The Internet of Things – biggest opportunity for communications but are we ready?

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If you had a million dollars and you gave your partner a thousand dollars a day to spend, he or she would be back in 18 months time saying, presumably slightly out of breath and out of closet space, ‘done.’ If you had a billion dollars and you gave said partner a thousand dollars a day to spend, presumably while you lounged on a yacht somewhere, your grandchild would come back to you when he was 18 (assuming he was being born when the first tranche of loot was being handed over) and say ‘done’ and probably ‘can I have some more.’ A billion is a lot bigger than a million. 

We, in the communications industry, ignore just how vast some of the figures we idly throw around in conversation actually are. What is quite daunting is that the figures that we idly throw about now will be completely dwarfed by the figures that we will be throwing about in two years’ time.

Take ‘M2M’ – now rapidly being renamed the Internet of Things (IoT) – for example. We rather liked Ericsson’s prediction of a couple of years ago that by 2020 50 billion devices would be connected to the Internet. We then rather sensibly for us, revised that by saying that it is entirely possible that 50 billion devices might be ‘connectable’ to the internet by 2020, but perhaps just 30 billion would be blinking away quietly to themselves and sending tiny signals to tell other things that all was well. The Internet itself, according to futurologist Peter Cochrane, is actually not going to be able to scale that far. Luckily, according to him, the cloud will.

Forget billions, the potential market for communications providers in the IoT ‘market’ will be $1.3 trillion by 2020 according to Machina Research. Which, according to Chris Newton-Smith of RedKnee is twice the size of the communications market today.

There are many theories about how communications provider make money out of this internet of things. Some say our skill and cunning in being able to bill flexibly and minutely will stand us in good stead. Others say that our network access and device management will make us the winners. We believe that it will come down to common sense.

Some communication providers will have expertise in healthcare, others will not. Some will partner with car manufacturers, others will simply sell them the kit. Some will buy the expertise – in the form of companies and or people. Many will – and do – see the home as a good starting point. In fact they see the home as the place to step ‘beyond data’ and into real value.

It will come down to communications providers’ approach and attitude to partnerships. Each will be different, some will be critical.

The good news is that we have reached – we here at BillingViews Boulevard believe – a tipping point. We believe that after years of talking about it, a culture of partnership and collaboration is now emerging. It is, we know, essential for commercialising the OTT players’ offerings. It will be, we believe, critical in getting a piece of the $1.3 trillion opportunity.

As we speak, real time systems are being implemented and integrated with policy management systems, which in turn are being plugged into analytics machines. This is being done to be ready to give over more control of services to customers and to take advantage of the reasonably immediate opportunities of working with Google, Facebook, WhatsApp and the rest. 

What this means is that both the culture and the processes and systems will be ready to take advantage of the opportunities that are emerging from this internet of things. 

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About Alex Leslie 400 Articles
Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet.

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