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Smart beds and clever toothbrushes: How can operators make money from IoT?

By April 1, 2015 No Comments

The memories of MWC 2015 and Barcelona are fading fast and thankfully my feet have recovered from the miles that I walked during the 4 day conference. Looking back on the show, a key take-away for me has to be the explosion of IoT (‘Internet of Things’). IoT, is such a broad term and can relate to many sectors and businesses – Healthcare, connected cars, wearables, home management systems, smartbeds and smartphones, to name but a few.  I had to take a double look when I saw the Oral B booth positioned in the corner of the GSMA Innovation City in Hall 3.  I was immediately drawn to the stand as Oral B certainly stood out surrounded by the big players such as AT&T, Nokia, Samsung and China Mobile. I’m not sure how I feel about my Smartphone telling me if I’ve brushed my teeth correctly but like it or not, this is certainly the future.

While researching IoT, I was fascinated and a little worried when I came across Luna. Luna is a smart mattress cover. It is intelligent enough to learn your regular bedtime and sets your bed to a comfortable temperature to help you fall asleep faster, but that’s not all. They also have the ability to track the quality of your sleep, including sleep phases, heart rate, and breathing rate, without the individual having to wear an electronic device to bed. It’s so smart that its built-in alarm will only wake you when you’re in a light sleep in order to ensure that you are not groggy when you wake. Finally, the SmartBed can integrate with other Smart applications within the house (e.g. thermostats, door locks and light bulbs). Simply amazing! 

And to be honest, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Soon, those willing to embrace technology will no longer have to think for themselves. Every action, and even non-action, will be reported on and used to make decisions.  From an individual perspective, it’s exciting albeit slightly scary. From a business perspective, it opens up many opportunities and challenges for operators and BSS vendors.  Questions need to be answered about what changes need to be made to existing business models. How will operators cater for the influx of data being captured and how best to monetize on it?

Technology advancements are raging ahead and it’s important that operators have flexible and innovative business support systems like online charging, policy management and secure API gateways in place to reap the benefits of this lucrative market.  But it’s not just the IoT companies that are knocking on the operator’s door. An ever-increasing number of third parties such as OTT providers, Enterprises, MVNOs and more are also requesting to tailor their own services on operators’ networks. We’ve all heard of the archaic systems within even some of the world’s leading operators, where creating new tariff plans or adding new functionality requires a 6 – 12 month project and an extortionate amount of CapEx. How are these operators going to open a dialogue with the fast moving parties in order to win their business?  What do they have to offer that will be appealing to the target market?

Operators now need to be focusing their business support systems on delivering:

–          faster time to market for new offers,

–          the ability to create bespoke offers for their segments,

–          flexibility to easily manage a large number of business partners with limited impact on IT resources

–          the ability to guarantee QoS for mission critical applications such as healthcare.

Operators must be innovative and forward thinking in order to create long lasting and commercially beneficial partnerships with the new kids in town.