Nov 11, 2014

Business innovation at IoT speed

Having worked on the topic of M2M value chain structures in 2012, a couple of relevant market developments caught my attention over the past few weeks. These involve: Aeris, an M2M service provider, Cisco, and Deutsche Telekom.

Each of these company initiatives aims to simplify the process of implementing M2M and IoT applications. They provide guidance to (non-technical) companies that are seeking to implement M2M solutions while also providing an organising structure for complex application situations. These examples hold lessons that companies can apply to improve their sales performance in M2M and IoT markets.

Oct 3, 2014

Long term prospects for IoT and 'digital'

Last month, I was invited to chair a panel for the eponymously named company, Apigee. Although it was billed as an API event, Chet Kapoor (Apigee’s CEO) opened the 2-day conference by framing today’s market in terms of the transition to ‘digital’, with APIs being a key implementation enabler. His opening remarks summarised the situation as follows:

  • Every business is a digital business
  • Every business needs a digital platform
  • Every business has a Chief Digital Officer 

In the past, I have written on the topic of telecoms operators launching ‘digital’ strategies [1]. It was therefore reassuring to hear this development being so firmly validated. It was also positive to witness several enterprises discuss their digital strategies and early implementation successes.

As the market develops, enterprise demand will continue to drive demand for enabling services. These are opportunities that telecoms operators and specialist M2M/IoT platform providers can capitalise upon. There is early evidence of this trend in the recent investment activities of companies like SingTel and Telstra.

Sep 19, 2014

Pricing M2M to drive sales revenues

Over the past few years, technology suppliers and service providers have become increasingly optimistic about the market prospects for M2M. Much of this is attributable to the promise of multi-billion unit sales as yesteryear’s M2M sector is absorbed into today’s, broader IoT classification.

M2M has broken out of its historical, niche thanks to a shared industry vision to evangelize the M2M opportunity. Return-on-Investment (RoI) arguments for M2M applications have no doubt been persuasive in fostering the adoption of new applications. However, two other developments have arguably had a greater influence over adoption and RoI outcomes. One is the introduction of simpler, standard operational procedures tailored to M2M (e.g. life-cycle provisioning). The second is the year-on-year reduction in hardware and connectivity costs which have resulted in lower prices to customers.

There is a risk however that these developments and the price-led strategy, in particular, will pose a longer term threat to existing M2M business strategies.

Aug 3, 2014

Do consumers trust mobile operators, Internet and media companies?

The Royal Statistical Society (RSS) in the UK recently launched its findings from a survey [1] of the UK population. The study examined the attitudes of individuals towards the use of (their) data and the appeal of data sharing. The study is based on a survey carried out by Ipsos MORI for the RSS and covered adults in the ages 16 to 75 age range in Great Britain.

The RSS study found that media, Internet, telecommunications and insurance companies, all come at the bottom of a ‘trust in data’ league table. Is any of this relevant to companies in the M2M and IoT markets?

Jul 14, 2014

Telenor and Vodafone show ways ‘beyond connectivity’

A couple of recent developments are symptomatic of how the M2M market has matured beyond device connectivity. These developments involve Telenor Connexion and Vodafone. The two companies have entered into partnering and acquisition deals which signal a shift in their historical activities and the basic, subscription business model.

Their actions are a leading indicator of the strategic challenges faced by mobile network operators (MNOs) [1] and other players in the value chain. Put simply, how will companies capitalise on the commercial opportunities that arise from more widespread connectivity (IoT, IoE etc.) and the eventual merging of wide- and short-rage wireless technologies to connect all manner of connected devices?

Jun 19, 2014

LTE to spur IoT?

A few years ago, it was standard practice to associate M2M with low data rate characteristics that could be served using 2G networks. In fact, there was quite an uproar when some operators started to announce 2G network shut-down plans. Ignoring the economics of operating cellular networks, some industry commentators also talked of retaining a portion of 2G spectrum for M2M devices.

Recently, a representative[1] from Google reiterated the special characteristics (low bandwidth and inexpensive) of IoT applications and the need for a brand new network. Over the past few years, several initiatives have been launched to address the potentially massive, low data and low power requirement segment of the M2M/IoT market; Neul and SigFox are two examples that spring to mind.

It was therefore interesting to hear of a development that has been working its way through the 3GPP standards process. LTE, traditionally associated with high data-rate mobile services, is now being engineered to address M2M/IoT applications. This is not a case of data-intensive video surveillance or digital display applications but the use of LTE in moderate data rate, low cost and long battery life scenarios.

May 15, 2014

IoT Platform Trends

Earlier this year, I was invited to give a presentation on strategic trends in M2M and IoT platforms. The group I was briefing was particularly interested in the rise to prominence of horizontal platforms that enable the delivery of M2M and IoT applications.

This development coincides with the market evolving from M2M towards IoT, and is accompanied by a reduced emphasis on vertical-specific application opportunities. One of the key issues to arise is an analogy with the ‘maker’ culture in the IoT arena. Loosely defined, the ‘maker’ term applies to pioneering individuals who have literally been making connected devices using readily available, and often low-cost, technology components.

An important characteristic of the IoT applications is one of much greater access to data (in terms of quantity and frequency) from connected devices and sensors. This is giving rise to a ‘self-service’ culture where individuals are able to create innovative applications from disparate, inexpensive and easily accessible data sources. In a sense, the market is primed for a new class of user - the data 'takers'.

This is where a potentially disruptive class of horizontal platforms comes into play because they simplify the economics and ease-of-use in creating IoT applications.