The perfect role for operators in IoT?

July 17, 2016

goldThe telecom industry got a head start in the early days of IoT aka M2M. Ericsson took the lead with the 50B connected devices mantra which translated well into an obvious role for huge operators with millions of connected users and massive investments in wireless networks. And it went without saying that the obvious providers of technology and solutions would be the telecom vendors already in the family. This was a clever and well executed plan by primarily Ericsson since the operators were looking for the next massive growth opportunity after having connected most people and given them data buckets. Operators went for it with one primary caveat – we will not only provide connectivity.

Now, only few years later IoT has gone from a connectivity focused baby to a data centric young adult. IoT is only a new phase of Internet – we’re adding things to people and businesses already connected – which explains the speed of development. From a usage point of view, Internet including IoT and the enabled services and solutions will remain customer focused and very fragmented and the operators will continue working hard to figure out their role beyond connectivity.

Here’s what I would do. The two major challenges for IoT are security and privacy. The smaller one is security since we are used to repair and plug holes as we go, and since we tend to have a very short memory. But privacy is really challenging since nobody knows how the requirements will develop over time. When your data is out you can never get it back why any service will need a solid privacy architecture to cope with future requirements without having to rebuild from scratch. The user must own his or her data and decide who should get hold of it.

But privacy is not only a technical issue why we need trusted partners to help us manage our data. Today most of us trust serious banks to manage our financial data as an example. Our trusted partner needs big muscles to force and enforce proper agreements and obviously have to walk the talk themselves. Operators already manage a lot of our private data and provided they do that well, this is a great position to build the trusted partner role on. The trusted partner role can also be required to build and orchestrate a fair and robust sub-eco system in a specific market like smart homes or connected cars.

So why is privacy of importance anyway? Today most users of internet applications sign up without even reading the agreements. One often hear “I’ve nothing to hide” as the key argument to avoid the hassles of reading and thinking. But with today’s capabilities in data analytics, all digital traces and information we leave behind can quite easily be used to picture an individual, understand how a product is designed, see patterns, understand security procedures and arrangements and so on. In the wrong hands this can be really bad and this type of information is already very useful for burglars to know when people are away and industrial espionage for example. A small example of what could, technically, be in use today is recruiters knowing without asking that a female candidate is pregnant, don’t exercise or have a heart problem.

I am absolutely convinced neither consumers nor policymakers will let this development continue as today. And this is where I believe operators with a relevant brand can find their role in IoT beyond connectivity. A role which will be increasingly important and valuable as far out as I can see. Two good examples of operators I see moving in this direction today are Telefonica and Telia Company (see FAQ 6 and 7).

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Trusted partners are key to IoT

February 7, 2016

trusted partnerIoT will make major impact on how we do things and what can be done, across industries and borders. Adding things to the Internet creates a massive opportunity in pair with what Internet have done to us to date. The major challenges are as always to be found in organisations and processes, rarely in the technology as such. However, if we cut the cake differently, and look at it from people making bets on creating and implementing IoT products and services, I would argue that the two biggest challenges are security and privacy. And security is the smaller of these two big ones! We have always had security challenges, but they can be mitigated and fixed on the go. Fixing bugs and problems are part of the development so to speak. If someone finds a back-door and steal our jewels, we will install a lock on the door and hope people will forget it, if you see what I mean. The vendor of the door takes a hit but people have a tendency to forget quite rapidly.

But with privacy it’s a matter of architecture and trusted partners. If data that at some point in the future is considered sensitive is “out there”, it’s too late to take it back. In the digital world nobody knows how many copies there are, who has them, what they use it for, and so on. Most countries have laws and policies for this already, sure, but the first issue is that policymakers probably will shape up rules and policies down the road. Nobody will be badly punished for data that is made available before the changes, obviously, but it might take fundamental changes of systems and services to meet the new policies if the architecture isn’t there already. The second, and much more difficult challenge is that people themselves might change their views over time on what is acceptable and not. Such changed requirements are neither planned nor managed within countries or companies. They might come and go, spread across by social media and gather less or many people behind. And policy makers are always influenced by public trends, media etc. so these “unmanaged public policies” can force rapid legal changes as well.

