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IoT: When a connected device is not enough

In the new world of the Internet of Things (IoT), legacy telecoms is converging with new technology to deliver a staggering vision of our future.

According to Gartner, 5.5 million new things are being connected to the internet every day, and the total number will move from 6.4 billion this year to 20.8 billion by 2020.

That is three times more connected devices than there are people on the planet.

With the IoT world in such ferment, it’s interesting to see which technology players are pitching to play in this space.

There is gold rush of start-ups, of course, several generations beyond Splunk, and technology magazines are two or three years into publishing their lists of “this year’s ten hottest IoT startups.”

In the telecoms space, the IoT presents as significant – and potentially game-changing – opportunity to operators if they can get it right.

After all, they will be the ones to provide the connectivity, so once again their challenge is to find new ways of monetising their offerings, without being gazumped by OTT players as so many of them have already in other areas.

In this context, it was interesting to see chip maker and data security provider Gemalto taking a very prominent stand at the 5G conference in Singapore last week.

Most of us know Gemalto as a maker of chips for various kinds of cards, but it has made a number of interesting acquisitions over the last couple of years, foremost among them US data security company SafeNet.

After acquiring SafeNet in the back end of 2014, Gemalto has bedded down the acquisition and is now positioning itself in the market not just as a provider of security solutions around the IoT, but delivering monitoring and data-based performance management around the devices.

The Gemalto pitch is this: connectivity isn’t enough for IoT connected devices, their performance needs to be managed and needs to be secure, and this means a position between the device itself and the cloud.

So the idea is to go beyond basic connectivity and create a platform layer where IoT devices can be securely managed, data can be collected and mined, and Key Performance Indicators across a range of areas can be created, monitored and delivered to Service Level Agreements.

The IoT, the theory goes, is a wasted opportunity without effectively harnessing Big Data.

Right now, operators are largely blind to the idea that they can do any more to provide connectivity to a device, but beyond that there is a whole breadth of new use cases and monetisation opportunities which the IoT will bring.

Gemalto’s business plan is to be a vendor to pro-active 5G operators who understand that if connectivity is all they offer, then they will likely lose the customer or a part of their IoT spend.

The shape of the 5G world and the realm of IoT are still unformed. Telco operators have emerged bruised and challenged from the disruption of the OTT players, and need to move quickly to make sure they can grab a profitable slice of this next wave of transformation.

I’m sure I’ll see many other companies, with the same kind of heritage as Gemalto, at future telecoms events as they seek to get this message across to the operators.