What “x-as-a-service” means for IoT

Times are changing. New digital infrastructure and IoT platforms have made it possible for almost any organisation to enter the market as a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO), without crippling capital investments.

Take Philips, a company best known for making lightbulbs, as an example. The connected world enables Philips to combine its lighting expertise with ubiquitous connectivity, allowing customers to create long-term lighting plans, optimise performance and save on energy, maintenance and depreciation costs. By incorporating connectivity to shift from a product sales model to a services model, Philips has essentially become a mobile virtual network operator in its evolution to provide “lighting as a service.”

Philips is a great example of the new generation of MVNOs – companies looking to launch and maintain value-added service capabilities that differentiate them in the market. Communications-Platform-as-a-Service providers have distinguished the new MVNOs from the traditional, by offering their services via APIs, which developers use to create IP-based communications services.

Implementing Mobile Network as a Service

The next step in becoming an MVNO is to implement Mobile Network as a Service (MNaaS), which offers a platform for developing and managing cellular connectivity and mobile network policy applications via APIs. MNaaS is unique because it eliminates the need to build and maintain the mobile telecommunications infrastructure, instead, it is integrated with virtualised network capabilities to provide the consumer with greater levels of security, reliability and control.

The MNaaS model is a perfect fit for IoT solutions providers who require connectivity to be embedded into their “smart” solutions because it allows them to benefit from a software-based mobile virtual network enablement model – meaning they don’t have to invest in telecommunications infrastructure. They can instead scale up or down as the situation dictates, creating the flexibility needed to serve millions of subscribers, who may be geographically distributed around the world, rather than just a few hundred in a specific location.

Industries taking advantage of the “X as a service” model

The “X as a service” model is in its infancy and its varied impacts on the Internet of Things could be huge, mainly due to the number of industries that are developing connected systems. With expanded access to connectivity as well as lower cost and higher performance modems, a wide variety of assets now can be upgraded to collect and transmit data , which via AI and machine learning can be turned into useful business intelligence to offer insights to the enterprise for more efficient operations and improved customer service. Overall, this would give rise to new services, new businesses and new living standards.

In Smart City deployments, sensors connected to central control systems which allow businesses and municipalities to monitor and create improved access to parking for employees and citizens. Based on the data collected from the sensors, drivers can use mobile applications to access route mapping, real time views of parking spaces and use predictive analytics to see what parking spots will be available when they arrive at their destination. Managers can also use the application to manage parking employee assignments at given location or project site. This type of improved parking situation can also help with traffic flow and reduces illegal parking. So, if you work at a site where parking is limited, and you drive laps around your office car park just to find a parking spot, this could solve your problems.

Meanwhile in healthcare, networks of connected devices would bring the treatment to the patients’ doorstep, rather than making people travel distances to get information about their health. As patients can capture data about their own health via wearable devices and doctors can communicate with patients through a combination of online portals and other IoT devices, which could change the nature of the doctor patient relationship and the way healthcare information is delivered.

Future of “anything as a service” 

For companies looking to launch an IoT “X as a service,” the programmability of MNaaS, via API integration, makes it easier to develop new applications and customer portals. So as an MVNO, you’re able to have improved visibility over your service in order to maintain control, enforce key business policies, and ensure system security. The result is far greater operational efficiency – as in the case of the car park operator or building manager - and faster speed to market. In other words, you end up fitter, leaner, and with a competitive edge.

The demand for companies to meet these expectations is only going to grow. A report by RnR Market Research indicates that global analysts expect the “anything as a service” trend to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 38 percent by 2020. The proliferation of the trend opens up a world of new opportunities for businesses to enhance their services and develop new commercial models to boost value for customers.

But to do this, businesses across industries must stay nimble and capitalise on the many opportunities becoming available thanks to the digital platform economy.

Tim Sherwood, Vice President, Business Development, Mobility & IoT Solutions at Tata Communications

Tim Sherwood

Tim Sherwood is the Vice President, Solutions & Technology Operations at Avaya. Prior to Avaya, he was the Vice-President, Mobility and IOT Solutions at Tata Communications. He is a creative problem solver with extensive experience in international telecoms business and market development. Tim is recognized as an expert and a leader, and his priority is to find winning strategies to align customer objectives with their capabilities to drive sustainable value and long-term partnerships. He has worked with customers and partners from all over the world within both small start-up groups and larger, distributed cross-functional teams.