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IoT will become the tipping point for Telcos

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By Mamta Swaroop

Mamta is a passionate writer covering IoT at Tonse

As the Network elements became smarter and the infrastructure moved over the cloud, machine to machine interactions looked more achievable not only in the high level architectural diagrams, but also in deployments. Affordable Smart Devices and availability of Apps further extended the automation to the handheld devices. With this Genie in hand, the wishes are enormous and varied. Internet Of Things is appropriately addressed now as “Internet of Everything”. Later one is a much bigger umbrella that encompasses SmartDevices or Apps communicating to each other and interacting with Humans too. Beyond Devices, Apps and Humans, there are Processes to define the communication guidelines and there is Data, around which the entire communication revolves. Connections are broadly categorised as M2M (Machine-to-machine), P2P (People-to-people) and M2P (Machine-to-people).

IoT

IoT industry currently stands between the Value Realized (VR) and the Value at Stake (VAS).

The framework consists of a few core building blocks –

  • Devices & Network
    • Designing Smart Devices
    • Plugging Devices into Network

 

  • Services & Maintenance
    • Delivering IoT Services
    • Managing IoT Infrastructure

 

Designing Smart Devices

Electronic Product Code (EPC)’s Internet translation i.e. Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) enables “things” to be identified in documents, databases or computer programs, like a URL identifies a resource or a location. Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) is capable enough to scale to virtually all objects envisaged. Web of Things is a step further. It is IoT applied over the cloud, wherein Web Applications integrate with IoT Objects and Data. Plethora of objects, loaded with applications and generating data exponentially is addressed by Big Data technology that handles volume, speed. Digitisation is the key that made it much simpler and cheaper to store, transmit and reproduce.

Applications from different verticals like Health, Smart Town, and Automated Enterprise have pushed many physical things and manual processes into their Smart Avatars. Heart monitoring chips, fire sensing chips, animal biochips and vehicle smart chips – the list is growing. Smart devices can be sensed and controlled remotely. What is to be controlled and to what extent, is set in accordance to the end-user agreements. This technology is in high demand by movie publishers. They control the disks installed at the movie halls and can remotely enforce copyright & restrict distribution.

Artificially Intelligent devices go beyond merely following the instructions burnt on the firmware. AI enabled Smart devices decide contextually and actuate. This happens when Machine Learning, Data Analytic and Artificial Intelligence come together. Devices may remain anonymous or can be made identifiable during data transmission.

Nov’14 Gartner forecasted, “4.9 billion connected things will be in use in 2015, up 30 percent from 2014, and will reach 25 billion by 2020.” B Waldner’s 2008 publication, “Nanocomputers and Swarm Intelligence” sets a ground for such forecasts – “Human beings in a surveyed urban environment are each surrounded by 1000 to 5000 track-able objects.”

Digital India too is marching in the right direction. Intel recently unveiled the Intel India Maker Lab and the Intel India Maker Showcase at Bengaluru campus, furthering its commitment to help realize Government of India, its dream plans – Digital India and Make in India. Maker Lab will focus on hardware design and solutions in Internet of Things, Mobile Devices as well as other computing domains. This lab will help hand-picked start-ups in their innovations.

 

Plugging Devices into Network

Smart device gets plugged into network through an interface. These interfaces are use-case specific. Device interfaces can be broadly categorised as –

  • Machine-to-machine Network Interfaces
    • IoTSensor based interfaces for the purpose of remote monitoring

 

  • People-to-people Network Interfaces
    • Collaboration based interfaces for Video conferencing, Messaging

 

  • Machine-to-people Network Interfaces
    • Analytics based interfaces for fetching the context

Device manufactures are moving towards Open APIs. Their opportunity landscape has expanded by releasing APIs for quick integration with their smart devices. AT&T and Nuve offer Mobile Apps that can control their branded devices.

 

Delivering IoT Services

It starts from automating the processes. A common debate is how much to Automate and where to stop. With Machine learning and Artificial Intelligence inbuilt in the core itself and Contextual Intelligence available in plenty, beyond a few initial triggers devices are on their own, beyond human interventions. You might not like to disclose your location but your smart car would certainly share that. So answer to the question, “how much to automate” is situational.

Faceless, non-physical entities, with ubiquitous presence, available to all, usually faster, better, cheaper than traditional services – is really what characterizes the difference between the traditional world elements and the ‘world of things’. It’s a transition at various levels, be it the service delivery model, a shift from real estate to virtual warehouses, TELCO operations moving over the cloud or a 24X7 virtual instructor repeatedly explaining a concept till you absorb it and stop the video yourself.

Big data is at fingertips, Predictive Analytic generates great business insights and based on same Business Plan A gets designed and executed. Business Plan A was devised based on Prediction A. How about Plan B? Do we have a Prediction B to help us design our Plan B? And what if the Model that predicted Plan A was not designed rightly? Who would be fired in that case, the Data Scientist, the Programmer or the Business Analytic? Sales & Marketing strategies would get derived out of the insights generated by Analytics. In short, our perception will change towards many things and many services.

 

Managing IoT Infrastructure

Network plays a major role. CSPs as well as dedicated MVNOs are offering specialised Network services to IoT players. Former plays purely a data pipe and later one offers niche services.

IoT Network is a mix of global space (internet) and local spaces (LANs). Depending on the type of communication needs, all sort of channels are in demandbe it Simplex, Half Duplex, Full Duplex, Uplink, Downlink, Unicast, Multicast, or Broadcast.

Enormous amount of data & contextual information generated by IoT requires flexibility and minimal latency. 5G has emerged as an IoT compliant generation that would enable communication between custom and standard components. Driver less cars require transport highways backed up with absolutely zero latency network. Such cars need contextual information to be gathered, analysed and fed back intothe system in real time.

