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Whether you’re a business executive or a seasoned IT pro, using managed services can make your job easier. When effectively executed, a Managed Service (MS) is like gaining the capability of an IT Department with the expertise of seasoned professionals to deliver focused application operations to your company’s business application users. Simply put, an MS is designed to handle the daily operations of your specialized applications providing the capability to your company end-users and therefore allowing in-house IT to focus on more strategic IT programs, also freeing your team to focus on your business’ core competencies.
This shows up often when IT professionals notice a decline in the current repository of knowledge, reducing the quality of IT service to your company. Other symptoms of a need for an MS include following:
- “We didn’t achieve everything we wanted last year due to a lack of Service and Support”
- “We had too many service outages and downtime”
- “We overspent our budget on tweaks to our business applications that eroded its performance”
- “We lost data due to lack of ability with the solution”
From my experience working with small and large client companies alike, I often suggest how a managed service can help address these challenges. In my career, I have worked with many clients that are utilizing managed services in a variety of ways. Most recently, I provided a managed service to a large energy company which found the service to be seamless and significantly improved the satisfaction of end users and IT support staff, globally.
Assessing the Need
Today, IT managers are under significant pressure to meet the performance, operational expectations, and security needs of the business while trying to keep costs down. Most of the financial experts would suggest in these conditions to switch to a predictable cost model, like that of a managed service. A company that provides such services is called a Managed Service Provider (MSP). The best time to consider speaking with a MSP is when you are setting future strategic goals or deploying new services to your IT environment. Many times, a company’s existing staff may not be experienced with a new technology or able to maintain new services or applications. Hiring contractors to provide the service may be more expensive and provide less value in supporting your company’s ever-growing performance goals, given astatic or declining budget. This is often true for small, medium and large companies alike.
Managed Service models have evolved over time, and the seasoned providers have perfected their delivery. It is very effective for a business that:
- Relies on their IT Infrastructure to properly support their daily business processes
- Do not have sufficiently trained staff or time to formally deal with proper maintenance, updates and repairs
- Want to pay one monthly, flat fee for services to provide a high level of service quality to the business
For most business services, IT underpins the business engine. From software to hardware and the skills required to keep the service running, a company could invest significant capital in building and maintaining the in-house support staff. However, given the maturity of the managed service models and the shift to virtualization and cloud, the need for on-site IT staff can be limited to the exceptions where operational sensitivity justifies it. To ensure greater IT cost predictability amid uncertain requirements, a company may consider leveraging managed service experts.
MSPs usually price their services on a subscription basis. Based on the services selected, the pricing is usually scoped on the number of devices with pricing aligned to packages across a range of categories. Some provide customer support on-site when required. Basic services often start with a monitoring service, which identifies potential issues, which you resolve on your own. At the other end of the spectrum, service providers offer comprehensive managed services that cover everything from alerts through problem resolution.
Benefits of Managed Services
Better Cost Control: Cost factors for a business service depend on an organization’s requirement for availability and criticality of a particular service.
The typical cost components of an IT department, including training, equipment and personnel, are absorbed by the MSP and presented as a fixed monthly charge to the company. This helps in effectively predicting costs every month when budgeting. Depending on the future requirements and the speed of the your organization’s IT maturity, the managed service can scale to address such scenarios. The biggest benefit is that a company can decide how much to scale based on factors that may include finance and the CIO’s strategic vision. IT Service interruptions and outages can also be prevented, thus mitigating the risk of further losses. In terms of the energy company, the client went from multiple daily outages to one scheduled outage a month.
Improved Risk Management: Every business carries a certain amount of risk. This can be minimized by lowering the individual risk involved with each business service identified as critical. A MSP can help reduce risk by contributing their own proprietary methodologies and access to modern infrastructure and software. This enables adherence to best practices and minimizes risk involved in the service delivery.
The MSP assumes and manages much of the risk for the company it serves by having specific industry knowledge, especially around security and compliance issues. They can partner with your business and guide you on the best way to avoid risk in your domains of expertise.
High Availability, Efficiency and Productivity: For an IT Service, the saying time is money” always applies. For optimal company performance, constant availability of a mission-critical IT services are the top priority for many organizations. While assessing the true cost of downtime is hard, it is always recommended to take proactive steps to avoid it completely. At worst, reputational risk could be a factor when the outage comes to the attention of those outside the company potentially eroding public trust. Clients experience better performance with minimal downtime when using a managed service. Many times, mission-critical applications involve multiple technologies and require them to be fully operational and integrated to achieve the IT service expected. All component applications must be available together for the IT service to function seamlessly for internal end-users. A MSP can ensure maximum uptime and minimal service interruptions.
