IoT, Big Data Mean Big Opportunities for Telcos

Somewhere in the United States at the moment, there’s a parent on her way to work. She just dropped her daughter off at school, and, for some reason, she suddenly remembered she left her garage door open. Or she didn’t set her thermostat for a day of an empty house. As recently as a couple of years ago, this situation would have meant turning around, adding 40 minutes to her commute just to flip a switch. The Internet of Things (IoT) means this woman can grab her smartphone, open an app and tell her garage door to close.

Somewhere in the United States at the moment, there’s a parent on her way to work. She just dropped her daughter off at school, and, for some reason, she suddenly remembered she left her garage door open. Or she didn’t set her thermostat for a day of an empty house. As recently as a couple of years ago, this situation would have meant turning around, adding 40 minutes to her commute just to flip a switch. The Internet of Things (IoT) means this woman can grab her smartphone, open an app and tell her garage door to close.

Everything can be connected to the Web in 2015, and it’s made the lives of average citizens easier to manage – in most cases. The average telco executive, though, may cringe at first when he hears someone bringing up IoT. The technology to connect everything – from security systems to heart rate monitors to brakes in a car – to the Web has led to a glut of data that grows exponentially every minute of every day. IoT, big data and the cloud to store it have come together to produce an endless stream of new information and opportunities for marketers and others at every kind of company. For telcos, the situation is even more pronounced since a substantial portion of this newly created data comes from the 184 million Americans using smartphones every day.

The convergence of IoT with the growth of big data means the most successful companies in this evolving landscape are those that quickly adapt to the insights from big data and use those insights to create new revenue. Leveraging the data from the Internet of Things to come to meaningful conclusions about a target market or adjustments to products and services is where the value reveals itself. Information from sensors and monitors built into different connected devices can inform innovation in every product and service a telco manufactures or delivers to its customers. By 2020, IoT capability is estimated to generate more than $8 trillion in value for companies, stemming from greater innovation, asset utilization, logistical adjustments, internal efficiency and customer experience. None of that is accomplished without acting on data to make improvements.

Resolutions to common service issues are, perhaps, the most significant improvement area companies can target with the data their customers’ connected devices generate. Telcos must aggregate every piece of data that illustrates a service issue and use it to identify problems that can be solved, including without human intervention. There’s an increasing amount of that data, but it has to be viewed as an opportunity, rather than a problem. As devices transmit data related to service problems, companies can use it to recognize similar issues and solve them proactively. A significant part of the value of IoT is derived from its ability to improve efficiency and provide proactive issue resolution. Moreover, companies that demonstrate the use of IoT as a service enabler and improve the interaction with customers are going to keep existing customers happier and position themselves to attract new ones. Any opportunity to improve customer relationships and satisfaction at scale is one worth pursuing.

Marketing departments for telcos have a similar opportunity to act on this information on multiple fronts. The data informs one-to-many approaches for product marketing and campaigns aimed to garner interest in new products. Conversely, individual user profiles built from the data their devices generate present the chance to integrate personalized user profiles and provide individually tailored services. Recommending add-on services or products based on a consistently demonstrated need is where IoT and big data come together to add value for telcos.

There is, of course, some concern related to the actual management, storage and analysis of the information, but updating IT architectures, operations and information policies make this easier moving forward. The ability to harness data for information and insight is precisely the kind of opportunity every telco department longed for years ago; now that it is here, not using it to fashion insights is a missed opportunity. Information will give telcos the chance to identify new revenue streams, make improvements to existing ones and adjust products and services in line with customer demand. From data management to developing an IT ecosystem that lends itself to big data, the challenges that come with all of the information are real and need to be addressed. If harnessed, the possibilities for a company’s value chain are essentially endless. Just the same, the data isn’t going to stop growing. More people are using smartphones and myriad other technologies which come equipped with Web connections that produce usage data and new insights for telcos and other verticals every day. Companies capitalizing on big data’s contribution now are the ones that will see the most benefits of the convergence of IoT and big data in the future.

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Esmeralda Swartz has spent 15 years as a marketing, product management and business development technology executive bringing disruptive technologies and companies to market. As chief marketing officer of MetraTech, now part of Ericsson, Swartz is responsible for go-to-market strategy and execution, product marketing, product management, business development, and partner programs. Prior to MetraTech, she was cofounder and vice president of marketing and business development at Lightwolf Technologies, a big data management startup.