The Internet of Things may be in its infancy at present, but that is about to change – in a big way
It’s a term that has been thrown around for a few years and one that appears to be featuring more prominently now as more devices become connected.
The Internet of Things – or IoT as it is more commonly referred to – is expected to explode in the next few years with opportunities for the mobile industry anticipated to be plentiful.
In 2016 Gartner predicted that there will be 20 billion connected “things” by 2020, but a revised figure now estimates 25.1 billion by 2021.
Iris IoT Solutions managing director Stephen Westley has said the mobile industry hasn’t been this “excited” about a change in the market for more than a decade.
“We’ve not seen the mobile industry so excited about a change in the market since the launch of the iPhone. There is so much interest surrounding IoT,” said Westley.
But just how much potential has IoT got in the mobile space? Or this three letter term just a lot of hype?
According to Gartner and Machina research it is estimated that in 2018 the UK IoT industry is worth £42.19 million in revenue, expected to rise to £69.53 million by 2023.
The same statistics revealed that in 2018 there is an estimated 272.6 million connected devices in the UK with numbers set to more than double by 2023 to a staggering 625 million.
According to Gartner research director Emil Berthelsen the ever-growing functions of the mobile phone mean opportunities for IoT in this space are “huge”.
“Mobile phones are no longer just phones. In an IoT context they can be seen as a data hub that can carry so many functionalities.
“The mobile device has essentially become an interface for the Internet of Things and there are huge opportunities to enhance the usage of the mobile phone as a dashboard and controller of IoT devices and solutions.”
SVP Martin Garner agrees, but believes it could be some time before the potential of IoT is realised.
Garner said: “We agree the rise of IoT will have profound effects in the way we design and operate machinery of all types.
“As with previous fundamental changes, such as the national electricity grid, we can foresee a lot of what will come, but it will take many years before we know the full extent of the impact.”
Garner sees the industrial sector of IoT as the early benefactors of IoT.
“Industrial uses of IoT will be the early leaders in terms of the size of the market opportunity.
“All sectors have interesting potential for IoT but the early growth is coming from retail, automotive, transportation, manufacturing, energy and utilities.”
IoT appears to be most active in the form of smart homes and wearables currently but not so much in the mobile phone industry.
The most common consumer introduction to IoT is arguably through the smart home and has been something the bigger players such as Google, Amazon, Apple and Samsung has spent massively on in recent times.
Google was one of the first manufacturers to get involved with the smart home when it acquired smart thermostat maker Nest Labs for £2.46 billion in 2014 and it has since launched its own Android-based IoT platform named Brillo.
Amazon has had ground breaking success in this space with Alexa, a virtual assistant smart speaker that responds with actions when spoken to. It is now a household name for many people, such is its significance.
Garner believes the bigger players’ presence in IoT is already big and will only get bigger.
“All of the big brand players have a strong presence in IoT. Apple’s efforts are so far confined to smart home, but the other bigger players are covering a number of market areas with devices and cloud services.
“IoT is a big new opportunity for all of them, as underlined by Microsoft’s recent commitment to invest a further £3.87 billion over four years in research and development in IoT.”
IoT is expected to take off in the next few years and with it likely to be worth trillions globally, it appears to be at its early stages in the UK for now.
Westley feels that IoT is in its “infancy” currently, with people not yet realising how important it will become in the near future.
“At the moment it is currently in its infancy stage and a lot of people aren’t aware of IoT and its importance. It’s about building a relationship proving that the system works.”
Speaking to Mobile News, Westley said Iris is still looking at its options in IoT but feels the opportunities for resellers is plentiful.
“From a reseller point of view there are so many ways they can monetise IoT – the device, hardware, airtime, the cloud and visualisation of the data.
“The savings on IoT for customers is a no brainer with regard to return on investment. While IoT is expensive, the return on investment is quick.”
PMGC digital marketing manager Alan Man also thinks IoT is only just coming to the fore in the UK.
“People have realised there is a massive need for their devices to be connected. It’s still in it’s early infancy stage but there’s a lot of things that are happening that consumers don’t realise as much.”
Garner also agrees that the UK is in its early stages of IoT: “We are in the very early days of the market, and the impact in all countries is so far limited. The UK has many companies pursuing this opportunity and some very good projects in use. But there is a long way to go.”
One aspect of IoT that could play a huge part in how progressive mobiles are connected in the UK, is in the form of Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) network.
NB-IoT is a new low power wide area (LPWA) network that has been specifically designed for IoT and is essentially designed for connecting devices with low bandwidth requirements while providing wider area coverage.
The notion of NB-IoT is something that excites Westley, who feels the mobile industry is waiting for it to be rolled out along with 5G.
“From a mobile perspective, it is all very exciting. The mobile phone network has plateaued recently, – we’re all waiting for 5G and NB-IoT.
“Narrowband will be the real game changer though and although the UK is a bit behind combined to other countries in Europe, all the partners are pushing hard and can’t wait for it.”
However, Man believes the rollout of 5G will play just as significant role in IoT as NB-IoT. “A lot hinges on the mobile networks and how strong they will be when 5G comes into place. There will be a need for a high capacity speed low latency band that 5G provides. The 5G launch will drive IoT growth.”
Doro VP for Smart care and services Jorgen Alsing argues that NB-IoT is a “no brainer” because of the scale it can bring with it.