Organizations that attempt to implement and support all IT services in-house usually have a much higher research and development cost as well as longer timelines to deploy –costs may also be passed on to the organizations wishing to consume these services. The MSP is highly efficient in delivering IT services in a way that keeps costs low and the time to deploy short while providing a high-quality service to the business.
Future Proofing IT Services: IT departments will always have funding, technical, security, and operational challenges. As you look for strategies to minimize spend, I have seen many organizations effectively utilize AMS to achieve the full benefit of seamless service integration with less worry over resource constraints. MSP’s will always have their staff trained on upcoming and new releases as well as new technologies with the ability to lock-in costs for a multi-year period. By creating more predictability, your business will reduce operational risk, challenges and minimize service disruption.
Things to Keep in Mind
Managed Service Providers bring not only practical delivery of a predictable service model and cost to quickly and effectively deliver new IT service to an enterprise, but also enhance the stability and peace of mind for IT and business leaders alike.
The task of delivering new business services to the enterprise while keeping costs controlled is a difficult task in the modern business environment. A managed service is a great strategy to help your IT organization be highly resilient, and cost predictable, fiscal year to fiscal year. MSPs complement and do not replace existing staff but rather free those valuable resources to lead and deliver on the strategic IT programs necessary to advance business goals. In larger organizations, an MSP will help your resources to focus on more strategic projects. You can rest assured that your company is minimizing the risks associated with maintaining client data and sensitive competitive information and more with today’s managed service offerings.
What other automaker comes to your home to improve your vehicle?
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article comes to us courtesy of EVANNEX, which makes and sells aftermarket Tesla accessories. The opinions expressed therein are not necessarily our own at InsideEVs, nor have we been paid by EVANNEX to publish these articles. We find the company’s perspective as an aftermarket supplier of Tesla accessories interesting and are happy to share its content free of charge. Enjoy!
Tesla revealed its Full Self-Driving (FSD) computer, which supersedes the previous Autopilot hardware, earlier this year. The FSD is equipped with a proprietary Tesla chip, which the company claims outperforms the older Nvidia-based hardware by a factor of 21.
YouTuber Electric Dreams has a Model X that was equipped with the Autopilot 2.5 hardware. He scheduled an appointment through the Tesla mobile app, and a Tesla technician came to his house. The full installation took about two and a half hours.
Tesla says a new software version with full self-driving capability will be released next year.
Google and IBM may be battling for quantum supremacy, but Amazon is currently happy to be a middleman — today, it’s announcing and launching a preview of Amazon Braket, its attempt to turn the nascent field of quantum computing into a service you can access over the internet, a month after Microsoft did something similar. “Amazon Braket is a fully managed AWS service, with security & encryption baked in at each level,” the company explains in a blog post.
For now, it sounds like a pretty limited affair, where “you” will mean Amazon’s corporate customers, and where “service” means the ability to experiment by running simulations on a set of existing quantum computers from partners D-Wave, IonQ, and Rigetti. (IonQ is also a Microsoft Azure Quantum partner.)
“This new service is designed to let you get some hands-on experience with qubits and quantum circuits. You can build and test your circuits in a simulated environment and then run them on an actual quantum computer,” writes Amazon.
But Amazon says it’s also creating the “AWS Center for Quantum Computing,” a physical lab near the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) where it may research quantum computers of its own — and more uses for quantum computers, for that matter. The company’s director of quantum computing confirmed to Wiredthat Amazon is working on quantum hardware.
Theoretically, quantum computers could calculate far faster than traditional supercomputers thanks to the fact that their bits can exist in multiple quantum states instead of simply being on (1) or off (0), and that’s what Google recently claimed it had achieved with its 54-qubit Sycamore quantum computer. The company says its machine successfully made a calculation that would take the world’s most powerful supercomputer 10,000 years.
But quantum computers are also rare and extremely expensive, so Amazon and Microsoft are each attempting to turn them into a shared, managed, and potentially scalable resource, like Amazon already does with its highly valuable AWS cloud computing platform. That invisible server empire serves as backbone for many of the internet services you use today.
The energy will be converted into microwaves or lasers in Space and beamed back down to Earth.