If your clients suddenly believe that the data they “produce” in their homes or when they shop belongs to them, it will be hard to keep them happy if you don’t let them control it. And even more so if you sell the data to third parties. And to let users be in control of their data requires an architecture supporting that – it’s not something hard to add on the go.

I believe connected cars, homes, cities, cloths, pets, shops, bikes, gardens, etc. sooner or later will meet privacy requirements from policymakers and people that will be necessary to meet and very challenging for those without an architecture to supporting. The role of a trusted partner will be absolutely key and for those being trusted it will be a fantastic foundation for creating brand value and profitable business. The jury is out who can take this important and valuable role. I believe it is a national player and I put my bet on a responsible mobile operator with a solid brand.

Hype or not? Both!

October 16, 2014

Gartner_Hype_Cycle.svgIoT is hotter than ever! Gartner just placed IoT at Peak of Inflated Expectations in their Hype Curve and forecast 5-10 years until the Plateau of Productivity. But our baby is growing much faster than anything else we have seen before and I stick to my previous view that our baby will be grown up, but still young, 2016 after only three years as teenager. Good enough technology and infrastructure are in place since a couple of years and when organizations started to go from Powerpoint and thinking to trials and pilots we reached the teens. Four things have been missing to leave the teens behind: solid participation from the IT players, a hot M&A market, active and seriously engaged enterprises and efficient easy-to-use prototyping tools for users of IoT. All these things are starting to happen now which is one of the reasons why I dare to challenge Gartner on their projection. But there is another aspect of IoT which is underestimated: how the value is created.

In most cases we build something and when it’s done we start harvest. And if customers like what we built it takes off. It might take a couple of years at least  to plan, develop and start produce, then we start market and after another year or so it might take off. That explains Gartner’s 5-10 years to Plateau of Productivity, if one ever gets there. But IoT applications deliver value when the information created is distributed to an IT system, shows up in an app, makes an alarm go off somewhere or change a road sign. Initially all IoT applications had to be created end to end – from sensor to terminal – which made them expensive to make and maintain. But now we can leverage existing networks, platforms, tools, terminals and applications making it much cheaper and quicker. So far we have seen this primarily in the consumer market where a connected sensor providing data to an app has been good enough. In enterprises data management and delivery is more complicated and changes in processes and business models takes time, but they are getting there. When they do, the operational value (cheaper, faster, etc) will be obvious and the strategic value (brand, innovation, employer attractiveness, etc) will be visible in the horizon. One only has to look at what GE is doing with Industrial Internet to understand that the impact will be massive.

Everyone promoting the story about billions of connected devices delivering data to impressive Big Data systems creating trillions of $ benefits clearly put IoT at the peak of inflated expectations. But all hard-working organizations and entrepreneurs working on industry or company specific IoT applications, well-integrated and cleverly implemented, are changing the world very fast. These efforts will start pay off soon putting competitors who haven’t started yet in a very difficult situation similar to when the frequent flyer program happened or Richard Fosbury jumped 2.24 at the Olympic Games in Maxico City 1968  using a “redicolous” new technique.

The only major difference between when we connected people and businesses to the Internet and when we connect things is that ignorance will not be an acceptable excuse this time. Beyond some clever start-ups the winners will be organizations who best understand when and how to improve their business using IoT solutions.


Partnership is on everyone’s lips

February 28, 2014

bildYet another humongous Mobile World Congress is over. Almost 90.000 people from around the globe have spent a couple of days together in Barcelona with decent weather, amazingly good organization and an interesting mix of cava, business cards, pickpockets, technology and rock’n roll. This year was very much about improvement and evolution and little news and revolution. That is both serious and good but unfortunately less exciting and makes a show like this a little sleepy. Beyond a couple of quite expected things like Mozilla’s 25$ smart phone and that Nokia goes Android you mainly heard words like security, virtualization, big data, robustness and improved BSS/OSS at the show. From a helicopter perspective I believe it is a slow process of marrying IT and Telecommunications that we are looking at.

