AN­DERS GUSTAFS­SON, ZE­BRA TECH­NOLO­GIES

AN­DERS GUSTAFS­SON CEO, ZE­BRA TECH­NOLO­GIES

HWM (Malaysia) - - CONTENTS - by ZacharyChan

Ze­bra has re­cently been in the lime­light lately for buy­ing up a di­vi­sion of Mo­torola for US$3.45 bil­lion. Who ex­actly is Ze­bra and what do you do?

If you’ve ever rented a car, or pur­chased any­thing at a re­tail store, most likely you’d haven got­ten a re­ceipt from one of our prin­ters. Your driver’s li­cense, ID card could have come from Ze­bra. There’s a whole raft of places where you may have come across tech­nol­ogy pow­ered by Ze­bra. Most peo­ple know us as a bar code company, but what we re­ally do for our cus­tomers is in­creas­ing vis­i­bil­ity of their op­er­a­tions. We do this by giv­ing their as­sets a vir­tual voice.

What do you mean by a vir­tual voice?

This voice can be an ac­tive or pas­sive bar code tag, RFID tag or other types of sen­sor tech­nolo­gies. This tag will be able to com­mu­ni­cate some­thing about an as­set or a per­son—how it is, what it is, where it is—and send this data to var­i­ous apps (for pro­cess­ing). This gives you re­al­time vis­i­bil­ity to what’s hap­pen­ing in the phys­i­cal world and con­nects the phys­i­cal into the dig­i­tal world so we can move faster and make bet­ter de­ci­sions.

How does the Mo­torola ac­qui­si­tion syn­er­gize with Ze­bra’s op­er­a­tions?

Well, we’ve worked to­gether side by side for many years. We’re lead­ers in our re­spec­tive fields; Ze­bra be­ing bar code print­ing, while Mo­torola ex­cels in data cap­ture de­vices and mo­bile. What Ze­bra ac­quired from Mo­torola are scan­ning, mo­bile com­put­ers, wire­less LAN and ser­vices. And strate­gi­cally, this makes a lot of sense be­cause we’re two sides of the same coin. We’re like cook­ies and milk, we just go to­gether. By com­ing to­gether, we’re able to of­fer a broader and more com­plete so­lu­tion to our cus­tomers.

The In­ter­net of Things comes up a lot th­ese days, what is it re­ally?

There are a few themes this ad­dresses. First is mo­bil­ity. In an en­ter­prise en­vi­ron­ment, com­pa­nies want their em­ploy­ees to be un­teth­ered to their desks and of­fices. They should be able to be pro­duc­tive in their jobs wher­ever they go. IoT goes back to what I men­tioned about con­nect­ing the phys­i­cal world to the dig­i­tal world. The term was coined around 1998-1999 at MIT, and at the time, it was re­gard­ing RFID tech­nol­ogy. Now, Ze­bra is a leader in RFID, but IoT has be­come much broader than that.

To­day, peo­ple think of IoT as con­sumer de­vices and wear­ables. We ap­proach it from an en­ter­prise per­spec­tive (on how things are con­nected in the first place), which will im­pact upon end users.

From a company’s per­spec­tive, it’s about be­com­ing as ef­fi­cient as pos­si­ble. If you can bet­ter un­der­stand the work­flow in a sup­ply chain or how mer­chan­dise moves through a re­tail shot, you can take ad­van­tage of that and drive up ser­vice lev­els and ef­fi­ciency.

How does it af­fect the av­er­age con­sumer?

Let me give you an ex­am­ple of how IoT can be part of our world. We (Ze­bra) have a con­tract with the NFL (Na­tional Foot­ball League) in the U.S. to put ac­tive RFID on the play­ers. So now, we can track the move­ment of all the play­ers on the field, from how fast they run and how far they run, to smaller de­tails like stamina and health, whether they fa­vor their left or right leg more. All this data help pro­vide things like real-time video over­lays of play­back and statis­tics. If you play games like fan­tasy foot­ball, this data can also be used to help im­prove re­al­ism in in con­sumer prod­ucts.

Another ex­am­ple would be in re­tail through RFID. Take some­thing sim­ple like blue jeans, for ex­am­ple. They might look the same, but inventory-wise, you’ve got dif­fer­ent sizes, lengths, cuts. You’ve got dif­fer­ent shades of blue, pre-wash, stone-wash, etc. Imag­ine if you were a cus­tomer and you wanted some­thing, but the store spends a long time search­ing and still can­not be sure if they have it in stock, you’d prob­a­bly walk our frus­trated. With RFID, the store can give ev­ery sin­gle pair of jeans a voice to say “I’m here”.

How do you see IoT evolv­ing in the per­sonal space?

I can see great ap­pli­ca­tions for it, re­ally. For ex­am­ple, Ze­bra has this soft­ware so­lu­tion called Zatar. It’s kind of like Face­book for de­vices. You can cre­ate and avatar for your TV or printer or car in the cloud, al­low­ing you to know all kinds of things about those de­vices in real time. We show­cased this smart wine rack at the Cisco World Wide In­ter­net of Things Fo­rum, where you can keep track of what you have in each slot. Say you’re on a business trip and the most ex­pen­sive bot­tle of wine is re­moved from the tray. You can call home and tell your 15-year old son to put it back.

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