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September 17, 2015

How Zebra is playing NFL & delivering with Royal Mail

CBR spoke with David Stain, EMEA vertical marketing manager for manufacturing and field mobility at Zebra Technologies on tracking, monitoring and analysing IoT data.

By Joao Lima

IoT is a revolutionary trend spanning many industries, but Stain believes augmented reality will be the greater wow factor in the smart space.

"There is a lot of innovation and research around IoT. Augmented reality (AR) and sensing technologies are going to be very strong."

Zebra’s $3.45 billion acquisition of Motorola’s enterprise business in October 2014 played a big role on the company’s IoT pathway.

The firm is currently looking at wearables, the mobile workforce and "really thinking about AR much beyond [users] just being able to see something and use AR as a solution for training, for example."

In order for these and other IoT technologies to prevail, Stain defends that devices should not have multiple log-ons but "still have the protection security in them".

Building on this introduction, Stain went on to explain how the company’s Zatar IoT platform is helping to build new connected networks of devices.

IoT platform for connecting legacy and smart devices

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In 2013, Zebra launched the Zatar IoT platform to provide device management solutions to enterprises.

A cloud-based, multi-sensor integration IoT platform for connecting legacy and smart devices to the internet. The solution also enables third-party applications to work with the devices over an open source API.

Stain said: "The reason why Zatar was created was because it gives us the opportunity to place the device or the asset on the platform and then use that platform by creating a dashboard, for example."

Exemplifying use cases, he said that customers might purchase five thousand printers across different countries, and "Zatar offers them one single portal that will give them a view of how many times the devices have been used, what their current health is, if they need any head change, and any other information related to them".

The technology can also be applied to other end-devices such as cars and fridges, "looking for sensing technology to link up to that platform [Zatar] to start translating information [data]".

This extracted data gives customers using Zatar the opportunity to analyse and act based on the analytics from that data.

Playing with NFL

All that data extracted from the devices to the platform has several applications. Taking on examples of customers using Zebra’s solutions, Stain spoke about the US’s National Football League (NFL).

NFL uses Zebra Sports Solution to monitor its players’ performance, pairing RFID receivers installed in stadiums with transmitters hidden in the players’ shoulder pads.

"They [NFL] can see how players are performing, how they are accelerating, decelerating, if the player played the right play, and when he goes in the wrong direction.

"The model there is to sell the information to football league coaches and also individual clients to help them improve."

Delivering for Royal Mail

Royal Mail is one of Zebra’s biggest UK IoT customers, with Zebra responsible for smartening the postal service company’s workforce

Stain said: "[With the Royal Mail] it is around mobile device management, mobilising the mail team to be able to understand where a parcel is, whether it has been searched or not and some of the criteria around industrialising or being robust for the environment that it is due to serve in.

"One of the key points for the Royal Mail was the ability for the device to last a whole shift, hence battery life being a really important key towards that project."

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