Category Archives: Blog

Johnson Controls Leaving Batteries Behind

An industry leader is selling off its battery business, just as the electrification of transportation begins to hit its stride.

Johnson Controls (JCI) has announced that it will sell its Power Solutions battery business to an investment firm, Brookfield Business Partners L.P., in a cash deal valued at $13.2 billion. JCI has been the biggest producer of lead acid batteries in the world, distributing more than 154 million batteries for cars and trucks and supplying nearly every carmaker worldwide. The company has also been closely involved with the development of lithium ion batteries—the kind that power the latest generations of battery electric vehicles.

Johnson Controls has concentrated previously on two different industries. In addition to the battery business, the company is a leader in the building and fire security segments, specializing in heating and air conditioning control systems. "With this transaction, Johnson Controls becomes a pure-play building technologies and solutions provider that is better positioned to lead the integration and evolution of the connected building and to capture strategic opportunities in the HVAC industry," said JCI chairman and chief executive officer George Oliver in a company press release.

The development of battery technology is capital intensive in at least three different ways. The research for new materials is ongoing and requires a high level of technological sophistication. The material costs associated with building batteries—especially lithium ion batteries—can be both volatile and expensive. In addition, fabricating new battery architectures requires a significant outlay in manufacturing equipment.

Despite these ongoing costs, JCI’s Power Solutions was successful. Johnson Controls has been an important name in the battery and electric vehicle industries. According to the press release, “In fiscal 2018, Power Solutions generated $8.0 billion in revenue and $1.68 billion in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization.”

It’s About the Money

As important as battery innovation, development, and manufacturing is today and will be into the future, JCI’s decision to divest itself of its battery division appears to be strictly a financial one. As a result of the sale, “The Company expects to deploy $3.0 to $3.5 billion of proceeds towards debt paydown and retain an investment grade credit rating. The remaining proceeds will be available to return to shareholders, with more specific details to be announced around the close of the transaction,” the company said in its release.

The same profit-driven sentiment was also reflected in a press statement by Brookfield Business Partners, LP. "We are excited to grow our business with the acquisition of Power Solutions, a global market leader which generates consistent cash flows and profitability,” said Cyrus Madon, CEO, Brookfield Business Partners. “We look forward to partnering with the management team to continue growing this world-class business and build on its track record of innovation.”

Source: by: Kevin Clemens, November 21, 2018, designnews.com

First commercial driverless truck license

The world's first commercial license for an electric driverless truck is expected to be awarded by Sweden's Transport Agency in January,according to the FT.

Powered by the Nvidia Drive platform, Einride and DB Schenker's "smart container on wheels," called the T-Pod, is considered "Level 4" Autonomous.

The vehicle also lacks a driver cabin, which can be half the cost of building a truck, offering more room for freight.

 

|By: Yoel Minkoff, SA News Editor 

What is the business case for autonomous vehicles in the supply chain?

Even the Jetsons could not fully imagine a future dominated by autonomous vehicles.

Flying vehicles and robots went hand-in-hand during the animated show. But a world without a driver? Although self-driving cars have been in the popular imagination for decades, the technology has long eluded society.

In the past years, however, we have seen autonomous vehicles emerge in warehouses, factory design plans and highways. The news seems to point to a self-driving world just on the horizon. But is it really, and does that eventuality make sense? To find out, we asked three experts:

What is the business case for autonomous vehicles (AVs) in the supply chain?

Mike Ramsey / Senior Research Director, Automotive and Smart Mobility, Gartner

Autonomous vehicles have a much more serious and quantifiable impact on supply chain logistics and operations than their potential for transporting people.

The prospect of autonomous cars serving in fleets for personal mobility is the most popular vision for the technology, with more than 50 companies designing autonomous vehicle control software aimed at automating consumer driving.

In practice, however, autonomy already exists and is saving companies money in the supply chain. Rio Tinto is operating more than 80 autonomous mining trucks in Australia. In 2016, on average, each of Rio Tinto’s autonomous haul trucks operated an additional 1,000 hours and at 15% lower load and haul unit cost than conventional haul trucks.

