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5G rises to the IoT challenge

Connected machines call for a different kind of network

Digital transformation is now a C-level discussion, Travers said.
Digital transformation is now a C-level discussion, Travers said.

How to monetise the many 5G use cases is at the heart of many discussions at the ongoing Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.  

Jeff Travers, VP for internet of things at Ericsson, said the massive amounts of data, or data lakes, generated by connected devices are a potentially lucrative revenue opportunity for operators. However, operators face limitations in their billing systems which, although sophisticated, were built for billing consumers not connected machines, Travers observed.

Ericssons IoT accelerator can help. The IoT accelerator marketplace has a monetisation service designed for partner settlements. The platform has attracted a lot of interest from operators, Travers said.

As the first connectivity technology not built for consumers, 5G calls for a new connectivity paradigm, Travers observed. Consumers mainly demand faster connectivity for their smartphones. For industry however, issues like latency or deterministic predictability take prominence. And this what 5G is capable of, said Travers.

Connecting machines in industrial settings requires very dense connectivity, and the network needs to be prepared for high coverage inside a factory, Travers said. Additionally, these products also require global connectivity. People generally stay within a country, but a product will be shipped all over the world. Producers of connected devices are therefore thinking of how they can get global operator connectivity, Travers observed. Ericssons Device Connection Platform (DCP), is a global connectivity management platform to help these companies look at the world like it is one, Travers added. 

The DCP connectivity management platform is being used by over 2000 enterprises and can offer visibility and manageability for everything from connected elevators to connected logical equipment to smart maters, and more, Travers said.

In the Middle East region, smart city applications are an attractive IoT use case for Ericsson, Travers said.  An example of this is connecting traffic systems. Traffic lights may be connected out of the box, but different manufactures use different languages. We are trying to bring all these systems together to a common platform. Dallas in the US is a good example, where we are working to combine all the traffic systems into one data lake, Travers said.

Legacy equipment presents a connectivity challenge. New devices have native connectivity; for legacy equipment, their data is the only thing you can connect, and not the devices themselves, or their communication, Travers said. 

Cyber security is typically not on top of the agenda when companies are experimenting with IoT devices, Travers observed. However, when these organisations want to scale globally and industrialise, their systems become mission critical and ensure they can connect securely is crucial.

Identity management of devices is a perfect model for securing IoT devices, Travers said. On a smartphone, consumers can easily identify themselves with a password or code. But a 'dumb' device in the field has no mechanism of identifying itself. A public key encryption is a standard technique to enable this communication and this is what we advise companies to use when a device is talking to the network, Travers explained.

Digital transformation has now become a C-level discussion, Travers said. How industries transform themselves digitally is in prototype mode today, but I think by 2019 will see almost every major industrial company deliver a connected product, Travers added.