Technicolor’s Alan Mottram Offers Perspectives on The Role of NSPs in the Era of IoT

18 October 2017

Alan Mottram - Technicolor

Alan Mottram – Technicolor

  • Worldwide spending on the Internet of Things (IoT) reached $737 billion in 2016 as organizations invested in the hardware, software, services, and connectivity that enable devices to use internet communications technology and the cloud to interact with each other. According to International Data Corporation (IDC), things are only just getting started. Analysts expect global IoT spending to experience a compound annual growth rate of 15.6 percent between now and the end of the decade, to account for a whopping $1.29 trillion in annual spending by 2020.
  • With IDC and other analysts forecasting such dramatic and sustained growth, we caught up with Alan Mottram, Senior Vice President of Strategy and Business Development with Technicolor’s Connected Home Division. He provided his take on what IoT means for the network service providers (NSPs) around the world who will – in one way or another – carry much of the traffic that is generated by devices that are talking to each other using the internet protocol (IP).
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Alan Mottram - Technicolor

Alan Mottram – Technicolor

  • Worldwide spending on the Internet of Things (IoT) reached $737 billion in 2016 as organizations invested in the hardware, software, services, and connectivity that enable devices to use internet communications technology and the cloud to interact with each other. According to International Data Corporation (IDC), things are only just getting started. Analysts expect global IoT spending to experience a compound annual growth rate of 15.6 percent between now and the end of the decade, to account for a whopping $1.29 trillion in annual spending by 2020.
  • With IDC and other analysts forecasting such dramatic and sustained growth, we caught up with Alan Mottram, Senior Vice President of Strategy and Business Development with Technicolor’s Connected Home Division. He provided his take on what IoT means for the network service providers (NSPs) around the world who will – in one way or another – carry much of the traffic that is generated by devices that are talking to each other using the internet protocol (IP).

What is your view on the future of IoT in the Connected Home environment? What opportunities does this create for NSPs?

Mottram: I believe the future for IoT is promising. In the next few years the number of devices shipped that can be connected to the internet will exceed the number of mobile devices being shipped today. That number, in fact, will increase by a factor of close to 10x by the end of the decade.

Think about it.

What is going to happen when many of those devices start to “chatter” to each other?

What yet-to-be-imagined innovations, applications and services are going to emerge?

Here, I believe, NSPs have a vital role to play, right across many of these innovations.

I know that, for some, IoT has had a bit of a checkered history. A sort of a story of “maybe” or a “promise not quite kept.” We all have views on why we are not there yet. I know we talk about lack of standards and interoperability – and lots of other technical reasons too. I don’t dismiss those…but the issues we have had technically are not really the point.

The first rule of marketing is to create and/or satisfy a demand. The real issue, in my view is that nobody wants to pay for something they do not understand – or even more importantly – do not value. That’s been the challenge with IoT. Not that many people really understand IoT. Especially consumers. IoT, after all, does not come by the kilo.

But lately a couple of things have changed that, I think, are important and lay the foundation for the future of IoT and the NSP community.

I used the word “chatter” a moment ago. I somehow meant it. Because lately, we have discovered that voice is a great interface. Talking to things is getting closer to being like talking with your partner or your kids. It is more natural.

Take Amazon Echo – a cool device – as an example. There will be around 17 million of these products shipped by the end of the year. Echo is an IoT device and people want it. Why? Because it’s easy to use and it is useful. Ordering my Walmart groceries is an IoT experience and I – like many people – want it. And that same device now supports more than twelve thousand use cases…and many of those use cases are making people money.

So in my view, voice interaction is a real game changer that has implications for IoT.

That’s why we at Technicolor are working with Amazon to make our NSP products voice capable. It is just one of the ways that we can help bring our NSP clients right into the IoT game.

Beyond this, other things need to happen.

Our business, like all businesses, is part of an “ecosystem” – a set of relationships that ties all the contributors who work together to create and deliver value.

In IoT, so far, we have not been able consistently to connect the dots to create viable ecosystems that reward all of the key players in the value-chain. Part of the challenge goes back to being able to show value to the consumer. Another important issue, however, revolves around how we can properly recognize and reward those who can contribute to a success.

So, what’s new?

Some people in the technology sector will remember the notion of microservices. This was an offshoot of the Services Oriented Architecture (SOA) that altered the traditional approach to creating software solutions. Instead of writing one big package to solve a large problem, microservices architectures developed applications that were made up of a suite of small services, each running in its own process and communicating with lightweight mechanisms, such as an HTTP resource API.

