for customization.

Another concern is copyright issues. Users of 3D printers can easily copy ideas based on copyright-protected product designs, and manufacturers and designers may call the ethical use of 3D printing into question as property right and infringements occur.

Major digital breakthroughs and innovations rarely go unnoticed, and 3D printing is just one example. However, we must use them to solve problems rather than create new ones.

For more on the potential of 3D printing, see Why 3D Printed Food Just Transformed Your Supply Chain.

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Maria Estrada

About Maria Estrada

Maria Estrada is the business associate of PrintMeister, an online company that offers high-quality printing services like brochures and print business card. She is a tech savvy and loves to share her knowledge through blog writing. Maria lives in Australia with her family and two lovely cats.

Connected Fleets Save Money

Barbara Flügge

Something unexpected began happening in journalist Mike Esposito’s inbox. Extra emails were demanding his attention, but they weren’t written by people.  His newly leased car was reminding him about its upkeep.

Esposito, who writes for Auto DeaIer Today, noted that among other matters, his vehicle “tells me when I’m low on fuel, when the tire pressure drops and what the outside temperature is.”

Like cars in many government fleets, Esposito’s car is “smart” due to Internet connectivity. It contains telematics–devices including a global positioning system (GPS)–that are part of the car’s operating system. Telematics are also part of the Internet of Things (IoT).

Connected fleet ecosystem

These days, IoT objects containing sensors often connect vehicles to the Internet and, in the case of fleets, to each other.

Esposito’s car can send him notes, because telematics let one machine (the car) share information with another machine (his computer).

Machine-to-machine communication is one part of an ecosystem with the Internet at its centre. The sensors in vehicles with telematics also can connect to parts of their environment–including roadway warning systems–which also contain IoT sensors.

Connected cars produce much data, including information about how carefully people drive them. A privately owned connected car might send this data to an insurance company, which would use it to adjust driver rates.

In contrast, data from public sector fleets would travel to the digital systems of the municipalities, central governments or authorities (such as ports) they serve. This information would include availability for use and maintenance issues in addition to driver care.

Many kinds of vehicles may be included in public sector fleets, including boats, grounds maintenance equipment, motorbikes, trucks, UAVs (drones), and warehouse forklifts.

Connecting fleets to correct problems

Retrofitting vehicles for connectivity or buying new vehicles with factory-installed telematics is expensive. But fleet connectivity provides payback in a number of ways. To understand why organisations would develop these fleets, it helps to consider some actual examples.

Traffic congestion in a mountain resort. Mountain sports, glamorous celebrity lifestyles, and fresh air are among the attractions of Aspen, Colorado. But the city is so popular that it is choking on auto traffic from commuters, residents, and tourists.

Government Fleet magazine reports that Aspen is considering a plan to create a quiet, low-pollution transit system. It would be a connected fleet of mopeds, on-demand shuttles, buses and self-driving mini-vans. The plan also includes improving traffic flow on downtown streets and providing lockers for commuters.

School bus delays. The Chesapeake, Virginia, public school district received many complaints about bus inefficiency in the 2015-2016 school year. Local TV station WAVY reports that the district is responding by equipping each school bus with a GPS and automatic vehicle location system.

Smartport. Truck drivers traveling to the Port of Hamburg in northern Germany no longer have to access many message boards throughout the container port to get updated on traffic and bridge conditions as well as parking availability.

According to tech publisher ZDNet, the port now connects truckers to get current information through a mobile app made possible by a digital platform.

The platform, which is equipped with IoT-solution software, gathers and analyzes huge volumes of data. The IoT software connects to the port’s traffic management system as well as the telematics of trucks visiting the port. This provides a real-time picture of traffic flow.

IoT traffic tracking solutions

IoT software solutions for connected fleets provide government organizations with insights into fleet management, logistics and delivery, insurance telematics (such as monitoring driver-related events), and vehicle diagnostics.

Fleet management solutions include tracking vehicles in real time, monitoring the health of vehicles, and analysing fuel consumption.

