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John Chambers, Executive Director of Telstra Home and Premium Services, Telstra
You’ve heard the pitch. The Internet of Things (IoT) is going to be big. Seriously big. Bigger than the internet. To the tune of AUD 4.7 billion by 2021 according to research firm Telsyte’s recent predictions. Soon everything that can have a sensor built into it will be connected, enabling communications, data collection, and analysis.
But what does it really mean for business? Removing the novelty factor, IoT is simply a way to solve business problems. Rather than thinking about the IoT as a technology for technology’s sake, CIOs should consider how the IoT will help solve common business challenges such as how to improve efficiency and productivity, build new products, deliver better services, and enhance competitiveness in the market.
In an environment where single digit revenue growth is the new normal in many sectors, technology that can help drive the bottom line gives reason to pause.
There are now great examples of where IoT is gaining traction. Amazon Alexa is being adopted en masse with the Amazon Lex platform now available on AWS for anyone to embed machine based learning technology, while GE Predix is making great progress in the industrial IoT.
Different industries are at different stages of embracing IoT. We’re already seeing the agriculture sector use the IoT to improve equipment reliability, maintain quality, maximise yield, and control costs.
On the government side of things, cities around the world are competing to become smart cities, connecting everything from lamp lights to car parks, to trees. One of the leading local governments we have been working with at Telstra is Joondalup in Western Australia, which is using connected sensors to improve the garbage collection and traffic flows.
Any sector that could benefit from stronger connectivity, such as transport, healthcare, retail, and manufacturing, has a lot to gain.
Despite the obvious opportunities, a recent survey from the Business Performance and Innovation (BPI) network reported by CIO, found that only 7 percent of companies have a clear vision for IoT and only about half of the companies surveyed have made any start on IoT developments.
Whether you’re Launching a Product to Market Or Rolling Out An IoT Deployment Across Your Company, Simplicity is Key
Clearly, that needs to change in the months and years ahead. You need to get moving now, and here are a few considerations when embarking on an IoT strategy.
Consider your safety and security risk
Let’s deal with the hippopotamus in the room (it’s big but more slippery than an elephant). The BPI survey points out that security is the number one concern holding companies back. This is the right concern - every IoT deployment must have security and privacy at the core of its design.
There are multiple examples of security flaws and hacks of cameras, energy meters, dishwashers, any of which could have catastrophic impacts on a brand. CIOs must be ever vigilant about insecure IoT deployments getting anywhere near your core network. However, with the right team and partners, IoT security can be managed. Security guidelines such as those from the Industrial Internet Consortium are a good place to start.
Start small with a vision to scale.
Don’t worry if you are one of the 93 percent without a clear vision, yet. Having strong, entrepreneurial business sponsorship and an agile approach to experimentation will help you galvanise a vision that is clear and based on experience and insight.
When we began our first trials with our consumer IoT offering, Telstra Smart Home, we knew the technology was maturing and early customer use cases were just emerging. We started with an end-to-end secured platform, then focused on a series of trials and experiments, firstly with Telstra staff and eventually with beta customers. This process quickly narrowed the device range to those that were resonating most with customers.
We had a phased launch with a secure, high functioning minimum viable product, knowing the future of our platform will include dozens more connected devices and curated experiences across areas like insurance savings, home health, and energy management. Our ongoing experimentation has helped us shape our vision of what is possible.
Get the right settings to scale.
Once you are confident you have an IoT solution that is going to delight your customers or improve your operations, it is critical you don’t fall at the scale hurdle.
Whether you’re launching a product to market or rolling out an IoT deployment across your company, simplicity is key. Though we were tempted to launch Smart Home pre-integrated with dozens of devices, we needed to train hundreds of stores and thousands of consultants and decided we were better off with a product that was able to be simply demonstrated and sold in its early days. We are seeing strong sales momentum as a result.
Likewise, your network and platform choices will be critical. Emerging low power networks like LoRa can be low cost to get going if you only need to operate in a confined area, but if you need broader coverage you may want to look at the soon to launch LTE-based networks like LTE-M or Narrowband IoT. Obviously, scalable cloud infrastructure makes the most sense here.
I was laughing with a colleague recently about how 15 years ago we had document folders titled “Internet”, and now we, along with most of you, will have folders for “IoT”. Rapidly the solutions overrun the paradigm. You couldn’t imagine doing business without the net – soon you will say the same about IoT. As long as you are confident you can proceed securely, proceed rapidly! If you need help, seek the right partner. The IoT further democratises the ability for every company to innovate, and you might just be the next big thing.