In the past few years, the Internet of Things (IoT) has evolved from a buzzword and into a solution with widespread adoption in homes and businesses. From the 10 billion IoT devices in 2021, estimates suggest that the figure will reach 25.4 billion by 2030. Since they can connect to broader networks, IoT devices offer a lot of functionality. Some of the sectors implementing IoT solutions include retail, agriculture, and utilities.
However, the telecoms industry is the one poised to benefit the most, as IoT is mainly reliant on telecommunications companies. Through new mobile IoT applications and services, mobile operators have massive growth opportunities. Projections indicate that mobile network operators will benefit from $1.8 trillion in revenues from IoT by 2026. This will be a massive boost as telecom profits have been reducing in recent years.
With the Internet of Things, network providers now have to facilitate communication between people and devices. To monetize IoT solutions, telecom companies need to come up with innovative services and applications. Adopting models such as SaaS, BaaS, and PaaS will help improve business processes and deliver better services to consumers. As a telecom company, you should determine which IoT applications are most beneficial to you and focus on them.
Which Opportunities Does IoT Open to Telecoms?
With a wide range of IoT-enabled device functions, telecoms can expand their service portfolio into areas such as smart retail, manufacturing, smart cities, smart homes, vehicle, and asset tracking, among others.
To deliver IoT solutions that can adequately cater to such needs, telecom companies must build IoT platforms that enable customers to connect their centralized control and run IoT applications and end-point devices. The architecture for the platform should be open and modular, with reliable APIs between the modules.
Using such a modular approach allows you to offer IoT solutions and services with varying degrees of involvement during provisioning. These include:
- End-to-end business solutions- Involves offering SaaS tools to solve customers’ business problems in specific areas such as fleet tracking.
- Data analytics and data science services- Providing customers with diagnostic, predictive, and prescriptive data analytics services, allowing them to draw value from the data IoT devices generate.
- Backend business solutions- Involves offering a back end that can store, manage, and process data from IoT devices and perform basic and advanced analytics on this data. Your customers can use APIs to access the back end and integrate it with their existing enterprise applications.
- IoT Connectivity Services- Even if the data from IoT devices is stored and managed on the customer’s side, provide managed connectivity services based on the NB-IoT protocol.
- IoT data storage and management services- Offer storing, filtering, cleansing, and processing services to your customers for the data IoT devices generate.
Accompanying the IoT platform with an application for end-users will make it easier for customers to access their data and analytical reports and forecasts.
How Can Telecom Companies Leverage IoT?
There are different ways mobile network providers can leverage IoT. They include:
1. Data Analytics
Through IoT devices, telecom industries will have access to large sets of critical data. With this, it becomes possible to create information pools that you can use to analyze data and draw actionable business insights. Such insight allows business leaders to understand consumer usage patterns better. From this, it now becomes possible to develop predictive models that allow telecom operators to predict and capitalize on upcoming trends in the sector.
2. Location Services
In smart cities, enhanced location services will be a key feature. This can be achieved using mobile networks and proximity sensors on smartphones. IoT sensors that can communicate with smartphone apps can also be installed on public transport systems such as buses and trains. If installed on train stations and bus stops, it allows users to locate the public transport options available and locate buses and trains in real-time.
It will also be possible to use such sensors to locate people. This is especially beneficial in crowded areas such as conferences. Using an app, coworkers can find each other, and supervisors can monitor the movements of employees. From a consumer perspective, locating friends and family members in places such as malls, amusement parks, stadiums, and tourist attractions will be easier.
3. Low Power WAN
Machine-to-machine communication capabilities are vital in many industries. Telecoms generally facilitate this using WiFi and GSM. Whereas these technologies have proven to be reliable, they have significant bandwidth and power requirements. However, IoT makes it possible for telecom companies to use radio-based wide area networks (WAN), which consume significantly less power.
Low power WAN in IoT devices has a wide range of applications that allow telecom companies to tap into new revenue streams. Such applications include using IoT sensors in parking systems or in farms to support smart agriculture. Beyond the present applications, mobile network providers can develop new IoT products and services to increase their revenue streams.