And then, of course, M2M and Internet of Things. It’s on everybody’s lips now, and it’s mainly questions. Ranging from companies considering to enter the market and wonder where to start to people already there trying to figure out where to go next. And my previous conclusion that we have left the connectivity phase behind and focus on the data and use of it was more clear than ever. I heard reference to the 50B devices three times during the entire event to be compared with hundreds of times a year ago.

I was there with a common stand in the Swedish Pavilion with nine of the 21 members of the Swedish M2M Service Enablers alliance: Kombridge, Springworks, Maingate, Possio, WSI, Fym, Evothings, Info24 and WBIRD. And I was amazed to see the interest in talking to experienced specialized m2m service enabler companies with solid solutions in use by real customers. From across the world we had operators, potential customers, vendors, analysts, regulators, consultants, investors and governments visiting us. We counted collectively to over 300 meetings with reasonable business potential after day three of the event. We also got the opportunity to explain to our Swedish Minister of ICT and Energy, Anna-Karin Hatt, that we are working hard together in SMSE to make Sweden the obvious country to go to for leading edge skills and knowledge in M2M aka Internet of Things. 

So what’s the state of the nation? Most players have understood that data is the gold of M2M, that the value of M2M is realized when the information is properly distributed to decision-making systems, business process applications, etc. and that a proper M2M solution consist of three different components: connected devices and sensors, collection and blending of data most often in the cloud and distribution of the information to apps, ERP systems, etc. The challenge is that each of these three components is a competitive industry by itself and each M2M solution must include all three to deliver the value. This is obviously not possible to solve without well working partnerships. The transition from quite ok complete generic proprietary M2M solutions to excellent M2M solutions for an industry or more often a specific organization is similar to what the IT industry went though over some 20 years starting from IBM providing everything from Nobel prize research and silicon to post service and financing. Our transition will be brutally fast and enable the fully international and layered Internet of Things industry needed for the real take-off. Companies perceived as providers of generic products or services with no edge will fade away in this process and simply just not be seen. This is why operators and vendors talk partnership now. It is needed but very difficult. To set up a well designed and attractive partner program is not rocket science but a lot of work. But making people work well together goes far beyond that. It is little about technology and a lot about trust, way of working, culture, business models and not the least “similar children play best” as we say in Sweden. And entrepreneurs are stressed people who have little to no patience with things that don’t contribute to their business. Partnerships are also initiated by government bodies and research organizations and a new LinkedIn group on IoT or M2M is established at least weekly.

It will be really interesting to follow how this will develop. In my mind this is mostly a commercial issue why any working partnership will have to be driven by people closest to the customers, who understand the context of the data and application the customers are looking for. Progress and success will only come when people start doing thing also in this field. Nobody, not even McKinzey or Accenture, designed the value chains, the standards or the API:s when we connected people and organizations to the Internet. It was created by people trying things and finding ways that customers liked. This is how the Internet of Things will be established as well. And this is the thinking behind our Swedish M2M Service Enablers Alliance. Avanti!


Inspiring examples: Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems – TPMS

September 23, 2013

TPMSVehicles with wrong tire pressure cause accidents and consume excess energy. Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS) were developed to prevent these issues. The first passenger vehicle to adopt tire-pressure monitoring was the Porsche 959 in 1986 and today it is becoming a legal requirement in more and more countries. Car manufacturers have been introducing different TPNS systems more or less voluntarily but in the United States, as of 2008 and the European Union, as of 2012, all new passenger car models released must be equipped with a TPMS. Similar laws are on their way in Asia-Pacific.

TPMS are definitely complex from an engineering, communication and product point of view and the combined investment, including equipment in garages and motor vehicle inspection sites, the sensors in the tires and the receiving part of the in-car system is very big. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the US estimates that 660 fatalities and 33,000 injuries each year are attributable to crashes caused by underinflated tires (Bob Ulrich, Editor, at Modern Tire Dealer) so it seems like well working TPMS can help save lives, money and the planet. But every system like this is always a potential hacker target and Rutgers University and the University of South Carolina released a joint study some years ago indicating that they had succeeded to hack a car through the TPMS.
In any case, this is a typical M2M application – it’s been around for years, many of us have them, they are not SIM-based and they deliver on the three M2M promises: safety, sustainability and efficiency.

