Challenges presented in the IoT space

The IoT (Internet of Things) space is exploding today, with everyone looking to grab a piece of the action- however the challenge is that so far there are very few standards agreed and very little agreement on who is doing what, and how this is being monetised!

In the traditional model we had a network on the one hand, and then service or content on the other, perhaps a SI or ISV included also, and business models typically ended up involving some sort of rev split; but with new devices coming on board and new data being gathered, it is not always clear who should be charging for what!  Everyone from chip maker , through CSP , platform provider, content provider and Analytics provider  are jostling to get the most of the pie as possible.  This means the challenge is ensuring that you are maximising the potential economics of this new ecosystem. An example is the role a Carrier plays in the connected car space: currently the Carrier is providing connectivity, which is fine, but this certainly is not all that the carrier could be involved in. Carriers already have much content that could be very relevant to the consumer while in the vehicle, this can be offered to consumer as a service. For example streaming music in the carrier cloud, or better still by advising distances between the car and contacts in a contact list stored by the carrier on a NAB.  Monetisation can go further than this ; all the data collected through this connectivity, even anonymised meta data such as location, time of day, speed etc, can potentially  be added to the carrier’s own meta data on the customer, then analysed and sold to relevant parties- marketers, insurance companies etc.

A key point here is whether this Big Data will really be targeted to individuals or instead be anonymised data. I suspect the former will end up not being realistic as it will require active opt-in from mass consumers. However the anonymised data that could be used , especially when combined with the Carriers’ own network’s Big Data  – could certainly prove to be very valuable.

Aggregator Consumer Clouds – could Carriers do an OTT play on the OTT players?

As the big players in Consumer Cloud offers offer greater and greater storage, the barrier to entry for a new player becomes increasing high. This means not only significant investment in setting up a white label solution, but substantial investment in storage costs also.  Furthermore, most users today seem to have multiple cloud accounts.

But what if the carrier does an OTT play on the OTT players themselves: offer an aggregated solution where the consumer can add all their individual accounts, but have them all centrally managed and curated by the aggregating service. This means a reduced cost for the carrier, while delivering substantial stickiness. Of course the challenge is to identify what Value Add/ Curation services could be offered….. think what EverPix were trying to do.

This concept is not of course limited to a B2B2C offer, it could be pitched equally as a D2C offer, but I think this could be an additional market for the service

Can Carriers make money on their own Personal Cloud offers?

One of the biggest challenges for carriers in Europe today is how to position themselves in the Consumer Cloud space. Some carriers have actually built their own solution internally, others have used white label providers such as Funambol or Synchronoss Technologies, others still have shied away from an “own brand”  solution and seem to be happy to partner with an OTT player ( DropBox, Sugar Sync, PogoPlug etc)

When talking to carriers, the question that is asked most frequently  is how can the carrier generate a decent line of revenue if they invest in a Personal Cloud solution, either by building it themselves, or by using 3rd parties.

In Europe the main lever to generating income to date has been to convince the user to purchase a premium bundle, typically with more storage capacity, and perhaps additional services. The fact of the matter is that today, with the very high percentage of consumers using only the Free component within a Cloud offering , it is pretty hard to see how a carrier can make money off the Premium offering alone. However this is not the only way to measure the ROI of a Consumer Cloud  investment.

Data Usage: in almost every market there is still an incentive to encourage customers to consume more data, a cloud is a great way to do this. controlling that cloud enables to carrier to be creative on what is charged for and when: for example the carrier can decide not to charge for uploads ( or make it inclusive within a premium offer) or do so if the data useage is off peak

Churn Reduction: this is probably the biggest single advantage to have your ” own” cloud; if the customer moves to another carrier they will have to move all their cloud content, this is a hassle and results in a reduction in churn rates.

Insight / Big Data: Again, if the carrier actually controls the data rather than just partnering with a OTT player, they will over time, be able to gain valuable insights into their customer behaviour. indeed this can be monetised even further by combining Big Data learning with the Carriers own content portfolio, to cross sell content to the customer

And of course there is the fact that the Carrier extends their relationship with the customer, they continue to own the customer.

All of this come at a price however, and for the near future, we can expect many carriers will continue to avoid investing heavily in this space.