4. Autonomous Vehicles
For some time, autonomous vehicles (ATVs) have been touted as the future of cars, with recent evidence suggesting the same. For vehicles to become fully autonomous, the environment they’re in must have sensors that transmit signals the vehicle can interpret in real-time to make the driving experience reliable and safe. Such sensors will be on other vehicles, buildings, pedestrians, etc.
With such needs, there is a sizable window of opportunity for telecom companies. This is why some are trying to find ways to create LTE-V from LTE infrastructure to facilitate machine-to-machine communication. LTE-V will enable autonomous vehicles to communicate with each other. For instance, to prevent collisions, cars can send signals to other cars in the vicinity when changing lanes.
This technology also enables vehicles to communicate with the infrastructure around them, thus facilitating navigation.
5. Equipment Monitoring
The telecommunications industry plays a crucial role in modern-day life. It allows people to keep in touch with friends and family across the world and entrepreneurs to access global supply chains and markets. In essence, along with an improved transport system, it is what makes the world a global village. As such, when telecom services are down, it will affect many people and businesses. In turn, it will translate to loss of revenue and reputation damage to the company.
One of the main causes of such outages is equipment failure. Telecom companies use a lot of different equipment and machinery to provide seamless services. These include energy meters, UPS, and generators, some of which are at remote cell towers. All this equipment needs to be in optimal functioning condition at all times and have access to power backups throughout the day. Should any challenges arise, there should be an immediate response to reduce downtime. At times, knowing when there’s equipment failure can be challenging.
Fortunately, mobile network providers will be in a better position to monitor and respond to such issues in the future. Placing IoT sensors on such equipment will enable real-time monitoring. To support monitoring of many pieces of equipment spread across a large geographical location, telecoms should also set up IoT-powered Operations Centers. This is where integration and analytics of all the data from the on-site IoT devices will occur.
Having a reliable flow of data on equipment status allows providers to monitor key performance indicators of active and passive equipment at remote locations. In turn, this reduces maintenance needs, costs, and power usage. However, the greatest benefit is the reduction of outages. Once operators realize the performance of certain equipment is reducing, they can take remedial measures before it results in an outage.
6. Safety Hazards
Beyond regular breakdown of machinery, other significant threats to service delivery are hazards such as earthquakes, bad weather, floods, and fires at remote sites. Along with the preventive measures in place, telecom companies also have to respond swiftly when such incidents occur. Failure to do so may translate to significant damage to equipment.
Mobile network operators can leverage IoT to monitor such hazards more effectively. When the sensors detect a hazard, they will notify the relevant departments and public authorities. As such, providers can issue responses such as shutting down systems immediately.
7. Physical Security
Considering the cost of equipment in remote sites and the additional resources such as fuel and batteries necessary to keep them operational, security is essential. Other than the expenses you will incur to replace stolen equipment, theft can also cause outages.
Installing IoT-powered smart cameras at remote sites is an ideal way of deterring and responding to such threats. When they detect any on-site tampering or breaches, they will alert the relevant authorities in real-time. Accompanying such efforts should be the use of beacons and RFID badges to limit access to remote sites only to authorized personnel.
Capitalizing on IoT Is all About Strategy
Undoubtedly, IoT presents telecom companies with numerous potential revenue streams that can significantly improve business performance. As much as this is a good thing, it can also be your undoing. Telecom companies need to determine which IoT avenues are most beneficial to them and develop a comprehensive strategy to capitalize on. Otherwise, they face the risk of losing out to competitors in their bid to consolidate market share.
One powerful monetization strategy would be to provide an IoT app store, which is not easy but it’s possible.
We, at Intraway, believe that overcoming obstacles is the way to reach this objective. These obstacles are levels to be conquered/passed: after managing connectivity (which MSOs have already achieved), we have to:
1) manage the devices using connectors and standard protocols,
2) manage applications using standard APIs, data brokers and centralized access, and
3) generate applications based on templates.
After completing these levels, the application store is just one step away: the developers’ community can use the platform tools to create and improve it for different purposes using platform-homologated hardware.