As the technology improves and comes down in cost, businesses will find that moving goods inside of factories and between factories and warehouses makes financial sense. This return-on-investment-based thinking of automation isn’t as sexy as a fleet of 80,000 Waymo cabs picking up passengers around the globe, but it is a more likely future.

Companies such as Einride, in Sweden, believe there is a $1 trillion market for autonomous logistics aimed precisely at this market. That company’s electric truck has begun running pallets on a 10 km stretch between warehouses owned by German logistics company, Schenker, in the Swedish city of Jönköping.

It’s a small step, but it makes business sense, solves a problem and can be easily adapted to any business. Like the mining trucks, the efficacy will be rewarded by more usage.

Cort Jacoby / Partner, Consumer and Retail Practice, A.T. Kearney

The allure of Autonomous vehicles is clear and understood: To enable self-driving using the latest technology while limiting the need for drivers in an ever-constrained market for drivers.

We have seen numerous tests occurring across companies such as Uber, Google and Mercedes for use in the consumer market, but it’s my belief that being able to make the case for autonomous vehicles in the supply chain is still a long way off.

While yes, technical advancements are being made and the capabilities to apply to commercial use may in fact exist, there are several challenges that will curtail adoption. These include government regulations, legal risk, questions regarding liability and ongoing maintenance of the technology, including resident skill sets within the companies, whether shippers or logistics companies seeking to implement this capability. That’s to name just a few challenges.

The topic raises the question of when to be on the leading edge of technology versus when to be a follower, fast or otherwise.

In this case, I have a hard time seeing the financial and operational benefits associated with early adoption of autonomous vehicles. Are there leading companies that can (and should) experiment? Sure there are. But these companies are few and either have a very fundamental competitive advantage or potentially see their revenue model erode rapidly without this technology – call this the 1%.

For the vast remainder of the companies depending on logistics to move good across their respective supply chains, the 99%, there are many opportunities to extract efficiencies and further optimize current operations through commercially available and proven technology, for example backhaul optimization, carrier visibility and rapid load/unload, that are not even close to being extracted.

With all the bright minds and new technologies entering the arena of logistics we are in a renaissance for the industry and have numerous new capabilities that are proven and open for business to address many of today’s problems. My advice is to start there. Right now, the business case for autonomous vehicles is not ready for prime time.

Sean Maharaj / Director, Transportation, Logistics and Retail Practices, AArete

It’s hard not to hear about some type of disruptive innovation going on in today’s economy, especially in traditional industries like retail, trucking, healthcare or passenger transportation, which have all endured their fair share of radical change lately. With that in mind, the continued expectation is that more disruptions will prevail into the foreseeable future. But some disruptions have been discussed so frequently and for some time, even though they still remain off into the future due to setbacks, delays and the need to fine-tune them.

One such development is autonomous vehicles. When initial mention of autonomous vehicles first broke onto the scene, the reception ranged from pure fascination to thoughts of Knight Rider (the 80’s TV series). But, we’re talking more than just David Hasselhoff and his self-driving KITT car. Indeed, we’re talking about the development and piloting of the current day technology for real-world use.

This, all in spite of the fact that a substantial road ahead remains, especially after the bad press related to Uber’s autonomous vehicle accidents. What’s more, there’s another layer for public and/or governmental approval to allow driverless vehicles to parade our public roads while we go about our business. Casual surveys amongst friends, family and colleagues elicit feelings of uneasiness when discussed as a potential reality.

So, what does this all of this mean for an innovation in the supply chain? Even as big leading companies like Google, Tesla, Amazon, Daimler, Uber Volvo and Rolls Royce continue to pour money into development and testing, nothing has gone full scale operational in the field. Nothing is certain, at this point. In fact, summer of 2018 saw Uber trying to call it quits for its Otto division (Uber’s autonomous truck segment acquired in August 2016).

So is the race really on, or is it that companies (driven by consumers), in general, are afraid to fall back to times when Kodak, Blockbuster or even the flip phone ruled?

It’s more likely that the supply chain world is seeking labor saving alternatives and this may capitalize on technologies to offer a razor thin margin industry a chance to make a dent due to rising wages and driver shortages. Either way, autonomous vehicles in the supply chain still have many more hurdles to clear before anyone gives them room to pass on local roads or highways.

