MANAGED SERVICES SPECIAL REPORT 2015: Managing the internet of things

19 March 2015 |


The industry has grown accustomed to seductive analyst projections denoting the game-changing immensity of the M2M opportunity. But little practical guidance yet exists to help the would-be M2M service provider negotiate this smorgasbord of potential and convert it into edible profit.

managedservicesiot340pxThe industry has grown accustomed to seductive analyst projections denoting the game-changing immensity of the M2M opportunity. But little practical guidance yet exists to help the would-be M2M service provider negotiate this smorgasbord of potential and convert it into edible profit.

Such assistance, delivered in the form of managed services, is starting to appear. Verizon Wireless is one of those leading the way. On behalf of its growing base of M2M partners in the US, it is providing various types of support to help them develop and commercialise products, services and applications.

Backing this support are two innovation centres located in the key hubs of Boston and San Francisco. Within these facilities Verizon is working with service providers specialising in M2M development for a number of verticals, such as healthcare, security, transportation, vending and marketing.

Partners also gain access to the carrier’s multi-vendor 4G LTE network test-bed where, in lab conditions, they can replicate real-life cell coverage conditions. They can also forge relations with others within Verizon’s M2M ecosystem.

There is, naturally, a lot more to M2M than technology test-beds and the development of applications. Those contemplating its possibilities will also want to factor in other more commercial concerns, such managed services that help with complex payment settlement, not to mention the necessary security that lies behind M2M transactions.

Cloud-based managed services provider Mach has, to this end, launched an M2M Revenue Protection Solution, designed to help M2M service providers reduce losses from fraud and malicious activity on their networks.

The service enables M2M service providers to protect against fraudulent threats, including SIM cloning, call selling and Denial of Service (DoS) attacks, while reducing losses caused by human error.

Geographical and time checks on call patterns, it says, prevent SIMs from moving beyond pre-set locations, enabling the service provider to prevent fraud brought about through SIM theft.

From a different angle altogether, managed services may provide an effective channel for M2M service providers looking to move upstream from the simple role of connectivity provider, believes Alam Gill, SVP of international managed services with CSG International, a vendor of business support solutions.

“It’s a given that CSPs will manage the data, devices, and services associated with M2M, but doing so in a managed services model can mean the difference between providing connectivity and delivering enhanced value through new digital services,” he argues.

“CSPs already have the infrastructure that is required to succeed in the IoT - networks, service creation and provisioning, customer care, billing, service management. So as the consumption of digital services continues to grow, most CSPs are trying to understand where their current infrastructure and capabilities can serve the digital economy best.”

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To achieve maximum agility in the IoT ecosystem, he says, service providers should adapt their OSS/BSS from highly customised, proprietary platforms to ‘plug and play’ networks and platforms that other parties can use when working with them on new services and products.

“But completely transforming BSS to exploit new market opportunities can be too time consuming, too costly, and introduces too much risk to the existing business,” he points out.

Managed services represent the best way by far for the service provider to approach customers with an M2M offer, argues Ben Parker, principal technologist of product strategy at Big Data consultancy Guavus: “IoT is already a board level issue for operators, not just how it will impact on networks and service delivery, but also how they can monetise and become a meaningful part of the value chain,” he believes.

“Providing managed services and partnering with IoT device makers will be a significant part of CSP strategies in terms of moving up the value chain, for both the industrial IoT and connected homes.”

In the area of connected homes, the managed services model provides an optimal route to market for CSPs, in particular cable operators, he claims: “By partnering with device manufacturers, CSPs can provide optimised services for customers and value added services in terms of implementation,” adds Parker.

“They can also create more profitable packages and tariffs that combine Wifi services alongside connected devices to provide optimum connectivity.”

He points out that in industries such as mining and logistics, businesses are already basing themselves on IoT devices: “Here carriers have an even greater opportunity to move up the value chain, by offering ‘analytics as a service’ to help streamline and improve business processes,” he concludes.

Whether supplied to a service provider as an enablement mechanism or as a sales channel between service provider and customer, managed services appear to be the missing link connecting M2M with the bottom line.