With the COVID-19 pandemic dominating the headlines, it's easy to forget that less menacing topics like the Internet of Things were once the talk of the tech world. But, even though IoT may have faded somewhat from view, it still represents a promising and growing, albeit constantly challenging, market for communications service providers and tech vendors alike.
As in previous years, companies with broad, integrated strategies that focus on making IoT simpler stand out in this category. The five finalists for Most Innovative IoT/M2M Strategy this year are:
- Aptilo Networks
- F-Secure (with Windstream and Actiontec)
- Incognito Software
- Plume (with Armstrong)
The Leading Lights winners, and the identities of this year's Light Reading Hall of Fame inductees, will be announced online, on August 21, during a special video presentation on www.lightreading.com, one month before the start of the Big 5G Event.
Here's a closer look at the five companies that made the shortlist for Most Innovative IoT/M2M Strategy:
Aptilo Networks: Aptilo IoT Connectivity Control Service
Aptilo Networks created its Aptilo IoT CCS to add a flexible IoT connectivity control and security layer on top of any current and future mobile core. The idea behind it is to enable mobile operators to deliver IoT connectivity services to their customers around the world in days rather than months, at a fraction of the alternative cost.
Delivered as a service on Amazon AWS, the Aptilo IoT CCS relies on a multitenancy virtual access point name (APN) to simplify the set-up of individual private APNs for each customer. Thanks to this structure, mobile operators can connect just one standard APN to the CCS to serve all their customers linking through standard virtual private networks (VPNs). Plus, using the same APN, customers can add international mobile network operator (MNO) partners and offer global connectivity by localizing eSIM (eUICC) over the air.
Aptilo says it developed the system after one of its mobile customers "approached us in frustration" because "they could not deliver the IoT connectivity services they needed." The customer complained that there were "too many limitations in the mobile core," including no simple way to offer private APNs at scale, an inability to offer IoT security services beyond APNs, the impossibility of automatically onboarding customers, the inability of customers to manage their own security and connectivity policies, the inability to set unique security and connectivity policies per customer and the difficulty of bringing global IoT connectivity without roaming. The IoT CCS is designed to resolve all these issues.
F-Secure (with Windstream and Actiontec): Kinetic Secure
F-Secure delivers key security components for Kinetic Secure, a broader service that integrates network, cloud and router security and endpoint protection for the connected home, IoT and on-the-go connections. Already deployed by Windstream, Kinetic Secure is a cloud-based platform designed to deliver fast, secure Wi-Fi and protect customers from advanced cyber threats.
F-Secure, a cybersecurity supplier, has contributed its SENSE solution to the overall Kinetic Secure package. Bundled with the Optim Managed Service Assurance Platform from Actiontec, a connected home device manufacturer, SENSE uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to create a secure network for the home and protect every device connected to it, including vulnerable IoT devices, automatically without the customer having to do anything.
F-Secure says its security software provides endpoint protection as well as gateway-level security for the entire home, along with additional functionality (like parental controls and mobile device management) integrated with Kinetic's's new managed Wi-Fi service. Its features are integrated into the Optim platform and the Optim agent that resides in the home gateway or router, enabling Windstream to activate security services on any Optim-enabled gateway without having to upgrade the firmware or swap out hardware. Because they're hardware agnostic, Optim's agent and SENSE are also now running on various other Wi-Fi routers and gateways.
Incognito Software: Enterprise IoT Device Management and Data Collection
With industry analysts forecasting up to 4 billion M2M connections by 2022, CSPs have an opportunity to reach well beyond their SIM-based connectivity business models and further monetize IoT services. But, to do so, providers must manage stringent service-level agreements (SLAs) and deliver quality experiences in a cost-effective way, preferably by using a remote device-management model to handle all IoT devices, sensors and gateways.
Incognito seeks to aid this cause with an Enterprise IoT Device Management solution designed to equip operators with comprehensive device-management functions -- including device diagnostics, device discovery and zero-touch provisioning – so they can rapidly integrate, onboard, update firmware, and remotely manage and configure IoT devices/sensors. The vendor says its software platform "addresses any network access type, supports any vendor equipment type and features extensive process automation to provide a future-proof approach."
Incognito boasts that its solution also offers operational efficiencies for customer care and network operations teams by serving multiple business verticals from a common unified platform, minimizing IoT service silos. The company also asserts that its platform can be deployed in weeks, delivering a time-to-market advantage over competitors.
Plume (with Armstrong)
Smart homes just keep getting smarter as service providers deliver faster and faster speeds to subscribers and consumers load up with more and more connected devices. Given these trends, which have only been accelerated by COVID-19, the need keeps growing for more intelligent management of the increasingly complex connected home.
With that in mind, Plume's latest smart home product seeks to deliver improved connectivity within the home, enhanced IoT security and better, more personalized Wi-Fi experiences. Designed particularly for Zoom subscribers, the software app offers: AI-powered Wi-Fi to automatically monitor, adjust and optimize the home network for each device; advanced user controls for managing guest and child access, setting up profiles and pausing Internet access on specific devices; AI smarts to automatically detect and prevent security threats, customize content access and block unwanted ads on any device; and a feature that enables wireless devices to work in tandem to detect movement in the home and generate alerts.
Fresh off securing an umbrella carriage deal with the National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC), Plume has signed up a number of North American and European service providers for its smart-home products. The list includes the Armstrong Group, a midsized cable operator in the Northeast US that has rolled out the latest service and says the product has already boosted its customers' QoE while cutting the number of broadband-related service calls and truck rolls.
ZTE: IoT Converged 5G Messaging
At ZTE, just about everything revolves around 5G wireless technology these days. So it's no great surprise that the big Chinese vendor has an IoT entry geared towards improving 5G messaging this year.
ZTE's IoT Converged Messaging Solution aims to enable IoT terminals to both send and receive messages, use a variety of wireless platforms and frequencies and communicate with Rich Communication Suite (RCS) and Chatbots of MaaP (Messaging as a Platform). All message services can be converged and managed by one 5G Messaging Server Ccenter, which is designed to enable improved handling and delivery efficiency, unified storage, unified maintenance and more seamless interconnection.
Using this technology, ZTE says it hopes to accelerate the spread of massive IoT terminals and improve "people's lives, work and entertainment." The vendor is now working with China Mobile on a commercial project to deliver live 5G messaging services to all the carrier's subscribers, starting this summer.
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading