Not all things are created equal. The Internet of Things (IoT) has seen a number of previously passive/silent objects being connected. There’s now an unjustified rationale that assumes that all things connected are better. This may be good from a marketing perspective, but the hard-headed veterans of the mobile data environment know better. There are different demands that need to be considered before connecting different device types across different networks. In monetization terms, the cost of connecting devices and the associated value chain for being connected has to be considered before mass market deployment. There’s nothing “smart” about a device that can’t get any connectivity and equally nothing smart about adding connectivity to the equation without thinking cost and value.
Software Defined Networking (SDN) brings agility and flexibility to IoT. You can easily scale services up and down, orchestrate at point of demand, and provide data for analysis and reporting. They can be automated or done within a few clicks. There are plenty of monetization use cases for IoT, and they could be as broad as the things involved.
Here are a few examples:
- Preventive care for monitoring software (health, fitness, mechanical/electronics)
- A continuous session experience as devices hand-off from one form of connection to another (e.g. the car to the home).
- Capacity planning for urban environments (e.g. utilities consumption over time).
- Live streaming and interactive gaming.
- B2B and enterprise services (IIoT – Industrial IoT).
Online meter monitoring (such as for water or electricity) provides a glimpse of the monetization of IoT. Consider the cost of connection via radio access network (RAN), distribution of service (data center/cloud, time of day etc.), and the sheer volume of devices to on-board that provide a foundation for planning a network and the operations support systems (OSS)/business support systems (BSS) back office requirement. Given the different costs, it is hard to see the upside in revenue.
Security and Connectivity
In the current phase of IoT and SDN-based trials and deployments, the focus has been on establishing connectivity in silos and developing processes to manage relatively simple service chaining based on 99.999 percent reliability. This may not be enough as renewed emphasis has been rightly placed on security as new vulnerabilities such as the Mirai Botnet have demonstrated.
For data service providers, the largest distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack ever has provided a significant moment for pause. As part of the next phase, along with connectivity, there will be more focus on the external parties that have access to devices and to find out how frequently they have access to them. Getting a handle on security will be essential if IoT is to be truly monetized and successful.
The Telco Role
The cost of SDN infrastructure along with connectivity may need to get cheaper and be able to leverage the advances in physical networking for IoT to gain mass market adoption. Ultimately, the demand for IoT will come from both the enterprise and the consumer markets. Telecom operators will need to provide the connectivity and will need to manage it via network slicing, on-boarding, flexibility in distribution, and – yes, security.
The telecom operator is in an ideal position. They have the widest coverage and multiple network options to meet the demand of devices, whether that’s via fixed or mobile. Operators need to deploy their key assets in a way that:
- Meets the fluctuation in connectivity demand seamlessly
- Preserves and enhances the user and device experience
- Easily integrates new devices – so that B2B or IIoT services can be developed
- Provides a security framework that prevents hacks or unauthorized access from unlicensed devices
- Takes into account metadata security – knowing and tracking where (small) devices are via the RAN. This can provide useful information for a range of services
Data has Evolved
The technology underpinning connectivity is changing and maturing quickly. That’s because mobile internet usage is intensifying and evolving too. From encrypted short and long form videos, to social media streams and data from cloud-based storage, there is now a diverse stream of data traveling on the network. Operators need to take this into account and be able to classify different data flows and manage traffic effectively – taking into account things like devices and handsets to ensure that users have a seamless quality of experience.
The next generation of Transport Layer Security (TLS) and application protocols will also play a pivotal role for operators. They need to be able to deliver agility and be future-ready to meet tomorrow’s data requirements.
Preparing the Network
Operators also need to plan for large scale IoT deployments, which would have different network needs. For example, a large number of devices may have a large session count and generate plenty of analytics. However, low volume throughput can affect intermediate components in different ways. The activity of the device may also generate useful information in the network, which must be stored for the next access and possibly shared with partners in the IoT ecosystem to enhance the service. Virtualized networks could help with information sharing as data could be transferred faster.
Ultimately, what needs to be delivered to the user/owner of the device is outstanding service quality with tangible benefits. This is where the revenue upside will be. This can be achieved with access (both signaling and data plane) to the web or to the content provider so they can generate the next generation of services that link connected devices and objects together and provide enhanced benefits. Currently, Google Home or Amazon Echo’s capabilities of controlling different devices in the household provide a glimpse of IoT’s potential.
The key assets of connectivity from the network provider can be used to monetize IoT. SDN’s agility along with classification, service chaining, orchestration and robust security will all add value. Despite the hype about the benefits of all things connected – it is worth recalling that not all things are created equal.