MWC is a conference you should not miss if you are in IoT
Every year Machina Research’s analysts are out in force at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. This year’s event marked an important milestone as attendance surpassed 100,000 for the first time. MWC is now a showcase for a much wider ecosystem of operators, technology players, service professionals, developers and customers. In particular it has become a critical talking shop for all things related to the Internet of Things, the importance and relevance of which continues to amplify with each passing year.
Among the many IoT discussions, LPWA was the important network story. Momentum was bolstered by the work of the 3GPP on finalizing Release 13 standards. The NB-IoT standard, which is now expected to be completed in June 2016, was broadly heralded at MWC as a long-awaited vehicle for ushering in an age of “massive IoT” for MNOs. Specialized LPWA players (e.g. SigFox, Ingenu, and LoRa partners) are gaining increased traction around the globe. Ingenu announced a major global expansion effort that looks impressive. Award-winning Sigfox sharing details on major deals and an impressive catalog of devices already running on its network. In this context, the standardisation of NB-IoT and LTE-M is crucial to narrowing the window of opportunity for these competing technologies. While the continued delays in finalizing the NB-IoT specifications and branding (i.e. what NB-IoT will be officially called) is causing some consternation and confusion among MNOs, the completion of the LTE-M modules specification does offer them a new tool to become relevant in a much broader array of IoT applications.
When it comes to MNOs, it was evident that their IoT strategies are evolving further as commitment to the business heightens. Early results shared by leading MNOs in IoT indicated that growth remained robust in 2015. IoT is the bright spot in the overall business for many and consequently several are looking to double down on IoT. Conversations around analytics, security, e-SIM and to a lesser extent 5G and NFV/SDN were especially relevant to the global leaders. MNOs are looking for whatever edge they can find to deliver better IoT services as well as tools (and partnerships) that will allow them to extract greater value from the opportunity. We therefore expect greater investments in technology, infrastructure and capabilities in the coming months. These investments will be fueled further by the simple fact that there will be more MNOs embarking on the IoT journey. The rest of the MNO world is catching up. They are forming IoT teams and beginning to ask about organizational structures, go-to-market strategies and platforms.
Speaking of platforms, it was in this realm where we saw the IT giants awakening. The buzz about and visibility of traditional IT players in IoT at MWC was tangible. With IT behemoths like Intel, Qualcomm, Microsoft, Cisco, and HPE seeking to drive IoT ecosystems and over 300 IoT ‘platforms’ in the space, the already consolidating platform segment may well see an acceleration in market developments. Concurrent with the rise of the big players in IoT platforms is the strength of SIs on display. Accenture, IBM, SAP, Tata and others were demonstrating that they provide proven IoT and analytics solutions and can offer either the glue – the integration – for other IoT platform players, or the actual productized solutions that enterprises are looking for.
Conversations also reinforced that the sector is waking up to the notion that IoT value resides in thinking beyond physical ‘Things’. More important are the datasets and business processes which are typically not thought of as being things, but are really where the value lies in the IoT. So rather than focusing on the number of connected objects, the industry needs to shift to thinking about the number of connected business processes and available data sets generated by remote monitoring devices, and similar other measures of the growth of IoT.
Data management was consequently on everyone’s mind when discussing IoT. The issue of how to get data off devices and into back-end systems is increasingly being resolved. What has not yet really been resolved is who gets to make money out of that data. In particular who plays the role of the broker of data, and who plays the role of the manager of the data repository. Perhaps it is the same player doing both. We wrote about this topic of IoT Service Marketplaces extensively in 2015, most notably in the report The Emerging IoT Landscape (December 2015) and it is nice to see this theme permeating the industry. To be sure, there are lots of potential candidates for that role.
This brings us to the ultimate question of who has started to yield value in IoT? The answer thus far is SIs, large enterprises and advanced analytics companies. Players in this space are raising their game, for instance Accenture with its Insights Platform and Oracle with its IoT Cloud Service. Many industry verticals such as manufacturers, retailers, and transport companies are identifying and achieving huge improvements in business efficiency. IoT brings with it a deluge of data. Analytics will be the key to extracting maximum value from that deluge.
The author of this blog is Godfrey Chua, principal analyst, and the Machina Research team.