Not all verticals are created equal -- especially when it comes to the still-nascent, still-growing Internet of Things. Naturally, telecom heavyweight AT&T has its own idea on the matter -- ideas that are clearly continuing to evolve.
Mobeen Khan, assistant vice president of strategy and product management for AT&T IoT Solutions, told Telco Transformation in a recent string of interviews that AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) (NYSE: T) is placing the biggest of its IoT bets on four verticals in particular -- four focal points -- in both its present strategy and its predictions for the future. AT&T's rankings of these four verticals -- considering such factors as market opportunity, actual demand, timing and market maturity, rate of adoption and rate of both technological and business change -- are listed below, as related by Khan.
1: Smart vehicles
Mobeen Khan, Assistant Vice President, Strategy & Product Management, AT&T IoT Solutions
"The top one is vehicle solutions," said Khan, who went on to enumerate four sub-verticals of this vertical:
- The connected-car environment
- Fleet-management solutions
- Usage-based insurance for vehicles
- Related "after-market" products
"Every quarter, we are putting up a million-plus cars on our network," said Khan. "That's a market that is very ripe with opportunity, and the players in the market are... changing very, very fast in terms of their business models and connectivity. They're looking at after-market products. They're looking at entertainment in the backseat. They're looking at autonomous driving. They're looking at vehicular infrastructure solutions that may utilize 5G -- so there's a lot of activity in that space."
2: Asset management
"Asset management IoT is, broadly speaking, a combination of supply-chain management, supply-chain data analytics and supply-chain health and general asset-monitoring solutions," Khan explained. "So think of an asset like an industrial HVAC system, and then collecting data from that -- or any other assets that are deployed in the enterprise. You want to collect diagnostics or predictive-maintenance data and things like that."
Despite ranking as a lower IoT investment priority for AT&T than vehicle solutions, the "asset management vertical is going through that same digital transformation" as the vehicle-solutions is, according to Khan.
3: Smart cities
"The third area is in Smart Cities, and that's where we are working with top cities around the United States to build infrastructural solutions where we are monitoring for them," said Khan, "whether it's smart meters, smart lights, [or] smart parking -- and some customer- and citizen-engagement... applications that run on top of them."
"The fourth area is in healthcare, where we are collecting [data via] a lot of these custom-type devices that are coming on the market," said Khan, "whether it's personal alert systems, or the remote patient-monitoring solutions, or specialized devices -- like a diabetes monitor."
Healthcare, indeed, is a rapidly growing area for technology -- especially for IoT. Khan noted AT&T's IoT investments in healthcare accordingly -- pointing out that the company set up an innovation center specializing in healthcare and IoT at Texas Medical Center's Innovation Institute in Houston. (See AT&T Boots Up Connected Health Facility and AT&T's Elbaz on How AT&T Foundries Create a Culture of Innovation.)
Little wonder, then, that the healthcare vertical's inclusion on Khan's list represents an evolution in AT&T's position over the past year.
In an October 2015 New IP Q&A, Khan ranked AT&T's top "three or four" IoT focal areas. (See AT&T & the IoT Future.) The only difference between then and now is that back then, healthcare didn't make the cut. Instead, AT&T's number four IoT priority vertical at the time, according to Khan, was that of "industrial management [and] industrial assets like mining, agriculture and construction equipment, large equipment, oil and gas."
When Telco Transformation pointed this out to Khan, he explained the change.
"The focus has not shifted; we have added healthcare in a more focused way," said Khan. "We are starting to see increasing IoT opportunities and more activities in the healthcare space. Other areas that I mentioned continue to be strong."
Definitions of "focus" and "shift" aside, there was apparently yet more "adding" and subtracting of AT&T's targeted IoT verticals "in a more focused way" since Khan's October interview. Nearly seven months ago, Light Reading paraphrased Khan as then-recently saying that "In terms of the industrial IoT... the top industry segments for AT&T are asset tracking, utilities, Smart Cities and managing industrial assets."
In that list, Smart Cities remained at number three -- as the industrial-assets vertical continued to hold at number four. Asset tracking (or management) enjoyed a brief promotion to AT&T's top IoT priority, and smart utilities came out of nowhere to temporarily take the number two spot. Vehicle solutions, didn't appear on Khan's early-2016 list.
The priority changes are likely demonstrating AT&T is keeping a keen eye on the shifting (or not-shifting, as the case may be) tides in expanding and ever-changing IoT demand by constantly evaluating and reevaluating.
And for good reason.
"IoT is big," emphasized Khan in summation. "It's going to change almost every single industry and the function of [each] industry."
— Joe Stanganelli, Contributing, Telco Transformation