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7 June 2019

Zebra tempts third-party devs with new PaaS tweaks

Zebra Technologies has added new tools to its Savanna platform that it hopes will entice third-party developers to create integrations that will enrich its combined offering. Suppliers like Zebra are poised to bring IoT functionality to the kinds of businesses that have no idea what the IoT is, through gradual evolutions of product offerings, in a wave of kinda boring digital transformation.

Zebra is a US firm that provides hardware and software for the supply chain. Its $3.45bn acquisition of Motorola Solution’s Enterprise business was one of Riot’s very first articles. Ranging from barcode scanners, label printers, and handheld stock management computers, Zebra has been expanding its back-end software and services portfolio, using its Savana platform. It currently has a market cap of around $9.75bn, at a share price of $180. Back in April, each share was worth $233, and it seems that its results disappointed many in the investment community.

Nonetheless, Zebra is promoting its new Savanna Data Services, part of the Savva platform that is intended to enable adopters to collect and process data from Zebra devices in real-time, ‘turning raw data into actionable insights.’ So, the new Savanna Data Services API is being pitched at the Independent Software Vendors (ISVs), as well as software developers and “business innovators.”

For logistics nerds, this is a big deal, building on Zebra’s recently announced decision to acquire Profitect – a firm that provides prescriptive analytics for the retail and consumer packaged good (CPG) industries. But for the rest of the world, this is not much more than a cracking example of the evolutionary impact of the IoT on established businesses – where the next iteration of a business process comes with some manner of IoT functionality that brings it to sit under the IoT umbrella.

For many industries and markets, there isn’t a driver that will force the hand of the biggest players to jump ship and wholesale-embrace the IoT. Rather, in time, the products and services they buy from their suppliers will become connected, so that the next time they build a warehouse, it gets delivered as a connected warehouse, or the next time they replace the refrigerators in a cold-chain environment, there is a supplier that can offer them an IoT-enabled alternative to the old model.

Of course, once one element is incorporated into an existing business, the next IoT project should roll into place with ease. The benefits of using all that data to inform business decisions or better monitor equipment and processes should be easy enough for the integrator to show off, and for suppliers like Zebra, increasing one’s IoT footprint increases the potential improvements that can be made to the IoT proposition in the first place – reinforcing it with all the insights pulled from the data points.

Zebra says that the new API should help such users create cutting-edge systems for individual business and customer needs, leveraging the Savannah platform and the API to shorten development time and cost. For Zebra, this is another revenue stream, as it charges for using the API.

One of the first API customers is Doddle, a postage supplier in the UK that serves retailers looking to expand their online retail capabilities via Doddle’s collection points. “We commonly hear the themes of pace and agility from our retail customers which particularly impact the supply chain. Savanna has provided us with the tools to iterate our click and collect solutions at the pace the market requires,” said Gary O’Connor, CTO, Doddle. “As a simple use case, we have used a print from cloud API to reduce the deployment time of our ‘ship from store’ proposition. Longer term, Savanna is a key component of our returns platform – using the blockchain ledger to distribute data across the supply chain to enable intelligent decisions – reducing handling costs and getting items back on sale more quickly.”

Another user is Problem Solutions. The clue as to its business is in the name, but it specializes in developing and then integrating solutions to a business’ problem. “Our close collaboration with Zebra on its Savanna platform has enabled us to develop an automated solution for our manufacturing customers,” Brooks Canavesi, Sales Director, Problem Solutions. “We analyze data in real time via IoT devices which has resulted in enhanced operational visibility and increased safety around critical manufacturing facility infrastructure.”

The final example comes from Qodenext, a firm that designs supply traceability systems for its customers. “We selected Savanna’s print API and blockchain authentication engine to enable total transparency for our customers needing accurate visibility of their raw materials used during the production and distribution process,” said Sameer Parekh, CEO, Qodenext. “This automation has resulted in significant inventory management savings as well as increased productivity and staff optimization. One customer has subsequently received intellectual property protection in the United States using the traceability solution in its manufacturing process.”

“Savanna Data Services enable the creation of bespoke, innovative and compelling solutions that will revolutionize how enterprises operate,” said Drew Ehlers, Global Director, Portfolio Marketing, Enterprise Software, Office of the CTO, Zebra Technologies. “Our new developer experience allows users to exclusively leverage intelligent edge device data along with third-party data services via APIs through the Savanna platform to completely transform workflows, identify supply chain bottlenecks and produce outstanding business outcomes.”