The Internet of Things: is the Game Worth the Candle?

“Perhaps the Play is not worth the Candle” (Works, by Sir William Temple, circa 1690)

Or to put it another way – will the cost of the game exceed any winnings that you could possibly walk away with? Is it even worth sitting down to play?

As games go, the IoT is about as exciting a thing as we have seen in ICT since the advent of consumer mobile communications, and the industry is savouring the prospect of – at last! – a credible new source of revenue.

As with all innovations, however, it begs some questions.

How do we manage this thing? How will it impact our business and systems, and what costs will we have to incur in deploying new stuff? Can we even afford to get involved? And most worryingly, what if it never adds up to more than the proverbial hill of beans?

In short, as people have asked about risky ventures for several centuries, ‘will the game ever be worth the candle’?

The answer depends greatly on what part CSPs will play in this emerging game, and the choice is very much theirs. Will they be star quarterbacks, or water-carriers? Will they put their considerable skills to use in the midst of the action – or from the bench at the side of the field?

Over the years, telcos have become formidably strong in functions such as resource and inventory management, activation and performance, alarm management and notifications, revenue-sharing and settlements – functions that will be highly relevant to many IoT scenarios, and money left on the table if all that telcos provide is simple data carriage from A to B.

But in practice, can these skills be transferred to the IoT?

Context is everything here. CSPs understand the functionality – what makes it tough is that its application to the IoT will be much more variable than in conventional telecoms environments, where calls, texts and data packets were common currency across all CSPs.

The IoT arena will be much more open, and much less standardised, with different games going on all over it. In sectors such as health, transport and logistics, factors such as data volumes and acceptable latency will vary widely depending on the application being provided or supported. From business-critical to life-critical, there will be many different quality and assurance issues to be taken into account – and the collected data will require processing in a myriad different ways. It won’t be as simple as rolling out a new service or accommodating a new network technology, and flexibility of application – the ability to handle multiple different use cases in parallel – will be table stakes in this game.

In the end, however, the greatest challenge to IoT success is likely to be investment caution. For many operators, de-risking these new and exciting but unproven ventures, making them less capital-intensive and more palatable to shareholders, will be key. Many will look to cloud-based and managed services provided through trusted partners as a solution, moving spend from CAPEX to OPEX, aligning investment more closely with business success, and shifting much of the investment risk from CSP to vendor.

The game may not be worth the candle if you have to buy the candle up front and leave it on the table when you’re out of the play. But if you only pay while you’re winning? That makes it all seem a lot more attractive.

For more perspective on the IoT, please see my recent article in VanillaPlus.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *