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AT&T's Penrose: Future IoT Hinges on Predictability

Kelsey Kusterer Ziser

Internet of Things devices have enhanced organizations' ability to track real-time data and telemetry, but AT&T's president of IoT, Chris Penrose, says the IoT industry is quickly moving toward a focus on applying that data to predictive efforts that can further improve operational efficiency.

While real-time tracking of data such as product temperature and location is valuable to shipping and logistics companies, Penrose says identifying issues before they occur provides high value to customers across a number of verticals.

"A lot of the early-on deployments [of IoT] are taking data and reacting to it in a more real-time manner, but ultimately where you want to get to is this idea of predicting -- doing things before they become issues going forward," says Penrose.

One area where this predictive application will be valuable is in the connected aircraft space. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) partners with Honeywell International Inc. (NYSE: HON) to provide connected aircraft services, ensuring flight crews and maintenance teams have access to data on aircraft performance, in-flight temperature, safety, maintenance and the overall experience on the aircraft. Penrose says airlines can track this data over time, which could be used to improve the safety and maintenance of future flights.

"[Honeywell] is really using our connectivity and the secure way we connect IoT to pull data off the freight and aircraft to drive insight, control costs and drive savings," says Penrose. Honeywell has been a longstanding partner of AT&T and recently announced that it is working with the service provider to deploy its IoT logistics, transportation and aerospace services to customers globally. (See AT&T & Honeywell Team Up on Connected Aircraft & Freight Solutions.)

"Partnering with AT&T globally allows us to take away complexity from the customer -- we take care of connectivity options, how much data gets consumed and we work that out with AT&T in the background," says Sameer Agrawal, general manager of IIoT Solutions for Honeywell Safety and Productivity Solutions. "Customers can get packet-level or shipment level visibility on the same interface, so we meet our customers where they are so they can start at one level and migrate to another without having to change systems or business processes, so providing scalability."

AT&T has also used IoT data and analytics to make proactive changes on its own fleet of 80,000 vehicles. Penrose says the operator collects telematics on vehicle and driver performance, and monitors the cranking voltage on the engines to predict the likelihood of battery failure. The service provider created an algorithm based on that information, which is used in determining when to replace batteries on a proactive basis before they fail.

AT&T's customers can access their IoT device data through AT&T DataFlow and AT&T Control Center -- "a cloud-based platform that enables customers to manage all their endpoints through a single interface, and troubleshoot and provision new devices anywhere in the world," explains Penrose.

"The challenge is identifying which piece of data you want to gather based on what's meaningful but the tools are there to enable the easy collection and ability to alert and take action," adds Penrose. "We have to sit down and talk to each customer on a case-by-case basis about what they want to do."

"Industry by industry and solution by solution, you'll see how we can use the data to take predictive actions and drive a more efficient and effective solution."

— Kelsey Kusterer Ziser, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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