Farhana Haque, Vice-President and Business Head, IoT, Vodafone India

By 2020, we will have 50 billion internet of things (IoT) devices embedded in our environment – in our clo­thes, homes, cars, offices, factories and cities. While a vast network of sensors and smart devices will make our world smarter, responsive and increasingly dynamic, it will require a complex infrastructure. Telecom operators are the most uniquely positioned to deliver on this challenge.

Since the dawn of IoT, telecom operators have been delivering connectivity solutions. Infrastructure and network, earlier used for offering telecom services, are being used to connect millions of things to the internet. With basic connectivity devices transforming into data generating IoT devices, telecom operators have worked to move up the value chain to deliver the entire stack of solutions that goes into IoT deployment.

The Vodafone Annual IoT Barometer Report 2017 has shown that the proportion of organisations using IoT has more than doubled – from 12 per cent to 29 per cent – in the past five years. This increase is making the complex IoT landscape, with multiple service providers and protocols, even more complicated to manage. Telecom operators are singularly positioned to manage this complexity. With their experience in operating and managing carrier-grade networks, operators will be able to deliver scalable connectivity solutions that are key to the evolving IoT landscape. Telecom operators are also better positioned / disposed to develop and manage analytics at the edge of the network, enabling them to provide better use cases across a range of industries. They also have the ability to gather and analyse the extensive volume of data that IoT applications generate.

Reinventing for the IoT revolution

Telecom operators have an edge in IoT deployment because they are uniquely positioned to work with multiple existing partnerships. These partnerships will extend far beyond simple IoT device deployment and will include collaborations that will bring innovation across the value chain for both consumer and industrial end markets. Partnerships will cover the entire spectrum from collaborating for innovate applications and devices for the rapidly growing connected car industry to developing telematics capabilities that can help in smarter management of commercial fleets and tracking of physical assets.

Leveraging their experience of deploying varied technological standards, telecom operators can deliver an integrated solution, which can be customised for specific use cases. At Vodafone, this involves everything from special SIMs for IoT deployments that are designed to operate under higher temperature and pressure levels to managed connectivity platforms for IoT deployments that give clients visibility and control over their assets.

Network connectivity is the base for the IoT revolution, and telecom operators come equipped with the capabilities to deliver carrier-grade networks that meet all necessary governance and compliance requirements. The software-defined virtual networks of telecom operators further offer flexibility, which allow for the customisation of service suites, performance levels and security protocols.

Telecom operators are also playing a central role in adopting the right technologies to facilitate secure environments that are transparent and private. Blockchain is being explored as a foundational block for a secure IoT system, and artificial intelligence is being deployed as a cognitive security system that offers proactive recommendations. Most importantly, telecom operators are best placed to address aspects of scale and distribution.

Making the Digital India dream come true

Backed by the government’s Digital India vision, India is embarking on a digitally powered transformation. Part of the Digital India initiative is the establishment of 100 smart cities by 2022. Connected by smart grids, the smart cities will use technology, information and data to improve infrastructure and services. This will include smart metering for essential services such as water, electricity and piped gas, and connected infrastructure that enables services such as smart traffic monitoring, smart vehicle parking and smart garbage collection. The foundation of the smart grid will be built on connected sensors and devices, and telecom operators will play an important role in the secure provisioning, activation and connectivity of these IoT devices.