The October 24th Telarus Tuesday call brought Telarus SVP of Sales Scott Forbush to conduct an IoT panel with Max Silber of MetTel, Charles Stallings of CenturyLink, and Chris Whitaker of Sierra Wireless. The entire recording can be found here.
Scott Forbush: What are the current uses of IoT and what are some of the anticipated future uses?
Max Silber: IoT is certainly a very hot topic in the industry. You have to think about what the customer is specifically looking to solve for. Currently the majority of that revolves around endpoints, essentially activating endpoints and having endpoint management. An IoT could be anything from an LP router based router for wireless backup (this is probably the most common application) to something that looks more like a smartphone or a tablet that’s special-purpose. It can also be something that we need to engineer from scratch, working in conjunction with the customer to generate that endpoint that can collect information that companies can then utilize and analyze.
Scott Forbush: What types of IoT regulations can be expected and from what sources do you see those coming from?
Max Silber: When it comes to security anything that you deploy out there today that’s an endpoint whether it’s a router, a smartphone, or a custom-made transmitter, which is also a point of entry. This is a point breach for an organization because it essentially is a collection point that is going to communicate back into the core network, and I’m going to communicate back into the core database for the organization. If you look at historical breaches with some of the big box stores that are subject to PCI compliance most of those were actually breaches from third-party systems like HVAC. As you’re thinking about IoT, it’s incredibly important to think about security. We’ve teamed up with some of the veterans in the business on the government states that we support, we also team up with organizations like Raytheon to really secure all the way down on the router side. We have several partners that we work with to create a secure environment from end to end. Today we’re really trying to lock down those endpoints, but that is only phase one. Ultimately the goal is to be able to deliver a complete ecosystem which will include the data analytics and the AI side of IoT.
Scott Forbush: To what extent does human intelligence and intuition enhance what IoT has to offer?
Max Silber: Once you start collecting all this information from endpoints, the challenge really becomes managing all of that big data. If I put out ten thousand sensors in the field in order to know every time somebody turns the lights on at a given facility that’s great, but what exactly am I supposed to do with all that data? How is that data going to enhance cost optimization? Maybe I can put some timers on those elements. The concept of AI is using machine learning and improving that process based on all those data inputs. I always try to put myself in the shoes of a Telarus partner. IoT is a very broad category so for me right now the opportunity is engaging customers with the right questions in order to address the right problems mainly around endpoints. Once that endpoint management is out there you’re already in the conversation, and when the data is getting collected, you become part of the process.
Scott Forbush: How do you see partners monetizing IoT?
Max Silber: The easiest way for us is the same way in which we secure the transport. We don’t use unlicensed technologies like ZigBee or Bluetooth for long haul; we only use LTE. Think about LTE as a subscription service, it’s selling bandwidth, and that’s a residual model. It’s an immediate way to monetize, and in some cases, the bandwidth isn’t tremendous. You’re essentially picking up sensor data so it could be a monthly recurring charge plan as low as a dollar but also as high as a hundred dollars depending on the use case and where you collected. There are a lot of immediate opportunities to start earning within the IoT space.
Scott Forbush: What do you see as some of the future uses of IoT?
Charles Stallings: Future uses are really unlimited. What I’m seeing with regards to IoT is all kinds of different sensors being put out there, sensors that are tracking people as assets through wi-fi and bluetooth because they can connect to your smartphone. These days, you can equate a smartphone to an individual. But, there are also sensors that connect to the lighting in my home, which I use through my Alexa to turn my lights on and off. My refrigerator has a sensor that communicates with the manufacturer and schedules its own maintenance. So what we’re seeing is all kinds of use cases. I’m seeing the future hover around enhancing the digital experience. We at CenturyLink have deployed some of this technology at theme parks and sports stadiums where it’s providing additional information to me as a person that’s at that venue. That venue has become smart and it’s telling me the wait times for concession lines as well as parking availability and where that parking is at. It can also let you know where to go if there’s some type of security event. If there is a lightning scare at a sports stadium, it can tell me the safest area and the closest shelter. We’re seeing technology go into cars, buildings, and stadiums so really the future is unlimited. We are going to see six billion IoT devices between now and 2020.
Scott Forbush: How is data ownership determined? Is it private to the user or owned by the service provider?