Now, each microservice, by itself, may be of little individual value. However, what has been shown is that, when combined, these microservices can be really useful and address immense problem statements.

IoT is a bit like that. In my view, success in this field will come through many services being created to attract consumers. And this is something that the NSP community has to truly appreciate as they develop their IoT strategies.

I believe that it is very unlikely that we will see a single killer application that will ignite the IoT fuse. Instead, I think the process will be rapid – but organic.

From our point of view, the future of IoT lies in the cloud and how it interacts with edge computing – with customer premises equipment (CPE). At Technicolor, we are working on technologies that bring the power of the cloud into the home, and by doing this, allow for innovation and services to be created that can run as effectively remotely in the cloud as it can locally in the home.

Again, if you take Amazon as an example, we are working together on developing new cloud solutions, and by using the language of the cloud, open the door to tens of thousands of developers who can now create services that operate as comfortably in the home as they can in the cloud.

As a result of this, we will be able to create services that can execute locally when necessary and convenient, and avoid unnecessary cloud interactions – which improves the cost, performance as well as the privacy and security picture.

This is much different than the status quo. But I do believe that the traditional – rather closed – service provider ecosystem is being dismantled.

It’s this combination of a new way to control services and a new open way to develop new value that gives me confidence in IoT and in the key role that our NSP customers can play.

To what extent have concerns about privacy held back the uptake of deployment in consumers’ homes? Have we seen any new consumer, governmental or regulatory trends around this issue?

Mottram: Privacy – or more properly – a lack of privacy is a massive talking point. Hardly a day goes by without seeing some headline about compromising photographs or about the leakage of personal data. That is an important issue. We also see real concerns that somehow all this sharing of data about ourselves needs to be better controlled.

Without addressing this effectively, we can see that the Internet – and by extension –IoT – is getting tarnished.

For me, honestly, it’s about trust. There is a well understood and successful business model that has arisen around the notion that “I will share with you – but only if I trust you.”

In too many places, that trust is in danger of being broken across the board. And this is great cause of concern for the NSP community, because, by and large, consumers have tended to trust their communication service providers. When trust is broken, it needs to be re-earned. That always takes time.

Some regions are taking a more proactive role than others to try to get in front of this trust, security and privacy issue. Europe has gone furthest so far, and the rest of the world is looking on to see how that goes.

You may have heard that the European Union is implementing strict new rules as of May 2018. These rules are known as the General Data Protection Regulation – or GDPR.

GDPR is a pretty big deal. It places on companies that use and store personal data strict duties of care on how data is treated. It is important to note that, with GDPR, it does not matter where your company is based. If you have a business relationship in Europe, you are covered.

When all comes to all, the goal of these provisions is to get that trust back by creating an environment in which consumers can “switch on or switch off” whether personal data is shared…and to do it on their own terms.

It is a bit like closing the front door of your apartment and being left undisturbed.

So what else can be done to address these concerns?

Mottram: Regulation goes a long way. It’s a beginning but more can always be done. Regulation, actually, is often a place of last resort.

It is probably a better idea, to improve how the IoT ecosystem – including NSPs — engages with consumers.

In Europe, and other places, the privacy mode is now in some ways the “default setting.” And maybe, that’s how it should be.

But, if I keep my apartment closed all the time, I may be missing out on things that I could enjoy or consider valuable. Maybe, there are ways that I can share data and get something of value in return without seriously compromising my privacy or security.

So we believe that it is going to be necessary to responsibly engage with consumers as we create the ecosystems I talked about. That sounds a bit philosophical, I know – but essentially it is a bit like that.

As you can imagine, we at Technicolor do use our technology to make a difference. I believe CPE is, in some ways, an important gatekeeper in this equation. It may be an ideal place to control what enters and exits the home, from a data management perspective.

It’s no coincidence we call some of our products “gateways.”

Of course, we are implementing in all our relevant offerings the measures that need to be taken to be GDPR compliant.

But we are also implementing techniques that, for example, can secure and process data locally. This way, data that is needed at home to enable a service or application, but that does not have to be sent to the network or shared with others, can be controlled by consumers – unless they give permission for broader dissemination.

We call our approach to this the Technicolor Edge – a place for local processing and security and where users can determine how the cloud and the home network interact, so that this is done in a way that makes sense. We are working closely with Amazon’s Greengrass solution on just this issue.

The objective for us is to deliver a powerful IoT Hub that provides trusted services and applications to consumers.

EDITOR’S NOTE:

To download Technicolor’s executive report, entitled “The Customer Experience. Redefined.”, click here.

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