Summary of the Mobility Tech Conference & Expo 2012

Mobility Tech is part of about 14 conferences that run in parallel, covering topics such as: ITExpo (Internet Telephony), MSP (Managed Service Provider) World, HTML5 Summit, VideoWorld, StartupCamp, LatinCom, Cloud4SMB, Cloud Communications and M2M Evolution.  So there a lot going on at the same time.  I ran a panel in Mobility Tech on service innovation, a panel in the HTML5 Summit on WebRTC, and was a judge on the pre-conference Battle of the M2M Platforms.

The winners of the M2M Platform Battle were:

  • Overall Winner was Digi with a broad range of embedded systems covering WiFi, Mobile, Zigbee, Ethernet, and satellite.  With a web-centric developer environment using RESTful APIs and specific APIs for mobile, monitoring, energy, and device management applications. Their solution connects these embedded systems to their cloud service, which processes 2.2k transactions per second from 2 million devices.  Their ROI analysis (a gap in several of the presentations) showed the payback was less than four months, with revenue growth of $15M from a $5M investment.  The summary slides at the end of this article shows their business case.
  • Platform for Enterprise Deployment – Senseaware (FedEx) and Eurotech.  Senseaware was the only medical platform implementation, demonstrating the application to pharmaceuticals and cold chain, the case study focused on transporting bone marrow and how M2M was utilized to save a life.  The summary slides explains more about their device and capabilities, which is available for a monthly flat fee of about $70 per device. From saving lives we also got the benefit of the practical experience of managing vending machines from Eurotech. Eurotech provided a real hands on demo of a reverse vending machine solution (empty can and bottle return) that gave us insight into how their customer used their M2M to improve operations through remote updates to the software for new cans and bottle.
  • Platform for best Business Intelligence Controls Solutions – On Asset demonstrated how to combine internal M2M data and external web resources such as weather, traffic reports, crime statistics for better business intelligence. On Asset’s solutions help companies develop strategies, devise contingency/disaster recovery plans and implement crisis management, with a slick easy to use graphical interface.
  • Platform for Service Providers – KORE’s solutions illustrated how service providers could show a global presence by affiliating themselves with KORE’s platform solution. KORE’s platform gives service providers the ability to seamlessly integrate with their own network controls down to each individual embedded component. KORE’s solution removes the complexity from these implementations and allows service providers to focus on managing their customers’ needs.
  • Enabling Independent Application Developer – RFM’s case study demonstrated clear ROI while also solving enterprise sensor solutions in a way that is addressable by developer, integrator or the customer.

Through the M2M conference the presenters were in two groups, those talking about tens or hundreds of billions of M2M devices, mashed up with current hype phrases like Cloud and Big Data, and generally including any computing or communications device as an M2M terminal.  And those talking about very practical issues in for example warehouse security to minimize trailer theft, cargo being worth $200k+, and positioning M2M as part of the solution combined with a number of processes and the right types of trailer locks.

I think James Brehm from Compass Intelligence had the most balanced view on the opportunity, see summary slides at the end of this article.  He focused on specific M2M opportunities, the margin challenge, where the revenue really comes from, and the simple fact M2M has not yet reached its peak of inflated expecations.  Frost and Sullivan also gave a more metered view on the cellular M2M opportunity, showing 75-80M connections by 2018, versus slightly under 40M in 2012, with transportation being the largest segment, James’ view was slightly higher, driven by transportation and logistics which I think is possible given FedEx’s SanseAware offer, again reviewed in the slide deck.

The key message is the revenue is in the solution (60-80% revenue) not the transport (<10%).  Hence why we’ve seen Verizon buying Hughes Telematics to deliver M2M solutions within an existing business.  This is a great example of the ICT (Information and Communications Technology) trend I’ve discussed previously on this weblog, where operators must move into delivering ICT solutions to enterprise, else focus on being an ISP.  My view is we’re moving into an industrial revolution in M2M, with a focus on simplification and standardization, from today’s highly customized solution (large cottage industry), as shown in the AT&T presentation in the summary slides.  However, is not clear telcos will win, as discussed in the M2M presentation I gave at the SDP Global Summit last year, operators are going to need to acquire companies to bring in the vertical knowledge to effectively compete.