Solar energy may jump up to an entirely new level by 2035, as we may see aerospace engineers harnessing the Sun’s power from Space.
The China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) has stated that the nation will be doing just that and building a space-based solar power station in our lifetime.
This would massively cut down on current fossil fuel consumption.
A solar station up in Space
China plans on building a 200-tonne megawatt-level solar station based in Space by 2035.
The station would capture the Sun’s energy that never makes it all the way down to Earth, according to Wang Li, a research fellow at CAST. Wang shared the information at the sixth China-Russia Engineering Forum held in Xiamen, China last week.
Wang mentioned that the energy would be converted into microwaves or lasers and be beamed back to our planet to be used for our consumption.
Furthermore, Wang said “We hope to strengthen international cooperation and make scientific and technological breakthroughs so that humankind can achieve the dream of limitless clean energy at an early date.”
This would be a very welcome achievement given the amount of fossil fuels we currently use is dwindling, not to mention their extremely negative effect on our environment.
A Space-based solution would be more sustainable and efficient from the sounds of it. Wang pointed out that this method of harnessing energy would provide a reliable power supply solution for satellites, disaster-stricken zones on Earth, as well as isolated areas.
This idea was first hatched back in 1941 when science fiction author Isaac Asimov wrote about the concept of harnessing power from Space. Then in 1968 an American aerospace engineer, Peter Glaser, put together a formal proposal for such a solar-based system in Space .
Sono Motors, a solar electric car startup that has gathered some traction over the last few years, has announced that it needs to crowdraise $50 million in the next 30 days in order to survive.
Sono Motors Sion: Electric Solar Car
In March, the company unveiled the production version of the Sion, which is equipped with both a 35 kWh battery pack and an array of solar cells.
They claim that these solar cells can add enough range to the vehicle’s battery to enable an average commute.
The company said it was aiming for a range of ~155 miles (250 km) on a single charge and claims that the solar cells on the vehicle can add up to 30 km of range per day.
Sono previously said that the Sion would start at €16,000 (~$18,000), but buyers would have to pay an additional fee to acquire the battery pack or pay a monthly fee, similar to the scheme used by Renault with the Zoe in France.
At first, the company said that the battery pack would be around “around €4,000,” but it now expects the price of the battery pack to be €9,500, bringing the price of the full vehicle to €25,500 (~$29,000).
The specs and price were enough to convince thousands of people to put down a reservation, but the company has suffered some delays. Most recently, they were targeting a start of production during the second half of 2020 and they wanted to do that at SAAB’s former Sweden factory.
Sono’s Current Financial Issues
Now Sono is in need of more money to be able to reach production and they said that they don’t want to work with “traditional investors”.
They announced today that they need to raise 50 million euros in the next 30 days.
Laurin Hahn, co-CEO and co-founder of Sono Motors, commented:
“We realized again and again over the past few months that we have entirely different goals to traditional financial investors. “Aggressive growth and quick profits are difficult to reconcile with a sustainable corporate and vehicle concept which is designed to give access to affordable and eco-friendly electromobility throughout. In addition, providing start-ups that have a capital-intensive business model with venture capital does not work in Germany, neither in the initial stages nor at the growth stage. Had we relied solely on funding measures or the German market environment, Sono Motors would probably not exist in its current form. Urgent action is required from the politicians in this area. It should be possible to implement such a future project in Germany and lead it to economic success. We will continue to fight anyhow. For climate-friendly mobility and for our reservation holders,”
Jona Christians, co-CEO and cofounder of Sono Motors, added:
“We were torn between our pledge to the community and the investors’ demands and were increasingly moving away from who we really are, which is something we absolutely had to correct. Social responsibility and climate protection would otherwise have fallen by the wayside, and so would all that we stepped up for. We are now focusing on continuing to fund our innovative vehicle concept together with people who want to see the Sion on the road. Together with a community that asks for a company which acts responsibly, critically questions itself and can be judged honestly on the basis of the statements it makes,”
Sono is asking for donations, pre-orders with deposits, and even loans in their crowdfunding effort:
Within the first few hours of launching the campaign, they have already raised 2.7 million euros.
If they do manage to get the money, Sono still warns of additional delays as they say that they now can’t see the first vehicle deliveries happening until September 2021.
A solar-powered electric car that runs without needing charging may sound impossible, but Toyota, Sharp, and NEDO (New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization of Japan) have joined forces to hopefully make it a reality.
