At a forum earlier this month on the state of Internet of Things software development among telcos, service providers and other verticals, the message of the day was one of global promotion and then transferring that advancement locally across regions.
On Dec. 1, the IoT M2M Council -- (IMC) hosted the Iot Platforms & Apps Forum -- the group's annual meeting -- in downtown Boston to discuss the present and future state of the enterprise IoT connectivity market.
"We want to promote IoT globally across sectors, across job functions, but we need to know more about the people that buy IoT stuff -- and by that, I mean connectivity, hardware, software and services," said Keith Kreisher, IMC's executive director, in his opening remarks at the forum -- noting that telecoms and service providers anchor IMC's shortlist of "Sustaining Member" companies within the organization. "We don't know enough about these people, what they like, what they need, how we can help them."
To help meet these challenges for IMC Sustained Member telcos and other M2M solutions providers, Kreisher related that while many vice presidents, directors and C-level executives participate in IMC, more than half (53 percent) of IMC's "Adoptive Members" -- i.e., members directly involved with purchasing, initiating or influencing deployments of IoT or other M2M technology within their organizations -- are lower-level, front line managers who are in the trenches. Since they face the technological needs of their companies head on, they may be in a better position to advise member telcos and service providers what their companies really need.
Indeed, Kreisher and other speakers at the IMC forum emphasized that service providers and other industry leaders in IoT connectivity need to get boots on the ground in order to truly comprehend the challenges they face in the market -- and in helping their enterprise customers.
"A lot of people who are on the solutions side of IoT connectivity, with a lot of the volumes that are out there today, are not on track to reach those kinds of numbers," warned Jared Bazzy, vice president of business development at local ICT consultancy Horizon Research & Market Analysis, as he began moderating a panel session titled Defining IoT Success in Terms of Operational Outcomes. "In addition to looking at the big picture, we're also concerned with asking 'What are those challenges?' It's a very complex concept with] three dimensions... but we certainly hope to identify the most important vectors."
To this end, Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) appears to have been working hard to earn a direct line between it and its customers and other prospects in the IoT market.
"We work with those customers to advance cellular connectivity on their IoT devices," said panelist Steven Perlberg, senior manager of IoT Partnerships at Verizon Wireless, as he introduced himself. "So we do a lot of open development work with them on their go-to-market strategies."
Little surprise, then, that Verizon's IoT approach is focused on community outreach -- and then defining its IoT solutions based on this concept of community. While Verizon previously used the term "Smart City," it has changed its terminology to "Smart Communities," Perlberg said.
"We work with partners who want to use cellular in these Smart Communities and we went into the products. Instead, now we sell them a whole service as a solution," said Perlberg. "That's really where we need to go. Verizon at its simplest form is a network."
Perlberg went on to explain Verizon's customer education role -- which he calls a partnership -- that includes working closely with municipal communities, startup communities and enterprise communities alike. For all the demand and buzz in the enterprise IoT space concerning cellular solutions, what enterprise customers think they want and what enterprise customers actually need can be two different things -- and IoT network connectivity requires a holistic viewpoint.
"I would love to see a time at some point where all the different networks will be meshing [network technologies] together -- whether it will be satellite, Bluetooth or ZigBee," said Perlberg. "I always look at cellular as a complement to these other networks, because is it always going to be the best way? No."
To be sure, Perlberg emphasized that cellular approaches based strictly in LTE, Cat-1, or Cat-M "can be expensive, especially as you're employing thousands of these devices," and that WiFi plays a key role in Verizon's IoT approach -- particularly in tracking connected "smart things" in the hospital environment (to track things like wheelchairs) and in the pharmaceutical industry (to ensure provenance in the supply chain and protect against counterfeit drugs).
"It really boils down to the verticals," affirmed Norman Miglietta, director of group marketing at KORE Wireless Group Inc. , in a later panel discussion as he emphasized solutions providers need for unerring customer focus. "Nobody buys 'IoT.' They're buying a solution specifically for their vertical."
— Joe Stanganelli, Contributing Writer, Telco Transformation