IoE: Opportunity knocks louder but beware the ‘pointless project’

Presentations throughout TM Forum Live! this week highlighted the huge business opportunities for communications service providers (CSPs) in the internet of everything (IoE), especially with the emergence of enabling technologies such as 5G, blockchain, standardized open APIs and open source.

  • IoE creates complex ecosystems and CSPs can play a key role as ‘trusted integrators’. During Smart City Live! on Monday, AT&T’s Mike Zeto discussed this in his presentation and back-stage interview about the role of operators in smart cities. There are similar opportunities in digital health, smart home and more.
  • Amit Pau, Managing Director, Ariadne Capital, issued a call to action to the communications industry, and highlighted some areas where telcos can fight back against Silicon Valley players like Google, Facebook and others, by exploiting their natural advantages “because of the criticality of the network”. Examples include agritech, mobile banking and identity management – getting the business model right is critical.
  • Platforms and open APIs came up in every track during multiple sessions. GE Digital’s Deborah Sherry’s keynote presentation highlighted the potential here for CSPs if they “think bigger”. She shared powerful examples of how a platform approach, powered by open APIs, has allowed GE Digital to develop new business models, markets and products on a massive scale – for itself and its customers.
  • “If data is the new oil, analytics is the new refinery to convert that data to actionable insights,” Shankar Arumugavelu, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Verizon, said in his keynote. Speakers throughout the week highlighted the huge opportunities the ‘data economy’ offers for the whole IoE ecosystem, including cities, CSPs, customers and citizens. When it can be curated, managed and analyzed effectively, through a data hub or platform, data offers new insights, innovations and revenues. Ariadne Capital’s Pau offered an interesting new angle here, too, when he told delegates, “Anyone who allows consumers to monetize their own data will fundamentally transform the digital economy.”
  • To make the most of all these opportunities, you have to develop the right ecosystem and partners.

The Open Hack, held live here in Nice, demonstrated much of this in action. It showcased how Open APIs foster rapid innovation and ‘plug and play’ with other open technologies to pull new services together fast.

What’s stopping you?

We don’t have all the answers yet, and delegates and speakers highlighted the big obstacles they still face, what’s troubling them and where we should focus our energies next.

  • Security is still the biggest issue and something of an elephant in the room. It’s always discussed, but as more things become connected, the problem is growing. We need to collaborate on security or the IoE won’t happen – or if it does, it will get very ugly. Are we putting our efforts in the right place? We often focus on hardware, but “I’ve yet to see a hacker attack hardware,” one delegate said, adding, “the vulnerability is in the software,” especially with the growth of open source. “Discussion needs to get to security of non-hardware, and soon.”
  • People are excited about platforms “but securing a platform is simpler than securing millions of devices”. If you then connect insecure things to a secure platform, the problem is still there. We need to get end-point security under control.
  • Blockchain is being heralded as a potential silver bullet for IoE trust (and just about everything else) and could be useful in lots of areas of the IoE, offering a way of tracking what is talking to what, who owes who money, and reconciling it all. It could also boost trust by providing an audit trail of the provenance of code and data. However, as one delegate put it, “We need to beware the pointless blockchain project,” noting that it can be an expensive and overly complicated way of doing things in most use cases. Let’s explore blockchain but make sure it’s not a hammer looking for a nail.
  • Data privacy is something that companies are going to have to get to grips with, and fast, with European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) legislation set to be implemented next year – and its footprint goes way beyond Europe. A TM Forum proof of concept Catalyst project, showcased in Nice this week, is developing important solutions in this area.

If you attended the Internet of Everything track this week, what were your big takeaways?

TM Forum Live! is over for another year but our collaborative work goes on. Through our collaboration projects, proof-of-concept Catalysts, research and more we’re working to help companies capitalize on the opportunities and tackle the changes in the IoE and beyond. Here’s how to stay in touch:


    About The Author


    Sarah is a freelance writer and editor with an interest in new technologies and how they impact our everyday lives.

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