By pairing together the best solar panels on the market with the most efficient batteries available — not to mention years worth of experience with car-manufacturing — the companies are hoping, theoretically, to produce a vehicle that might run forever.
“The solar car’s advantage is that, while it can’t drive for a long range, it’s really independent of charging facilities,” said project manager at Toyota, Koji Makino to Bloomberg.
One of the main drawbacks with fully electric cars is that, even if their sales were to surpass those of petroleum-based vehicles, they’d still need to be charged — which, in turn, means a string of charging docks, requiring space and further funds.
Conversely, the sun provides readily available energy without the need for charging docks or extra costs.
Coupled with a high enough battery capacity to keep a vehicle running during darker hours, solar-powered cars have the potential to completely outdo other new types of tech that are currently in the pipeline — from hybrid vehicles to hydrogen-powered cars.
Though this may seem just one small step in the effort to marry together solar energy with a vehicle that actually works, it’s actually substantial progress considering the large energy expenditure required to shift a car’s weight.
Due to the fact that the solar cells the companies are working on are only 0.03 mm thick, they can be attached to a wider variety of surfaces including curved areas on cars like the roof, the hood, or the hatchback.
In addition to the fact that the technology behind this venture has introduced a new efficiency, there’s also the fact that the vehicles can be charged while the vehicle is in motion — something that has, until recently, been impossible.
According to NEDO representative Mitsuhiro Yamazaki, if such a car were driven four days a week for a maximum of 50 kilometers each day, it wouldn’t be necessary to charge it at a dock.
To build the optimum solar-powered vehicle, there are still a lot of aspects that need working on and there need to be workarounds to enable such a vehicle to run efficiently in areas that aren’t quite as sunny or are more like deserts in terms of their climate.
“This is not a technology we are going to see widely used in the next decades,” auto-analyst at Carnorama consultancy Takeshi Miyao told Bloomberg. “It’s going to take a long time.”
Self-driving cars have countless obstacles to contend with, chief among them drivers who don’t always act predictably — or responsibly. There’s also precipitation and wind to worry about, plus jaywalking pedestrians and zippy electric bikes and scooters. That’s not to mention alleyways and busy intersections that no amount of Google Maps data can elucidate.
Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that Ghost Locomotion, a startup headed by former Yahoo CTO and Pure Storage cofounder John Hayes, isn’t tackling a full stack autonomous car platform just yet. Instead, it’s honing in on the task that constitutes two-thirds of all miles driven in the U.S.: highway driving.
“Many self-driving companies are attempting to solve the driving experience from end to end and have not yet perfected any element of as a result,” wrote the company in a press release. “Ghost is simplifying the problem by focusing on exit-to-exit driving, to start. As complexity of city driving pushes self-driving timelines further and further into the future, Ghost is laser-focused on building real self-driving for highways and providing a huge benefit to people sooner, and expanding from there.”
Ghost today emerged from stealth after spending two years and change developing an aftermarket self-driving kit to retrofit existing cars. It has raised $63.7 million in capital to date from Founders Fund’s Keith Rabois, Khosla Ventures’ Vinod Khosla, and Sutter Hill Ventures’ Mike Speiser, and it’s promising compatibility with 20 “popular” car models from 2012 onward when its product launches next year.
Above: One of the side cameras included in the Ghost kit.Image Credit: Ghost Locomotion
According to Hayes and cofounder Dr. Volkmar Uhlig, a computer science PhD and a veteran of IBM Watson Research, Ghost’s differentiation lies in its approach to automation, which incorporates imitation learning. The pair are careful to draw a distinction between Ghost’s technology and advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) like Nissan’s ProPilot Assist and Tesla’s current implementation of Autopilot. Unlike those systems, which rely heavily on rulesets, Ghost begins with human observation, recording what real-world drivers see and how they react to create a ground truth. The company’s AI uses this to model correct driving behaviors, creating a capable, dynamic autonomous control policy that can scale to almost any modern car.
Ghost holds onto a set of real-world data samples that aren’t used to train the model, which it uses for testing, and it says constantly adds more scenarios and retrains its model “in pursuit of perfection.” Already, the company’s kits are installed on the cars of “dozens” of commuters and Lyft and Uber drivers, and Ghost plans to have its kits in hundreds of cars by the end of the year and thousands of cars in 2020.
