Leading Lights 2017 Finalists: Most Innovative IoT/M2M Strategy (Service Provider)

When service providers talk about future growth opportunities these days, they typically bring up the Internet of Things (IoT). It's no surprise. With just about everyone outside a few emerging markets now equipped with a phone (and usually a data device at that), connecting new "things" has become a lot more interesting than maintaining connections for people.

But with just about everybody piling into this IoT business, success is far from guaranteed. Service providers are faced with a plethora of technology options and wrestling with decisions about how best to approach new enterprise customers.

Even so, Light Reading received a number of strong entries for the Most Innovative M2M/IoT Strategy (Service Provider) award, with four players making the final short list.

US telco giant AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is no stranger to the IoT game, but its LTE-M deployment takes it in a new direction. The technology, which became a part of the 3GPP's Release 13 standards update last year, is designed to address demand for relatively low-power, wide-area (LPWA) connectivity -- needed for smart meters, asset-tracking devices and suchlike -- and intended to be far more economical than longer-established cellular technologies.

AT&T is rolling out a nationwide LTE-M network in the US this year and will introduce the technology into Mexico later in 2017. Services were first launched in October and pilots are already underway with a range of enterprise customers. AT&T faces plenty of competition in this market, with rivals using both LTE-M and other LPWA technologies, but its experience and existing customer relationships put it in a strong position for IoT growth.

Cisco Systems
Cisco's $1.4 billion takeover of IoT software specialist Jasper Wireless Inc. in March last year put the networks giant in control of a company that has been widely regarded as "best of breed" in the device management space. Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) has clearly been eyeing further expansion into the cloud and IoT opportunities, and that makes the Jasper takeover pretty critical to its ongoing transformation from a hardware player into more of a software-and-services company.

Cisco already had a lot of technologies it saw as "complementary" to Jasper's and it also has a big roster of enterprise clients to which it can market Jasper's offerings. Judging by the progress so far, that seems to have been happening. Following a ten-year stint in the market, Jasper was serving about 3,500 customers and had around 17 million devices on its platform when Cisco bought the company. Today, it caters to more than 9,000 enterprises and supports about 40 million devices. Sustaining that momentum but will tough, but with new features on the horizon the platform's appeal should continue to grow.

Silver Spring Networks
Software company and smart grid specialist Silver Spring Networks has been rolling out a network and data platform it calls Starfish, giving customers "on-demand," cloud-based access to a range of IoT networking services. Features now include cloud storage as well as analytics, aimed at helping enterprise clients to make more informed business decisions.

Highly regarded by many analysts, Silver Spring says it has expanded the Starfish offering into the markets of Denver, London, Providence and Stockholm in the past year, having already announced deployments for San Jose, Chicago, San Antonio, Copenhagen, Bristol, Glasgow and Kolkata.

The Climate Corporation
IoT has been transforming the agricultural sector of the economy like few others and The Climate Corporation claims to have established a leadership position in the market for data-driven insights that can help farmers to boost productivity.

Owned by Monsanto, the company makes Light Reading's short list for the quality of its Climate FieldView platform, a so-called "digital agricultural hub" that gathers and analyzes data from sensors and networks deployed in farming environments. The Climate Company promotes its technology as an open one that aims to break through the proprietary solutions still used in parts of the industry. And its progress has been impressive. From 35 million crop acres in 2014, it went to serving more than 100 million in 2016, expanding from the US into Brazil, Canada and Europe. As an expanding global population continues to put pressure on farmland and resources, the technology is likely to become even more valued in the next few years.

— Iain Morris, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, News Editor, Light Reading

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