5G, edge computing and AI have all been major areas of investment within telecoms for the last few years. They have drawn much attention and capital from providers looking to anticipate the key trends that will affect the industry in the immediate future. During lockdown, however, there was a marked increase in investment for another technology; one that is set to play a major role in the future of telecoms – the Internet of Things (IoT).
According to the latest research, 73% of businesses with IoT projects increased the pace of their deployment during the pandemic. With over 10 billion IoT devices connected worldwide this year, the recent acceleration in IoT adoption suggests that the total number of IoT devices will soon increase on a massive scale.
Some estimates anticipate the total number of IoT devices will more than double (to 21.5 billion) by 2025. Others predict as many as 83 billion by 2024. Regardless of the exact figure, it is clear that this boom in IoT deployments represents a significant opportunity for telcos.
As new revenue possibilities are opened through widespread IoT adoption, providers that have appropriately invested and innovated within the space will reap the rewards. However, in order to remain competitive, they will not only need to consider the many opportunities that lie ahead but the obstacles as well.
New markets, new rules
With mass adoption of technologies such as connected cars, smart appliances, wearable devices and telemedicine looming on the horizon, telcos – and the vendors that support them – are seeing greater opportunities than ever before in the IoT space. Each of these new use cases is another potential revenue opportunity for them to expand their offering.
Looking at just connected cars, for instance, it is estimated that the number of cars on the road with eSIMs will reach 200 million by 2025 (an increase from 110 million in 2020). This is a significant proposition for telcos who are looking to capitalise on an emerging market that is calculated to be worth around $3 billion.
Yet telcos will find that they are only able to take advantage of these opportunities if they successfully modernise telecom infrastructure and improve services in step with IoT. And this is no small order given the extensive considerations that will come with widespread adoption, particularly when it comes to security. We have already seen the emergence of new security concerns as IoT has moved from industry hype to commercial reality in recent years and this trend is likely to continue as new use cases are popularised.
The ultimate goal of any provider is to deliver a high-value service, and this necessitates safety and security. For IoT deployments specifically, one of the greatest risk factors is the increased attack surface afforded by a higher number of devices. With more IoT devices connected to the network, a greater number of entry points are created that increase potential vulnerabilities.
Given that IoT devices also tend to lack significant computational power – smart home appliances for instance having minimal system resources – traditional cybersecurity software is difficult to implement. As such, telcos will need to introduce appropriate security and encryption methods that provide their customers robust security for their new solutions.
Ultimately, it is the providers with the most secure product who will earn the trust of customers and, for many, this will entail investing in data analytics and automated risk mitigation and prevention solutions. With such an abundance of IoT devices soon to join the fray, providers will have to take advantage of data analytics to yield insights into behaviour and activity that will allow them to better understand and detect fraud.
Navigating a complicated landscape
To mitigate these risks – security or otherwise – providers will have to pay as much attention to the supporting technologies and vendors enabling IoT as the opportunities themselves. Choosing the right vendors and technologies will make a major difference in the IoT innovation race in ensuring that IoT functions as it should, and these risks are handled appropriately.
The problem for vendors, then, is standing out from the competition and ensuring that their messaging demonstrates their value to telcos – and this is where content marketing comes in. For vendors and other players in the industry supporting this transition, they will need to carefully position themselves to show how they are meaningfully driving value creation and distinguishing themselves from competitors. We’ve lived this first-hand in our work with BICS, delivering both creative and sales enablement assets to raise awareness of BICS’ IoT connectivity solution. In turn, helping its sales team reach different customer segments around the world.
There are billions of connected devices deployed globally and billions more set to arrive over the next few years. Dominance in the IoT space will be captured by telecom providers and vendors who develop and deploy the next generation of IoT networks and services. But this needs to be supported by suitable positioning and promotion. This is not only to demonstrate their value proposition to customers but to create sales enablement collateral that pushes leads through the marketing funnel. If providers and vendors are to work together in delivering the true value of the IoT stack, strong communication strategy is going to play an important role in fulfilling the opportunities arising for these key players.