Internet of Business speaks to Mikael Schachne of BICS about the company’s approach to helping customers equip smart machines and devices with international IoT connectivity.
International communications enabler BICS has long been in the business of helping mobile operators to provide roaming services to subscribers, so that those subscribers can take their smartphones, tablets or laptops wherever they need to go and always be sure of having access to mobile data connectivity in order to get work done, catch up on social media or check out their onward travel details.
So it makes perfect sense that providing worldwide mobile connectivity for the smart, connected devices and machines that make up the IoT represents a logical evolution for the company. “A device with a SIM may not be a phone or a tablet, but it still needs to be always-on, and connected to mobile networks to receive and send data, wherever it is in the world,” says Mikael Schachne, vice president of mobility solutions at BICS.
In other words, companies embarking on IoT implementations and adding connectivity to ‘things’ need to become more like the mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), in the sense that they must provision and then manage vast armies of SIMs, with a high degree of granularity. Those SIMs might be embedded in cars, in the case of an automotive company; in fitness trackers, in the case of a manufacturer of consumer wearables; or in high-value parcels or cargo containers, in the case of a logistics company.
“The difference is that companies like these don’t have the same experience or insight into the complexity of roaming between different mobile networks worldwide as a mobile operator, so a somewhat different approach is needed,” explains Schachne.
IoT without borders
With that in mind, BICS has developed a global IoT platform for this new kind of customer that incorporates lifecycle management for connected-device SIMs, from manufacturing and distribution to set-up, deployment and real-time management.
“In the world of the IoT, these companies might be managing thousands of devices, if not millions, and they will need end-to-end automation to do that,” says Schachne. “They may need to troubleshoot any problems with connectivity. And they will need to integrate connectivity data with back-end systems. The goal here is to make it easier for them to do all these things.”
Most importantly, perhaps, the platform supports the need of such companies to generate return on investment and new revenue streams from connected services and business models, he explains – a trend typically referred to as the ‘monetization’ of IoT.
This means that BICS’ IoT platform must enable them to bill for services associated with the connectivity of their products. Again, this needs to be handled in much the same way as a mobile operator handles billing for potentially millions of subscribers. In the case of a connected car, drivers might pay subscriptions to the automaker for the provision of navigation and entertainment services. Or an insurance company might pay it for access to usage and driving reports associated with the vehicles it covers.
Says Schachne: “The IoT opportunity is huge for all kinds of companies across all sectors, and mobile networks can provide them with the connectivity they need, because they are widely available and reliable.”
But in order to set machines and devices free and realize the full potential of the IoT, he says, they also need confidence that, when it comes to international IoT connectivity, they’re still in complete control.
Our Internet of Manufacturing event is coming to Munich on 6-8 February 2018. Attendees will get the chance to learn more about how connected technologies open up new paths to increased productivity and profitability for industrial companies.