At the time of writing, the number of devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) is estimated at three times greater than the population of our planet. It is predicted that, in a very short time, this number will rise; we could soon see 10 connected devices for every one person on Earth – and there’s no saying that this will be the final figure.
The reason for this explosion in the number of technological devices is that, in the developed world, we use them for practically everything – whether we know it or not. Most of us have phones, computers, tablets, televisions, games consoles and so on, and these are obviously “connected”. But we can also find IoT devices in our smart homes – perhaps managing heating, alarms or lighting systems, or the way our fridges operate. We find them in our smart cars, delivering communal services and transport in smart cities, in medicine… even in the collars of our cats and dogs.
There’s a sound business case underpinning this proliferation of devices. Clearly, savings can be made – in money, time an energy – if home lighting, public transport and domestic heating can be optimized. To make this possible, the devices in the Internet of Things must be able to gather data in order to carry out their designated functions, and return data for monitoring purposes.
A connectivity management platform can provide a springboard into IoT services for a telecoms organization. This will expand a communication service provider’s (CSP) potential market because it means the company can reach and sell to most verticals. But it won’t give a CSP a real stake in anything beyond being a conduit for connectivity that facilitates, for example, smart monitoring. Thus, a m2m device management platform in IoT might seem the next logical step – and probably would have been in the not so distant past. The problem is that today’s IoT customers have exceptionally high requirements, and are faced with a much broader choice in terms of who they do business with than they were previously. Where the Internet of Things is concerned, customers are likely to choose a reliable, one-stop option with a partner able to provide the connectivity, the device and the management/monitoring services required for vertical application.
With this in mind, CSPs need to understand the synergy between device management in IoT and IoT connectivity management. Here are the seven key areas at which they should be looking:
First up, why separate devices from connectivity? If a customer buys a SIM card, they need a device in which it will operate and vice versa, and they need both elements at once. The division created when focus is on one or the other is based on a false assumption that devices and connectivity somehow exist independently of each other. Far better to think in terms of a single, consistent and combined approach that gets the customer up and running from the first moment.. The division created when focus is on one or the other is based on a false assumption that devices and connectivity somehow exist independently of each other. Far better to think in terms of a single, consistent and combined approach that gets the customer up and running from the first moment.
Joined up SLAs
Then, it’s worth considering the service level agreement (SLA). Imagine, for instance, that an SLA is tied only to connectivity (perhaps the SIM card from our previous example). And then imagine that the device, not the connectivity element, encounters problems – perhaps in an area where we know signal strength is good. With a synergetic approach to connectivity and IoT device management platform, a customer or provider can use the latter element get to the root cause of problems with the former – perhaps by diagnosing a battery or reboot issue.
Device connectivity activation can (and probably will) be handled remotely and automatically for a new purchase. That isn’t the end of the story, though, as the same device will need firmware uploads and updates, and must be set to ensure that monitoring parameters are operational.separate and independent processes. In fact, it may soon be impossible to make this distinction, as, for example, ever more devices are shipped with embedded SIMs. The CSPs that can really make their mark as the IoT revolution gains pace will be those who understand this, and who keep at the forefront of their planning the fact that customers drive their business, and customers expect the whole device-connectivity package without having to think about what’s going on behind the scenes.
Next, think about how customers expect to be billed. They are not going to remain loyal if, for example, they are paying for connectivity services for smart home management but cannot clearly relate the charges to the benefits that these smart devices deliver in terms of convenience or energy and cost savings.
Broaden your possibilities
Understanding the synergy between connectivity and device management gives CSPs greater opportunities in terms of bundles and convergent services, in practically any industry vertical. One example might be agricultural machinery, where the smart telecoms organization can package together the device for monitoring tractor use with the application and underlying connectivity required, and at the same time provide end to end support. It’s been said before, but worth repeating – customers prefer the appropriately priced one-stop option.
Reporting and analytics generally falls into the connectivity field, at least from one perspective; it’s pointless trying to deliver these without the right connectivity management platform in place. But it would be a mistake to ignore just why reporting and analytics are so important. They help manage connected devices in the Internet of Things, so should provide reliable data on device location, movement, quality of service level, and so on
All the information in the same place
Connected to this is the necessity of maintaining an accurate and up to date inventory that relates to each device, its use and connectivity. MSISDNs, IMSI, IP, APN, device ID, IMEI and so on can be stored in a central repository so that selling, billing and monitoring can take place seamlessly.
Taken together, the points outlined above are a convincing argument about why m2m device management platforms in IoT and IoT connectivity management platforms cannot be viewed as separate and independent processes. In fact, it may soon be impossible to make this distinction, as, for example, ever more devices are shipped with embedded SIMs. The CSPs that can really make their mark as the IoT revolution gains pace will be those who understand this, and who keep at the forefront of their planning the fact that customers drive their business, and customers expect the whole device-connectivity package without having to think about what’s going on behind the scenes.