Tim Sherwood, Vice President, Mobility & IoT Solutions, Tata Communications

The always-connected nature of today’s world has broken down barriers to innovation and communication that previously existed. We now live in an era in which technology has enabled consistent, borderless collaboration and communications. Gartner predicts that 2017 will see 8.4 billion connected devices in use worldwide. This includes consumer products, like smart TVs, and in-car entertainment systems and industrial applications that can predictt necessary maintenance in a factory or the most efficient way to distribute energy from a power plant. The ability of these applications to connect and interact with each other across the same platform offers new opportunities for enterprises to realize new, additional revenues.

But, especially from an industrial standpoint, the uptake on this new type of platform has been slow as enterprises seek out the best practices for connecting with multiple end-points, such as their customers, partners, employees, and assets anywhere in the world. The movement to cloud-based mobile-first strategies, which optimize connectivity with these end-points creates additional layers of complexity. Take the energy industry as an example. In short, too many organizations in this sector are operating an infrastructure that is analogue, aging, and outdated. In many countries, this industry is in desperate need of a digital upgrade. With the current grid infrastructure in many economies already aging and in need of replacement, it is time for utilities to switch out dumb assets for smart assets that can communicate digitally. It is time to embrace data as the new currency of the energy sector.

Most importantly, the various technology options supporting the Internet of Things (IoT) remain fragmented, with different standards and technology, each of which can apply to different applications, making the concept of IoT rather less plausible. Rather than internetworking, it is more like an archipelago with many islands. In fact, Forrester says that this year design teams will search through more than 19 new wireless connectivity choices and protocols to support the company’s diverse set of IoT devices.

Let us say, for example, you are getting ready to go to a meeting that is on your calendar and you are using your phone’s GPS to drive there. Right now, the parking app does not say it will take 20 minutes to drive there and you are going to have to park far away, so you had better leave now. Google Maps knows the drive time, but cannot tell you the parking situation– that would be a different service. For an industrial example, let ius go back to the energy example we discussed before. New technologies, including sensors and digital control systems, use real-time data to deliver better power plant outcomes with stable and efficient operations, while providing valuable predictive insights for higher reliability and optimization.

The need for multiple apps will begin to change as the convergence of the technology creates synchronization between applications. We are seeing this as the advent of cloud-based M2M device management systems has begun to lessen the need for multiple apps and create more streamlined platforms. On top of that, mobile network operators are now willing to forgo being the main service contractor and provider, choosing instead to partner with M2M/IoT platform providers and third-party system integrators in the realization of their M2M/IoT strategies.

The growth of these connected networks will have an impact across borders and across industries. For example, the automotive industry offers an opportunity to deliver a borderless and unrestricted connected car experience, regardless of location. Transportation and logistics companies can realize new cost efficiencies in their business.

Borderless connectivity enables airline aircrews to stay connected to their company network, regardless of their location. And building connectivity into aircraft will help in diagnostics and servicing, potentially helping to identify a problem with an aircraft before it creates operational issues. The IoT and mobile devices are creating a convergence of digital technology platforms that will eventually create a one-stop shop for consumers and businesses. While challenges remain, we are clearly moving toward digital platforms that enable this convergence for consumers and enterprises around the world, both in developed and emerging markets.

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