It might be called the Internet of Things (IoT), but it sometimes looks more like a growing collection of disparate networks that have very little to do with one another.
That, at least, is the assessment of Finland's Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK), which reckons this lack of real interconnectedness is one of the chief reasons that IoT is still not living up to its promise. "What we've been doing is building a bunch of machine-to-machine use cases without networking, without creating the IoT," says Jason Collins, Nokia's vice president of IoT marketing. "That is really the problem that Nokia is trying to address."
It is doing so through a platform called IMPACT (which handily stands for Intelligent Management Platform for All Connected Things). When it was introduced last summer, IMPACT seemed like a nifty way of providing management support for a multitude of devices working on various network technologies. But since late 2016 it has taken on a whole new significance, becoming integral to the future role that Nokia wants to play.
Troubled by a slowdown in its traditional telco markets, the Finnish vendor in November announced a pivot toward the enterprise sector -- a market in which it has previously been weak. While not about to neglect its telco partners, Nokia thinks that capturing new enterprise customers will drive its future growth. In tandem, it also wants to build its rather small software business into a "significant" standalone entity, with the margin profile of large software companies. (See Nokia to Create Standalone Software Biz, Target New Verticals and Nokia's New Software Unit to 'Redesign' Company.)
Those related goals arguably make IMPACT -- with its vertical-market appeal and software basis -- one of Nokia's most critical bets. And the stakes got even higher this week after Nokia announced some important developments to the IoT platform. Satisfied with the "horizontal" capabilities of the technology it has designed, the vendor is introducing a number of so-called "starter packs" for specific vertical markets. It has also developed connectivity-layer support for NB-IoT and LoRa, two of the low-power, wide-area (or LPWA) network technologies now making waves in the IoT market.
The starter packs essentially comprise applications tailored to the needs of specific vertical-market customers. Using machine-learning technology, a new video-analytics package could, for example, help to address the challenge of monitoring a multitude of city cameras with a limited number of staff, highlighting an operator's attention to specific anomalies, such as a sudden rush of people through a train station. Nokia is also introducing smart-parking and smart-lighting applications, as well as vehicle software to improve maintenance and fuel efficiency.
If none of this sounds particularly new, Nokia thinks it has some big advantages over other platform players. For one thing, it already reckons it is the largest device-management vendor in the world, claiming to offer some degree of support for as many as 1.5 billion devices globally. That kind of expertise on its own should spur interest in IMPACT.
Next page: Verticals meet verticals