Let’s face the M2M security challenges

April 13, 2013

hackersInitially technical innovators focus all they have on making it do whatever they want their innovation to do. Shortly after the breaking news about their brand new product, solution or service we use to receive the follow-on news about problems with things like security, health impact, integrity or fair trade. The scope of the problems obviously relates to what the new thing actually is.

Lets face it, it has always been like this. Telephone systems, microwave ovens, TV set-top boxes, ATM:s, door locks, PCs and Wi-Fi networks are all examples of things that quite easily were possible to manipulate, at least initially. But when we connected people and businesses to the Internet the magnitude of the problem increased many times. Having almost everything using the same communication protocols and even the same network gained us a lot of efficiency but also raised the security bets drastically. Most attacks are not reported publicly but the ones we hear about are serious enough. Fire Eye claims one security attack to enterprises every third second, based on analysis of information on more than 89 million security related attacks reported. Some specific examples since last summer, picked up from Network World: 450.000 stolen passwords from Yahoo, 5,8 million passwords from LinkedIn, 1,5 million from eHarmony, 8 million online credentials from Gamigo and about 3.6 million Social Security numbers and 387,000 credit and debit card numbers from South Carolina. And we all remember the series of password thefts at Sony some two years ago. We’re already at the point where this belongs to the daily news feed and is business as usual.

Now we are connecting also things to the Internet and we will inevitably enter a new era of security and integrity issues, yet on another scale. Imagine hackers manipulating traffic lights, road signs, railroad control systems, power grids, nuclear plants, TV broadcasts, elections, pacemakers, airplanes, stock exchanges or hospitals. Media is quite frequently presenting examples along those lines and even if it is hard to differ between urban legends and real life cases it is safe to say that security will be a very important part of the M2M industry.

Recent examples from media include the Techspot.com story about a security consultant and pilot who claims he can hijack a commercial airplane remotely with his Android app, a story about a hacked pacemaker in the US where almost five million pacemakers and implantable defibrillators have been sold the last five years and several stories about hacked cars including the most recent research from Rutger University and University of South Carolina where they manipulated cars in motion via the TPMS system. At the Hack in the Box conference in Amsterdam the other day electrical vehicle charging stations were identified as potential targets for hackers to cripple parts of the electricity grid.

If the issues of security, safety and integrity aren’t taken seriously by the industry they will slow down or even prevent deployment of M2M solutions. Since perception is reality we need to go beyond just fixing the issue – we also have to make people believe it is taken care of seriously.


EU moves forward towards EU-wide eCall solution

December 28, 2012

freeimage-5240129The European Union took yet another step towards an interoperable EU-wide eCall solution when the Commission just adopted a Regulation which establishes the specifications for the upgrading of the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) infrastructure required for the proper receipt and handling of eCalls. eCall is a key initiative to meet the target of halving the overall number of road deaths in the European Union by 2020 starting from 2010.

According to EU: Road safety is an issue of major concern across the entire European Union and for all of its inhabitants: 500 million citizens in the 27 Member States use more than 230 million vehicles on over 5 million km of roads. The purpose of the interoperable EU-wide eCall initiative is to introduce in all vehicles in Europe the minimum functionalities needed to ensure adequate handling of the emergency calls by the emergency response services. Currently, road journeys exceed 100 million annually across the various Member States and they are increasing due to further consolidation of the European Union (through the free movement of goods, people and services). Road safety is one of the major policy issues of Transport Policy in the European Union. In 2009 around 35,000 people were killed and more than 1.5 million injured in about 1.15 million traffic accidents on EU roads. In addition to the tragedy of loss of life and injury, this also carries an economic burden representing approximately EUR 130 billion of cost for society.

I believe this is a typical area where agreements on a standard infrastructure makes a lot of sense. We will save lives, pain, money, time and the environment while establishing an infrastructure which will support the development of the EU region for many years. A common PSAP could obviously be used for more than eCall and will set a standard for certain international services which will help us in the critical effort to make M2M an international business. 


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