Diagnostics involve analysing trouble codes, providing alerts based on vehicle events, and predicting driving performance. One of the logistics matters that solutions analyze concerns arrival times and routing.

IoT solutions help the public sector increase productivity without increasing facilities. ZDNet notes that container turnover at the Port of Hamburg was nine million units in 2014 and likely will double by 2024.

Speaking to the magazine, Hamburg Port Authority representative Sascha Westermann said, “It’s not possible to build more roads. It takes a long time and there’s no space.”

Westermann, who leads IT traffic management for the authority, told ZDNet, “We need smart solutions. IT solutions.”

Year of the connected fleet?

Automobile technology reporter Mike Esposito says he thinks 2017 finally marks the “official arrival” of connected cars. It’s estimated, he says, that 60% to 80% of the cars in which manufacturers have installed telematics will sell this year.

Esposito predicts that “smaller, less expensive cars” will comprise 75% of connected car sales by 2022.

As prices decrease, it’s likely that more public-sector fleets will become connected. The year of the connected fleet is coming soon.

To learn more about SAP Leonardo and our digital innovations, download the “IoT Imperative white paper for the public sector.”

This article originally appeared on Cities Today.

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Barbara Flügge

About Barbara Flügge

Barbara Flügge leads smart cities and regions efforts at SAP. As a thought leader, she advises executives, forward thinkers, and innovation leaders in this area. She dedicates her activities to entire ecosystems beocming cities, ports, and mega events in digital and sustainable transformation. Barbara is a strong believer of innovation and digitization as a public good for everyone. She works on global scale and has in depth knowledge in public sector, automotive, manufacturing, telecommunications, and many other industries. Barbara is a recognized speaker, editor,and author.

Why Australians Pay The Highest Power Prices In The World

Gavin Mooney

This is the second in a series of three posts looking at the hot topic of Australian power prices:

  1. Do Australians really pay the highest power prices in the world?
  2. An explanation for the high power prices in Australia (this post)
  3. A look at what can be done about the high power prices in Australia

In Part 1 we established that – while there are a few different ways to compare the data – Australia does have pretty much the most expensive electricity in the world. The price increases in the last decade have been significant, more than doubling according to the Consumer Price Index.

The question now is why prices have risen so much, when Australia is blessed with vast coal and gas reserves and huge renewable energy potential?

First, we need to look at the components of a typical residential electricity bill.

  • Wholesale: Effectively the cost to generate electricity.
  • Network: The charges for delivery of energy via the poles and wires from the point of generation (power stations) to the point of consumption (homes and businesses).
  • Retail: Charges levied by the consumer’s chosen retailer for selling electricity.
  • Federal environment: This includes items such as the large scale renewable energy target and subsidies for feed in tariffs.
  • Metering: These charges only apply in Victoria to fund the state-mandated roll out of smart meters.

These components have all contributed different amounts to the rising energy prices. A September 2017 report by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) identified and ranked the source components of power bill increases over the last decade by how much they had each contributed:

  1. Network charges (41%)
  2. Retail costs and margins (24%)
  3. Wholesale costs (19%)
  4. Green schemes (16%)

Let’s now look at these one by one in more detail as well as the effects of renewable energy.

1. Network charges

Investment in the electricity network has been the primary driver in power bill increases for some time. 

The way the network companies make their money is by earning a certain rate of return on their asset base. As the size of the asset base increases, so do revenues. A revenue cap is set by the regulator every five years, dictating how much the (natural monopoly) networks can spend on building and maintenance. The end consumers foot the bill for this, even if the spend wasn’t needed. This has turned out to be the case in Australia.

Investment decisions were based on forecasts projecting that demand for electricity would continue to rise. The forecasts were wrong – demand has flatlined and declined since about 2009, mainly due to increased rooftop solar and energy efficiency improvements in household appliances. Consumers may also have reacted to higher energy prices. (As a side note – demand may increase again if there is widespread adoption of electric vehicles in Australia.)

2015 Senate enquiry found that there had been significant overinvestment in networks far beyond what was required, especially in the government-owned companies in NSW and QLD. This has been termed network “gold plating”.

