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Financial services powerhouse Visa, industrial and consumer hardware supplier Bosch, and entrepreneurial funding platform Indiegogo have all announced major new partnerships with IBM’s Watson internet of things (IoT) business unit to develop and bring IoT solutions to market.
The Watson IoT HQ, which has been over a year in the making, forms part of a multi-billion dollar investment in the IoT by IBM, and was formally inaugurated amid much fanfare on 16 February 2017 by unit head Harriet Green.
“IoT is changing the world around us, whether it’s allowing businesses to achieve unimaginable levels of efficiency or enabling washing machines to ensure we never run out of detergent,” said Green.
“Behind this transformation are companies like Visa and technologies such as IBM’s Watson IoT platform.”
Speaking at the launch event, IBM senior vice-president of cognitive solutions and research, John Kelly, said that Big Blue had chosen to base its worldwide IoT operations in Munich due to its status as a hub for advanced technological industries, such as automotive and robotics.
Visa executive vice-president of innovation and strategic partnerships Jim McCarthy set out a plan to go beyond credit cards to use the IoT to turn billions more devices into payment methods.
He said the basic idea behind Visa’s use of Watson IoT was to eliminate steps in the payment process, adding that the needs of consumers were not really changing, but said the IoT would help “eliminate friction”.
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McCarthy used the example of a connected car that might be given Visa payment credentials to detect it was running low on fuel, research and identify nearby filling stations with cheaper prices, guide the driver to them, and then interface directly with the pump to pay for the petrol while the driver was filling up.
“The IoT is not only driving a more connected world, it’s changing the way we live, shop and pay, by moving data and the point of sale to wherever the consumer wants it to be,” said McCarthy.
Visa will also give IBM something in return for its expertise, offering all 6,000 IBM clients currently using the Watson IoT platform to have access to Visa payment services through the IBM Cloud, allowing them to build “personalised commerce experiences” into their IoT solutions, with security provided by Visa’s Token Service.
Bosch moving to networked partnership with IBM
Bosch’s Rainier Kallenbach, CEO of the company’s Software Innovations business, also emphasised the collaborative nature of his plans, leveraging Watson IoT in its own products, while giving something back.
Kallenbach said Bosch would no longer have a “linear relationship” with its long-term IT supplier IBM, but rather a “networked partnership”.
At the launch event, Bosch announced it will shortly make its cloud-based IoT suite of services for developers, which covers aspects of the IoT such as analytics, permissions, remote management, roll-out and so on, available as a free evaluation service in Europe over the IBM Bluemix cloud platform, with a paid production option and wider global availability to follow later.
Indiegogo seeks technical expertise
Indiegogo, which has provided crowdsourced funding services to startup entrepreneurs since 2008, has enlisted channel IT distributor Arrow Electronics to help in its IoT scheme.
Slava Rubin, cofounder of Indiegogo, said he had seen an “explosion of IoT projects that were asking for more than just funding” on the platform, but his business did not have the technical expertise to help them out.
“So we have partnered with Arrow to help with the components, technology and engineering to optimise the project,” said Rubin. “IBM is being added to bring the next software layer.”
Qualified Indiegogo entrepreneurs will now have free access to the Watson IoT platform, again through Bluemix, to give them access to ready-to-use capabilities including artificial intelligence, Blockchain, data analytics and security, as well as giving them access to IBM’s network of technical and industry expertise, education and mentoring services.
Arrow to offer qualified campaigns
Arrow, meanwhile, will offer qualified campaigns with substantial benefits such as component parts, online design and prototyping tools, comprehensive technical reviews with its engineers, manufacturing and supply chain services.
“Arrow has the breadth of resources and depth of expertise to successfully shepherd promising entrepreneurs along their path to market,” said the distributor’s chief digital officer, Matt Anderson.