Why the telecoms industry must get a grip on the Internet of Things

Richard Stevenson, Telecoms and Data Monetisation lead,
Esri UK

Establishing a solid telecoms network that can cope with the capacity and coverage required to power the Internet of Things (IoT) is a serious challenge telecoms companies need to address within the next 12 months if they are to keep pace with the rapid evolution of digital technologies.

The digital transformation of people’s lives, both at work and at home, today, has become a relentless force. From Amazon announcing plans to launch instant-order IoT buttons in the UK, to cities across the globe looking at IoT applications for energy balancing, parking and lighting, the deployment of technologies which rely heavily on mobile networks show no signs of slowing down.

The connectivity capacity required to both extend the geographic reach of the IoT and also help it multiply for new applications both now, and in the future, is a serious issue for the telecoms industry. Existing telecoms network infrastructure cannot do this alone, and I strongly believe the time has come for telecoms companies to increase their collaboration with governments, organisations, ICT solutions providers, application developers and research institutions to ensure any UK investment in a framework to underpin the IoT isn’t devalued, says Richard Stevenson, Telecoms and Data Monetisation lead, Esri UK.

The importance of location

The success or failure of the IoT framework relies on geography. In order to effectively plan and manage network capabilities across the country, the above stakeholders need to pool resources and data together to create a foundation that enables the evolution of the IoT. Waiting another 12 months, or delaying this process, will be too late.

The use of real-time location data to create a visualisation of networks will be vital to planning and anticipating pressures to meet demand. Telecoms companies need to work with councils and governments to consider where sensors should be placed and what data these will be permitted to collect. They will also need to consider the path that data moving across a network takes and how it should be stored and secured.GIS image 2

The complex process of managing such a volume of data sets is why mapping this information based on location is such a vital step. By visualising these multiple data sets on a map, stakeholders have access to a ‘single point of truth’ for all network data which can be used across departments, organisations and governments to gain an almost real-time picture of a network at any given time, which is incredibly valuable.

Monetising data from the IoT

Not only should telecoms companies be looking towards location data to manage network capacity, there are many other benefits to consider. As the computational power of devices continues to increase and advances in sensor technology turn everyday objects into sources of data, it is important for telecoms companies to examine how vehicles, buildings, infrastructure and equipment of all shapes and sizes can be used to collect and exchange location-based data.

The opportunity this presents for telecoms companies, is that every data stream created in the IoT will be of value to a particular audience or audiences. For example, the data captured from smart chips on connected-vehicles travelling along motorways could be used to create a range of anonymised datasets: traffic volumes by time of day, origin/destination routes, shopping centre catchments etc.

The wealth of people movement data also generated by networks which, when anonymised, aggregated and enriched with relevant demographics, has significant value for transport, retail, smart city planning and environmental applications.

Where to next

In the coming years, it’s my belief that we’ll begin to see the emergence of IoT data consortiums, offering multiple data services using aggregated data feeds. Network operators are well positioned to provide and aggregate IoT datasets’ required to create and take to market these innovative IoT services.

Without doubt, telecommunications infrastructure and operational data are the critical components for the adoption and success of the IoT. By placing location at the heart of planning, telecoms companies finally face a viable strategy to address widespread concerns about the capacity needed to bring the full potential of IoT to life. However, this must be addressed soon, or else the balance required to meet demand will be seriously impacted.

The author of this blog is Richard Stevenson, Telecoms and Data Monetisation lead, Esri UK

Comment on this article below or via Twitter: @IoTNow_ OR @jcIoTnow

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