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Why does IoT need to be delivered as a managed service?

JUL 18, 2023 | Matt Hatton
region: ALL vertical: ALL HyperconnectivityInternet of Things

Today, there is an increasing realisation amongst IoT adopters and vendors that the various constituent elements of an IoT solution must be delivered as a managed service or series of managed services. In June 2023 Transforma Insights published a white paper in collaboration with Telit Cinterion entitled ‘The Internet of Things can only be delivered as a managed service’ which looked at why enterprises should be more selective about demanding a more personalised service and picking their IoT connectivity partners.

In this blog post we examine some of the key highlights of the white paper.

The best way to deliver IoT is as a managed service.

In February 2023, Transforma Insights published its annual Communications Service Provider IoT Peer Benchmarking report, looking at the capabilities and strategies of CSPs in delivering IoT connectivity and other associated services. One notable trend, which has also been manifest in other areas of IoT, has been the greater requirement to provide more customer support, whether it be a full systems integration project, enriched post-sales support or something in between.

It has become well recognised that enterprises need some hand-holding to deploy their IoT projects. This is even more pronounced for mass market deployments in which adopters have little to no direct expertise in IoT. Simply throwing an increasingly complex array of hardware, middleware platforms, connectivity options and cloud architectures at an enterprise and expecting them to piece together their own IoT solution is, at best, fanciful. IoT is a non-core area for almost every adopter, so some element of hand-holding is critical.

The days of the infinitely scalable IoT platform are gone

One major implication of the customisation requirement is that there is diminishing opportunity for any company to exist as an infinitely scalable IoT platform. Such elements are increasingly commoditised and demanding of a service layer on top of them. Middleware companies are differentiating on vertical sector expertise, and recent years have seen some major technology vendors mothball or close their IoT platform play, including Google IoT Core and IBM Watson IoT.

IoT is a service rather than a product business; such is the necessity for customisation to meet clients' requirements. This means fewer unicorn platform companies and more service-oriented companies resolving real-world client requirements.

Cross-optimisation of solution elements is critical

In August 2021, Transforma Insights published a report, ‘What is the ‘Thin IoT’ stack and why do I need it?’, which describes an emerging norm within the development of IoT applications to make use of specific off-the-shelf technologies that have been created explicitly to be optimised for use in constrained environments, such as limited access to power, low bandwidth connectivity, and limited processing and memory.

As well as making use of these IoT-specific technologies there is a greater requirement for all the constituent elements of an application to be optimised with each other. Technological and commercial developments mean that support for enterprises deploying IoT will be increasingly multi-disciplinary, involving the cross-optimisation of many different solution elements, including devices, device management, connectivity (including multi-bearer), application enablement, cloud integration, edge computing, protocols and application logic.

The need to cross-optimise also means better fault resolution

One positive result of the increasing cross-optimisation of IoT is that it will help with one of the greatest headaches of deploying IoT: fault resolution. With disparate elements that aren’t optimised together, it’s often hard to avoid a blame game between vendors in the event of faults. An optimised solution and, ideally, a single point of contact (i.e. the vendor that acts as the ‘optimiser’) should reduce issues and result in swifter resolution. Having one point of accountability is becoming more important, particularly when resolving faults in critically interconnected elements.

The organisation responsible for ensuring the different elements of IoT applications work together is also well placed to iron out one of the main challenges of IoT: fault resolution in a multi-vendor environment, avoiding the blame game that dogs many IoT deployments.

Not all vendors are equal

One of the main questions that enterprise IoT adopters ask Transforma Insights is, "Which vendor should I select and why?" The answer will inevitably come down to the buyer's specific deployment parameters and sensitivities. However, we can offer a few pointers on selecting a vendor in the newly evolved IoT taxonomy, with growing capabilities in managed services and the need for cross-optimisation and bundling.

The degree of pre-sales and post-sales support is a critical differentiator between vendors. On paper, many offerings might look identical, but there is a world of difference between best-in-class and run-of-the-mill despite having the same offering. The best vendors realise that the guidance they provide is as important as the products.

Context(ualisation) is king

With the growing requirement to hold the hand of the customer as they deploy IoT, and provide a richer set of pre-sales and post-sales support comes an increased verticalisation of any offering. Vendors must understand the vertical into which they are selling and provide support that is contextualised for it. This doesn’t mean that the suppliers necessarily need vertical solutions themselves; moving ‘up the stack’ is fraught with challenges. But it is in their interests to build knowledge and expertise in contextualising horizontal offerings for the vertical they are addressing. And that’s great news for the buyer too.

There is a strong tendency amongst IoT vendors to say that they can deliver almost any functionality. Adopters should look for those with heritage and experience in their particular circumstances.

‘Managed’ connections to exceed 70% in 2032

The future of IoT vendors is in delivering expert, personalised support to enterprises based on the particulars of their deployment. Vendors will continue to use horizontal capabilities as their building blocks to gain some scale, but when interacting with enterprises, customisation is key.

n total, we estimate that a little under one-third of all cellular IoT connections are truly managed today. This figure will increase significantly over the coming decade to around 73% in 2032.

Hardware and connectivity bundles to grow to 100 million in 2025

One of the ways in which the requirement for cross-optimisation is likely to manifest itself is in the increased bundling of cellular connectivity subscriptions with hardware in the form of modules and gateways. In the White Paper we have identified six ways in which bundling hardware and connectivity together helps with solution development. These are discussed in the blog post: 6 reasons why device/connectivity bundling makes sense for cellular-based IoT.

We expect such bundled offerings to more than triple between 2022 (30 million shipments) and 2025 (100 million).

About the White Paper

The blog post above outlines the key messages in the free White Paper from Transforma Insights and sponsored by Telit Cinterion. It is available to download here: ‘The Internet of Things can only be delivered as a managed service’. The White Paper starts by exploring why there is greater demand amongst IoT buyers for more managed services, and then examines the growing demand for cross-optimisation of the elements of the IoT stack, before examining the reasons why hardware/connectivity bundling is on the rise. It finishes by summarising changes in the supplier ecosystem with the emergence of a new IoT Taxonomy and identifying how all these evolutions might affect an enterprise’s decision making process in vendor selection.

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