2. Retail costs and margins

Retail costs have also risen. This is the part of a power bill that several investigations have found is the hardest to monitor, and the least transparent to consumers. 

There are a few different reasons for the increases in retail costs.

Finding the best offer
The market is characterised by very wide price dispersion, meaning a consumer can save hundreds of dollars by moving from the worst to the best offer. It is also complex, making it hard to compare rates and find the best offers. Private comparison websites do not include all market offers, while the websites offered by the Australian Energy Regulator and the Victorian government do not provide the tools customers need to differentiate between offers. A Grattan Institute study in March 2017 found the system was so complicated that many consumers did not understand what savings they could make and just gave up.

The Thwaites review in August 2017 found Victorian households are paying on average 21% more for their electricity than the cheapest market offer available. Nearly a quarter of customers could save $500 or more by switching to the best available offer.

Punishing loyal customers
Consumers are often attracted by the deep discounts of a retailer’s initial offer, only to slip unknowingly onto a much smaller discount or a costly standing offer a year or two later. AGL Energy chief executive Andy Vesey admitted last year that big power companies were guilty of punishing their most loyal customers in this way, but said subsequently AGL was abandoning the practice.

Retailer profit margins
Profit margins have also been in the spotlight recently, with a Grattan Institute study finding retailers’ profit margins in Victoria were around 13% – higher than in other retail sectors, and more than double the margin that regulators considered fair when they set retail electricity prices. The study concluded that Victorians would save about $250 million a year if the profit margin of electricity retailers fell to match that of other retail businesses. The companies rejected this, saying they have been forced to spend more on marketing due to increased competition.

Failure of competition
Competition in electricity retailing hasn’t delivered what was promised: lower prices for consumers. The failure appears to be worst in Victoria, the state with the most retailers and the longest experience of deregulation.

The market is highly concentrated. Despite there being 25 energy retailers in Victoria, three players (Origin, AGL and Energy Australia) command a market share of over 70%. The next two largest players, taking the total market share to around 90%, are vertically integrated, making it difficult for others to compete.

3. Wholesale charges

Network charges may have been the primary driver of power bill increases over the last decade, but they have now levelled off. More recently, it is the cost of electricity generation that has been the biggest contributor to rising electricity prices. In the past year or so some states have seen increases of over 100%.

There are two main reasons for the increases in wholesale costs: generator bidding behaviour and the soaring price of gas.

Generator power
With the recent closures of the Northern and Hazelwood coal plants in the last year, the gap between supply and demand at peak times has tightened. The market is therefore now far more susceptible to wholesale price surges if a generator breaks down (not uncommon, given Australia’s ageing fleet of coal generators) or an operator decides to withhold their electrons from the market until demand rises. In each state, the two or three principal generators command a market share of 70% or more, giving them enough clout to swing the market.

Indeed, generator market power was clearly seen in Queensland recently with two generators having two thirds of capacity and prices spiking. When the Queensland Government directed its generators to tone down their bidding, prices immediately reduced significantly.

The rise of gas
The second reason for the sudden increase in wholesale costs is much higher gas prices. As supply has tightened, natural gas fired power plants are increasingly being called upon to meet demand. As illustrated in the diagram below, prices are set in five-minute intervals, determined by the price of the most expensive generator required. At 4:25 this was $38, set by Generator 5. Settlement is done in half hour blocks and the spot price for the half hour is determined as the average of the prices for the six five-minute intervals.

As the most expensive fuel that we rely on to create electricity to meet our needs, gas is increasingly determining the wholesale price that generators are paid. Gas generation now sets the wholesale price around a third of the time in South Australia.

Why is gas going up?
The reason for the rising gas prices is more mysterious. Australia has a lot of gas, so much in fact that it is expected to become the world’s largest exporter by 2020. Yet it is cheaper to buy Australian gas in Japan than it is in Australia and AEMO is already forecasting a shortfall in domestic gas supply.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims noted “International prices are at all-time lows; Australian gas prices are at all-time highs.” High local prices appear to be the result of so-far inexplicable behaviour by exporters, selling gas at lower prices on the export spot market than they could achieve by selling the gas locally. Australians are effectively subsidising loss-making exports. Or it could be down to a cartel controlling Australian gas.

