According to industry forecasts, the Internet of Things (IoT) will literally be everywhere, whether it’s in the form of fitness trackers and other wearables; health devices and sensors; smart cars; or a multitude of other items all connected together and transmitting data back and forth across networks.
But for communications service providers (CSPs), figuring out how to get a piece of this trillion-dollar pie can seem extremely daunting. For those looking for new lines of business and, more importantly, new sources of revenues, drilling down into the use cases of the IoT will be critical to understanding where and how they can contribute to the overall ecosystem. Here’s a look at four of the most advanced and compelling use cases for the IoT.
The smart city IoT use case will be the one most people come into contact with on a regular basis and one with tremendous opportunity for CSPs. Connectivity will be largely centered around Wi-Fi, and applications will involve public and government uses such as safety and security, energy (utilities including water, electricity sewer, etc.), traffic management and more.
In these use cases, there will be a tremendous need for real-time or near real-time data analytics and visualization, especially in the case of security, traffic optimization and even when dumpsters are full and need to be emptied. For example, law enforcement officials can take facial recognition data from CCTV cameras, behavioral data and license plate information to put together a complete picture of who might be in a particular place at a particular time and if they might warrant a closer look.
Getting to this very complex level of data gathering and analysis will require heavy participation from service providers and strong partnerships with IoT system integrators.
Generally speaking a smart home environment tends to revolve around the monitoring and care of the home itself and those who live within it. This includes security systems, heating and cooling systems, utilities and even health monitoring for those that might need a little extra attention, such as the elderly who live alone and even pets who may be left on their own during the day.
Features of the smart home have been appearing for years, starting with centrally monitored alarm systems. Now, the smart home market is becoming crowded and extremely competitive, with niche players being snapped up by larger digital service providers and others trying to make a name for themselves. This will give consumers greater choice in terms of products, but none of that will reach its true potential without strong involvement from service providers.
CSPs are in an excellent position to create a common platform to connect apps and devices from multiple providers and turn collected data into useful information for the end user. The challenge will be for them to take on that leadership role and tie all the various pieces together.
Some have been acquiring smaller tech and other companies to create their own walled garden ecosystems, but what’s really needed is an open home environment. CSPs with fiber to the home – such as cable providers – are in an excellent position to provide this type of service as are those that can deliver strong Wi-Fi management capabilities.
The quintessential use case within transportation is the connected car, and with each new model year more and more features are being added to vehicles. However, as in the case of the smart home, the connected car still has a long road to travel.
On the consumer side, many cutting-edge functions and features are found in luxury vehicles, leaving a vast opportunity within more modestly priced vehicles. Another area that’s largely untapped so far is after-market devices for either new or used cars.
On the enterprise side, there’s huge potential with fleet management, including containers and the entire supply chain of cross-border movement of shipments. This type of scenario takes e-commerce to a whole new level by giving companies the ability to monitor their goods and make decisions on the fly, even as shipments are in transit.
Whether consumer or enterprise focused, transportation use cases will require partnerships and interoperability among networks and devices as well as buy in and support at the government level.
This use case deals with proactive and reactive approaches before, during and after natural events as well as other aspects involving the environment. Examples include the ongoing California drought, the Japanese earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 2011, soil conditions in agricultural settings and more.
While similar in many ways to smart city use cases, those involving the environment tend to be broader in scope, involving projects at the state and national levels. Partnering in these use cases becomes exponentially more complicated but also more urgent. For instance, CSPs may want to consider creating a strategic business and government alliance department that looks at where they can participate and how.
These IoT use cases are already on the market in some form and will rapidly ramp up over the next few years. Many of these examples are being led by non-traditional players such as automobile manufacturers and governments, but through it all CSPs clearly have a major role to play. They will either be looked to for the entire end-to-end ecosystem or as partners to enable connectivity among devices, networks and other infrastructure.
If they take their role as partnership enabler seriously and look closely at where they can add value, CSPs will find a wealth of options in the IoT that could massively impact their bottom line and create new business opportunities for the future.
Photo by Highway England, via Flickr
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