SAP Leonardo - the future is (almost) here

By Carl McGowan on

It’s always exciting to be present at the time a new technology gathers momentum. Walking the halls of Sapphire NOW 2017, SAP’s global event for customers, partners and employees, you could feel the energy and commitment SAP is devoting to its next generation technology platform – SAP Leonardo.

Whereas five years ago the conference was devoted to all things HANA, this year SAP Leonardo dominated proceedings.

Although it is still at an embryonic stage, SAP told attendees it is absolutely dedicated to its new high-tech platform. This is borne out by the fact it has directed its 10,000 plus developers to work on SAP Leonardo full time.

SAP is investing heavily to mature the platform to the point where its clutch of cutting edge technologies can be easily adopted by customers to help them solve real world business problems.

So, what is SAP Leonardo?

SAP Leonardo is SAP’s next ‘big thing’.

It includes technologies such as Block Chain, Internet of Things (IoT), predictive analytics, machine learning artificial intelligence and chatbots.

At the moment, it is a nascent mixture of products, software, ideas – and aspirations. But in three or four years’ time I believe it will create big changes within SAP’s customer base. Change is coming and it is BIG.

Of course, ambition is one thing and delivery is another. Currently, there are still only a handful of SAP Leonardo applications in existence – some of which are at the proof of concept stage and a couple that are market-ready.

One of the best examples I saw at Sapphire NOW was SAP’s Predictive Maintenance and Service application – a mixture of SAP Leonardo technologies that lifts asset management to new heights of efficiency, thanks to its ability to provide users with tools for instantaneous decision-making.

The application lets an organisation connect its assets in real-time. A trucking firm, for example, could get live data feeds from sensors on its trucks, which SAP Leonardo’s machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities then use to determine the health status of each truck, raise alerts if certain parameters were being exceeded, and generally crunch data to ensure the organisation’s trucks were operating at optimal performance.

SAP Leonardo makes for a compelling story

An application that can connect assets on the ‘edge’ of an organisation’s IT environment – in this instance its trucks – using IoT technology, then take high speed, real time data feeds into a big data engine where predictive analytics can be performed to provide key insights.

The application uses SAP’s Fiori interface technology to present this information to users in easily actionable ways. The hope is that such instantaneous access to data will improve decision-making, and provide information for better forecasting, budgeting and execution of maintenance operations.

Chatbots are also under development and promise to fundamentally change the way users interact with their IT applications. At Sapphire NOW, SAP demonstrated a Human Resources app that talks to the user and accepts voice commands.

The app interprets speech and through a series of questions and answers discovers exactly what action the user wishes to perform. This type of natural language processing takes a lot of computing power and the algorithms that underlie its operation are extremely sophisticated, but within a demonstration environment,

SAP has proven it can work. It doesn’t take too much imagination to assume that machine learning and natural language processing will continue to advance in leaps and bounds enabling this type of application interaction to become common place.

Running SAP Leonardo

To run SAP Leonardo applications at scale will require powerful computers to train algorithms and execute processes. SAP emphasised at Sapphire NOW that the cloud will be key to achieving an integrated vision for its new products. And to reach that goal, it announced that it will be working with the likes of Google and Nvidia to ensure the underlying cloud technologies and graphic processing power needed to support SAP Leonardo develops development in unison with SAP’s cutting edge apps.

In many ways, this year’s Sapphire NOW conference marked both an end and a beginning. The extraordinary effort SAP has put into HANA over the previous years is over. HANA is fully matured and on a normal maintenance path.

SAP is now looking ahead, and as the SAP Leonardo name suggests, it is working hard to invent new and exciting technologies for the future.