The Unstoppable Force of IoT
April 27, 2022 - Frank Healy
Older age groups may be leading the way for the wave of IoT connectivity to come
If a senior relative or parent surprised you with their level of adaptability to connectivity during the pandemic, you are not alone. At least partial bridging of the so-called “digital divide” occurred and was a credit mainly to the adaptability and resilience of older generations that often know only too well how to be resourceful out of necessity.
It should be no surprise how rapidly senior citizens adapted to ever more useable devices and apps and even more bespoke alternatives such as the Acorn device by Cliffrun Media. The wider PR and branding advantages are certainly further enhancing all the commercial opportunities, as operators such as Vodafone and Orange have come to realise. The opportunity for government and non-profit agencies to further facilitate inclusivity of this segment is still seemingly endless.
More broadly put – do not be surprised if you find that you or those relatives are soon connected by default, to other services, especially utility services. Energy providers and security companies are increasingly bundling connectivity as part of their services, albeit (for now at least) not the main part of their services. In some cases, consumers barely notice that they have a connection (in the form of SIM, eSIM or iSIM) in their new electricity or gas meter. The connection is simply embedded with zero-touch or maintenance needed by the consumer and provides total accuracy of billing. No more estimation and reconciliation of inaccurate usage estimates that utility companies manually and repetitively had to deal with in the past. Faults can also be detected instantly. No wonder then that the TMF has measured IoT service revenue growth of 23% annually in 2021 [TMF Benchmark Report, Oct. 2021].
The connection of electricity and gas meters may seem extremely un-sexy for those seeking the excitement of connected running-shoes and sunglasses, but the world of utility meters is well established and has been ripe for disruption for some time. Once efficiencies are enabled the same connection or platform can be used to expand into adjacent services.
Partly due to the real availability of tech – specifically, cost-effective modules largely driven by the demand in the pandemic (as if anyone wanted meter readers stomping through their homes at the time), the business case has stacked-up ever more rapidly for IoT devices. Ever-rising sustainability requirements, now further driven by geopolitical impacts of events in Ukraine seem to have accelerated IoT connectivity needs in the energy, transport and utility sectors.
Not all IoT devices might be on 4G or 5G but some will be, and others will be on Wi-Fi or LoRa or 3G. But the Alexa, Nest device, security cams, fire alarms as well as other devices that may have existed for decades are set to become more connected (perhaps meshed with each other), smarter and pervasive – and at an increased pace post-pandemic. Devices themselves are sourcing power from light, heat and vibrations and can therefore be deployed in more obscure locations without maintenance.
These are the things that the industry had long considered with 4G. Arguably, the lingering pandemic and various energy crises have been catalysts. Perhaps there is now just greater alignment; a combinational tipping-point that happens to also include benefits of 5G where they are needed. Whatever the collective causes may be, industry verticals and sub-segments have a widening variety of requirements and opportunities now, although not all sectors will accelerate at the same pace. Government-led initiatives will typically take longer but there is no doubt the huge IoT opportunity in its various forms is undeniable. If it works positively for late-adopter and tricky consumer segments, then it will surely accelerate across the board.
For more on our Policy Control product and how it is helping service providers with next IoT, head to our product page