What can the Internet of Things Market Learn from Telecom?

The Internet of Things is widely perceived as a hot market and has the usual hockey stick projections of massive growth laid out by market researchers such as Gartner and IHS Markit.  In this post, I’d like to consider one broad slice of the IoT market, the Industrial Internet of Things (aka IIoT), which applies IoT technology to address business problems. Let’s also consider if the IIoT industry could benefit from lessons learned by an adjacent market, Telecom.

Last year, Dialogic, the company I where I worked in Product Management, started looking at the Internet of Things (IoT) as a potential market where some of our telecom expertise could come into play.  I wrote about my experience in exploring a product concept for an IoT gateway in a post earlier this year.

The IIoT market has had good success so far by tackling individual problems within vertical markets and spinning up solutions.  There have also been attempts to create a de facto standard architecture for IoT, such as the platform architecture specification developed by Intel.  One of the challenges for IIoT is the proliferation of different vertical markets. In my last role at Dialogic, I talked with several companies that support  monitoring applications in areas as diverse as home health care, security and vehicular emergency services. These companies are prime candidates to use IIoT technologies, but their current implementations often run over the circuit-switched network, make extensive use of proprietary technologies and sometimes use dial-up modem connections. So a common challenge for many of these companies is the need to move forward and evolve solutions that will be well suited to the emerging technological environment of IP-based networks and take advantage of newer software approaches such as virtualization.

So what could these IIoT companies learn from the experience of telecom solution providers?  Part of the solution may be to look at the standards-based toolkit that has emerged as Telecom has swapped out it’s own network. Both mobile and fixed telecom networks have moved over to IP and solutions are usually built using the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP).  Mobile networks are currently a hybrid of IP and circuit-switched technologies, but the data portion of the network that would apply for many IoT solutions has been all IP since 3G networks were implemented and has been greatly enhanced with the fourth generation Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks. SIP has been widely used for voice and other applications, but other technologies such as WebRTC have emerged which provide standards-based approaches to build applications which support both multimedia (such as voice or video) and data.  The common element of the next gen IP networks, SIP and WebRTC mentioned above is that they were built using standards approved by international bodies such as the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the Third Generation Partnership Program (3GPP).

One of the key challenges for companies building IIoT applications and infrastructure will be to have solutions that can scale from very small to very large implementations and to use approaches which don’t need to be revamped to address markets in different countries. The leaders of IIoT have been able to solve customer problems from the bottom up, but the challenges of scale and addressing multiple geographic markets will benefit greatly from the use of standards.  These may consist of existing standards, such as those which support mobile connectivity, and building out new standards which are well targeted to solving IoT problems and enable the development of eco-systems that will promote best of breed solutions.  In summary, the use of existing and new standards is a way that Industrial Internet of Things providers can leverage lessons learned in the telecom to massively expand the available market for their solutions.

If you or your company are participants in driving change in the Industrial Internet of Things market, feel free to weigh in with comments. If you’d like to explore strategies on how to evolve your application solutions or other IoT products and services to leverage standards and better address the rapidly changing industrial environment, you can reach me on LinkedIn or on our web site.

 

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About James Rafferty
James Rafferty has been active in the world of telecommunications, standards and related businesses in a variety of roles. He's been a thought leader in areas such as Voice over IP and Internet fax through his consulting, product management, marketing and standards activities. He loves to write and talk about new connections, applications and business models as communications and related technologies evolve.

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