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April 17, 2014

Why Zebra’s buyout of Motorola’s enterprise business will fuel IoT growth

Both companies are part of the Internet of Things.

By Amy-Jo Crowley


In the week of Zebra Technologies’ $3.45bn buyout of Motorola Solutions’ enterprise division, a provider of barcode scanners and other communication services for businesses, its SVP for new growth platforms, Philip Gerskovich, says the deal will deliver better services for customers and a quicker return on investment.

How will the move drive improved services for your customers and a quicker return on investments?

We think there are two key direct trends that will drive growth in our industry going forward. One of them is the Internet of Things (IoT) and the other is an increasingly mobile workforce.

IoT is initially being done by radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology tagged devices that are read through devices from Motorola supplies, and it will be done by new categories of RFID devices that measure temperature and other information like that. So we believe that the IoT is going to be a critical technology for enterprises. It’s already growing quickly in consumer areas with internet-connected thermostat and health monitors, and businesses looking for real-time information they need to know about all of their assets.

Are there any technologies you’re looking to develop in particular?

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The first thing is Zebra has developed a cloud-based software application called Zatar, which is a framework for building Internet applications. And the information that will feed this will range from RFID to barcodes and also to technologies like iBeacons. We recently demonstrated how iBeacons at the National Retail Federation (NRF) in New York City, January, and recreated the minority report scene where Tom Cruise walks into the store with displays changing as he walks about. We showcased how our Zatar IoT platform and Apple’s iBeacon technology are enhancing customer experience.

How will the buyout of Motorola further enable these ideas?

It gives us more tools to sense the real-time environment. Everything that businesses want to send to their environment, whether they’re people or objects, there just won’t be one technology they use to send it. In some cases it will be iBeacon, in other cases it will be RFID or barcode. All of these technologies will be important, so by putting these companies together, we can deliver a whole spectrum of technologies to build IoT applications. .

What challenges lie ahead in the IoT market and if so how to you plan to overcome them?

The challenges are how to tie together multiple devices in a simple way for enterprise software applications to make use of that data. In the old days, what would happen would be if you had a printer, the printer would talk to one software application. But today that doesn’t work with these devices. So there needs to be a software framework to allow you to tie all of these different devices in a simple way to enterprise applications and that’s where our Zatar framework comes in to play. We build a homepage for every device, similar to a Facebook page, and that homepage is very simple to share with different applications that want to get access to that device, so by introducing this social media metaphor to the user, we think we have a very powerful solution to address this issue.

How exactly will this homepage help companies?

Companies nowadays have enterprise software, like ERP systems from Oracle or SAP, which are legacy applications that have been around a long time and change and move very slowly. Those applications will benefit from having real-time data that the IoT can supply to them. So the question is how you feed those enterprise software applications with this real-time data that comes from the IoT. That’s where software frameworks, like Zebra Zatar, can help provide an easy way to connect up all of those IoT devices to those legacy enterprise applications

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