“Narrowband is a no brainer because of its scale, and scale is absolutely critical for success. It is backed by all the big operators and manufacturers and as soon as the standard is set there will be vast amounts of funds being invested into these networks.”
Leading the way
In terms of the mobile operators, Vodafone is leading the way with its focus on IoT and has delivered a range of products in this space.
Vodafone is the global leader in managed IoT and had 59.1 million IoT SIMS connected worldwide, according to 2017 figures.
The operator’s drive into IoT continued last year when it signed a five year agreement with Onecom to develop, launch and manage IoT services for UK businesses.
More recently, in November 2017 it announced the ‘V by Vodafone’ range, aimed at bringing IoT to consumers.
At the time Vodafone Group chief executive Vittorio Colao said: “V by Vodafone” makes it simple to connect a wide range of IoT-enabled devices, helping customers keep everyone and everything that matters to them safe and secure.
“We look forward to applying our expertise in IoT to help consumers make the most of the next phase of the global digital revolution.”
Products that Vodafone has introduced include wearables for children through the V-Kids watch and for seniors with the V-SOS band as well as the V-Home which acts a host for a range of smart home devices.
PMGC is a partner of Vodafone and Man says the operator’s investment in IoT means there are opportunities for the reseller.
“For us as a connectivity reseller there is potential as there’s going to be more devices going into the market that might need a SIM that needs to be connected. These are a couple of areas we see a big advantage for us to tap into.”
Iris also work with Vodafone, which provides an opportunity for the future but will be better once the operator rolls out its NB-IoT network.
Westley said: “IoT is fairly new even to the operators and when we see the NB-IoT network rolled out by Vodafone you’ll start seeing some success.
“Vodafone is active around IoT with its partners and we work closely with it.”
Pangea offers airtime on 650 networks worldwide, including the four main operators in the UK – EE, O2, Three and Vodafone – and provides global IoT solutions.
Pangea managing director Dan Cunliffe says that 2018 is going to be a significant year in the IoT space.
“2018 will be a significant year as IoT numbers will outnumber the world’s population this year for the first time.”
In May 2016 Pangea launched its own IoT programme and has seen the number of partners grow beyond expectations since then.
Pangea currently has 135 partners and after reaching the 100 milestone before the end of 2017, is targeting 150 by the end of this year.
“We have grown the partner channel again in 2018 and are on target to reach 150 partners within the next few months.”
“The key to this success is that we are
an IoT solutions provider at the core and take the time and the concerted effort to help partners do more with their existing base.”
Cunliffe says Pangea has enjoyed success across numerous sectors and has dealings with mobile partners.
“We have helped our mobile-centric partners bridge the ever existing gap of margin dilution through IoT connectivity and solutions within their existing base.
“We now have more than 135 partners and continue to help them win more businesses, often at higher average revenue per user (ARPU) than a typical mobile
One particular market within IoT has been the offering in services for elderly care and with Vodafone showing there are opportunities through the V range there is also a chance for mobile manufacturers.
Doro specialise in making phones designed for older consumers and has
made acquisitions to strengthen its IoT offering.
In 2014 Doro completed the £20 million acquisition of Care Tech, a digital care solutions and services provider.
More recently, Doro acquired UK-based telecare company Welbeing for £11 million with the long term ambition of increasing its services business.
Doro VP of smart care and services Jorgen Alsing told Mobile News there will be a big focus on IoT technology.
“We firmly believe that there will be a huge market for this which is why we our reserving a big part of our research and development budget for it.”
Alsing added: “We are concentrating on the service and the software and on alarm-receiving sensors and have made the acquisition of Welbeing to drive this.”
While the opportunities are there for Doro, Alsing says Doro hasn’t launched any products just yet but is planning to launch next year.
“It hasn’t taken off just yet. We have not launched our first product but will do so in early 2019. The interest we can see from mobile operators is absolutely huge and this is an area we want to be
“We expect this to be a substantial part of our future revenue. We don’t have any revenue from IoT today.”
With the figure expected to reach 20 billion connected things by 2020, it is difficult to gauge how likely this prediction is to come true, with some saying it can be easily achieved and others more cautious.
Westley argues that the figures are “conservative” if anything and there is every chance it is possible.
“It is possible, and I believe those figures to be among the more conservative estimates. Consumer businesses think it will reach £2.3 trillion. It’s going to be exciting for everyone in mobile.”
Man agrees: “I believe that to be possible, with the speed at which devices are being introduced into the market today, I would expect that figure to be reached. There are lots of industries embracing IoT.”
Berthelsen however argues it has slowed down and that the growth might not be as progressive as originally predicted.
Berthelsen said: “It has slowed down slightly, it doesn’t seem to be as progressive as originally forecasted.
“The feeling was that the consumer side was going to take off and be the big driver of IoT and that everyone would be wearing the wearables and owning Smart TVs. In actual fact, it has been the industrial side that has picked up IoT more.”
Cunliffe does believe the estimate can be achieved, but certain factors, such as the communication layer within the devices, needs to be overcome.
“The challenge to IoT having the billions of connected devices is in the communication layer as several issues arise when you have devices that don’t speak a common language in trying to communicate and drive efficiencies.”
The growth will come, though, according to Cunliffe, once the challenges are overcome.
“Its a fascinating market with endless opportunity. Once we solve some of these challenges the burst of devices will be evident.”