An ACCC inquiry into the east coast gas market identified three causes:

  1. The introduction of the export LNG projects changed gas flows and domestic prices.
  2. Oil prices fell faster and further than some thought possible, curtailing investment in gas exploration and development.
  3. Regulatory uncertainty and exploration moratoria have significantly limited or delayed the potential for new gas supply.

4. Green schemes

Responsible for about one sixth of the electricity price rises in the last decade, green schemes include:

  • The bipartisan renewable energy target
  • Solar feed-in tariffs that pay consumers for power sent into the grid.
  • Some programs designed to boost energy efficiency, mostly through the use of better light bulbs and appliances.

The cost of green schemes is not transparent: it is smeared over all electricity consumers and can appear costless to some. But they do cost consumers, often inequitably as those with solar panels are being subsidised by those who do not have them.

Is renewable energy to blame?

No. Well, maybe partly.

Renewable energy has increased significantly over the last decade and now provides around one fifth of Australia’s energy needs. It is an easy target and often blamed in sweeping statements as the sole reason for power price rises without an appreciation of the finer details explained above.

The Renewable Energy Target has helped reduce power bills and will continue to do so, according to the government’s own modelling as well as analysis by energy market experts ROAM Consulting, who found that Australian households would pay over half a billion dollars more for power in 2020 without the Renewable Energy Target in place (equivalent to more than $50 per household).

The ACT has the lowest bills in the country and is on track to reach its goal of 100% renewable energy. Indeed, a recent report by the Australian National University showed that electricity price increases from 2006-2016 were highest in the states with the least renewable energy.

But on the other hand…

Wind and solar generate intermittently and at zero marginal cost – their operating costs are far lower than coal and gas generators. This means that when wind and solar are generating, prices will be lower.

However, over the medium term, lower wholesale prices could contribute to early retirement decisions for existing coal generators, and push prices higher due to increased reliance on more costly gas plants.

Intermittent generation can also increase spot price volatility and this puts upward pressure on electricity prices as well as making new investment decisions more difficult.

Now we understand the many reasons why Australian power prices have risen so much, we next need to look at what can be done about it. Stay tuned for Part 3!

Read Part 1 of this series here.

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Gavin Mooney

About Gavin Mooney

Gavin Mooney is a utilities industry solution specialist for SAP. From a background in Engineering and IT, Gavin has been working in the utilities industry with SAP products for nearly 15 years.

He has had the privilege of working with a number of Electricity, Gas and Water Utilities across the globe to implement SAP’s Industry Solution for Utilities. He now works with utilities to help them identify the best way to run simple and run better with SAP’s latest products.

Gavin loves to network and build lasting business relationships and is passionate about cleantech and the fundamental transformation currently shaking up the utilities industry.

Human Skills for the Digital Future

Dan Wellers and Kai Goerlich

Technology Evolves.
So Must We.


Technology replacing human effort is as old as the first stone axe, and so is the disruption it creates.
Thanks to deep learning and other advances in AI, machine learning is catching up to the human mind faster than expected.
How do we maintain our value in a world in which AI can perform many high-value tasks?


Uniquely Human Abilities

AI is excellent at automating routine knowledge work and generating new insights from existing data — but humans know what they don’t know.

We’re driven to explore, try new and risky things, and make a difference.
 
 
 
We deduce the existence of information we don’t yet know about.
 
 
 
We imagine radical new business models, products, and opportunities.
 
 
 
We have creativity, imagination, humor, ethics, persistence, and critical thinking.


There’s Nothing Soft About “Soft Skills”

To stay ahead of AI in an increasingly automated world, we need to start cultivating our most human abilities on a societal level. There’s nothing soft about these skills, and we can’t afford to leave them to chance.

