Internet connectivity is now ubiquitous, creating what many call a “network of everything.” Digital capabilities are designed into virtually every new product, from land mobile radios used by law enforcement to connected medical wearables to jet engines that collect their own data, diagnose issues, perform updates and predict maintenance to maximize equipment availability and optimize performance.
We characterize many of these emerging technologies in shorthand, as the Internet of Things, or IoT. But it’s not really about things – today’s technologies promise to connect everything to everything else and connect to us. The acronym IoT doesn’t capture the full scope of the business change involved. The network is the enabler for increased efficiency and business success. Without the network, the things aren’t talking to us.
Thinking Beyond IoT
It’s easy to lose sight of the intricacies when building such complex systems and the supporting backbone required.
Take our telecommunications client that wants to simplify, consolidate and accelerate the monitoring of an installed base of literally millions of devices, with the goal of lowering costs and increasing the efficiency of allocating resources. Or our wireless telecommunications client that wants to deliver augmented reality tutorials for customers installing their own devices, with the goal of reducing technicians’ in-home service time on simple, non-revenue tasks. Or a communications technology company that wants to equip first responders with devices that provide sight and sound on conditions at a fire during an emergency, protecting fire and police personnel while improving public safety.
All these solutions require wide-area network connectivity, software-defined virtualization layers, cloud platforms, edge processing and automated functionality. They’re possible because digital devices are being connected through massive-capacity data transmission pipes and edge data processing; sensors are connecting devices to the cloud; and sophisticated algorithms are parsing data ever more finely, at mind-numbing speed.
Solving Human Challenges
When all these components are combined, organizations can solve human challenges that have vexed consumers and business since the advent of the digital era:
• The telecom provider could view the operations of its entire fleet of installed devices via a single set of management-level dashboards. With automated scheduling of routine maintenance and upgrades, as well as better management of equipment swap-outs and service, it could save on repair and labor costs by acting on diagnostics collected and analyzed at the network’s edge.
• The wireless provider could change how it manages digital field service. Between network connectivity, rapid and fault-free sensors and data processed at the edge, customers could act as technicians themselves, connecting their in-home devices using an augmented reality tutorial.
• The communications technology manufacturer could help first responders protect lives and increase the safety of their jobs by pinpointing dangerous areas as well as the location of people and animals trapped in burning buildings. This requires a purpose-built application running on a secure network that integrates and supports all the critical elements, from connectivity to intelligence, to augmented reality and drone technologies.
The Emerging 5G World
It’s not an exaggeration to say our ever-growing global network of digital interconnectivity is now the principal driver of innovation. As 5G begins to roll out, with even greater bandwidth and reduced latency, it will become even easier for players across industries to create more innovative products and services without being hamstrung by historically heavy network constraints.
Simply put, to realize the full opportunities of interconnectivity, businesses need to expand their thinking beyond connected products and begin connecting “things” with each other (the network of everything) – and with us. By doing so, they can differentiate themselves by moving from commoditized markets (i.e., providing hard goods), to leveraging more sophisticated software systems and virtualization, and tying themselves to customers as value-added services providers. This, we believe, is key to ensuring relevance far into the future through continual evolution and innovation.
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