Charles Stallings: When we deploy our IoT solution, legal does get involved. For example when we deployed IoT at a theme park, there was a splash page that people could log into for access to the wi-fi. This could be done through the person’s Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. After they made that entry, they would be presented with terms and conditions. So in certain IoT platforms, that data belongs to the person but then they authorize it. For example, if I were to log in with my LinkedIn, that account and its security is mine but then the terms and conditions page comes up notifying me of the information the provider will pull out of my LinkedIn account. As the end user I’m provided with the opportunity to accept or reject the terms and conditions, depending on how the system is configured it’ll either let me in or it won’t. From the CenturyLink standpoint, if the end user accepts the terms and conditions we don’t take ownership of that data, the data belongs to our customer. As a service provider we’re providing security, the network, the infrastructure, and analytical tools for them to use for the IoT platform. The data itself belongs to the customer who we sold the system to use so that they can deploy that IoT capability.
Scott Forbush: With cybersecurity, how are these threats identified and how are they mitigated when people are using IoT?
Charles Stallings: CenturyLink is not out there building the sensors, the beauty of IoT for us is that it’s putting more demand on network and infrastructure. That’s the leverage that CenturyLink bring to an IoT platform. As a 75 year old network provider who has protected people’s telecom for all those years we add these things to the CenturyLink cloud, we have our capabilities with encryption and then our security senator who is monitoring things all the time. We are also deploying IoT capabilities into our tools which allow us to monitor what the sensors are doing and what data is coming across the sensor. As Max said earlier endpoints can become an entry point for bad people to get into your system so we’re constantly looking at those threats. This is how we are approaching the security standpoint, we are coming at it holistically and individually. We are checking sensor security, what’s coming across the net and what’s on the servers in the cloud continuously.
Sierra Wireless Q&A
Scott Forbush: When you think of IoT and its current uses how does it work with Sierra Wireless? What are some of the IoT’s that you guys currently employ?
Chris Whitaker: There are two kinds of flavors —there is either the by-the-box connectivity aspect of IoT, and then there’s a deeper conversation about the problem the customer is trying to solve. This requires knowing the connectivity aspects; typically some type of interface that collects data. We’re trying to help install two different ends of the spectrum, whether it be some off-the-shelf kind of smart metering. A lot of the data that’s being collected can now be monetized so there’s a lot of discussions around what to do once all the data is collected from our quality control aspect of manufacturing and industrial solutions. We’re doing better at manufacturing equipment to help and write the software they can collect this data from and put it in a interface that makes sense for the end user.
Scott Forbush: How can the partners best help their clients to capitalize on IoT technologies?
Chris Whitaker: This is coming up more frequently. With our managed connectivity solutions, it really is a connectivity solution. To go into the true IoT as Charles was saying like collecting data, using your LinkedIn and Facebook page to log in, all of those solutions are a much deeper conversation. For example, we do a lot of the connectivity for companies like OnStar and Volkswagen, so it’s not something you can just sell off-the-shelf very easily. If Trader Joe’s already has a software platform and they know what information they want from their refrigeration/freezer systems so they just need connectivity for it, that is a very simple IoT machine to machine kind of play. You can then go into a much greater conversation when the device needed to collect the data they need doesn’t even exist. This is versus a situation where the customer already has the device they need so they are just looking for a diverse alternate connection, this would be an easy sell. There are also more traditional telecom constellations.
Scott Forbush: What is the next big IoT market that our partners can focus on?
Chris Whitaker: There are two areas which we are working on that I found interesting, although they are not necessarily new solutions. If you think about every fast-food restaurant and the oil they waste, we actually have a solution we’re working on to help with this issue. We created sensors that monitor the oil tanks and send alerts via a cloud app to the dispatcher so that driver can be scheduled to pick up the oil. Another application we’ve been talking about was for Steady Brew, this is a company that created scales for kegs to sit on. This was connected to 4G LTE because they don’t want to run wires in the back of the bar, they wanted to have a reliable way to send notifications to the bartenders before Happy Hour to let them know when the tanks were almost empty and needed to be filled. This is where making sure that you are asking the right questions to identify the customers pain points is useful.
If you are interested in learning more about selling IoT, please visit the Telarus back office pages for these suppliers.