Day 3: The Road Ahead with IoT

One million devices per hour are coming online by 2020. The only way to keep up? IoT ecosystems.

IoT leaders from Telefónica, Qualcomm, T-Mobile and Microsoft presented their companies’ visions of IoT during the “Delivering the IoT Ecosystem” session at Mobile World Congress on Wednesday. They stressed the importance of having an interconnected IoT platform and highlighted key use cases enabled by IoT.

Hitting roadblocks

In a highly fragmented market, different service providers offer different IoT capabilities, but they have no single platform that can do it all.

Some key hurdles stand in the way, explained Telefónica’s Director of New IoT Connectivity Business, Andres Escribano. Service providers need a full integration of components in a global IoT solution.

Rashmi Misra, GM of IoT & AI Solutions at Microsoft, agreed. Legacy systems can be incompatible with existing infrastructure, struggle to scale, and present security problems.

But these companies aren’t deterred—they’re tackling the IoT ecosystem challenge head on.

T-Mobile Vice President of Radio Network Technology Development & Strategy, Karri Kuoppamaki, explained that T-Mobile is running on narrowband IoT, allowing them to run their platform securely and at scale. They can then offer low-cost data plans ($6 a month) and help customers get to market faster.

And in one industry in particular, they’re getting IoT services to market extremely fast.

Driving innovation

Microsoft’s Misra talked about how IoT is prevalent in a lot of spaces already: manufacturing, retail, energy, transportation, smart cities, agriculture, and healthcare.

But one of the most exciting developments is in the automotive industry. Car connectivity is exponentially increasing, explained Qualcomm’s VP of Product Management, Automotive, Nakul Duggal.

“Qualcomm thinks we’ll see 5G connected cars by 2020—this opens up tremendous opportunity,” said Duggal.

Duggal predicts that from 2018 on, cars will use 4G, 5G, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Cars can transmit data on braking and steering, and even use artificial intelligence to drive the vehicle.

Some operators in China are already bundling connectivity in with the car and hardware, providing an additional source of revenue. China’s Tencent Holdings, parent company of the popular Chinese social media service WeChat, has partnered with automakers to create advanced driver assistance systems—a market worth over $16 billion by 2020.

Connected cars have been the talk of MWC—yesterday, Formula 1 driver Fernando Alonso spoke about how connectivity is becoming an integral part of the racing experience.

“Every single movement we do with the car…is transmitted immediately in real time to the engineers in the garage,” said Alonso. “They can check every single meter in the car, and they provide us information that we may need to improve our efficiency when we are driving or our inputs to perform better.”

But cars aren’t the only devices connected—everything is. And connectivity technology will be key for any IoT ecosystem.

Connectivity is key

As the GSMA outlined in their new Mobile Economy report, the world is more connected than ever. There are already 7.5 billion connected devices, surging to 25 billion by 2025.

Network advancements like LTE-A Pro in 2018 and 2019, and 5G in 2020 will provide “amazing capabilities,” said Escribano.

But on a smaller scale, IoT is able connect businesses to their products and customers. Misra described how IoT enables a “digital feedback loop,” connecting businesses to products to enable insights. The IoT also connects business assets and systems, allowing the company to run more efficiently.

Telefónica has already adopted this approach with its ecosystem design engine, “The Thinx.” The Thinx lab allows customers and partners to test out and co-create new IoT applications under real network conditions.

Service providers like Telefónica and T-Mobile are already driving innovation with IoT ecosystems. In fact, they’re off to the races.