Sourcing IoT connectivity can be one of the biggest challenges for organisations as they embark on IoT projects to drive revenue or transform business processes. The IoT ecosystem is increasingly complex with hundreds of IoT carrier, network, and equipment options, and there isn’t one solution that can be applied across all IoT deployments. As IoT network technologies and capabilities are also increasingly diverse, organisations may need to mix and match connectivity and device options – and work with an independent provider – to design the right solution for your unique organisational requirements or budget.
In the next chapter of our ongoing IoT Insights series, Vice President of Product Management, Steven Baker provides expertise on navigating the complexities of IoT connectivity. This blog provides just a hint of the insights available in the full interview, which can be downloaded here.
Sourcing Directly with Carriers versus Independent Providers
As you look to procure connectivity for your IoT devices, a key initial consideration is whether to source directly with the cellular carrier. When going direct to the carrier, you will be locked into their device certifications, coverage zones, and price points, as well as restricted to their user interface, APIs, and connectivity management platform. If you contract services with multiple carriers, you’ll end up with multiple systems to manage with multiple billing, support and administrative tasks. An alternative approach is to work with an independent provider that can help you streamline management of multiple carriers across regions. Independent providers offer a single contract and single point of contact, with just one setup and a single, unified portal for connectivity management.
Global Deployments and Regional Requirements
Network connectivity becomes more complex if your organisation needs to operate IoT devices across multiple regions. Today, almost all network providers offer domestic service in their home country and roaming capabilities in other regions. For example, you can receive connectivity in Europe from a carrier based in the United States via their roaming services, but only for a certain amount of time – typically up to three months. Carrier roaming can also be restrictive and expensive. Therefore, selecting one carrier for a global IoT deployment can be challenging, since few support cost-effective, long-term services in all regions. Often a better option is to select a provider in a primary region for your IoT deployment and augment with in-country providers in other regions.
Network Sunsets and Evolving Technologies
Network sunsets, or discontinuation of older connectivity technologies, is another key consideration and one of the most significant challenges when working directly with carriers. When purchasing IoT connectivity, organisations need to consider that older technologies are being phased out, such as the 2G and 3G spectrums, and carriers are evolving to newer IoT technologies, such as LTE-M or NB-IoT. A single, independent provider can help you navigate these evolving technologies to make the best decisions for your deployment.
Security Risks and Data Protection
Security is a huge consideration for managing IoT connectivity to ensure you protect against data breaches and mitigate risk. In California, as well as in the U.S. Senate, legislation has recently been introduced that requires increased security on IoT devices by mandating key management. Key management involves allowing only legitimately authenticated IoT devices to access the cloud, preventing access from impersonator or counterfeit devices. Key management will help to ensure end-to-end IoT security and protect data transfers as they move through the network.
Partnering for Success
In sum, it is important to select an IoT partner that can help you navigate the increasing complexity of technologies, capabilities, and requirements involved with network connectivity. Find a partner that understands these complexities and has proven, deep relationships with the carriers. These relationships will be critical in their ability to recommend the best solution for your needs as well as notify you of coming network or technology changes that may impact your IoT deployment. It is also important to select a connectivity and device-agnostic IoT partner, with no established biases toward certain connectivity or hardware options, who can understand your business goals and recommend the optimal solutions.
To learn more about navigating the complexities of IoT connectivity and carrier management, download the full interview here.