 

Source: supplychaindive.com, published 11/27/18

Global market for refurbished phones grew 10% in Q2

As the smartphone market matures, people are holding onto their phones longer in developed countries. What's more, even the phones they are done with are increasingly "good enough" for users in emerging markets.

What's new: According to Counterpoint Technology Market Research, the global market for refurbished phones grew 10% in the second quarter of 2018, compared to the market for new smartphones, which dropped 1% from a year ago.

"The trends are linked," Counterpoint said in a blog post. "As consumers upgrade, they are preferring to sell their old devices into channels and use the value to offset the cost of the upgrade. ... This, in turn, is increasing the volume of devices in the refurb channels."

 

Details:

  • China is the largest market for refurbished phones.
  • India is the fastest growing market, with refurbished phone sales up 41% from a year ago.
  • Taken together, Apple and Samsung account for a third of the refurbished phones sold globally.

Why it matters: It's a tough one-two punch for the smartphone industry, which is dealing with slowing growth after a decade of massive expansion.

5G Speeds Can’t Match DOCSIS 3.1, Charter CFO Says

Fixed 5G is being billed as an alternative and potentially significant threat to wired broadband services, but this emerging wireless option won't be able to catch up to the capabilities of cable's fixed-line platform, a top exec at Charter Communications said.

"I don't see anything about 5G that ever makes it comparable to DOCSIS 3.1 or DOCSIS 3.1 Full Duplex or any of the capabilities we have through a fixed-line service," Chris Winfrey, CFO at Charter Communications Inc. , said Thursday at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2018 Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference.

Charter has been ramping up its deployment of DOCSIS 3.1 to deliver 1-Gig downstream speeds and has been eyeing a newer Full Duplex annex of D3.1 that will support multi-gigabit symmetrical speeds on cable's widely deployed HFC networks.

Still, 5G could present "some edge use cases where it's easier to have a wireless drop than it is to have a physical drop," Winfrey added. But he believes that those instances, at least in Charter's case, will be "rare."

He also believes that cable is well positioned to support 5G networks as a partner, given the industry's access to fiber (for backhaul), rights-of-way and power.

Winfrey offered more detail on Charter's strategy with Spectrum Mobile, a service launched across its footprint earlier this week that is powered in part by the MSO's MVNO deal with Verizon Wireless .

Charter is using Spectrum Mobile, launched across the MSO's footprint earlier this week, to drive incremental sales of in-home broadband and other cable services.

A big part of that strategy is to help Charter further penetrate its fixed-line, in-home broadband service (that penetration is at about 50% today) by bundling it with the new mobile offering at an attractive price. In addition to driving broadband subs, the blending of in- and out-of-home connectivity will help Charter add broadband customers and reduce churn, he said.

"We'll be using this as a tool to sell mobile into the existing customer base but also into our new sales every day, and we'll be using mobile to drive incremental sales to cable," Winfrey said. But Charter's mobile strategy will come with some associated startup costs for "at least a couple of years," he conceded, noting that the impact there will be almost entirely dictated by the pace of growth. Still, Charter believes that its mobile business will ultimately become profitable on a stand-alone basis.

Winfrey said Charter's MVNO deal with Verizon is "attractive," though it believes that Charter could be more competitive and disruptive if it had more control.

He estimated that only about 20% of the traffic for Charter customers rides over the macro cell network, while the rest is offloaded on Charter's network (usually via WiFi).

But Charter is already eyeing ways, incrementally, to offload portions of that 20% through other uses of unlicensed and licensed spectrum.

Charter, for instance, is running tests on the shared CBRS 3.5GHz band, which will support both licensed and unlicensed use cases, as well as in the millimeter wave bands. Charter's been looking into buying bits of licensed spectrum.

"We're actively looking at that and have expressed our interest to the FCC and others," Winfrey said. "We like what we see in the mid-band so far… We'll build a business case around it and evaluate it as we go."

— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

Volvo Calls for Global Driverless-to-Human Communication Standard

05 Sep 2018

Volvo is calling for a global standard for driverless vehicle communications as it launch its 360c autonomous concept.

