Rutger Reman, head of industry and society unit, Ericsson region Middle East and East Africa, shares with CommsMEA Ericsson’s vision of the Networked Society and its plans to tap the enormous opportunities presented by the Internet of Things.
IoT is a massive opportunity that will cater for 26 billion devices connected in 2020 – just four short years away. At IoTx Dubai, Ericsson demonstrated its IoT capabilities across a variety of sectors including Smart Cities, Public Safety, Smart Metering, Transportation, and Utilities among others.
Since networks are the primary enablers of IoT, it’s important to ensure robust, secure and intelligent networks are in place. “In the future, all devices that benefit from an internet connection will be connected. IoT technology is a key enabler of this vision by delivering machine-to-machine (M2M) and machine-to-person communications on a massive scale”, remarks Reman. He adds that Ericsson networks software includes a range of features targeting applications where a massive number of IoT devices must be cost-effectively supported over a broad area – including Smart Cities, Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) and Smart Metering for Utilities. “These improvements enable operators to leverage their current LTE infrastructure to deliver a wide range of new IoT applications through a simple software upgrade.”
Opportunities and challenges
Wide scale implementation of IoT definitely comes with its share of opportunities and challenges- the key is to identify them and tailor strategies to work around those areas. Echoing the sentiments of other industry experts, Reman too believes that security will be a major challenge as billions of devices join the IoT, and different technologies will compete to provide appropriate solutions. “Managing authentication on a large scale is a challenge already successfully met by the telecommunications industry in the form of mutual authentication with secret credentials in the SIM. This technology can now be extended to provide equally strong authentication and data integrity for the IoT.”
He is optimistic that IoT will bring a lot of automation to everything that is connected through the Internet. “We are going from stovepipe solutions to a connected life. For instance, cars that communicate with each other and with other elements on the road can save lives and solve traffic congestion problems; a coffee machine and a car heater connected to your morning alarm can make life smoother.”
But one can’t help wondering how the growing number of connected devices be catered to effectively – wouldn’t bandwidth be an issue? Wouldn’t spectrum crunch act as a barrier? Reman says, “ when it comes to scalability, cellular networks are built to handle massive volumes of mobile broadband traffic; the traffic from most IoT applications will be relatively small and easily absorbed. Operators are able to offer connectivity for IoT applications from the start-up phase and grow this business with low TCO and only limited additional investment and effort. Operation in licenced spectrum also provides predictable and controlled interference, which enables efficient use of the spectrum to support massive volumes of devices.” He further adds that cellular connectivity offers the diversity to serve a wide range of applications with varying requirements within one network. “While competing unlicensed LPWA technologies are designed solely for very low-end MTC applications, cellular networks can address everything from Massive to Critical IoT use cases.”
Partnering for the best
IoT is not a one-man-show; so there surely need to be strategic partnerships in place to boost the opportunities for telcos and businesses in general. Reman tells us, “Ericsson’s focus on providing leading edge ‘smart’ offerings across industries requires end-2-end integration of wide variety of devices, data and application to deliver business use cases”. He further adds that based on specific customer needs and geography, Ericsson aligns with global and/or local players across various areas of operation. Reman tells us, “Ericsson has identified industry specific offerings for last-mile as well as core network. Similar offerings have been established for business and operations /BSS solutions and these all are integrated using the “agnostic’ IOT platform.” The connected future definitely looks promising.