The Internet of Things (IoT) is exciting, there's no doubt about that. Where there is doubt, however, is in exactly what role communications service providers will play in the IoT realm.
Granted, the IoT sector overall is still taking shape, and it's one still driven largely by excitement and a lot of hype. But for service providers, it's time to make a play -- time to clarify how they plan to expand their role beyond that of connectivity providers and pursue revenue-enhancing efforts in areas such as application enablement for enterprises. (See IoT: The Future Is Bright for Operators and Telcos Target a Piece of the M2M Action.)
With that in mind, here are five proposed IoT challenges for service providers to address in the coming year:
Articulate an IoT strategy
As experienced providers of services, you know full well how to formulate and execute a service creation and delivery strategy. So integrate the IoT into that strategy -- or, better yet, create an entirely new strategy, because the IoT is entirely new. Will you connect cars? Healthcare apps? Wearable devices? Will you make homes smart? Will you make whole cities smart? Will you do all of the above? Tell us how you'll do it. Then do it. (See For Verizon, IoT Is All About Evolution and For Sprint, IoT Is All Business.)
Be better than the 'things'
You have the means to bring it all together, so don't let the device makers or the app developers eat your lunch, steal your thunder, or do anything else to which I can assign a hackneyed expression. You own the networks, and you have the expertise to conceive, create, deliver and charge for services. Advance the conversation beyond devices. There will be new ones on the market by this time next year anyway.
Make applications happen
On a related note, you, as a service provider, have the opportunity to be an applications foundry -- and in that regard, the IoT is ripe for development. That doesn't necessarily mean creating the applications, but rather fostering their creation by providing platforms for application enablement, delivery and control to help your customers facilitate, customize, and manage the IoT. Facilitating applications will create new opportunities for you, the service providers, to extend beyond undifferentiated connectivity and into new lines of business and revenue. (See Aeris Launches IoT Marketplace, RacoWireless Opens App Store for the IoT and IoT: More Things, More Challenges.)
Get the word out
Assuming you're already a provider of some kind of communications service, you've already opened a channel into the home or business. But who doesn't have that channel? Best Buy, for one. Yet 43% of respondents to a recent survey said they get information about the so-called "smart home" from in-store retail employees. You own the network, and (for now) at least a piece of the customer relationship. Shouldn't you let those customers know how else you can help them? (See Survey Says Smart Home Gaining Traction.)
Pick a side
A bit of a protocol battleground is shaping up in the IoT world, albeit a very nice and polite one thus far. But it's time to pick an alliance -- or join all of them, if that pleases you. Just join up. The IoT industry organizations -- Thread Group , AllSeen Alliance Inc. , Open Interconnect Consortium and the like -- are largely devoid of service provider participation at this early point. Whatever you decide, just make sure you take part in the conversation. (See AllSeen Attracts More IoT Hopefuls, Thread Connects With UL for IoT Testing and Intel, Others Form Another IoT Alliance .)
The hype surrounding the IoT shows no signs of letting up. Here's hoping 2015 is the year service providers transcend the rhetoric and demonstrate the real power of the IoT.
— Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Gigabit Cities/IoT, Light Reading