When Refrigerators Talk: The Role of Telcos in the Internet of Things

Posted: July 30th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Industry Insights | Tags: , , | 2 Comments »

Telecommunications is at a crossroad. The demand for data is reaching unprecedented levels and there’s no sign that it’s going to be slowing down. In fact, in the very near future, our refrigerators may be using just as much data as our phones.

Olaf Swantee, the CEO at EE, recently wrote that this era of connected living will soon usher in smart homes, wearable tech and a multitude of other connected gadgets, leading to an explosion in connected touch points that need to be managed by communications service providers (CSPs). At Comptel, we couldn’t agree more. The question, then, is: how will telcos adapt to this new reality?

What will the world look like when our cars are talking to our coffee machines and synchronizing with our cloud-stored media or our refrigerators are updating our shopping list apps in real-time? What will the world look like when, as Google CEO Eric Schmidt predicts, the entire world is online?

The rapid proliferation of touch points and the amount of new and varied applications they bring will drive the need for increased agility and cost-effective growth in infrastructure, operations and management processes. The true era of connected living is dovetailing with another technological revolution: software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV).

The Adaptability Game

The introduction of SDN technology will offer CSPs ways to operate an expanse of digital services at break-neck speed. The flexibility to build and host applications in the cloud will add to the ability to react quickly and roll out supporting features for new services.

This kind of adaptability will be crucial in a connected economy. With so many more touch points in the mix, operating across a wide spectrum of use cases, CSPs will need to be able to smoothly manage policies and bandwidth alike. A single user’s data plan could soon encompass not one or two devices, but twenty, thirty or fifty. How would a data plan for a refrigerator look? And what if one refrigerator has a video display to show users when they need certain groceries? Or, in terms of wearable technology, how can CSPs work with healthcare providers when it comes to medical devices that are connected to the cloud?

With the legacy and multiple OSS/BSS systems that many CSPs still have in place, it may seem like an overwhelming problem to manage. But with SDN and NFV, operators can more easily and economically manage the end-to-end deployment and orchestration of these complex services across all these devices, deployed across virtual networks.

The Internet of Things (IoT) will necessitate – and possibly expedite – the virtualisation revolution that’s already underway in telecommunications. The control plane is evolving, and at the tail-end of this transformation, we’ll see an artificially intelligent, agile orchestration layer that can understand the role of each and every device in the broader context of user behaviour and network patterns.

The excitement around SDN and NFV that we’ve already seen at TM Forum Live! is only going to grow as more connected devices come online. In this case, at least, we may actually see two trends where the hype is matched by the reality.

SDN and NFV aren’t the only things that help businesses become more agile. Learn how to use predictive analytics to predict network stressors before they result in a site failure by downloading our whitepaper, “How Predictions of Critical Alarms Helps CSPs Reduce OPEX, Prevent Revenue Loss and Improve Customer Experience.”


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