The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to a movement that is transforming the way we think about and interact with technology. The exponential growth of IoT technology renders it necessary for businesses to interact with customers anytime, anywhere, and on any device.
The new era of the digital economy is exciting for telecom companies, which are now launching new revenue-generating initiatives to stay competitive and adapt their core business models.
The benefits of IoT goes beyond just making products that can be remotely controlled. It's also about creating new services driven by technology, such as mobile apps and sensors.
The Value IoT Holds for Telecoms
For many telcos, the entire IoT market is like a pie. It's hard to carve out a specific slice and say they're only going after one segment of the market. Connectivity being a core business, is exploited first to establish capability and trust. Once established as an IoT player, most telcos branch out into all other areas of IoT by creating cross-industry ecosystems.
The IoT environment is a complex web of interconnected devices that need to process vast data volumes and exploit them to reduce costs and improve efficiency.
Due to this extraordinary complexity, Telcos face at least two significant challenges.
Mobile and network connectivity services are primarily commoditised, yet they are fundamental components of telecom providers' offerings.
These services are very similar from one provider to the next, with one main difference — price, driving telecoms to slash prices to remain competitive, leading to low average revenue per user (ARPU).
Another problem faced by telecommunications companies is high customer attrition.
Harnessing the power of the connected world, Telcos can improve the consumer experience by collecting valuable data and using it to solve problems. From smart cities and healthcare to dynamic parking, they can unlock IoT data to benefit consumers and provide tremendous value.
The proliferation of mobile devices and the so-called "always-on lifestyle" creates a massive demand for connected solutions. The rise of Industry 4.0 and the drive towards automation are significant factors enabling smart solutions in the business environment.
Telcos and CSPs ought to create end-to-end IoT Ecosystems through partnerships and internal development to take advantage of these opportunities.
Understanding The IoT Challenge Opportunity
The Telecommunications industry is undergoing a data-driven transformation, propelled by the migration of billions of new internet-connected devices into the 5G, IoT and edge computing environments. It's creating an exciting opportunity to attract new customers, new business models, revenue streams, even new markets avenues.
IoT devices are increasing by the minute; in developed countries, IoT devices are used for virtually everything. Connected devices are everywhere at home, in our cars, our pets, on us and in our cities, delivering services, data and insights through sensors and connectivity.
In this age of digital innovations, telecommunication providers are in a great position to benefit from the Internet of Things (IoT). It's a win-win situation for both industries.
One of the most compelling reasons for telcos to dive into IoT is the promise of monetisation. IoT represents a tremendous growth opportunity in many markets for both telcos and enterprise customers. By tapping into this opportunity, telcos can gain new revenue streams by aggregating and monetising IoT data by building connectivity into other products and services.
The IoT space is quickly becoming a generalist's playground, with companies from all over the world focusing on data integration. For telcos, an equally daunting challenge lies in coupling a robust data offering with IoT services. Companies that have launched dedicated IoT solutions are still at an early stage in their development.
A fundamental shift in how telcos view connectivity has forced them to pivot quickly. Traditional telco concerns with cost and control give way to opportunities to combine the physical and digital worlds, emphasising delivering value-added services such as predictive analysis of traffic patterns, asset tracking, and supply chain management.
Building an ecosystem for IoT
As IoT expands from an exciting new opportunity into a real economic driver, the demands of the industry become more taxing. Which requires significant overhauls across entire industries, and in terms of innovation, every business sector is facing substantial disruption.
The data-intensive IoT provides telecom providers and CSPs with a lucrative opportunity to monetise their data. However, to position themselves as leaders in the IoT world, telcos cannot succeed independently.
By collaborating with other companies in the IoT ecosystem, CSPs can explore new opportunities and IoT use cases in telecommunications to develop a more extensive array of services based on their unique assets.
In time, telcos will help their legacy systems become more agile and efficient by managing different entities under their umbrella in one common cloud platform. Telcos can unlock IoT data value by orchestrating a cross-industry ecosystem.
Delivering New IoT Services
The Internet of Things is a haven for telecom companies to utilise their existing wide-area networks (WAN) and deploy 5G. Telcos can unlock an incredible new service dimension when used in conjunction with cloud computing platforms and analytics. Some of these services include smart home, smart car, fleet management, smart healthcare and smart city solutions.
Connectivity alone will not provide Telcos with ultimate growth in the IoT market. To capitalise on their current position and demand, Telcos needs to go through a holistic digital transformation and offer services across the IoT stack:
It will enable Telcos with a unique chance to monetise the data they have access to and diversify into new industries. To achieve this, they need to create a robust partner ecosystem.
An opportunity for Telcos and CSPs is to unlock new revenue streams by providing edge computing infrastructure for over-the-top (OTT) service providers and application developers. By enabling cloud capabilities for network equipment, Telcos can offer their infrastructure as a service and provide services for storing, filtering, cleaning, and processing their customers' IoT-generated data.
Offering managed connectivity services and connectivity as a service will significantly increase ease of use and customer retention.
Telecos can also use their infrastructure to deliver custom consumer applications, broad IoT solutions, and new IoT managed services. Uniquely positioned with unrestricted access to network infrastructure and vast pools of user data, CSPs can deliver better performance, wider scale, and far better availability.
One of the great resources IoT provides to Telcos and CSPs is to dive deep into the analysis of device, application and user data. Telecoms descriptive, diagnostic, predictive, and prescriptive data analytics services offered to customers to extract value from data generated by IoT devices and enterprise data.
Security should be the foundation of IoT architecture, development and deployment. Telcos are seen as the inherent network administrators and can play a central role in the IoT ecosystem to develop initiatives and services to increase trust and security.
Blockchain – can be a fundamental building block in the IoT ecosystem for security matters.
Artificial intelligence (AI)- cognitive security systems that identify potential security threats.
Microsegmentation - to separate critical applications and devices and ensure they are locked down.
Cloud security and Zero Trust – for optimum protection in the cloud.
Large amounts of personal information are at stake when misused, can completely disrupt society. Therefore brand and reputation damage can eventually become a bigger problem than financial damage.
Telecoms, one of the most technologically advanced industries with access to modern connectivity infrastructures and technical talent, has been at the forefront of IoT innovations. However, challenges arise from the massive scale of Telecom IoT use cases, such as overcoming the risk of resource overload and ensuring a reliable quality of service.
To be successful in IoT, cloud, and AI-intensive environments, Telcos and service providers (CSPs) will need to take the initiative as technology development leaders.
Although IoT is still an emerging market, and there are still many unknowns and challenges, my optimism comes from how quickly businesses are starting to jump in.
I hope IoT gains traction across multiple sectors, with telcos contributing a large part of the ecosystem. The proof will be in the evolution of enterprise and consumer outcomes, and it's an area to watch.
Founder/CEO Apiro Data Ltd
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