Telcos are keeping a keen eye on the IoT. There are new segments to be explored such as smart metering and smart buildings; and there are others that can be infused with new life, such as the automotive and retail industries. The IoT market looks profitable; but it also looks highly competitive, due to the involvement of players from other sectors. Vendors will have to quickly adapt their technologies to new business demands and work on platforms open to developers and other parties. The leading telcos and web infrastructure providers believe that in order to help the IoT grow and spread worldwide, common standards, an updated regulatory framework and the involvement of high-tech start-ups will be needed.
According to Capgemini Italy Telco & South Vice President and CTO Jean-Marie Pouget, the IoT’s potential should be assessed in terms of being a “possibly disruptive technology, both in terms of operational efficiency and improved customer experience. Awareness of this potential is growing.” However, there are many criticalities to be overcome – after all, an IoT solution is about much more than sensors. “It requires a communication infrastructure and an IT system to collect and analyze data,” says Pouget. “End-to-end issues need to be dealt with, not only in terms of technology but also in terms of privacy, security and standards.”
So far, telcos’ only role has been to provide connectivity and, in some cases, M2M (machine-to-machine) modules and solutions. Pouget mentions “blind data transfer” and insists that telcos need to reposition their offer – including value-added services – compared to over-the-top players such as Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Google and so on. “The IoT” says Pouget “can be instrumental for telcos to climb up the value scale. They have major assets such as the network; they can implement and manage end-to-end systems as well as IT solutions and infrastructures; and they are hugely experienced in security and remote device management.” Clearly, the IoT’s real value doesn’t just lie in data traffic but in connectivity services, too.
Telcos can exploit the IoT to gain commercial advantages in the enterprise, PA and consumer sectors. In the first two cases they should define and build up a portfolio of managed services concerning operations, consumer support and IoT project security. Smart cities and predictive plant maintenance in the industry are examples of the possible application of packages, which should be offered as services including IT, network and big data analytics solutions. According to Pouget, these packages “can be very profitable.” In the consumer market, instead, telcos should take advantage of their stronger customer relationship compared to over-the-top players, aiming to provide ground-breaking services for smart homes, personal healthcare and car infotainment.
In order to compete successfully in the digital connected economy, telcos must aim for a converged infrastructure, i.e. an ecosystem where they can work side by side with developers, software houses and system integrators. Says Pouget: “The IoT is an endless field of applications and telcos still have time to make their voice heard. But they must quickly form new alliances and take full advantage of their assets. Not all telcos are equally mature today; this is obvious in the M2M market, where very few telcos are achieving good results.” And how are Italian telcos faring in terms of the IoT? It appears they’re essentially on par with other European telcos. “We’re in step with the rest of Europe” says Pouget, “but Italian telcos will have to work hard. The change to come is far from simple, especially in terms of new business models.”