Telecoms use the Internet of Things (IoT) to deliver a collection of products and services that bring additional value to their existing networks.
The added value IoT products and services can bring will become especially useful as the telecoms’ 5G networks mature and the 4G to 5G transition continues. In some cases, telecoms built separate networks specifically for their IoT platform. These IoT platforms that can be used as the foundation for developers and organizations to create their own IoT products and services.
Telecom IoT Protocols
There are two protocol technologies telecoms use to connect IoT devices to their networks, LTE-M and narrowband IoT (NB-IoT). The protocols are low-bandwidth, low-power, low-cost, and optimized for connecting IoT devices to cellular networks. NB-IoT is more common in Europe and is more dedicated to low-cost and low-bandwidth data connections. LTE-M is found more in North America and is built with a focus on comparatively higher bandwidth and mobile connections.
Roaming Capabilities for IoT Devices
Many of the telecoms that support and use IoT devices have roaming capabilities where devices can still connect to a cellular network in geographic areas where the primary telecom does not have any infrastructure. AT&T, Orange, Vodafone, and Verizon all say they have roaming capabilities for their IoT devices because of the SIM cards’ capabilities in the devices. Vodafone has partnered with AT&T for NB-IoT roaming in the United States and Europe.
Telecoms Internal Use of IoT
Internally, telecoms may use IoT technology to streamline their business. As VP of Advanced Technical Solutions at AT&T, Cameron Coursey said in an email, “Internally, we are using IoT solutions to curb energy usage in our facilities and make our [vehicle] fleet and supply chain operations more efficient.”
Telecom’s Using IoT: AT&T
The AT&T Asset Management Operations Center (AMOC) is a dashboard that simplifies IoT implementations. Assets from different vendors that run various protocols can be managed through the AMOC dashboard, which is hosted in the Microsoft Azure cloud. Other features include support for cellular and satellite connections, integration into a variety of applications, security for sensor data and asset management, and compatibility with multiple LTE and LTE-M devices.
Orange Global Connectivity Portfolio
This telecom uses IoT in several ways. Through the Orange Global Connectivity portfolio, IoT devices have the ability to connect to the network through data, SMS, or voice communications. In the Orange portfolio, management for IoT connections is done centrally via web-portal or API. As mentioned above, Orange has IoT roaming capabilities through alliances with operators and roaming agreements.
The Orange IoT platform is called Live Objects. The platform is cloud based and an open solution that follows market standards. The management software allows organizations to control devices by following the activity and status of devices, performing diagnostics on devices, configuring and updating devices, and integrating new devices. Data management is also done through the management software and is capable of safely collecting, stocking, and visualizing device data through standard APIs. Device communication is also manageable, which enables organizations to be immediately alerted to system anomalies and correct them for sustained quality of service (QoS).
Sprint’s Dedicated IoT Network
Sprint created an entirely independent network dedicated to IoT devices. It is called Curiosity IoT and consists of the Curiosity Core and Curiosity OS. The Curiosity Core is a virtualized and distributed network core that is said to be 5G ready. The Curiosity OS gives organizations the ability to manage all connected IoT devices, speed up the development of IoT devices and time to market, automate business processes, and get immediate intelligence on generated data.
The telecom uses Curiosity IoT to offer several solutions, including visualization of vehicle fleets, tracking products in transit, smart cities, and smart video analytics.
Ricky Singh, head of products and solutions for Curiosity IoT at Sprint, spoke to how Sprint uses IoT devices themselves in an interview with SDxCentral. “Our supply chain team has been one of our champions inside the organization to actually track valued assets from where they’re shipped from the manufacturer to their forward store location, and then when they go out to their sites, they can actually track that $20,000 radiohead to ensure you know that it’s not lost.”
Verizon IoT Platform
Verizon uses its IoT platform to enable smart cities, smart utilities, smart retail experiences, management of vehicle fleets, asset tracking, and IoT security credentialing. ThingSpace is Verizon’s IoT platform that enables organizations to prototype, test, and connect IoT devices to the Verizon network. ThingSpace enables secure activation, device diagnostics, locating devices, and lifecycle management of all of an organization’s connected IoT devices. Management can be done through the management portal or via RESTful APIs.
How Vodafone Uses IoT
Industries that use Vodafone’s telecom IoT platform and products include retail, healthcare, and manufacturing. Data generated from interactive retail displays is used for highly-personalized marketing. In healthcare, medication alerts, real-time ambulance tracking, and heart monitoring devices all can use Vodafone IoT technology. In manufacturing, Vodafone’s IoT platform is said to increase productivity, improve safety, and reduce costs.
Organizations can use this telecom’s IoT solutions for visibility and control of IoT devices located anywhere in Vodafone’s global footprint. They can also manage IoT devices to remotely secure, monitor, and update connected devices. Vodafone Business App-Invent is a service within the IoT platform that allows organizations to create IoT applications quickly and cost-effectively.