Telecommunications and IoT: how to start, learn, and build a strategy

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Telcos all over the world are taking their first tentative steps into the Internet of Things. Of course you’ve all been involved for many years in machine to machine communications, but it’s just not the same: the Internet of Things is about layering applications value and solutions value on top of core connectivity. Once you begin to broaden the aperture, and look at the wide range of areas that you could invest in, where do you start? Here are some examples, some ideas for ways in which telcos can invest in the Internet of Things.

Start at home

The value proposition to business customers will run something along the lines of ‘if you instrument your service delivery infrastructure, if you connect your fleet, your buildings, your machines, then then the data yield will enable your business to run better.’ So why not do that for your own enterprise?

  • Instrumenting the base stations can yield benefits in terms of energy efficiency, service assurance, and reduced field force costs. Door sensors, temperature sensors and motion detectors can be really useful, operate independently of power, and can even run independent of the core network. Pushing analytics to the edge of the network can really make for powerful capabilities too, like we demonstrated with Cisco at the Port of Cartagena recently.
  • Instrumenting office buildings can present insights about occupancy, footfall, and flow, as well as things like meeting room availability. See how we did this with ISS recently, your buildings an operate like this too.
  • Instrumenting the Retail stores can deliver as much data about customers in the retail channel as you currently have about them in the digital channel. Image analytics at the edge can describe the age, gender, and mood of your customers in the stores, as well as the numbers, of course. Presence and dwell times can be monitored to determine which areas of the store are attractive to various demographics. In-store screens can have specific ads triggered based on who’s in the store. Store assistant digital sales guides can be dynamically adjusted too.

Play with the Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things is about APIs, and data, and the value of those APIs and the value of the data will be determined by your clients. Based on these programmatic resources, the Internet of Things is a disruptive force – it changes the way people do things, the way companies do business. This is about innovation and change, and that is often difficult for companies to embrace. Hackathons – getting groups of developers, startups, partners and clients together in an intense but brief competitive environment to develop the best apps – are a really great way of surfacing unexpected applications. Strange combinations of data, like sensors and social media, or weather and mobile app feeds, can yield surprisingly useful – or disruptive – results. Connecting things to the Internet is certainly useful; but when those things connect to each other, fascinating innovations can occur. Check out this hackathon we recently did with AT&T, where we surfaced a really cool idea to have Watson cognitive tools help Pokémon Go players.

Think about platform

The Internet of Things is a platform, and not just in terms of technology. As a platform, it thrives within an ecosystem, it lives to be open. Sharing with others is core to its success. Don’t restrict the platform to your own developers, invite others – partners, clients, startups – to participate. Think about the other services that can be exposed there, such as network APIs and other appropriate data sources. Accelerate adoption with starter kits – some broad devices from partners like TI sensor tags, Yanzi motion detectors, or ModCam cameras. How can these devices underpin new applications?

The Internet of Things will redefine go to market for so many businesses, and telecommunications companies are in a great position to be the catalyst for that disruption. Get in touch with us here at IBM, and we can help you think through these different approaches to developing strategies to take advantage of the opportunity.

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