The role of IoT in the Telecom Industry
Given all the marketing push and hype around IoT, it is difficult to predict how the business models will grow over the next few years. For industry practitioners, this remains to be one of the major concerns. Usually, they ponder about implementing IoT and end up asking 1 question, “How can IoT be used in my industry?”. Looking at the solutions that are existing is the most common approach that is utilized to find the answers to this question.
We have B2C solutions at one end of the spectrum. These are “good to have ideas but they don’t solve a real pain. But, on the other side, we see some B2B trends around particular industries where IoT can play a crucial role. One such vertical is the Telecom sector and few interesting opportunities open up by deploying IoT for telecom.
IoT in Telecom
For more than a decade, telecom has been the poster boy of high-technology industry. This is because of fast expansion, highly driven by innovation around smartphones and internet. New services are being promoted and new geographies are being captured by Telcos. All this adds complexity in managing the work optimally, combined with the force of launching new services that add value to eliminate the competition.
The IoT emergence presents with some interesting opportunities for telcos. The great news is that these opportunities can propel both the top line and bottom line introducing more operational efficiency and additional revenue streams. Let us see some options that are available.
The Enhancement of Operational Efficiency
A significant part of the operational cost of Telcos is eaten up by the remote infrastructure. The real use case of IoT plays a significant role here i.e. remote management and monitoring. Let us consider a mobile operator network. That kind of network will contain many mobile cell towers that are spread across a large geographical area.
For managing the own remote equipment of telcos, there are existing protocols and standards. However, there are other issues. What about environmental protection, physical security, and asset management.
Asset Handling and Monitoring
A remote cell tower site incorporates auxiliary equipment along with the major telecommunication equipment in order to make things work. One such equipment is a generator as power backup is a vital requirement for making sure 24/7 network uptime. Energy meters, UPS, Air conditioning are other major assets. These come under the passive infrastructure. Predicting their failure in advance by monitoring their operational efficiency is an important part of remote management. IoT makes it possible.
In remote places, physical security is of high importance where there is the installation of costly equipment. An IoT-enabled intrusion detection system is needed. In addition to this, pilferable consumables such as batteries and fuels are used in the site. Therefore, a tracking system for resource consumption is also needed to ensure timely alerts in order to minimize losses.
There is always a threat of remote sites being damaged by the environmental elements. The major challenge is the constant hazards in the form of air, water, and fire. In detecting such conditions, be it flooding, smoke or weather conditions, IoT plays a major role. It also assists in providing control commands to either shut down the system to avoid irreparable damages or take any preventive measures.
Providing last Mile Access to Devices
When dealing with the utilization of IoT to handle remote telco sites, it must be noted that IoT depends on a reliable communication link. So, it is crucial to consider something which doesn’t suffer from the downsides of the terrestrial link failure of the telco.
Low Power Radio
By playing the role of a service provider, telcos can tap into M2M(Machine to Machine) ecosystem. M2M communication needs very low bandwidth which is different from human to human communication that needs quality of the source and higher bandwidth. Traditionally, the existing technologies like WiFi and GSM are used to enable M2M communication.
These technologies that are centered around high bandwidth are overkill for M2M. They are also excessive consumers of power and therefore not energy efficient in the event of battery powered applications.
Therefore, in recent years, the new standards are developed for wide area, radio-based and low-power technologies that are optimized for low data rates usually known as Low power WAN(LPWAN). They are highly powered efficient. LoraWAN and NB-IoT are two such competing standards.
LoRaWAN iS being used in some parts of the world. The general use cases of LoRaWAN are in agriculture where we must establish communication links with sensors installed on the field. In a similar way, LoRaWAN can be deployed for the purpose of enabling public utilities like parking systems in the urban areas. Telcos can tap onto LoRaWAN by providing LoRaWAN services to businesses.
Offering Value-Added and Intelligent Services
As an application, IoT offers value-added and intelligent services to the telecom service providers.
Merging of virtual and physical worlds
Finding our way from physical to virtual world and vice-versa is a concept similar to physical web proposed by Google. But, this approach of Google works in a Personal Area Network(PAN) space.
Proximity Sensing(ProSe) is an implementation based on standards of a service on top of 4G LTE cellular service that enables 2 devices to detect their exchange and proximity data. Below here are few of the practical use cases.
Suppose you are attending a conference and you want to know if anyone who is present in your LinkedIn network is present there. If the others and you have installed ProSe on their smartphones, your LinkedIn app can scan the people quickly in your network of people who are nearby. On your screen, a pop-up appears showing the list of people from your LinkedIn network.
Suppose you are in a new city and you must locate the nearest train station or bus stand to travel to another part of the city. If every train, bus and public transport aggregation point in the city consists of a ProSe enabled device, it can then sync up with the ProSe service of your smartphone to present you with the interactive application that can help you in finding your way to the closest point.
Additionally, if you are capable of communicating with those devices, they can present you with the necessary information(train, bus timings etc.) that can help you in making quick decisions.
There is a new trend emerging while analytics, control, and monitoring make up the highly obvious IoT use cases. Many jobs are also being generated in IoT due to its innovative applications. Many career beginners and experienced professionals are taking IoT training and certification from the training providers as it promises a lucrative career.
A new wave of collaborative applications is being witnessed where the physical world can merge into our virtual lives allowing us to make a transition from physical to virtual or virtual to physical world seamlessly.