Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Prabhu Ramachandran, Director of WebNMS, looks at how IoT is likely to evolve over the course of this year.
Despite the hype, IoT technology is not something new; it’s the latest stage of a market that is constantly evolving. However, faced with the unrelenting pressure for increased resource utilization and cost efficiency as well as the complementary advance of data analytics, we have focused our attention on the potential IoT has to make our world a better place. Several steps toward realizing the potential of IoT will be taken in 2016.
Just a few years ago, the IoT ecosystem tended to be rigid and siloed. Horizontal silos arose from a maturing value chain of sensor manufacturers, gateway vendors and application developers, all working individually. Perhaps even stronger, vertical application silos formed around specific industries. Industrial control, satellite communications, fleet management and marine electronics industries are just a few examples of verticals with their own standards and proprietary solution stacks.
While we shouldn’t ignore the value these solutions delivered, the silos created economic inefficiencies through development duplication and, more importantly, inhibit the full potential of devices connected in a single network — sometimes referred to as “the network effect.” Cross-connecting different types of IoT devices, both within and between industries, will lead to an exponential growth in the value of IoT solutions.
To realize this value, the IoT supply chain will mature into an ecosystem reminiscent of the Android ecosystem. Each horizontal layer and vertical application will optimize itself but will rely on unifying, open platforms that allow seamless co-existence, interoperability and data exchange between many types of IoT devices. This year, this new solution architecture will enable rapid innovation, with new applications that combine existing devices in previously unforeseen ways.
Open software platforms do not resolve all of the challenges with IoT. For example, the IoT community currently faces a pressing challenge with connectivity. Though IoT connectivity tends to require minimal bandwidth, many applications rely on continuous connectivity, and irregular availability of a mobile signal might inhibit solution deployment. Unfortunately, almost all mobile networks, including many GSM networks worldwide, fail to achieve a perfect blanket of coverage outside of densely populated areas. Telcos have started to notice this coverage issue for IoT applications, including their own IoT services. In 2016, these telcos will deploy technologies designed to expand signal coverage for IoT applications, even where it did not make sense for mobile phone service.
Another major trend on the technological front will be the rise in the number of radio options for wireless IoT devices in 2016. While residential broadband and mobile networks will likely form the backbone of the IoT network, the cost and power sensitivity of many small IoT devices will limit their use of Wi-Fi. More efficient, lower speed wireless technologies such as ZigBee, LoRa and NFC will enable ubiquitous device connectivity without the overhead of mobile or Wi-Fi radios.
2016 will witness a major rise in deployment of IoT technology by medium and large enterprises. With a crucial need to bring down costs and improve efficiency, organizations are looking for ways to make optimum use of their resources and reduce their day-to-day operational expenses. Enterprises want to minimize their energy, utility and maintenance bills as well as use the marshalled performance data to make future investment decisions. This will be a key driver of a collaborative IoT ecosystem as solutions will need to be tailored to fit each enterprise’s business operations.
Most of the countries in the world have announced smart city projects, focusing on technology to improve governance and streamline operations. In 2016, IoT solutions will take the biggest slice of the smart city investment pie. To improve inhabitants’ lives, city administrators face a myriad of challenges, including planning, water systems, utilities, transportation, healthcare and safety. Each of these crucial services will be improved by smart applications built on open, Android-like IoT software platforms that integrate any sensor or gateway and can be customized for any real-time application.
With over 15 years of experience delivering service provider software solutions, Prabhu Ramachandran directs WebNMS, the service provider division of Zoho Corporation. Prabhu leads strategic marketing, product management, customer support, partnerships and professional services for WebNMS. Leveraging the technology of the corporation’s flagship WebNMS Framework, Prabhu has expanded the business from its longstanding leadership position in multi-vendor network and element management software into vertical solutions for Carrier Ethernet, MPLS, broadband, LTE and satellite networks. In 2012, Prabhu began driving WebNMS into network orchestration, SDN, NFV and IoT/M2M platforms, all critical enablers for service providers to grow profitable businesses. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Electronics and Communication from Madras University, Chennai, India.