Through acquisitions and internal development, Verizon has been quietly building its Internet of Things (IoT) arsenal and morphing its ThingSpace web-based IoT development platform into a one-stop shop for everything from connectivity to applications.
“We are moving up the stack from connectivity to platform and then to the applications,” said Mary Beth Hall, director of global IoT product and development at Verizon. “We find customers want one partner to manage the complexity, and we are doing that for them.”
ThingSpace is designed to work with the company’s LTE network but is also interoperable with WiFi, Zigbee, and Bluetooth. Hall said that about 16,000 developers currently use the ThingSpace application program interfaces (APIs) to develop IoT solutions.
ThingSpace was first launched in 2015 but has grown dramatically thanks to a series of acquisitions. Perhaps most notably is Verizon’s August 2016 $2.4 billion acquisition of Fleetmatics’ GPS tracking system, which lets fleet operators monitor vehicle location, fuel usage, speed, and mileage as well as other diagnostic information. The Fleetmatics deal followed a similar transaction in June when Verizon acquired Telogis, a California-based developer of telematics and fleet-logistics systems that are used by major automakers like Ford and General Motors.
In September 2016, Verizon purchased Sensity Systems, a Sunnyvale, California-based privately held LED lighting company. The goal of that purchase was to build its smart communities offering. And in November 2016, Verizon purchased most of the assets of privately held LQD WiFi. The incentive behind that deal was to accelerate the development of smart cities through LQD’s public WiFi technology and improve transportation and traffic, as well as enhance security and urban planning.
These acquisitions have been strategic in that they helped Verizon focus on five key vertical markets for IoT. Those markets include:
- Smart communities. This area includes smart parking, traffic, video, and analytics.
- Transportation. This category includes the management of everything for mobile workers and fleets of cars or trucks. Verizon also groups its bike-sharing platform, City Bikes, into this category.
- Smart grids and other energy management solutions.
- Intelligent Track and Trace. This area includes tracking pills for patients and requires government oversight to make sure businesses are compliant.
- Skyward. This is a drone operations and management company Verizon acquired in February for an undisclosed amount. The company recently tested what it called “a flying cell site” drone as a way to provide extra coverage for its LTE network in situations like disaster recovery.
Verizon also recently finished the nationwide deployment of its LTE CAT-M network which covers 2.4 million square miles in the U.S. The CAT-M chipsets now are pre-loaded with the ThingSpace client, making it easier for Verizon customers to create IoT solutions and manage them from the network to the device to the application layer.
Verizon’s evolution of ThingSpace has caught the attention of other operators and is now being marketed to non-competitive carriers through the company’s newly formed Exponent venture. Exponent offers a foundation for other carriers to fuel their digital transformation through five technologies: big data and artificial intelligence (AI), IoT, media services, Internet services delivery, and cloud computing and storage.