We must revamp how and what we teach to nurture the critical skills of passion, curiosity, imagination, creativity, critical thinking, and persistence. In the era of AI, no one will be able to thrive without these abilities, and most people will need help acquiring and improving them.

Anything artificial intelligence does has to fit into a human-centered value system that takes our unique abilities into account. While we help AI get more powerful, we need to get better at being human.


Download the executive brief Human Skills for the Digital Future.


Read the full article The Human Factor in an AI Future.


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Dan Wellers

About Dan Wellers

Dan Wellers is founder and leader of Digital Futures at SAP, a strategic insights and thought leadership discipline that explores how digital technologies drive exponential change in business and society.

Kai Goerlich

About Kai Goerlich

Kai Goerlich is the Chief Futurist at SAP Innovation Center network His specialties include Competitive Intelligence, Market Intelligence, Corporate Foresight, Trends, Futuring and ideation.

Share your thoughts with Kai on Twitter @KaiGoe.heif Futu

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How Manufacturers Can Kick-Start The Internet Of Things In 2018

Tanja Rueckert

Part 1 of the “Manufacturing Value from IoT” series

IoT is one of the most dynamic and exciting markets I am involved with at SAP. The possibilities are endless, and that is perhaps where the challenges start. I’ll be sharing a series of blogs based on research into knowledge and use of IoT in manufacturing.

Most manufacturing leaders think that the IoT is the next big thing, alongside analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. They see these technologies dramatically impacting their businesses and business in general over the next five years. Researchers see big things ahead as well; they forecast that IoT products and investments will total hundreds of billions – or even trillions – of dollars in coming decades.

They’re all wrong.

The IoT is THE Big Thing right now – if you know where to look.

Nearly a third (31%) of production processes and equipment and non-production processes and equipment (30%) already incorporate smart device/embedded intelligence. Similar percentages of manufacturers have a company strategy implemented or in place to apply IoT technologies to their processes (34%) or to embed IoT technologies into products (32%).

opportunities to leverage IoTSource:Catch Up with IoT Leaders,” SAP, 2017.

The best process opportunities to leverage the IoT include document management (e.g. real-time updates of process information); shipping and warehousing (e.g. tracking incoming and outgoing goods); and assembly and packaging (e.g. production monitoring). More could be done, but figuring out where and how to implement the IoT is an obstacle for many leaders. Some 44 percent of companies have trouble identifying IoT opportunities and benefits for either internal processes or IoT-enabled products.

Why so much difficulty in figuring out where to use the IoT in processes?

  • No two industries use the IoT in the same way. An energy company might leverage asset-management data to reduce costs; an e-commerce manufacturer might focus on metrics for customer fulfillment; a fabricator’s use of IoT technologies may be driven by a need to meet exacting product variances.
  • Even in the same industry, individual firms will apply and profit from the IoT in unique ways. In some plants and processes, management is intent on getting the most out of fully depreciated equipment. Unfortunately, older equipment usually lacks state-of-the-art controls and sensors. The IoT may be in place somewhere within those facilities, but it’s unlikely to touch legacy processes until new machinery arrive. 

Where could your company leverage the IoT today? Think strategically, operationally, and financially to prioritize opportunities:

  • Can senior leadership and plant management use real-time process data to improve daily decision-making and operations planning? Do they have the skills and tools (e.g., business analytics) to leverage IoT data?
  • Which troublesome processes in the plant or front office erode profits? With real-time data pushed out by the IoT, which could be improved?
  • Of the processes that could be improved, which include equipment that can – in the near-term – accommodate embedded intelligence, and then communicate with plant and enterprise networks?

Answer those questions, and you’ve got an instant list of how and where to profit from the IoT – today.

Stay tuned for more information on how IoT is developing and to learn what it takes to be a manufacturing IoT innovator. In the meantime, download the report “Catch Up with IoT Leaders.”

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Tanja Rueckert

About Tanja Rueckert

Tanja Rueckert is President of the Internet of Things and Digital Supply Chain Business Unit at SAP.