Traditional telcos are obviously in prime position to exploit the Internet of Things, but they face stiff competition. Canadian telco, Telus, has made an early move to carve out a niche for itself with its IoT Marketplace.
Connectivity is a prerequisite for IoT but the traditional providers of that connectivity – telecommunications carriers – face stiff competition. Fixed networks clearly have limitations for connecting billions of sensors, and today’s cellular network are not ideal. Their shortcomings are being addressed in the development of 5G, but commercial 5G networks are at least five years away and to fill the gap several wireless technologies such as LoRa, Weightless and Sigfox have emerged that can bypass existing networks. Others have questioned the prospects of mobile network operators to benefit from IoT
While most telcos – Telstra, Optus and Vodafone included – are playing in the M2M space, that will be only a subset of the overall but still nascent IoT market. They might do well to emulated Telus which in December launched an IoT Marketplace with 38 different solutions from Telus and partners spanning several industries including transportation, oil and gas, retail, restaurant, construction, and public safety.
Accelerating uptake of IoT in Canada
Announcing the launch of its IoT Marketplace, Telus said: “The Telus IoT Marketplace has the potential to greatly accelerate adoption by Canadian businesses by making it easier, faster and less expensive to implement an IoT solution. Telus has done the research and back-end integration to shorten deployment time from months to just a few days, and services purchased from the marketplace can conveniently appear as a monthly charge on a Telus bill – meaning businesses don’t have to invest in up-front capital expenditures.”
It describes the marketplace as “an online catalogue of turn-key IoT solutions curated from cutting-edge innovators and industry-leading technology companies [that functions] much like an ‘app store’ for IoT.”
Telus portrayed Canada as being on the cusp of IoT becoming mainstream: “Notwithstanding the significant exposure and promise attached to IoT, Canadian businesses have been slow to embrace the technology,” it said.
IoT growth surge expected
An IDC study commissioned by Telus suggested that “only 13 percent of Canadian businesses will have deployed an IoT solution by the end 2014.” However, Telus said: “A surge of growth is expected, with an additional 30 percent looking to deploy in the next two years and Canadian IoT spending to reach $C21 billion by the end of 2018.”
Two of the first apps on offer were SafeFood, and Retail Store Traffic Pattern Analysis and Security. SafeFood, IT World Canada reported, “monitors many aspects of a kitchen that are a requirement to avoid harmful bacteria forming on food to be served to customers.” It explained that the system combined “real-time monitoring software with sensors to track temperature, humidity, and other parameters to help restaurants demonstrate compliance with health regulations.
Retail Store Traffic Pattern Analysis and Security uses video analysis of a store environment to map customer flow. It enables retailers to adjust where they put inventory based on where customers are likely to linger.
Now 75 solutions from 25 partners
The Marketplace seems to be doing well. Just over six month since launch, Telus has announced the addition of more than 30 new solutions taking the total to 75, from some 25 partners. Solutions are grouped under several categories: asset tracking, digital signage, failover, fleet management, logistics, lone worker, remote monitoring, security, platforms, professional services.
You’ll probably find offerings similar to many, if not all, of these available from any major carriers, including those in Australia, but by bringing them together in one place, Telus will do much to raise awareness of IoT, validate the concept (still seen by many as, at worst, a lot of hot air and, at best, dominated by consumer wearable devices) and cement its own position in this emerging ecosystem. Other telcos would do well to follow its example.