Cracking the IoT Code: How Can Service Providers Rise to the Top?

By Special Guest
James Comfort, Manager, Service Delivery, Excelacom
November 21, 2016

Across the Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem, connectivity is the bottom layer, providing the foundation over which devices and applications all operate. It’s the glue that connects many things together. However, while some are seeing early success, many competitive service providers (CSPs) are still struggling to find their place in IoT beyond providing the pipe through which IoT data travels.

Breaking out to claim other parts of the IoT ecosystem seems like good business sense, but it’s not that easy. The market is constantly in motion, with new technologies and companies emerging almost daily across a variety of industries and channels. With so much happening—so much “noise”—it can be difficult to pinpoint a strategy. Risk presents another business challenge: with the market still in its early stages, are we headed towards a bubble? How can providers avoid risk while fleshing out their IoT strategy and offerings?

Providers are also facing significant technology challenges: standards for the IoT are still in flux, yet waiting for a standard to deploy new technology means potentially losing ground to a fast-moving competitor—perhaps one without significant legacy networks to maintain. Understanding what product types are available that will work within their network architecture, and carving out a space within specific vertical markets with specific solutions is key.

A third set of challenges service providers face are operational ones. Legacy billing and operations support systems (BSS/OSS) don’t often have the flexibility required to quickly create offers and provision new IoT services for customers. As providers look to overcome their business and technology challenges, understanding how to create and manage offers, provision orders, and bill for services is critical.

Building an IoT strategy based on business goals can help providers deliver real results. There are two key areas that providers can focus on to ensure they’ve started down the right path.

Strategic Partnerships. The best way to mitigate risk and avoid jumping into an area of the IoT ecosystem too quickly is to develop strong partnerships in areas that are not within the provider’s core competency.  Partnerships can help service providers test solutions and strategies without making full-scale investments. Partnerships with device manufacturers will help service providers deliver the end-to-end solutions their customers are requiring and help providers deliver a quicker return on their IoT investments.

One place service providers can spread their wings is in the home market. Third-party companies and devices are already coming into the home to offer IoT-related services, and service providers are seeing an uptick in customer support queries to help connect devices and resolve problems that might be related to these devices or even overload due to too many IoT devices bogging down the system.  Telecom providers have an obvious advantage, as they already have a relationship with the end consumer.  With all the IoT companies fighting for market share, why not team up and leverage the existing relationship to sell, thus allowing telecom to get in on the action, while the end product company can see a rise in sales? Imagine a provider with a-la-carte products for your home; a one-stop shopping experience to get all the latest technology along with a one-stop billing experience, and a one-stop support experience.  The customer experience would be improved, while the telecom bottom line is also improved. Some products that may fit into this category are home security, WiFi routers, bridges, thermostats, TVs, computers, pet devices (cameras, microphones, food dispensers), refrigerators, lighting, car checkups, and many more, now and in the future.

IoT Analytics. Data is an added benefit for most IoT initiatives, but it’s what companies can do with the data that makes it so valuable. From streamlining traffic and parking in cities, to analyzing fertilizer volumes needed to grow crops, IoT data is changing lives and changing industries. Service providers can also use IoT technologies in their own businesses, gathering, analyzing and distributing the vast amount of data collected by internal systems and leveraging analytics, monitoring and real-time reporting to differentiate their product and solution offerings. Advances in capturing and managing the data are allowing companies to use the data to target customers or sell to other marketers by understanding macro-use of the products. Data has its own standards for use, but a high-level understanding of types of users and when they are using what devices allows providers to push more effective messaging or partner with others that need that insight. In addition, it could also help them develop the strategy for cracking into the IoT market.

Providers who think strategically about the IoT have a lot to offer the market. By creating partnerships, diving into how they can differentiate themselves via analytics, and pursuing new opportunities such as the home market, providers can overcome the business, technology and operational challenges that impede them, and earn both mindshare and market share in the IoT space.

James Comfort is the Manager of Service Delivery at Excelacom. He has seven years of experience in the IT Consulting and Telecommunications industries and is PMP certified. He has held various roles during his tenure at Excelacom, including project management, deployment, and strategic planning of delivery systems. 

Edited by Ken Briodagh

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