The concept’s aim is to tackle one of the main challenges around the introduction of autonomous technology – how robots can communicate with humans on the road as other manufacturers including Jaguar are working on.

In a statement Volvo said: “Autonomous drive and safety are closely linked, and the technology has the potential to deliver the most significant improvement in traffic safety since Volvo Cars invented the three-point safety belt in 1959. However, autonomous technology will be introduced gradually rather than overnight. As a result, fully autonomous cars will be introduced in a mixed traffic situation where driverless cars without a human driver will share the road with other road users. In such a traffic situation, it will no longer be possible to make eye contact with and learn about another driver’s intentions, a central element of today’s everyday traffic interaction.”

So its engineers have created the 360c as one way to establish a safe means of communication between fully autonomous cars and other road users. Also, their focus was to create a universal standard “so that other road users do not have to consider the make or brand of individual autonomous cars”.

Volvo’s methodology is to apply a system of external sounds, colors, visuals and movements to communicate the vehicle’s intentions making it clear that, at all times, what the car will do next. However, the carmaker says the vehicle it will never issue directions or instructions to other road users.

“We strongly believe this communication method should be a universal standard, so all road users can communicate easily with any autonomous car, regardless of which maker built it,” said Malin Ekholm, vice-president at the Volvo Cars Safety Center in a statement. “But it is also important that we do not instruct others what to do next, in order to avoid potential confusion. Our research shows this is the safest way for fully autonomous cars to communicate with other road users.”

The basis of the 360c is a fully autonomous, fully electric car without a human driver. Volvo claims the concept “capitalizes on the freedom in design afforded by the absence of a steering wheel and a combustion engine, providing the ability to re-imagine the traditional placement of passengers in rows of two or three”.

It claims to offer four potential mobility functions as a sleeping environment, mobile office, living room and entertainment space. Inside the sleeping environment, safety engineers have also looked at the possible future of safety technology and how a different passenger positioning could influence safety. A safety blanket included in the sleeping area incorporates a restraining system that works like a three-point safety belt but adjusted to people lying down while traveling.

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

Apple to utilize RapidSOS to deliver 911 caller-location information to PSAPs

Donny Jackson | Urgent Communications

Apple this week announced that its devices will utilize RapidSOS technology to share location data with public safety when emergency calls are made using iOS 12, an upgrade to the Apple operating-system platform that is scheduled to be released later this year.

“Obviously, it’s very exciting for us,” Reinhard Ekl, vice president of product development for public safety at RapidSOS, said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “We’ve been working with the 911 community for many years, and at the center of our mission as a company is to provide faster, more accurate and more comprehensive data to 911. Getting location from millions of smartphones in a way that is robust, secure, fast and reliable is going to be a game changer.

“It obviously elevates our platform and makes it possible to reach a whole other audience and get it out to every 911 center in the country.”

Apple launched HELO (Hybridized Emergency Location) technology in 2015 that leverages GPS, network-based location information and the location of Wi-Fi access points to estimate a caller’s location, according to an Apple press release.

“Communities rely on 911 centers in an emergency, and we believe they should have the best available technology at their disposal,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a prepared statement. “When every moment counts, these tools will help first responders reach our customers when they most need assistance.”

RapidSOS CEO, Michael Martin echoed this sentiment.

“911 telecommunicators do extraordinary work managing millions of emergencies with little more than a voice connection,” Martin said in a prepared statement. “We are excited to work with Apple to provide first responders a new path for accurate, device-based caller location using transformative Next Generation 911 technology.”

Amid growing privacy concerns, Apple announced that the location information would not be used for commercial purposes and that only the responding public-safety answering point (PSAP) would have access to the caller’s location information during the emergency call.

Ekl said that this week’s Apple announcement is a reflection of RapidSOS’s philosophy to partner an integrate with all aspects of the 911 ecosystem.

“In the case of Apple, we receive the location information from Apple—it’s really their location technology that comes to play,” Ekl said. “What we contribute is the modern mechanism to deliver it to the PSAP.

“In other cases, we might be getting information from other sources. If you look at our partnership with Uber, it’s Uber that calculates the location, and we are the conveyance mechanism for the data to reach 911. Really, our core expertise is how to integrate new data sources and supplemental data with existing 911 systems.”

