Relevance in IoT Demands Telcos Offer Solutions, not just Connectivity

by Jeff Wiener on November 6, 2015

In order for telecom operators to remain relevant in this burgeoning digital age, one that will clearly be dominated by the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT), they’re going to have to offer more than the promise of a connected everything existence, they’re going to have to deliver services and solutions that actually add value to the lives of their customers.

Consider this example: Imagine if your car was stolen. In that moment you really don’t need to know that it was, or is in the process of being, stolen. That sort of connectivity, particularly when you can’t do anything about it, is largely irrelevant. What you do need to know is that authorities have identified where the car is, a loan car has been ordered and is being delivered to where you need it, and that the perpetrator is in custody. Or put more simply, what you need are end-to-end solutions that simplify your life, not just more random information about the things in your life.

That was one of the key messages that came out of The Great Telco Debate held in London this week, an event that had a positive tone regarding the evolving role of telecom operators in the digital age. While the industry has struggled of late to find ways to commoditize its position as the supplier of the data networks that everyone else seems to be getting rich off of, telcos are now finding that there are needs within the IoT industry that carriers are uniquely equipped to meet.

As mentioned, it’s been difficult for the telecom industry of late to find its place in this changing digital world, apart from the obvious role as the “dumb pipe” that connects everyone else’s billion dollar ideas. While granted the role of supplying the raw ingredients (i.e. connectivity) for the digital age remains important, with competitors horning in on this once traditional telecom territory carriers have been driven towards finding other ways to be relevant, ways of using the massive amounts of user data they have to offer value-added services and solutions.

The example in the intro above, offered by Vodafone M2M’s Phil Skipper, was but one example of the ways carriers might find ways of providing unique comprehensive digital solutions, above simply connecting one’s smartphone to all the other IoT gadgets they’ve deployed across their connected everything existence.

Another example Skipper presented was the connected home, a place where IoT is poised to thrive. Now if you get burgled, Skipper argued, the last thing that you really want to have is an alert saying, “You are being robbed.” Apart from adding worry and stress, if you’re not at home the police may have a hard time verifying that, and if you are home, well I’m sure you’re significantly more alarmed. All that to say, none of that helps you, you’re still being robbed. What customers need in this situation is a comprehensive IoT solution, one that lets you know that the police have been dispatched to your house, alarms have been raised, and that the burglar has been caught, or at least has fled the scene.

It is these sorts of value added solutions where the telco is uniquely poised to succeed, as operators are able to leverage the information they have about their customers to create helpful, automated, connected solutions that deliver results, not just information overload, to the people paying for them.

All that to say, the predominant feeling coming out of the Great Telco Debate this week is that the notion that the telco is irrelevant in the age of IoT is hogwash, as there are a multitude of opportunities available, not just in IoT, for carriers to remain incredibly relevant, leveraging their strengths to provide the sorts of comprehensive solutions we’re only dreamt about thus far.

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