4 Profitable IoT Innovations – and Why CSP’s Should Be Excited

While we’re all aware of the objects that are commonly embedded with online capabilities – smartphones, computers, and so on – the sphere of digital connectivity is expanding ever-further; the border between “offline” and “online” is shrinking, and objects we’ve always thought of as static, unconnected, or unchanging are suddenly coming online. Everyday items are increasingly being digitized, linking them to the IoT (Internet of Things) – the vast network of people, objects, and devices that possess online connectivity.

But just how vast is it the IoT? A report by BI Intelligence indicates that there will be 34 billion devices connected to the internet by the year 2020, up from 10 billion in the year 2015. Of those 34 billion devices, 24 billion will be comprised of IoT devices. It’s a digital revolution – and it’s obvious that companies want to capitalize on it before they fall behind. Of course, “falling behind” can happen with deceptive pace when it comes to technology advancements.

There are huge profits to be made among the world’s digital upheavals, and those who predict, who anticipate, and who adapt most quickly stand to gain immensely from the IoT’s redefinition of the digital landscape.  Of all the industries that are preparing for the seismic impact of IoT innovation, few will be more affected – or more empowered – than Communications Service Providers (CSPs). As communications providers around the world digitize and transform, the question of how the IoT will play into that transformation is being asked with increasing frequency.

Here are four innovations that illustrate just how the IoT will answer that question:

Wearable devices

With the emergence of the smartwatch, anyone’s wrist can now act as a hub for data – enabling a range of activity including text messaging, phone calls, and internet access. What’s more, the emergence of fitness watches illustrate the IoT’s increasing ability to actually connect with the wearer’s body – a development that has huge implications in terms of providing live, real-time data that will optimize personal efficiency, wellness, self-awareness and more.

 

Connected Cars

In an era of tech buzzwords, “driverless” is one you’re unlikely to avoid. But there’s a reason for this: the “driverless” car is going to fundamentally transform the face of daily travel, promising to make the world’s roads far safer and far more efficient. The likes of Mercedes, Audi and BMW have all announced the development of self-driving cars – a number of which will be controllable with smartphones and smartwatches.

Smart Homes

App-controlled thermostats, connective lighting, smart outlets, Bluetooth-activated locks and a range of other “smart” home appliances have contributed to a shift in public perception of what exactly constitutes a smart home. These additions don’t demand tens of thousands of dollars or extensive home customization, and often entail relatively simple installations. The end result is that homes are rapidly adopting IoT equipment and, in so doing, becoming part of the IoT themselves.

Link Systems

LinkNYC is a unique and first-of-its-kind communications network that will replace 7,500 pay phones across New York City this year with structures known as “Links”. Each Link will offer “superfast, free public WiFi, phone calls, device charging and a tablet for internet browsing, access to city services, maps, and directions.”  It’s a brilliant example of how the remnants of the soon-obsolete communications infrastructure can be reshaped, repurposed, and replaced by smarter and more efficient technologies.

Why should CSPs be excited about IOT innovations?

IoT innovations like the ones outlined above are, no doubt, impressive in and of themselves. Many of them – inconceivable ten, five, or even just a few years ago – are now redefining the digital ecosystem and disrupting the very core of how people conceive of and relate with the devices they use.

They Empower the Product

One commonly-cited best practice for the modern CSP vying to maintain relevance in the digital era is shifting to a product-centric – rather than an infrastructure-focused – approach to business. Why? Because the modern communications ecosystem is transitioning from an emphasis on the physical communications infrastructure towards an emphasis on the products used for communication themselves. In this way, the IoT – embedded in physical products – plays directly into the hands of any savvy CSP. Those who successfully embrace the conceptual shift to a product-centric viewpoint will, naturally, delight in the proliferation and ever-increasing significance of IoT innovations. It’s a fundamental, conceptual shift in the way modern communications should be understood: CSPs can now invest in creating and offering products that delight customers instead of focusing on communications infrastructure that burden them.

They Give Context

Likewise, the modern CSP’s success can be built on three pillars: create, sell, and deliver. Executing those three actions is simplified by consistency across multiple digital channels; knowing who your customer is, where they are, and what they have available means you can connect what you can sell with other ecosystems. Context is everything, and with the flood of information brought on by IoT devices, CSPs will have more context than ever. They will have more power to sell across channels than ever before, and perhaps, above all – a vastly greater ability to anticipate customers’ needs and provide a flawless delivery to meet those needs.

They Delight the Customer

If yours is a truly digital business, then no matter what the innovation or source of innovation,you can devise any type of operating model to serve customers more effectively. That’s why a true digital business isn’t threatened by IoT innovations, but excited by the new possibilities they open. With a catalog-driven approach, CSPs can harness the power of unifying their products and services so that every customer interaction is made more simple, more efficient, and more informative.

If harnessed properly, IoT innovations like these mean that CSPs can provide experiences, not just products or services. It means they can exceed a consumer’s expectations instead of just meeting them. It means they can make their services more understandable, relatable, and actionable, and it means they can integrate all digital channels so consumers can interact with them when, where, and how they want to.