Under FCC rules passed in 2014, wireless carriers are required to provide PSAPs with caller-location information that is accurate within 50 meters 80% of the time by 2021. RapidSOS this year received the results from its participation in Stage 2 testing in the FCC-mandated location testbed that was conducted in late last year, Ekl said.

“It was very encouraging, because it just proved on standardized mechanisms what we had already known from our own field testing—devices with hybrid location from smartphone location services far exceeds what location-accuracy requirements are today and actually exceeds the location-accuracy requirements for 2021,” Ekl said. “The results of our testbed showed that more than 90% of calls were within 50 meters.

“That just shows that it’s time to act. It’s not a viable approach for public safety just to wait until 2021. If there’s location [technology] that’s available today that’s much better and much more accurate, then we just have to do everything we can to get it in front of the call-takers who need it the most.”

The RapidSOS clearinghouse platform also will support vertical—or Z-axis—information when that is available, Ekl said.

“When we get altitude readings from the device, from the application or from any provider or partner that sends us data, we can pass it on to public safety,” Ekl said. “It’s been very interesting to see that evolve. Public safety is still debating how to think about elevation data—there’s all of these ideas about barometric pressure, and nobody really knows what to do with that.

“At the same time, smartphone location services are starting to return an altitude reading in meters. In the near future, it’s been announced by Google that they’re working on floor-level accuracy. That’s just amazing. We have to take advantage of that and give call-takers the best possible data that’s available from the smartphones.

In addition to this week’s iOS 12 announcement with Apple, RapidSOS has conducted pilot programs with devices using the Android operating system that currently are being evaluated by Google, Ekl said.

with caller-location information that is accurate within 50 meters 80% of the time by 2021. RapidSOS this year received the results from its participation in Stage 2 testing in the FCC-mandated location testbed that was conducted in late last year, Ekl said.

“It was very encouraging, because it just proved on standardized mechanisms what we had already known from our own field testing—devices with hybrid location from smartphone location services far exceeds what location-accuracy requirements are today and actually exceeds the location-accuracy requirements for 2021,” Ekl said. “The results of our testbed showed that more than 90% of calls were within 50 meters.

“That just shows that it’s time to act. It’s not a viable approach for public safety just to wait until 2021. If there’s location [technology] that’s available today that’s much better and much more accurate, then we just have to do everything we can to get it in front of the call-takers who need it the most.”

The RapidSOS clearinghouse platform also will support vertical—or Z-axis—information when that is available, Ekl said.

“When we get altitude readings from the device, from the application or from any provider or partner that sends us data, we can pass it on to public safety,” Ekl said. “It’s been very interesting to see that evolve. Public safety is still debating how to think about elevation data—there’s all of these ideas about barometric pressure, and nobody really knows what to do with that.

“At the same time, smartphone location services are starting to return an altitude reading in meters. In the near future, it’s been announced by Google that they’re working on floor-level accuracy. That’s just amazing. We have to take advantage of that and give call-takers the best possible data that’s available from the smartphones.

In addition to this week’s iOS 12 announcement with Apple, RapidSOS has conducted pilot programs with devices using the Android operating system that currently are being evaluated by Google, Ekl said.

 

Source: http://urgentcomm.com/ng-911/apple-utilize-rapidsos-deliver-911-caller-location-information-psaps?page=1

 

Judge Grants Approval For Time Warner/AT&T Merger

By Jim Fryer, Managing Editor, Inside Towers

A U.S. court under Judge Richard Leon ruled late Tuesday, that AT&T could buy Time Warner Inc for $85 billion, without conditions, according to Reuters. The ruling opens the door for AT&T to compete with internet companies and grab the bottomless revenue stream associated with digital advertising, while providing new sources of revenue as carriers search for new income outlets in a stagnating market.

The deal also opens the way for additional mergers, such as Comcast Corp’s bid for some of Twenty-First Century Fox’s assets.

“I conclude that the government has failed to meet its burden of proof,” Judge Leon told the court. He called one of the government’s arguments against the deal “gossamer thin” and said any attempt to obtain a stay of his ruling would not only be unsuccessful but “manifestly unjust.”
Reuters said shares of AT&T were about flat in after-hours trade following the decision, while Time Warner rose more than five percent. Afterwards, AT&T praised the decision and said it hopes to close the deal by June 20.

