Alan Tait, CTO, Blog 19th November

It was an interesting discussion which focused around which platform should an MNO, enterprise or alliance adopt.

The discussion was between Stream, Kore, Jasper, Vodafone and moderated by the Bridge Alliance. Each of us have slightly different opinions of what a platform is, what is represents and why it is useful in the M2M/IoT ecosystem.

There were some interesting questions asked, for those who missed the event, I've included some of what I feel the more interesting one were as well as some of the points that couldn't be included due to time.

Question 1. These days the platform market is very crowded. How then should customers choose a platform provider, and what are the things they should look out for? Are the key factors for consideration different for an MNO and an Enterprise customer?
Answer 1. Yes and no, all customers MNO or Enterprise's need the basic functionality such as easy SIM lifecycle management, real-time stats and billing but their end goals are slightly different. An MNO is trying to reduce the cost of ownership of the estate by providing the tools to the enterprise to do their own self-care and admin whereas the enterprise is attempting to speed up their deployments by organising their order process, support and delivery. This ends up being a symbiotic relationship where the enterprises drive the functionality of the platforms.
Question 2. Would see the eco-system as a key differentiator for platform providers in future? And if so, how do you drive your partnerships?
Answer 2. Yes we do, we have been developing partnerships with key M2M/IoT companies to build a future internet for things based around our partners and our IoT-X global network.
Question 3. Do you see the industry going to a more open approach with standard APIs being implemented in any platform? If so, do you believe this will drive 'commoditisation'?
Answer 3. I don't believe commoditisation is the correct term. Better questions would be - Will they become essential? Do they drive value? Do they make deployments easier and reduce TCO?
The answer to all of these is yes, M2M/IoT connectivity enablement platforms will become standard with the key differentiators and USPs of each platform playing a key role in why they are selected. All will need to do SIM lifecycle management, order fulfilment and basic troubleshooting. It will be the ease of these actions and the surrounding functionality and ecosystem that will continue to show distinction between these platforms.
Question 4. There are some markets - particular in emerging market in Asia - that claim a platform is a luxury that adds cost and does not necessarily help to grow their business. This is especially so for markets that do not have large global automotive or CE manufacturers. Do you agree? If you don't agree, then what would be your justification?
Answer 4. This was an interesting question as it points to the perception that an M2M platform has to be costly and that a well-designed system cannot actually reduce costs and with appropriate revenue models maximise the value an MNO can achieve in their own market.
Question 5. Some platform providers engage enterprise customers directly. How would you decide which MNO to give the business to when you have more than 2 MNOs in the same country using your platform?
Answer 5. We always try and be as agnostic as possible if we are in this situation, the enterprise can choose on any MNOs on their merits which include, cost, coverage, features and support. An M2M/IoT platform solves a lot of issues but what the MNO provides still matters when choosing a network operator.
Question 6. How do platform providers reconcile having MNOs as your customers and at the same time also competing with the MNOs by engaging Enterprise customers?
Answer 6. I don't necessarily see this as competition, in providing an M2M/Iot Platform to an enterprise you are also providing them with a connectivity supplier from one of our MNO customers. This way it works much more as a reciprocal relationship than just providing pure PaaS.
Question 7. Does it make sense for customers to choose an "all-in-one" platform (integrated platform with SIM management, AEP, device management, etc.) or to purchase individual platforms based on vendor expertise?
Answer 7. I'd say that this depends heavily on the use case, we are working hard to build an ecosystem of 'Stream Ready' platforms and partners where a customer can take one platform and benefit from the full range of device, applications and connectivity management solutions that a comprehensive joined up solution can provide. I think the real value here is identifying good partners that do elements of the product stack that are complimentary to your own and providing a well-designed solution around these.
Question 8. There are existing reports that say that currently the key reason for the slow take-up of M2M is due to industry fragmentation and a lack of standards. Do platforms help address some of this 'lack of standards'.
Answer 8. In a lot of ways yes. As more MNOs use platforms we begin to standardise on a number of different methods for deploying solutions. It's important that common functions become available to all customer regardless of what solution they are deploying. We try to make connectivity less of a 'black box' and allow our real-time data and connectivity metrics to be integrated in to vertical application platforms and customer solutions.
Question 9. Does scale matter? If so, why?
Answer 9. With M2M/IoT slated to reach 20Billion connected devices by 2020 of course scale matters, simply being able to reference 20 Billion devices alone is a challenge but the key thing will be making sure that the information and metrics are still relevant. We focus on providing meaningful information and diagnostics at scale along with exception monitoring so customers can easily get at a glance information on the status of their connected estate.
Question 10. Some may say that pure M2M network platforms might be commoditised soon with no real USPs. Assume you disagree, why?
Answer 10. The easiest answer to this is always to have USPs In essence, M2M/IoT platforms are tools and not all tools are made equal. Customers will always trend towards the best tools for the job.
Question 11. What are the three key point's making your platform standing out in the market?
Answer 11. a) Future proof - we support more technologies than any other platform as well as providing services through the IoT-X Global network/
b) Fair and Cost effective - our implementation and revenue models are designed to make M2M/IoT deployments simple, efficient and achievable regardless of the size of market your market
c) Collaborative - with our partners and ecosystem IoT-X is more than the sum of its parts. We are building the internet for things.

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