IoT unlocks the hidden value that already exists in businesses
Massively scaled device volume will come from applications that instrument the mundane or hidden business activities, but yield revolutionary results. This scale then requires platform technology that supports deployment, security and efficiency in operation, Bruce Chatterley, the chief executive of Senet, tells Michele Mackenzie, a principal analyst at Analysys Mason.
Michele Mackenzie: Could you start by introducing Senet and outlining your background in the LPWA market?
Bruce Chatterley: Senet – then known as EnerTrac – was founded in 2009 and originally addressed a very specific IoT use case; automated monitoring of propane tanks in the residential environment. Our solution comprised a combination of network, sensors and an application for fuel delivery companies. We grew that business dramatically over a number of years and that formed the foundation of our knowledge base. We realised that LoRa was the best technology to address the tank monitoring application requirements providing cost-effective wide area coverage, long battery life and strong propagation. This network initiative formed the foundation of Senet; our LoRa network, initially deployed for a single application and evolved to support multiple applications. From this, we started to operate a public network model in the US. However, the core intellectual property of Senet is our operating system which we built to support our original EnerTrac network. Senet’s cloudbased operations support system (OSS) and business support systems (BSS) are the foundational software and services that help to speed the deployment of IoT networks where they are needed, when they are needed and at the right cost. And that’s the core of our value proposition today.
MM: What do you see as the main challenges for operators face in the early phase of LPWA development?
BC: You see many forecasts for IoT in the hundreds of millions or billions of devices, and the only way to achieve that is to have solutions available that can drive and scale to support that growth rapidly and at massive scale. For example, the process of activating new IoT devices needs automation, or zero touch deployment. You need to be able to automate registering the device to the network – by simply pressing a button, check that it is transmitting data and then leave it for ten years. We have repositioned our business to address this and other requirements to deploy and manage the secure IoT networks needed to meet the massive scale required.
MM: What solutions does Senet provide to the LPWA ecosystem/operators?
BC: Our solutions are designed to address different requirements – for each of these we offer different models and solutions: • The first product is our public network service: Network-as-a-Service. Devices within range of our public network can connect for a monthly fee. • The second product is our public-private hybrid network. There are always gaps in public network coverage or hard to reach places, so customers can deploy a gateway and operate devices on both the private and public network managed by Senet. • The third product, our Managed Network Services for IoT (MNSi), addresses the needs of operators who have assets such as towers or building where they could install LoRa gateways but don’t want to invest in their own network or manage the connectivity. The operator buys and deploys the gateways and we manage it on an outsourced basis on their behalf. • To tie all of this together, Senet connects all customer network and gateway deployments through its LPWA Virtual Network or LVN. This allows any Senet customer to place a device on any of the other customers’ networks and the network owner gets are share of the revenue of that originating device. It’s really a model of ecosystem participation and partnerships to rapidly build out LPWAN networks.
MM: In which sectors are you seeing most demand for LPWA networks and for your products and service models?
BC: We are seeing demand growing across the board including in the utilities and energy, smart cities and asset tracking markets. For example, in utilities there is a tremendous opportunity in water and gas metering, where meters require long battery life and are in hard to reach places.
We are working with one utility that is placing gateways on top of water towers and its own buildings. In addition to delivering smart metering services, it can now provide connectivity to other organisations and generate revenue from its network. There are similar models emerging from the smart cities sector. For example, we can deploy the network on behalf of a municipality and these gateways become part of our LVN. The city generates revenue from the smart city services they offer and others can connect to the network to generate new IoT revenue streams. We are also seeing demand from players that own assets suitable for supporting LoRa gateways. For example, large infrastructure players such as tower companies or owners of digital signage and billboard assets. These companies buy the gateways and Senet helps them to deploy the network and manages it on their behalf. And lastly, we are seeing demand from operators, in many different regions of the world who are currently providing various connectivity offerings, but are interested in augmenting their portfolio with LoRaWAN services to participate in the rapid growth that the LPWAN market is experiencing today.
MM: What other challenges is the market facing?
BC: Senet has developed market-proven solutions to address the technology challenge and our heritage differentiates us with a commercial model and business case that has revolutionised the market. This is being addressed through initiatives such as the LoRa Alliance and Senet’s own IoT Foundry services. But the main challenge is in accelerating the movement from a proof of concept or market trail to a large-scale commercial rollout. One challenge is related to the technology and the other is the business model. Senet has developed market-proven solutions to address the technology challenge and our heritage with EnerTrac differentiates us with a commercial model and business case that has revolutionised a market. We have taken a market, penetrated it significantly, and proven a nearterm return on investment (ROI) – you can pay off a US$50 device by avoiding one truck roll per year – and provided fuel distributors with significant yearly cost savings. There is also a customer service improvement element – effectively eliminating the range anxiety equivalent – where drivers fear that their electric car does not have the range to arrive at their destination, but in this instance, it is customers fear running out of fuel to heat their homes. Our tagline refers to revolutionising different businesses and we have proven that we can do that.