Two different worlds: connecting machines and connecting 'things'
NB-IoT is a topic that telco CxO’s are avoiding these days. They do not talk about it anymore. It did not scale fast enough, so they switched to 5G in their keynotes. And that’s a bad thing. Telco’s are usually top-down organizations. When a CxO stops talking about a topic, it also gets less attention from the teams.
I do not believe that they are not willing to focus on exploration before exploitation. I, as an impatient millennial, can learn a lot from these guys when it comes to patience.
But if it's not patience, what then? They are hampered by experience. Telcos are connecting machines already for decades. And it didn’t take so long before it was going to scale. Most of these machines did not have a purpose without connectivity at all. There was more urgency. Yes, let me emphasize ‘was’ again. Most of these machines are already connected now. Market saturation. Leave it alone. ;-)
Today we are talking about things, not machines. These use cases are often about changing (business) processes that already work fine without technology. Water levels and water quality are already being measured. The quality of the air that we are breathing is already being measured. The security staff is already monitoring what’s happening in buildings.
By using IoT technologies like NB-IoT or LoRa we will only make these existing activities ‘smart’. So it’s not only the case that there is less urgency, it’s also about changing the behavior of people. Their jobs will change. Their behavior will become more transparent. Not only in their jobs but also in their private life. People will need to change their behavior in traffic. How long will it take to change people’s behavior?
Let’s look at agile transformation. Many companies are already working on this transformation for almost a decade. But their behavior is still far from agile. And IoT transformation will have much more impact on people's behavior. Do the math.
There is also a major difference between connecting machines and connecting things for those who make the IoT solutions. Many of these developers are not coming from the telco world. They used to develop software only or hardware without connectivity. They just want to get their device data. They do not want to have the hassle of managing sim-cards and monitoring data-bundles. And more of these developers will come.
Yet the average telco is offering NB-IoT just like they used to offer older technologies to connect machines. And when they offer it, there are always limitations. If it’s not that you need to sign an old-school contract, it is lack of roaming. If it’s not lack of roaming, it is the hassle with APN’s or VPN’s. If it’s not the complexity of setting up a xPN, it’s lack of public code or knowledge.
Telcos complain that it’s not scaling and at the same time they are slowing it down. And this kept me awake very often in the past two years. But not anymore. At DT IoT we've stopped relying on our experience. We realize that making new technologies accessible (and without limitations!) for developers is one of the best things to do today. So stay tuned to see how we are getting shit done. ;-)