Look no further than the U.S. Open tennis tournament this year to see the impact of IoT. In the past, competing tennis players relied on line judges surrounding the court to determine whether the tennis ball was in or out. Today, electronic line calling cameras are used on all 16 tennis courts. As organizations everywhere turn to IoT to improve efficiency and business operations as part of a digital transformation initiative, two-thirds of decision-makers are planning to increase their IoT spend over the next 12 months. As a result, the market has been predicted to exceed $1 trillion within the next four years.
There is clearly significant potential for service providers to make the most of the opportunities offered by this increasingly popular technology which combines objects (e.g., sensors), software and connectivity to send or receive data. In fact, many are already driving systems that support multiple devices, communication protocols, networks and multi-cloud environments. These efforts are in some ways “pushing the envelope” by combining IoT adoption with migrating applications to the cloud, including AWS and Microsoft Azure. Besides offering their subscribers new cloud/IoT platforms, operators are evolving their business models to allow them to move further up the value chain.
By offering value-add services, such as business consulting, systems integration, analytics and security, it’s possible for operators to dramatically increase their stake in IoT.
Their experience in delivering connectivity at scale, for example, will give them the ability to interconnect billions of devices with cloud platforms, analytics engines and huge data warehouses. Likewise, by adapting their existing business models, operators will be able to offer pricing plans and quality-of-service guarantees that support IoT, or to run analytics engines in their network in order to manage the vast data flows and improve response times or availability, especially as workloads move to the cloud and continuous deployment of microservices becomes mainstream.
What’s more, by gleaning actionable and meaningful insights from the unprecedented volume of data generated by IoT, operators can help their subscribers to become smarter.
Instead of just offering basic data plans for IoT connectivity, operators can provide subscribers with “smart data.” Generated through pervasive visibility into wire data — the traffic that flows across the entire network — smart data is real-time, scalable metadata, prepared and organized at the point of collection so that it is ready and optimized for analytics at the highest possible quality and speed.
By providing accurate, contextual information to lighting or parking providers in smart cities, for example, operators can monetize this smart data as part of their metering, geolocation and usage charges. Smart data enables faster and more insightful decisions with a deeper understanding of what exactly is going on across different sectors; for example, in manufacturing that can range from product development to finance to supply chain. Operators that deliver smart data to subscribers help them reduce margin pressures (increase profits while decreasing costs) and improve customer satisfaction.
A smart data approach can also provide operators themselves with the level of visibility they need for security and service assurance. By proactively monitoring inherently unsecure devices and networks, for example, they can confidently offer robust service-level agreements. The visibility afforded by smart data makes it possible for operators to identify any anomalies within their network and detect poor threat hygiene including expired or self-signed certificates. With applications on the move and IoT devices running in new places, operators can assure end-to-end service performance and manage security through metrics such as latency, errors, transactions; automatic service dependency mapping; and deep packet forensics. Real-time access to and analysis of data provides operators with valuable insights into the behavior of the connected IoT devices, services and applications on their network, how they interact with each other and the network and the types of traffic patterns they produce.
Ultimately, smart data allows operators to better manage their networks and make more informed decisions around service performance and security management.
Operators have traditionally tended to rely on flat rates and unlimited data plans for connectivity as their major sources of revenue. The growing popularity of multi-cloud and IoT represents a chance to expand beyond this and branch out into new platforms and business models. In doing so, operators will expand revenue opportunities while enhancing their relationship with subscribers.
Being successful, however, will require unrestricted visibility and powerful intelligence. A smart data approach is therefore essential in helping operators to deliver subscriber offerings, but also in providing the deep insights they need in multi-cloud/IoT environments to assure and secure their services, and capitalize on new technologies, now and in the future.
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