IoT: from theory to practice

IoT: from theory to practice

Published: Jun 19, 2017
Author: Matt Montgomery


Connecting things isn’t new. At Verizon we’ve been connecting and monitoring critical infrastructure and assets for many years. But just as the last couple of years have seen a phenomenal increase in the number of people online, the number of “things” has multiplied too. The Internet of Things (IoT) has come about because supply and demand factors have come together. As technology continues to advance — devices getting smaller, easier to use and cheaper — businesses have seen the potential of near-real-time data, both to improve operations and create new revenue opportunities.

IDC recently estimated that by 2025, the average connected person will interact with an IoT device every 18 seconds1 — a mind-blowing forecast. But for all the articles written about IoT, estimations suggest that less than 1% of the things that could be connected have been connected. Why is that, and what needs to change to reach the massive numbers of connected devices forecast by leading analysts?

Promising progress, but could do better

A lot has happened in IoT over the last couple of years but there’s still progress to be made. Some IoT applications are very well developed. Look at telematics — every major vehicle manufacturer — passenger car and truck — has invested heavily, and announcements are coming thick and fast. From Audi to Uber, OEMs and operators are making public commitments to launching autonomous vehicles in the next few years. But in other areas we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg. Healthcare is forecast to be a $117B market by 20202, but many uses are still in the development stages. That’s changing. For instance, new legislation on the management of pharmaceuticals is driving massive interest in intelligent track and trace solutions.

So IoT is real and is delivering measureable business benefits, but we ain’t seen nothing yet. As the business cases become more obvious, we’re seeing more and more companies getting interested and racing to get solutions to market. And one of the things that will spur a massive spike in the coming year will be the availability of low-power WAN (LPWAN) services.

IoT achieving its full potential

LPWAN services will accelerate the number of connected things for two reasons: they change the economics of many potential applications and they can make managing implementations, particularly large ones, much easier. LPWAN services are designed for IoT. A good example is CAT-M1. This includes a new class of LTE chipset that requires less power and is optimized for low-bandwidth connectivity. This opens up a huge array of potential new uses: from industrial applications where the limited battery life of other technologies was an obstacle, to consumer applications where cost and manageability were barriers.

Earlier this year, Verizon launched the first US-wide commercial CAT-M1 network, spanning 2.4M square miles. One of our key objectives in launching this new network was to offer businesses and developers a more turnkey experience, greater manageability and massive scalability. We’ve collaborated with industry leaders — including Sequans, Telit, U-Blox, Sierra Wireless, Gemalto, Qualcomm Technologies, and Altair — to build an open ecosystem to help achieve this. We already offer certified chipsets, modules and devices from Sequans, Telit, Qualcomm Technologies, Encore Networks, Link Labs, and NimbeLink, with more to follow. And the CAT-M1 network is built on a virtualized cloud environment and designed for use with our ThingSpace Platform. This offers seamless and secure development, deployment, management and scaling of solutions.

As well as setting the standard for the technology, this is also a game-changer in terms of pricing and contracts designed for IoT applications. We’ve launched a new type of data plan, including low-rate, multi-year options. Connecting a CAT-M1 to this new network can be much more cost-effective, with customized options available for bulk activations and volume purchases.

Examination time

The next couple of years are likely to see incredible growth in the number and sophistication of connected things. This has the potential to utterly transform practically every aspect of our lives: from how we manage energy production and use to how we manage our wellbeing; from how we monitor our online shopping deliveries to how we monitor the condition of the food we eat, from farm to fork. Companies that fail to innovate and embrace the potential of IoT risk their very survival. There’s little time to waste. We’ve already seen how quickly industries can be turned on their heads — taxis being a great example. And we’re on the cusp: where today there are just a handful of examples of genuine disruption, that number could grow exponentially in the next couple of years.

 

Matt Montgomery is a Director of Marketing in the Wireless Business Group

 

1 Data Age 2025: The Evolution of Data to Life-Critical, an IDC White Paper, sponsored by Seagate, April 2017 

2 Big Data in Internet of Things (IoT): Key Trends, Opportunities and Forecasts 2015-2020, Mind Commerce.