Published June 13, 2018

Source: insidetowers.com

AT&T’s extreme-weather drone provides new LTE coverage option in difficult environments

AT&T announces a tethered drone that is designed to operate as a cell on wings (COW) that can provide broadband coverage in extreme weather conditions—a capability that promises to be valuable to AT&T, enterprise customers and first responders, according to an AT&T official.

AT&T recently announced a tethered drone that is designed to operate as a cell on wings (COW) that can provide broadband coverage in extreme weather conditions—a capability that promises to be valuable to AT&T, enterprise customers and first responders, according to an AT&T official.

Art Pregler, AT&T’s unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) program director, said that AT&T previously has used drones to provide surveillance video of cell tower and deliver LTE coverage to remote areas, but the new drone has been designed to operate in rain, snow and winds up to 50 miles per hour.

“With most drones, the manufacturer designs the drone and then—kind of as an afterthought—they figure out how it can fly in various weather conditions,” Pregler said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “Whereas, with this drone, from its initial concept, it was designed for harsh weather.

“For example, the motors are pointed down instead of up. The arms are hollow tubes that channels air through the tubes to cool the engines while it’s running. We put a cybersecurity system on our drone, as well, so that if anyone tries to hack it, jam it or spoof it, the drone autonomously detects what’s going on and will switch frequencies, and it will mitigate the threat. We’ve done quite a few things to it to ensure that it’s robust, so it can operate not only in harsh environments but in threatening environments, as well.”

AT&T’s all-weather drone has a 550-tether that provides power and two strands of fiber-optic connectivity—one to support data transmission and one for drone telemetry—from the LTE equipment on the drone to a ground station, where myriad backhaul options can be employed, Pregler said.

“If there’s no backhaul at all, then we’ll default to satellite,” he said. “But, if there’s Ethernet available, we’ll tap into that. If there’s microwave, we’ll go with that. We can also go with free-space optical, we can tie into aerostats, and we can even tie into AirGig, which is an AT&T technology using power lines. So, there are a lot of options for backhaul.”

From a power standpoint, the AT&T all-weather drone can use power from the commercial grid, generators, batteries or even a solar-panel array, Pregler said. As long as power is available, the new drone can remain in flight “theoretically forever,” but AT&T is still conducting tests to determine limits. Currently, AT&T is not using a drone for more than 24 hours at a time without maintenance, although manufacturers have stated that they believe the drone can remain operational for several weeks at a time.

Such power versatility and the 550-foot tether let the new AT&T drone provide LTE coverage for a significant area—potentially much more range that AT&T realized via LTE coverage during disaster-recovery efforts in Puerto Rico during the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Pregler said.

“The value of the drone with LTE technology is that LTE is line of sight, so the higher you go in altitude, the wider the coverage area,” Pregler said. “If you fly the drone at 550 feet, that’s taller than any tower in our network, so we’re able to put out a very large coverage area.

“In Puerto Rico, we only flew it at 200 feet, and even there, we had a 14-square-mile coverage area for each drone. And the real value there is that we’re able to get over trees, ridges and rough terrain, over buildings and over other structures, so it has a lot of value in the coverage capability.”

Pregler said AT&T’s experience in Puerto Rico using drone technology to provide temporary LTE coverage was valuable.

“We took our program from something that we believed could be done to putting it into practice and proved that is something that is viable, it does provide value, and it works,” he said. “It validated a lot of assumptions for us. We feel much more confident. Not that we weren’t confident to begin with, but having proven it in the field, we know our solution works.”

Source: http://urgentcomm.com/long-term-evolution/att-s-extreme-weather-drone-provides-new-lte-coverage-option-difficult-environme?eid=forward

ATS Successfully Completes Annual ISO Audit

Advanced Technical Services has successfully completed a re-certification audit by NSF in May of 2018.

The certification verifies that the Quality Management System implemented and maintained by ATS meets the requirements of the ISO 9001-2015 standard for our repair processes.

ATS has been ISO certified since 2007 and is proud of the ongoing commitment from our entire team.