Convergence is the name of the game in IoT billing
The internet of things is made up of many different moving parts. Most fundamental is the network of sensors embedded in the things themselves. And, of course, the provision of connectivity is imperative since there would be no network without it. Whether via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or 5G, a range of protocols are employed to connect the myriad disparate components and allow them to communicate — sharing data with each other, with businesses or with service providers. This data also is essential to the functioning of IoT. Not only is its analysis critical in delivering the insight and intelligence required to inform business operations and processes, but it can represent a valuable revenue stream — if correctly monetized. Then, there are the security measures that must be put in place to protect the sensors and the data they generate.
With so many parts in play, it can be easy for businesses and operators to take a divide-and-conquer strategy, attempting to integrate a combination of different products from different vendors for each element of their own IoT network. Others might even adopt a one-size-fits-all approach to piecing together the various different architecture and network elements in the hope that they will work seamlessly together on any given use case.
Neither of these approaches is recommended, however. For one thing, IoT is still relatively immature and we don’t know exactly what the future will hold in terms of its development, especially with the imminent arrival of 5G and all that entails.
On a more pragmatic note, service-level agreements can differ from deployment to deployment, and the quality of experience within a particular use case can vary depending on usage and environmental conditions. Events such as these can have a negative impact on billing, IoT monetization and, ultimately, the bottom line. In order to avoid this and to make their IoT networks more effective and lucrative, businesses and operators should therefore rethink their approach to IoT, and start looking at it instead as a converged service.
Benefits of a converged network
Sometimes referred to as a next-generation network, a converged network merges multiple diverse networks over one common, standardized architecture. This enables a more effective, efficient transport of various kinds of traffic, such as data, video and voice.
Traditionally, converged networks were designed to allow voice and data telecommunications to exist in harmony; the advent of IoT, however, means that converged networks are now required to accommodate M2M communication as well. Indeed, the convergence of network, data and services can allow for the seamless, automatic connection of devices integral to IoT, regardless of the devices’ location, vendor or operating system. Common standardized infrastructure on most converged networks has a variety of services and protocols. When done right, they offer efficiency benefits including interoperability and the ability to carry out system upgrades without the need for downtime across the entire network. It can also reduce the risk of having to rip and replace. As IoT technology evolves, a single converged network may significantly reduce an organization’s ongoing maintenance costs and can drive efficiencies in other areas of the business.
Preparing for an uncertain future
For example, a converged services approach can be taken to billing. Whereas operators once billed solely for connectivity, the sophisticated requirements of IoT now mean they are able to bill their customers for devices, applications and bundled services too. By taking a converged services approach, and cooperating with different players in the IoT ecosystem, including CSPs, application providers or device vendors, operators are able to construct and implement bundled services and billing mechanisms that meet the needs of any use case, whether B2B, B2B2C or B2B2B. What’s more, taking such an approach allows them to revise and update them as conditions change over time, thus ensuring that they are always providing the most appropriate — and profitable — offering at any given moment.
Networking has evolved over the years as a result of the latest technological developments in the space, and is likely to continue to do so as IoT grows in size, maturity and complexity. And it’s this complexity that can hinder a business or an operator in its attempts at a successful IoT deployment. Rather than taking a patchwork approach to building an IoT network — or a pre-emptive strategy based on relatively little knowledge of how IoT will play out — a converged services approach is the most sensible means of implementing the ever-changing and evolving elements that make up IoT. With a flexible and cost-effective approach, while delivering high quality of experience across any use case, convergence is future-proof. And when the future is uncertain, this must be a consideration for any operator looking to monetize IoT and maximize their return on investment.
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