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Turbocharging IoT with WiFi

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Where are we right now? What does the future hold?
As a number of research organisations are predicting, we will soon be finding ourselves amidst more than 50 billion connected devices by the end of the year 2020. This is a phenomenal figure and is being powered by a number of Internet of Things commonly known as IoT concepts around connecting multiple planes of devices, objects and getting the best from information-driven intelligence. In today’s scenario, the whole segment of IoT is quite real, we have a number of IoT driven deployments that are powering ideas and innovations around smart cities, smart homes and smart grid solutions. This is where it is getting interesting. As IoT becomes more and more seamlessly integrated into becoming the new normal – enabling connectivity for such a complex IoT ecosystem is perhaps a big challenge and this is exactly where WiFi is coming to the fore and can enable  Communication service providers (CSPs) to script a new age revolution in IoT. As a preferred and quite matured access technology, WiFi is increasingly becoming the first choice for a number of CSPs to connect IoT ecosystems and deliver resiliency connectivity at the hands of end-users.

Opportunities Unlimited, with Internet of Things. What are they?
IoT, is perhaps one of the little technological advancements that is touching upon the business as well as the consumer side of things striking a perfect equilibrium. At the same time, IoT is now pushing a lot of previously unexplored segments to test the boundaries of imagination and derive innovation for the end-user segment. Looking at this from really a big-picture perspective, IoT might actually redefine the global economy itself. Here are some of the scenarios where IoT play an even bigger role in the near future:

  • End users  will use smart home utilities and automotive applications to check, shield, and control their abode surroundings, to sustain their wellbeing, and to remain connected to home and work when on the go
  • Enterprises and small businesses alike will drive new efficiencies into their operations and develop entirely new business models enabled by IoT applications
  • IoT will also power e-Governance initiatives and governments will also be able to collect revenue and monitor mission-critical smart grid driven transit, public safety, and sanitation systems
  • Industrial and commercial manufacturing facilities will improve their efficiency through IoT apps, benefitting users across the globe through lowered prices and better and timely delivery of service
  • In the developing world, Internet of Things has the potential to raise standards of living by improving healthcare delivery and hygiene, improvise education, enabling quick adversity management, enhance connectivity and much more.

WiFi: Unlocking the potential with Internet of Things
With years of reliability, WiFi stands out as a preferred access technology that can ideally power seamless connectivity for various IoT ecosystems. Most importantly, WiFi is a mature technology and hence, it already has security, interoperability and authentication processes – hence with WiFi, the stakeholders do not need to reinvent much on the connectivity front. As more and more devices and things get connected, WiFi can become a single source cloud that can become the linking bridge to seamlessly integrate IoT ecosystems on a single platform and enable really low cost, resilient and secure connectivity. This could be a boon for communications service providers who are actually looking for triggering such IoT ecosystems for their subscribers.

Role of MNOs in Internet of Things (IoT)
When it comes to providing IoT driven connectivity for their business users as well as end customers, CSPs are right at the helm of this change as many of these services rely on networks they provide and WiFi is the first choice to connect such network of things. The following elements could become an integral part of an operator’s broad ‘menu’ of IoT capabilities:

  • Connectivity: an operator should provide connectivity, even if this connectivity is not using its own network. This will involve roaming agreements, fixed connectivity and may even involve taking connectivity from other wireless networks
  • Billing and Support: Telecom operators should provide transparent billing and support to their customers and also expand their envelope of offering by enabling their customers to create or modify their service of choice
  • Security: With IoT being communicating over the cloud, protecting privacy and delivering security becomes the prime focus. With Software Defined Networks (SDN) unified policy enforcement over WiFi can be made secure which CSPs can adapt to.
  • IoT Application Enablement: This is an active segment today as a number of CSPs are assessing application enablement and some of them already have offerings or have developed platforms internally. Essentially, this fits with the model of strengthening the platform – using the operator’s scale to provide a more complete solution
  • Hosting: Not only for supporting internal products but also for IT services for external clients, CSPs typically have environments suitable for hosting applications, including IoT/M2M applications
  • Professional Services: Once an operator has the IoT or M2M offering, there are a number of service-driven activities that can be managed around these IoT offerings. However, for CSPs with professional services, typically large operators with a strong enterprise focus (e.g. AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Orange Business Services), systems integration and even managed services could be included as part of the list of capabilities to be offered to potential IoT customers
  • Evolve with Ecosystem: IoT being an emerging segment, CSPs must treat it as an area for growth and help in creating and nurturing the overall ecosystem. Operators should partner with their potential Ecosystem partners and adopt a flexible approach in their go-to-market strategies to address the growing Internet of Things (IoT) opportunity