What does the word “disruption” mean to you? It’s certainly laced with a few negative connotations: ideas of agitation, of forcing change, and of disturbing old ways of life all spring to mind. Nobody wants to be “disrupted,” especially if that disruption means they’ll have to drop their old business routines, rethink everything about them, and summarily toss them out of the window.

No industry, no company, and no professional is completely immune to the tidal wave of change brought on by “digital disruption”: the type of change that happens when new digital technologies and business models shift the status quo of how goods and services are exchanged. Think Uber, think Skype, think mobile phones writ large.

Business has always been a game of anticipation – though anticipating the next phases of the world’s digital transformation isn’t exactly a straightforward task. But if you look around, there are companies who are already doing just that. They’re companies that don’t just stand by and watch technological advancement; they don’t just react to changes in contemporary communications – they enact them. They trail-blaze, they spearhead, they innovate. The ability to adapt is, more than ever, a critical skill in the world of CSPs; considering the global changes bearing down on the industry, it’s likely to be one that decides many companies’ very existence.

TELUS is Canada's fastest-growing national telecommunications company, boasting $12.8 billion of annual revenue and 12.7 million subscriber connections.

TELUS

TELUS is Canada’s fastest-growing national telecommunications company, boasting $12.8 billion of annual revenue and $12.7 million subscriber connections.

Founded 1990
HQ Vancouver, BC, Canada
Chief Executive Officer Darren Entwistle
Website https://labs.telus.com/
Employees 47,700
Project Spotlight

As part of its multi-billion dollar investment in Canada’s telecommunications infrastructure, TELUS has begun connecting homes in one Canadian city to its fibre optic network, a move that will, according to TELUS executive VP Tony Geheran, “dramatically improve Internet speed and capacity for residents… as well as health care facilities and schools.” Why? “Fiber is the future,” he observed. The TELUS Pure Fibre network is one of the world’s most advanced communications networks of its kind, producing radically increased web speeds: up to 150 megabits per second.

Create, sell, deliver. It’s a mantra that emphasizes the agility needed for modern digital service providers to actually succeed in rolling out a project or service. Speed-to-market means rapidly packaging and launching quality products to customers, but that all falls by the wayside unless it’s just that: rapid. Fibre networks illustrate how digital disruption isn’t just the source of conceptual changes in how we understand technology. It’s a catalyst for very real and practical changes that are transforming the technological infrastructure used by service providers. If fiber is the future, then companies better start preparing for it.


T-Mobile is the USA's third largest wireless carrier, serving 71.5 million customers and operating with annual revenues of $37 billion.

T-MOBILE US

T-Mobile is the USA’s third largest wireless carrier, serving 71.5 million customers and operating with annual revenues of $37 billion.

Founded 1993
HQ Bellevue, WA
Chief Executive Officer John Legere
Website https://www.t-mobile.com/
Employees 50,000
Project Spotlight

Phone scammers stole $7.4 billion from some 27 million victims in 2015. It’s a digital epidemic and a serious security challenge for all modern CSPs. T-Mobile’s recent response, called “Scam ID”, runs a security check on its customers’ calls using a database of scammers’ numbers to issue a warning during incoming calls.

It’s a brilliant example of a product-centric approach: one that lets modern service providers respond with agility to address their customers’ challenges. Rapid and effective customer service is a key differentiator of the new generation of CSPs: not laden by complex B/OSS, they’re not only keenly aware of the customer’s experience, but aggressively and perpetually seeking to improve it. Scam ID is logical, sensible and simple – but most importantly, it was rolled out seamlessly to millions of users overnight. That kind of rapid implementation encapsulates the clarity, consistency and agility that define modern digital service.

Likewise, it represents the omnichannel customer experience in action – a catalog-centric approach that simplifies the complexity of multi-network, multichannel and multi-device environments by simply giving customers what they want, when they want it, and where they want it.


By far the leading name in Japanese telecommunications, NTT (Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation) is the third largest CSP in the world.

NTT

By far the leading name in Japanese telecommunications, NTT (Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation) is the third largest CSP in the world.

Founded 1952
HQ Tokyo
Chief Executive Officer Hiroo Unoura
Website www.ntt-global.com
Employees 241,448
Project Spotlight

NTT recently announced a partnership with Japanese auto giant Toyota. Together, the companies are creating high-speed communications technology for “connected cars”: self-driving, autonomous vehicles equipped with smart technologies. It’s an understandable collaboration; both CSPs and automakers are hungry for data from their customers as vehicles become increasingly connective.