In the HTML5 Summit I ran a panel with Alan Johnston (Avaya, and author of “WebRTC, APIs and RTCWEB Protocols of the HTML5 Real-Time Web) and Anatoli Levine (Radvision, now Avaya) on WebRTC.  For me the biggest learning is in a room packed with HTML5 developers most had not heard of WebRTC, lots of education is required, though I’m sure Google will help with that.
Some of the topics discussed include:

  • The challenge in achieving a consistent experience across all the different platforms especially in mobile.  There is a lack of traditional testing we see in enterprise space.  Given most of the applications that use WebRTC are looking at free or ad-supported models there a lack of willingness to pay.  Perhaps the device manufacturers will pay once it becomes experience effecting for their customers, but we’re a long way from that situation.
  • A comment raised by some is the user interface will be different in making a call depending on the website, but we surf web pages OK, common styles will likely emerge, as well as innovation to explore new ways of making calls can works.
  • Discussion how WebRTC could limit the role of OTT communication services, as anyone can choose a website from which to be contacted.  For example, I could use the website or any other service provider.  So calling someone just becomes entering a URL.  However, the contact list is powerful as it included context and history of communications.  So my view is WebRTC expands the devices for OTT providers, rather than downloading an app simply go to the Viber site to see the context of your contact list and history of communications.
  • Identity, we should not underestimate the importance of the phone number, its unique, accessible globally, always with you, always on, and its transferable between service providers (an email or FB login is not).  But operators have been unwilling to open up this identity with enum so it remains an untapped asset.
  • A comment made was we heard it all before with VoIP, will WebRTC repeat the same?  It’s not clear, but opening communications to the web-development community will create a wave of innovation we’ve not witnessed before in the history of telecoms.

In the post-panel discussions it was exciting to talk with developers as they began to understand the simplicity with which WebRTC can be used and started to think about applications in their current projects as well as brainstorming new ideas.  The millions of web developers in the world are going to have a fun time playing with WebRTC in ways we could not possibly imagine.

At Mobility Tech I ran a panel with Verizon, AT&T, Ericsson and a real live developer recently wrangled from the wild to take part in a frank and open discussion on the future of Service Innovation at 11 AM.  The panelists include:

  • Harrison Duong, Technology, Verizon
  • Ivelin Ivanov, Founder Mobicents
  • Glenn Laxdal, Vice President of Technology & Advanced Solutions Ericsson North America
  • Alan Quayle
  • Mark Wuthnow, AT&T

Delivering service innovation includes a huge ecosystem: enterprise, web, IT, media, telecom operators and suppliers. The panel took the discussion up a level from apps stores, APIs, and OTT; to a broader based and more thoughtful discussion on new business opportunities in bringing a diverse set of thinkers together.

It’s was an refreshingly open and frank discussion on the challenges the ecosystem faces, the mistakes that have been made in chasing long tail developers, focus on APIs rather than the services they enabled, ignoring the importance of go-to-market, organizations ill-suited to working in an ecosystem hence the need for a new Services Domain within the operator like Telefonica Digital.  Recommendations form the panel were to focus on API enabled enterprise services, and focus on supporting channels to those segments.  While the consumer side needs to focus simply on enabling and let more agile service providers with different business models innovate.  The implication being let the consumer market move to a subscription model for access, as we’ve seen in the fixed line business, and focus on a specific set of services that remain difficult to do over the top.

On IMS / WebRTC / RCS there was renewed realism, its not what the standards groups say any more, its what the market decides, and we should use whatever tools works.  There was much excitement on potential of WebRTC, and it is seen more as an opportunity than a threat as it extends the number of end points for communications.

Overall it was a fun, insightful and invigorating conference; we’re definitely at an exciting inflection point as the web, IT and communications industries merge.