IIoT Spotlight EP026b: How can roaming for IoT devices be applied for international mobility? - An Interview with BICS' Carlos Villanueva
Carlos is currently Head of Market Intelligence and Strategic Partnerships at BICS but previously was a regional business development manager, built the go-to-market strategy, drove the sales operations and its profitability in Western Europe. Carlos is also a startup advisor and collaborates with different projects.
He is experienced in the startup environment, digital and cloud providers, MVNx, OTTs, IoT/M2M (Transport, Smart City, Healthcare, Logistics, Telematics) and ICTs (System Integrators, Applications, Devices)
As a leading international communications enabler, BICS is connecting the world by facilitating reliable and secure mobile experiences anytime, anywhere. Our solutions are essential for supporting the modern lifestyle of today’s device-hungry consumer – from global mobile connectivity, seamless roaming experiences and fraud prevention to global messaging and the Internet of Things.
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Welcome to the Industrial IoT spotlight. Your number one spot for insight from Industrial IoT thought leaders who are transforming businesses today with your host, Erik Walenza.
Welcome back to the Industrial IoT spotlight. I'm joined again by Carlos Villanueva. Carlos is the head of market intelligence and strategic partnerships with BICS.
In our last discussion with Carlos, we spoke about BICS, the connectivity solution provider for roaming services for IoT devices globally. We're now going to deep dive into the technology behind it. Carlos, how does roaming for IoT devices differ from roaming for people's devices, for smartphones?
It will depend on they use case and the device, of course as you know, there are many devices that are more consumer oriented. Those devices have less mobility and the amount of data that they are going to transmit is low The need for roaming is lower because they will be doing permanent roaming; they will be more stationary.
When it comes to mobile devices and which require mobility and connectivity, it will depend on the use case - if we look at how our data roamer is consuming social networks or social media video streaming with roaming, compared to a connected car that is providing streaming services, then you will think that it's mostly the same because the amount of data that it will require will be considerable. So again it will depend on the use case. But if you look at how it will be consumed, the devices that will be embedded into the different use cases - what will be the differences? If you look at industrial internal things, where sensors are sending data to specific modems and those modems probably will be sending data back to data centers, those devices will be sending considerable amount of data.
From my perspective, consumer oriented cases will be more of consumer applications oriented while the IoT would be definitely based on use cases, and depending again on the use case will be the difference between the consumer roaming versus the IoT roaming. But definitely there will be some applications where the IoT case will be pretty similar to the consumer well.
So when it comes to functionality, both might work the same way, meaning that when you roam and travel with your smartphone to U.S. or Europe, basically you are consuming data to read your e-mail or social media video streaming. These devices are probably manufactured in China are going to be sent overseas are going to be used for specific purposes.
However, if you send a SIM card inside a tablet, the tablet will have the same consumption as the normal roaming, but if you send a SIM card inside a device that is going to be inside a container travelling around the world, then the amount of data will probably differ. What is very clear is that there are many applications in the industry and being always connected is a must.
But in consumer applications, being connected it not as critical as some of the IoT applications. Why? Because for example in the tracking in the remote monitoring or tracking systems many of the service providers are asking to be covered only by mobile connectivity or roaming, but also by satellite for example or other type of connectivity. It means that they will need the device to be always connected no matter where they are so they cannot really afford to have no connectivity or no signal in some parts of the world.
So then it becomes much more interesting because it's not only about providing national connectivity to our smartphones, but about guaranteeing that the device is going to be always connected. How do you make sure that the different connectivity methods will be all working together to satisfy the demand of enterprise? There are areas where I see the difference: in the use case and how connectivity will play a role according to the use case.
Use case by use case, the requirements are going to vary dramatically - you could be potentially streaming video at the upper perspective, but you could also be sending one piece of data every six hours or every twelve hours just reporting “I'm here, door has not been opened, etc”.
The underlying technology it sounds like is the same for both situations but the cost structure for the end user is then based on data usage? Or how does this look like from from a cost perspective when you can have these very dramatic differences in the amount of data and the frequency of data being sent?
