Blog

Back to school for the Internet of Things

October 23, 2018

Tim Sherwood   

Vice-President – Business Development, Mobility & IoT Solutions, Tata Communications.

With the new school year kicking into full swing over the last few weeks, students are getting back into their daily routines and brushing up on some of their skills after a summer of fun. But in the technology world, there was no summer off — the learning and development has been ongoing. Especially when it comes to the internet of things, mobile devices and the drive to create globally connected networks.

Internet of Things is focused on a range of devices aimed at personal device usage — personal assistants, wearable devices, mobile phones and so on. But industrial IoT is a different ballgame. With so many more endpoints and potential applications across verticals, IoT has a much bigger growth opportunity and thus is much more fragmented, with questions and challenges still to be answered for enterprises seeking global connectivity technologies.

The growth of IoT and its associated connectivity requirements is similar to the growth of a baby from an infant into a toddler and eventually a child and young adult. We started with a platform and infrastructure in its infancy — with single networks per country, coverage blind spots, multi-SIMs, high usage costs and insufficient edge-to-cloud security. Today we are seeing an evolution and growth toward platforms that encompass multiple mobile networks per country, seamless global coverage, a global SIM approach, lower usage costs, enterprise-controlled connectivity and seamless, zero-touch, edge-to-cloud security.

But this evolution is far from complete and has been — and will continue to be — challenging. The technology and global infrastructure needed to deliver a truly global SIM has been lacking to this point, and the IoT ecosystem is incredibly fragmented and complex. There isn’t a single provider in the marketplace that’s offering a holistic system for a global, secure, connected network. Complicating the matter further, enterprises today are confronted by a bewildering array of service providers, technologies and platforms. There are no standard best practices for connecting multiple end-points — whether that’s devices or people.

The journey IoT service providers are on right now is one of trying to create a holistic system — one that offers cloud-based, mobile-first strategies that optimise connectivity with customers, employees and assets worldwide, while ensuring holistic, end-to-end security.

We are starting to see disparate capabilities come together to make that a reality. But while the progression from infancy to “childhood” has moved along, challenges remain and new models still need to be embraced.

One question that needs to be addressed is how mobile network operators (MNOs) embrace the multiple in-country network model. The approach will determine if they can capitalise on this new growth and drive profitability. To answer these challenges, we’re seeing many MNOs willing to forgo being the main service contractor and provider and instead create partnerships to expand infrastructure and build a global network.

There are several examples of companies using partnerships in other regions to create a virtual, local presence without having to invest in costly infrastructure. For example, at Tata Communications, we are working with DTTech to build mobile virtual network enablement (MVNE) infrastructure across southern Africa. The MVNE platform helps DTTech provide mobile connectivity to MVNO customers across Africa, supported by access to a globally available mobile network.

From a security standpoint, next-generation IoT connectivity solution providers must add even more value by enabling zero-touch provisioning and ensuring secure data transport for connected devices. This allows enterprise customers to utilise SIM secure element capabilities in the device to trigger secure authentication and provisioning of the device to enable connectivity with various cloud-based applications. We are working with leading cloud service providers, IoT platform providers and other hardware and chipset providers to create value-added “edge to cloud” secure data collection and transmission of data from connected assets to the cloud.

Once established, the possibilities of a holistic, end-to-end network of connected devices for the enterprise are endless. For example, if you’re in the automotive industry, you’ll be able to deliver a borderless, unrestricted and connected car experience, anywhere across the globe for your customers.

Meanwhile, transport and logistics companies can realise new cost efficiencies. For example, by integrating its analytics platforms with Tata Communications’ IoT platforms, W-Locate is enabling its clients — fleet managers and business owners — to efficiently track and analyse key performance aspects of their fleets anywhere in the world, at any time. At the same time, drivers will be able to stay connected to their company network.

The born connected journey is ultimately about creating a single solution for the IoT ecosystem with a flexible, holistic model. The industry needs to embrace this model to graduate to the next phase of IoT with global device connectivity.

Read about how IoT can be integrated into any service model.