IoT Service Delivery would involve orchestration of specialised services from different verticals. Vertical domain expertise based services would hold a niche place. Such vertical solutions would be integrated over a horizontally scalable deployment. System Integrators & SMEs are partnering to deliver IoT solutions & services.

Spread out and efficiently scaled IoT solutions, offer security from Access and Authenticity perspective, at horizontal as well as vertical levels. IoT Regulatory framework should offer guidelines to handle a variety of different services; from robust to sophisticated, public to private, static to highly dynamic. For example, bandwidth needed by a Driverless car is to be granted dedicatedly. In such a situation, neutral approach by the Regulator towards all network riders would result in chaos. Data security and privacy remains a major topic that needs not only robust authentication algorithms but also clearly defined policies. Who owns the data and who regulates the agreements?

Mobile App industry thrived on Open Sources and same would be the case with IOT. Let it be open and let the developers embrace it. SDKs, APIs, IDEs and whatever else it takes to enable other Apps to integrate with your solution should be available over the shelf. Standards from various bodies falling under different industry verticals like IETF, IEEE, CNI, CE, ISO, IEC etc. would be the base for Open Source.

Standard based end-to-end IoT frameworks are being offered by Leaders – IBM BlueMix Framework, Intel’s IoT platform, Oracle’ platform etc. to name a few. IoT frameworks offer Apps, integrate with backend Bigdata and take intelligent actions based on insights given by Analytic tools. IoT deployments can be over the public cloud or it can be in form of specialised dedicated network services sold by MVNOs.

 

About TELCO’s Pie

TELCOs have to take a call – to stay a data pipe or to join the IoT revolution by wearing new hats.

Staying simply a network provider itself is a tremendous revenue opportunity, considering the exponential data surge with the rise of IoT. CSP networks are expected to support application platforms that are network agnostic, end-device agnostic and span multiple networks not only cellular. CSP’s have to offer flawless network monitoring accompanied with seamless authentication of connected next-generation devices from security perspective. Traditional retail or enterprise business models might not serve the purpose in case of IoT products. Different Strategy, different Business Models, different Service Bundles and different Pricing would be required by IoT network providers.

If the decision is to move beyond a Network provider’s role, it requires a complete shift. TELCOs are signing deals with the device makers, software application vendors, and System Integrators to stitch end-to-end IoT solutions. TELCOs are specializing in specific Industry verticals through partnerships. Automotive is a prime industry vertical, where AT&T has offerings like fleet management, cargo management and connected cars. AT&T offers cellular connection to power connected car’s navigation and suite of apps, as well as provide a Wi-Fi hotspot for its cars. Passengers with Smartphone’s or tablets could ride on that Wi-Fi hotspot. AT&T mobile customers get great data deals for their connected cars by paying an additional $10 a month to add their vehicle to a Mobile Share Value family plan and many other exciting offers. Vodafone acquired Cobra Automotive to augment their device manufacturing and installation capabilities. Well Digital India is not left behind; Uber offers Airtel hotspot to its customers.

MVNO model that could not take-off earlier might take-off in IoT arena. MVNOs can sell specialised service, backed up with Vertical Expertise and Network Infrastructure. MVNO makes sense from Net Neutrality point of view also. Critical Healthcare services and Video-On-Demand can’t get into application neutrality debate. Specialised MVNO offering services over their dedicated network is answer to such debates. Industry or Vertical specific regulations and policy enforcement is easily achievable in case of dedicated MVNOs. Talking about India, MVNO license and rights are very much in focus of TRAI. Recent Spectrum sharing decision is going to boost this model further.

A selected few who have stronger presence in Mobile/Software vertical too, like AT&T are offering IoT launching platforms. AT&T announced the commercial availability of the M2X Data Service. It’s a carrier-grade cloud-based data store that makes it easier to collect, analyze, and share time-series data from connected devices. AT&T Flow Designer is an open sourced and cloud based Development Environment Platform. Complete solution for TELCOs.

Another trend is of data analytics. Orange launched Datavenue, a platform that gathers, stores, combines, and secures data, for the use of service providers and manufacturers of connected objects. This platform links data from different sources, such as open data, connected objects and big data from businesses. Datavenue offers an ecosystem of developers and device manufacturers. It safeguards end-user privacy.

In short the hats are of various types, if TELCOs have to choose one from.

 

Wrapping up

As I am about to close this article, I can see a few interesting news items popping over my laptop screen. First one straight from Vegas, “AT&T with a mission to connect every car on the road signed a multi-year deal to provide a cellular connection to Jaguar Land Rover’s vehicles. AT&T is already into similar agreements with Range Rover, General Motors, Audi, Tesla to name a few.”

Second news is from Digital India, “Avaya partners with DGS&D (Directorate General of Supplies and Disposals) to sell its solutions to central and state governments’ departments. These solutions will enrich government-to-government (G2G) and government-to-citizen (G2C) services with video capabilities. Avaya sees telepresence initiatives, like “Sehat” launched in collaboration with Apollo Hospitals, under which people can consult physicians through a video link at Common Service Centres (CSC), as a potential business driver. That’s a tiny step towards healthcare via IoT.

Only time will tell what all will emerge out of this exciting game that has just begun. As TMForum quotes – With over 20-50 billion devices connecting online in the next five years, the IoT transformation is the next great ICT disruptive event that will change both social norms and how business is conducted in a new technology framework.

Tell us what you think. Drop Mamata a line at mswaroop@hotmail.com or post a comment below.

Sweekar S

View all contributions by Sweekar S

Website: http://blog.tonsetelecom.com/

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