The service model is different because it's not only about traffic, it's not only megabytes or gigabytes. It's about the service that is provided to with the end user or to the enterprise -- It is industrial or consumer. so in the industrial case they won't be really like looking at the megabytes because what they need is to guarantee connectivity and that connectivity is always on and so they can really build the use case necessary to satisfy the needs of the vertical industry. It would be less traffic oriented and it will depend on the application. You are right. For example, if we look at smart meters, the amount of data that they are going to be transmitting is going to be much lower than other applications.
So again depending on the use case and who will be the end user, I would say it is how they will be sensitive to the price per megabyte or price per gigabyte.
It's how sensitive the customer is to the fact that connectivity is a must and it has to be high quality and reliable. It does happen, even if it is just pieces of data being sent per day, then the monetisation model would be different, compared to the complication that is sending the same pieces of data per day where connectivity might not be a high value building block. So it will depend again on the use case, it will depend on the vertical industry, and it will also depend on how connectivity plays a role in delivering and deploying the final solution to the enterprises.
What we see for example in the market is that many of the service providers and players looking for cheap connectivity because they do not consider connectivity to have high value in the value chain due to the application and due to the use case. But I would say that even for those cases, having reliable connectivity is a must.
So why does connectivity matter?
Because if we look at the applications and the enterprises that are going to be using those devices, the enterprises are trying to transform their business. So they have tried to connect that with best equipment, processes, and systems but some enterprises that are not very experienced on the different IoT building blocks.
There are four basic IoT building blocks. They need network agnostic, global mobile connectivity, an efficient control and management of thousands of millions of connected devices, and then integrate the mobile connectivity and networks to the back up systems, so that they can really monetize their use case and mobile connectivity. If they don't have these four basic IoT building blocks, it's pretty difficult for the enterprise to really succeed on the building their end to end solutions.
Why? Because they need to focus on the monetization of the IoT services, and not really into the connectivity piece. The connectivity piece must always be there and reliable for any use case that they need to deploy.
As a consumer, when I'm roaming, I don't need much more user interface to tell me if my phone is on, except for to track the bars. How many hours do I have, can I make a phone call, etc. Maybe a text message is nice if I'm out of money or out of roaming zone. But for industrial, you actually need to be able to visualize this and present it in reports. Is this done by third parties? Or to what extent does BICS follow the data stream and visualize this or report this out to the companies?
We can do it ourselves when it comes to connectivity and we manage the connectivity of the different devices. If they would like to have more advanced analytics on the use case, then we partner with the different companies that bring the analytics or business intelligence to provide them with the necessary insights about the different use cases that they are building or providing. So we basically we integrate our connectivity data with back end systems. And the goal here is to make it easier for them, so they can really do all the rest of their deployments. We're not really looking at any problems with connectivity. So we integrate them with our different partners, e.g. solution providers in different verticals. So we integrate the different building blocks with them to bring to them an end to end solution. the platforms need to support the need of such companies to generate return on investment and new revenue streams from this connected services and business. So this is what our strategy report is a trend what we call monetisation of IoT -- once you get all the data is processed by different analytics or platforms is how these companies can really monetize their services and use cases.
Another aspect that is really relevant here is the billing of the different services associated with connectivity; all these billing services needs to be handled in the same way. Today, mobile operators handle the billing orders for millions of subscribers, but many enterprises don't have the same expertise. For example, in the case of a connected car, drivers may pay subscriptions to automakers for navigation or entertainment services, and an insurance company might pay for access to usage and driving reports associated with vehicle. So all the strains of these data they will get and analyse, will at some point, need to be monetized. All of these different businesses with regards to connectivity is something the enterprise must really look at in their use case and business model. If not, it will just be one of the reasons why the IoT deployments are still in the infant stage; there are three or four main use cases that are really generating return on investment, while the others are not doing it.
Our customers are not experts in encryption -- what they really want to focus on the applications and the products and services running over their IoT, and they need to make sure that this service is consistent across the multiple countries that they need to be present in. So they need an international connectivity solution that works, allowing them to focus on their core business. For these applications where the data and the connectivity is critical, having multi network coverage ensures that the IoT will find optimal connectivity everywhere in the world. Multi network coverage is basically having different options of connectivity in different countries for the device that will be roaming so they can really guarantee that their service is going to be consistent and reliable. That's the reason reliable and high quality connectivity is crucial for any international enterprise deploying Internet of Things.
