Feb 16, 2018

Innovating and Investing Strategically in New Service Categories

A few weeks ago, the UK mobile operator O2 decided to shut down it smart home business [1]. O2 stated that it had not seen "category-leading take up" of the service to justify continued investment.

This episode encapsulates a recurring challenge for businesses in the mobile eco-system, laboring under the opportunities to exploit mobile technology in adjacent industries and new application categories. Just think back to the promise of mobile money and mHealth (another category that Telefonica entered and subsequently exited a few years ago [2]). The new waves of opportunity today are in the industrial IoT and smart city markets, to name a couple of examples.

Jan 3, 2018

2017 in Review: Making the IoT work

Looking back over notable, M2M/IoT corporate initiatives in 2017, mobile network operators (MNOs) and technology vendors were the two most active groups in the industry eco-system.

The main feature amongst MNOs was market expansion into new geographies. Sometimes, this happened individually; more often, it took the form of partnering with other network operators. This is a classic growth model for the mobile operator community.

In the technology vendor community, leading initiatives took the form of: acquisitions/investments; partnering (with MNOs, platform providers and system integrators); and, product innovation.

In comparative terms, activity among platform organizations was subdued. And, end-users barely featured among 2017 initiatives. It is likely that these last two data points mask a higher level of internal activity targeting operational scaling and in-house developments as firms solidify their foundations in the IoT market. As an example, Altair, a provider of engineering software to enterprise customers, acquired the Carriots IoT platform. This initiative illustrates the trend to internalize IoT capabilities and has parallels with the earlier acquisition of ThingWorx by PTC [1].

Oct 30, 2017

Innovation at ETSI IoT Week 2017

Last week, I attended ETSI's IoT Week, an annual event to explore the IoT standardization landscape and to see how industry and academics, around the world, are testing IoT implementation ideas for the future. Not surprisingly, the oneM2M standard featured prominently in the program and the display zone of demonstrator projects given that ETSI is one of 8 standards development organization (SDO) partners in the oneM2M project.

However, not everything on the agenda centered on oneM2M. Other standardization efforts were also represented including: ESMIG (energy); SigFox and LoRA Alliance in the LPWAN sector; ZigBee Alliance; and, international organizations such as ISO, IEC. And, several companies, including MNOs, demonstrated how they are addressing new business and revenue opportunities beyond IoT connectivity.

Oct 11, 2017

AT&T and GE Digital hit IoT road bumps

Over the past few weeks, AT&T and GE have featured in the news because of issues connected to their IoT business units.

AT&T seems to be having second thoughts about its Digital Life commitments with some news reports suggesting that it might divest this business unit [1].

In GE’s case, its Digital business unit is emerging from a hard re-alignment following internal activities to stabilize its software platform and to adjust its financial targets. Now, the focus will prioritize profitability over unfettered spending [2].

So, what’s been happening to these two IoT industry pioneers and what can other companies learn from their experiences?

Aug 23, 2017

Structural determinants of Smart City strategy

Once viewed as a futuristic aspiration, the smart city concept is now firmly on the operational agenda of government officials and private sector solution providers. The evolution towards grounded solutions means that adopters and solution providers require tangible strategies along with workable frameworks and planning tools to initiate their smart city initiatives. For evidence, look at how the emerging smart city industry acts as a host to multiple smart city reference architecture initiatives in parallel with multiple check-list criteria that aim to rank cities on smart city implementation roadmaps.

In the spirit of practical solutions, let’s focus on two structural features about city planning and management to illustrate the real-world challenges that city authorities will have to overcome. The first deals with differing economic profiles that characterize individual cities. The second concerns existing commercial models that cities and their private sector service providers will have to adapt to foster viable and enduring smart strategies.

Jul 2, 2017

IDEAthons – connecting IoT ideas, execution and funding

As new technologies become commonplace, there is a case for exploring new value creation opportunities in the realm of application ideas. Put differently, should the ever-popular hackathon give way to a new type of event – the ideathon? This notion cropped up when I attended my first ever ideathon to explore innovative service and business model opportunities in the IoT and intelligent
transport solutions markets.

The intent of an ideathon is to bring together individuals from different organizations to form small teams that work through new ideas. Teams don’t just focus on technology; they consider factors such as drivers of demand, the value proposition, the service delivery business model and its economics.

The event I attended included a mix of entrepreneurs, public-sector representatives and technologists who were exploring new ideas, building on the oneTRANSPORT regional intelligent transport system trial [1] and the Transport Data Initiative [2].

May 25, 2017

IoT Complications for MNO Business Units

Mobile operators, it would appear, remain captivated by connectivity solutions. Most recently, low-power technologies (e.g. LoRA, NB-IoT, SigFox etc.) have dominated the industry agenda. This outlook is slowly starting to change. Ian Huh, SVP of SK Telecom’s (SKT) IoT business described fees on its LoRA network as amounting to just 10 per cent of those on 3G/4G networks [1]. He pointed out that this would need at least a tenfold increase in the number of connected devices in highlighting the potentially destructive impact on revenues.

SKT’s comments are timely and show that the debate is shifting from shiny new technology to earning commercial returns. MNOs need to do something, over and above the sale of SIMs and connectivity, to capitalize on the wider IoT business opportunity.