It’s an approach similar to that of Cambridge, U.K.-based Wayve, whose driverless cars self-improve by learning from safety driver interventions. (Every time Wayve’s system makes a mistake that causes a driver to take over, it learns from that interaction.) Wayve asserts that it’s far more scalable than the data-heavy techniques currently pursued by Waymo, Uber, Cruise, Zoox, and Aurora. To this end, it demonstrated that a car on its platfom could navigate roads using AI and satellite navigation alone. That’s in contrast to systems like Waymo’s, which partly lean on high-definition maps and heuristics.
Ghost’s forthcoming kit will pack a small computer that’s installed in the car’s trunk and connected to the controller area network (CAN), along with eight low-profile cameras that affix to a car’s windshield, side windows, and rear window. In this respect, it’s not unlike Openpilot, the open source semi-automated driving system developed by Comma.ai, which was founded by hacker icon George Hotz. Like Ghost’s system, Openpilot running atop the Eon DevKit and other third-party hardware imbues cars with increased compute, as well as enhanced sensors and driver assistance features like lane centering and adaptive cruise control.
Toronto-based X Matik similarly sells an aftermarket kit — LaneCruise, which starts at over $2,000 — that promises to imbue cars with limited autonomy. It includes a wheel controller, PC, and cameras, and it cedes control once a driver interacts with the steering wheel or pedals.
Above: The front camera from the Ghost kit.Image Credit: Ghost Locomotion
But unlike Openpilot and X Matik’s LaneCruise and despite the fact that Ghost isn’t testing its tech on public roads, the company says it has taken pains to empirically verify its system using processes typically reserved for aerospace and defense industries. It compares its driving model “numerically” to the way real drivers safely navigate public roads. Presumably, this extra step will also help ensure Ghost doesn’t run afoul of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, as noncompliance landed Comma.ai in hot water three years ago.
In any case, Ghost has a founding team of over 75 employees (mostly data scientists and engineers) and a pedigreed C-suite that includes David Purdy, formerly senior manager for safety at Uber; Jay Gierak, previously a general manager at Uber; and Justin Erickson, who has held senior roles at both Cloudera and Microsoft. Ghost’s board of directors includes managing partners and founders at Sutter Hilland Khosla, as well as the Founders Fund, and Sila Nanotechnologies cofounder Gene Berdichevsky.
Ghost is chasing after a lucrative market, to be sure. According to marketing firm ABI, as many as 8 million driverless cars will be added to the road in 2025, and Research and Markets anticipates that there will be some 20 million autonomous cars in operation in the U.S. by 2030.
These two new conversion kits are plug-and-play – batteries not included – but take note, purists may disapprove
Not one, but two companies this month unveiled something electric car enthusiasts have been asking for for a long time — electric “crate motors” that can be pretty easily swapped into whatever gasoline-powered vehicle they’ll physically fit into. Batteries not included.
According to Autoblog, upstart Electric GT (EGT), led by Eric Hutchison, plans to soon offer both a single- and dual-motor EV conversion kit.
Both can be bolted onto manual transmissions, and many motor mounts and plate adapters for various gearboxes have already been developed; the company can custom-design adapters, too.
The company first gained popularity (or notoriety) for swapping an electric drivetrain into a Ferrari 308, swapping out the car’s old 2.9-litre V8 – which made 280 horsepower and 181 lb.-ft. of torque – for three AC51 HPEVS electric motors making a total 465 hp and 330 lb.-ft.
The new e-crate motor is shaped like a classic V8 motor, except it’s about 5 inches longer than most classic Chevy or Ford small-blocks. The single-motor kit makes 140 hp and 240 lb.-ft.; while dual-motors make 240 hp and 340 lb.-ft.
Swindon Powertrain in the U.K. is also throwing its hat into the e-crate ring, and will offer a smaller, more European-style motor.
Swindon’s motor is a more conventional transverse design for front-wheel-drive cars or small mid-engine cars. It weighs a more Chapman-esque 70 kg and makes a respectable 110 horsepower. Dimensions are 600 mm wide by 440 mm deep by as little as 280 mm tall, meaning it will fit almost anywhere, including under the hood of a Mini.
It’s worth noting if you convert your classic car to electric power, though, FIVA (Fédération Internationale des Véhicules Anciens), the global organization dedicated to preserving older vehicles, recently announced it will consider your car – or any vintage EV-converted car – desecrated.
The group regularly lobbies governments around the world for classic car owners’ rights; but in their eyes, your EV-converted antique ain’t a “classic car” any more, so you’ll be on your own.