One of the key pillars of digital disruption is the emergence of the “Internet of things” (IoT), the global network of physical devices, vehicles, and buildings that are embedded with digital systems and software enabling them to collect and exchange data. Service providers, though, are often puzzled by the question of how to harness the IoT’s revolutionary power; a modern CSP needs to innovate, but that innovation has to be compatible with the existing digital ecosystem. The IoT has inconceivable potential to organize data, predict patterns, and exchange information seamlessly – and even do so completely free of human oversight. But these powers aren’t just statistics: they can end up delighting customers by producing real-world results: in NTT’s case, by giving drivers faster, more up-to-date, and more accessible information. Likewise, “connected” vehicle technology emphasizes the trend that, increasingly, it’s the products people use – and not the communications infrastructure itself – that will define consumers’ relationship with CSPs.


So, while these profiles highlight specific examples of how the world’s businesses are being disrupted digitally, what’s more pertinent is the philosophy behind these enterprising projects. If you’re a modern CSP, your services should be underpinned by the very same philosophy: instead of ignoring or waiting for the digital revolution, companies should be taking part in it. Don’t let your company just watch the digital revolution. Participate in. Take advantage of it. Revel in it.

Looking back at Mobile World Congress, I was struck by how little focus there was on service provider operations or the underlying network.  More emphasis was on the connected services that operators can bring to customers on their end device, and the new business models they are looking to adopt and promote into the marketplace.

With all the disruption occurring in the industry today, much of which is driven by the “digital natives, it is clear that traditional service providers must move to a digital orientation of operation.

Sigma sees disruption happening in three main areas:

The first lies in the network, with all the innovations around 5G, fiber and a push towards virtualization.

The second area of disruption is in the over-the-top content-based capabilities that many 3rd party digital natives are introducing.

And lastly, the notion of being a digital business in and of itself is gaining traction.

This means having the ability to spin up any type of operating model in order to serve customers, no matter the innovation or source of innovation.  It means being able to navigate across multiple sales channels and taking innovations to market in a zero-touch, automated fashion by moving into a DevOps way of operating. Ultimately, it’s about the operator having the agility and flexibility to launch a new business model, a new innovation or a new capability in a short amount of time.

Service providers have traditionally been infrastructure-focused, engineering-led organizations, where the network and the OSS/BSS have been viewed as assets, rather than enablers.  However, digital natives have shifted this paradigm – the product is the asset and the product should be driving system changes.   And the thing that has been neglected, which digital natives live by, day to day, is the upfront creating, selling and delivering of the product to the customer.

So, what do service providers need to achieve in order to transition from a monolithic, legacy, multi-siloed B/OSS into a truly Digital Service Provider (DSP)?  Sigma believes that a DSP must have the following characteristics – they must be catalog-driven, ecosystem agnostic, omnichannel enabled, context-aware, provide exceptional customer service and deliver flawlessly.

Sigma’s Chief Technology Officer spoke recently about the realistic, practical steps a CSP can take to achieve these qualities, none of which involve dismantling or replacing back office systems.  Instead, we advocate for Catalog-driven, Agile B/OSS as an overlay to legacy systems.  Sigma will be co-presenting with Windstream at TM Forum Live! in Nice to discuss how the operator transformed into an agile organization with the support of Sigma’s catalog-driven solutions.  Give Sigma a shout if you’d like to learn more about our approach to The Path to Digital.

Along with another thing you may not want to acknowledge – that you continue to sink a significant amount of resources into traditional BSS/OSS applications and architectures with no end in sight. To make matters worse, your fallout rates never seem to improve, despite the promises made by traditional BSS/OSS vendors.  Throw in mounting pressure to meet consumer demand for the latest and greatest digital service offerings with the slim hope of meeting their expectations before they churn. If any of this rings a bell, you may want to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do your BSS and OSS vendors insist on doing things the way they always have by staking out a niche space and holding onto it for dear life without taking a holistic view of the problems you are facing?
  2. Are business rules duplicated across the stack from CRM through order management, provisioning and billing yet never seem to remain in-sync for long?
  3. Does it still take forever to get simple services deployed to production? Do your fallout rates spike until teams scramble to patch up deployments?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, rest assured you are far from alone. Traditional BSS/OSS applications and architectures continually fail to deliver on promises of faster time-to-market for new services, increased customer satisfaction and reduced fallout.

So, is there a solution?

Just for a moment, discard the notion of the traditional BSS/OSS stack. Instead, position a next generation best-of-breed enterprise catalog at the center of a new architecture. A catalog that is capable of modeling a complete and consistent set of products, services and resources along with the business rules required to offer, fulfill and provision them. Incorporate a toolset that allows product managers, fulfillment designers as well as technical resources to collaborate and contribute to the modelling of new product offerings (away with the shuffling of business rules and data from application to application within the stack!).

Finally, layer on a high performance open API that allows any application at any time to access the master model real-time during operations. This means that the CRM system accesses the enterprise catalog rule set during guided selling the same way that order management does during fulfillment, and provisioning does during activation.

I think you’re getting the idea…consistency in application behaviors across the BSS /OSS stack and their ability to instantly react to changes in the master model is key to faster time-to-market, increased customer satisfaction and reduced fallout. Call it agile operations, thinking out-of-the-box, or just being plain smart about where you put your next round of investment dollars. It just doesn’t have to be that difficult.

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