WiFi leading the IoT revolution
IoT is here now and not a distant future – and hence CSPs must seriously look at having a IoT strategy. WiFi is a preferred technology that can enable the connectivity with IoT universe for operators With IoT, operators can easily look at giving a whole new meaning to innovation – and start launching concepts such as ‘IoT in a box’, cloud-based connectivity solutions, play a critical role in a number of smart cities, smart home concepts No single strategy emerges as the best method for addressing the growing IoT opportunity, and we recommend that operators and their potential partners adopt a flexible approach to their go-to-market strategies along with reusing existing network infrastructure and backend ecosystem platform over WiFi.  

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is IoT?

IoT or Internet of Things refers to a network of physical devices (embedded with intelligence and technologies) connected to the internet to share and collect information. The term Internet of Things was first coined by British technology pioneer Kevin Aston in 1999. The rise to IoT has been mainlyImagee to the following reasons: access to low-cost, low-power sensor technology; ubiquitous connectivity, Cloud computing platforms, Machine learning & analytics, and Conversational artificial intelligence (AI).

In a typical IoT environment, data is collected via smart sensors (like GPS, Accelerometer, Camera, temperature sensor, etc.), i.e., it could be as simple as taking temperature data from the surrounding. Next, the data is sent to the cloud. The sensors could be connected to the cloud via Satellite/ WiFi/ Bluetooth/ Cellular/Ethernet. As the data reaches the cloud, it undergoes data processing and analytics. Once the data is aligned to the specific use case, it can be sent to the user device of choice, laptop/computer via email/text/notification, etc. When IoT devices talk to each other, they can use various standards and protocols, for example, WiFi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, Message Queuing Telemetry Transport (MQTT), etc.

With the potential of converting any physical device into an IoT-powered device and negate the need for human intervention, the technology is set to transform across every possible sector. The major industries that will benefit from IoT will be:

a) Manufacturing (Quality Control, Predictive Maintenance, Smart Packaging, etc.

b) Automotive (Fleet & Driver Management, Real-Time Vehicle Telematics, IoT based Predictive, In-vehicle Infotainment maintenance, etc.)

c) Transporation and Logistics (Inventory tracking and warehousing, Location management systems, Drone-based delivery, etc.)

d) Retail (Automated Checkout, In-store Layout Optimization, Robot Employees, etc.)

e) Finance (Auto Insurance, IoT enabled Smart Payment Contracts, Account Management)

f) Healthcare (Remote patient monitoring, robotic surgeries, Ingestible sensors, etc.)

g) Public Sector ( Infrastructure management, Disaster management, Law enforcement)

2. What is WiFi?

Put simply, WiFi is a technology that uses radio waves to create a wireless network through which devices like mobile phones, computers, printers, etc., connect to the internet. A wireless router is needed to establish a WiFi hotspot that people in its vicinity may use to access internet services. You’re sure to have encountered such a WiFi hotspot in houses, offices, restaurants, etc.

To get a little more technical, WiFi works by enabling a Wireless Local Area Network or WLAN that allows devices connected to it to exchange signals with the internet via a router. The frequencies of these signals are either 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz bandwidths. These frequencies are much higher than those transmitted to or by radios, mobile phones, and televisions since WiFi signals need to carry significantly higher amounts of data. The networking standards are variants of 802.11, of which there are several (802.11a, 802.11b, 801.11g, etc.).

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