Let's take a bit of a detour and talk a little bit about the technologies that are on the horizon. China right now is pushing NB IoT very strongly, 5G is planned out for the 2020 Olympics as kind of a soft launch but it is still fairly undefined in terms of what the actual requirements will be. There's a lot of companies that are now looking into launching microsatellites to provide services for specific use cases, maybe lightweight use cases that are in open seas where currently there's not great coverage or coverage is very expensive. How does BICS assess these these solutions on the rise and how are you reacting to them?
We realise that there are different IoT use cases which depend on the different regional deployment. What we've seen in Asia is that the use of short range and fixed connectivity by APAC IoT enterprises is pretty high.
It really depends on the use case and the country. Cellular M2M, the technology that BICS is using today for IoT deployments, is used by nearly 30 percent of the IoT deployments; but China today is leading the low power use cases. So the reasons which technology is used would depend on the country and the country deployment, specifically how the countries are advancing in the IoT deployment. If we look at countries where deployments are moving fast like South Korea, where the low power deployments are moving fast, they will be much more interested to work on use cases combining low power IoT rather than cellular or wi-fi or Bluetooth technology.
My perspective is that in national deployments, you will have at least five different ways that the different devices can work. When it comes to international deployments, cellular M2M or the 4G network is the most reliable for international use cases. The one simple reason is because the roaming over cellular M2M is readily available and has been working for many years, and the coverage is very extensive compared to narrow band IoT. Today it is not really possible to do cross border by using low power wireless access, so they need to rely on cellular M2M connectivity.
At the same time, we also see that there are many cellular device manufacturers that are really working on deployments to make sure that the devices are going to support the different technologies, which is great because when some small enterprises, especially in the logistics sector, need to have an option of different connectivity technologies. They want to have a device that works with cellular M2M, with satellite, with low power wireless access, and this will also depend on their location and the use case. To this end, we see that there are different service providers looking at the device manufactures that can really combine all these different technologies, because they have noticed that in the near future, they will require different connectivity methods that are not fully available worldwide but will be in some countries, so the adaptability of the device will really enhance their use case.
If we look at what's going on in Europe, short range connectivity is the dominant technology used by European enterprises for IoT deployments, however the French Enterprises are very enthusiastic users of low power wireless access. Again it depends on the region, as well as on the country. It depends on the ability of these different devices covering the different markets to adapt and it also depends on how the vertical industry will deploy as well.
The push is also coming from the different players that are dominant in the different technologies. Today, if an enterprise wants to deploy a cross border IoT use case, they have the real availability and reliability of the cellular M2M, which is the 4G network. This is how we see the connectivity playing a role in the IoT.
One last point on the technology before we move over to looking at particular and specific use cases. Do you think 5G is going to be a big game changer in terms of cost or adoption rates, or are you kind of holding your breath to see what happens in 2020? How are you viewing the impending launch of 5G?
The one of the key enablers of 5G technologies in many countries is to enable the IoT use cases. We are not looking at a 5G as an evolution of the 4G network -- it is not only a mobile network, it is a combination of networks and technologies. That's going to enable use cases because the use cases need 5G to provide a solution, otherwise it would be very hard with the technologies available today to do it.
With regards to the promise of the 5G technology and 5G deployments, what is true is that from now till the moment that 5G is live, it will require not only the deployment of the 5G network, but also huge investment and a lot of support from the governments locally. Besides that, 5G won't be working as a standalone network, it will require the cooperation of all the different stakeholders in the chain –it will require the contribution of the device manufacturers to make sure that all the different devices will be working with multiple technologies; it will require the disintermediation of the different networks because the IoT technology over 5G will require much more exchange of data and information to different entities, and it is not only the mobile operations or carriers, but also the platforms and the service providers. They will need to digitalise the different data centers that are handling all the data streams when it comes to IoT, so they really can make things smarter and more intelligent to solve the needs of some of the specific use cases. 5G is really promising but it will require the contribution of all of the different stakeholders. To be honest, I think as long as the different use cases over 5G are not yet kicked off or they are not clearly showing the returns, it is going to be even harder because today we are in an infant stage with the deployments, the acceleration of 5G deployments would require more defined use cases where the interconnectivity of the different technologies is required.
Carlos so thanks so much for walking us through the technology roadmap.
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