CBR sat with Jason Mondanaro, Director of Product Management at Metratech, an Ericsson company, to speak IoT and the connected world.
Ericsson acquired MetraTech in late July 2014, expanding its solutions portfolio to address Billing as a Service (BaaS) beyond the telecom industry.
The company took on board over 140 MetraTech employees, including Jason Mondanaro, Director of Product Management, who CBR spoke to during LiveWorx 2015 in Boston, US.
CBR: What work is Ericsson developing within the IoT and M2M industry?
JM: Ericsson has invested heavily into owning generating equipment and operating on behalf of operators, everything about doing networks and mobile networks, which is really the basis behind any IoT platform.
A business can have self assembling machine networks between the individual devices, but at the end of the day those devices, either through a gate or through some other device, need to get their information out into the internet across.
This information needs to get to where there is going to be back offices, driving the true value of that by collating information, building all the data, tying the analytics and distributing through other applications.
Ericsson has worked on building up their portion of the platform, from the little chips, the little radios that go on the embedded devices to the back haul networks, to even the software platforms where the data can be aggregated and managed This includes things like provisioning and deprovisioning of devices and end points. It is a logical evolution from mobile to M2M, to IoT for Ericsson.
CBR: How can businesses monetise data from connected things?
JM: There is nothing in the IoT that limits what the business model is. Everyone is able to craft all the different solutions based on the IoT, and it is that solution that is going to drive a particular business model. The key there is that the devices may be generating a lot of data related to a particular application, and then it is up to the application providers to decide how that data translates into what their business models and terms are.
That ties back to where billing comes in. Based on what companies have measured, how they want to organise that data, and what actually represents in contractual terms to their customers or to their suppliers who are contributing to their service.
That is where the monetisation platform comes in: it takes the data, portions it out and figures out which portions need to go to the end consumers and which portions need to go to suppliers. This is really what the MetraTech piece of the Ericsson acquisition is designed to support.
CBR: How can customers future-proof their IoT solutions?
JM: What we do especially in the software side with our revenue platform is all meditated driven. We have no idea of what type of data elements are going to be relevant in the future or what type of business models are going to be relevant.
We tried to design a platform that, instead of being vertically orientated or designed to solve a particular solution, is of much more general purpose and allows individual application users or integrators to tailor the solution.
If today’s customers are capturing a certain set of fields of these embedded devices and they aggregate that and put that into contract, that is great and tomorrow they will have a more advanced device with higher bandwidth, capturing more data points.
With that data, they can extend the data model to capture that data half flow though the billing, and make parts of their contract trigger off with those new data elements. These are the type of things the platform allows you to do to future-proof.
CBR: What is Ericsson’s work within the smart utility industry?
JM: Ericsson has a very broad strategy to help modernise many parts of infrastructure in other industries, besides location which is the traditional route. They actually have a whole group where they are applying IP technology and operational support systems to energy utility businesses – and smart metering is just one part of that.
What the company wants is a bidirectional IP basis solution. Besides giving information in energy out to the end points, by monitoring what is happening in all end points and taking feedback, it is possible to drive decisions based on commercials as opposed to just pure physics.
Instead of when a customer has a contract that says ‘during times of peak demand, or in these type of situations’, people can automatically scale back their power to make it more cost efficient and because it is a premium time of day they will get better benefits.
The idea is to make that much more real time having all that solution really communicating over more advanced networks including eventually 5G systems.
CBR: Ericsson has 42 million smart meters deployed worldwide. Are they connected?
JM: No, they are not all connected to one system currently. But that is an interesting possibility. Usually deployments are done based on the utility or the consortium that is making the purchase. For example, a large utility in Norway would buy and implement a system on their own.
Just like on the telecom side, we are doing more and more networking management in operation to the systems, becoming much more of a virtual separation than a physical separation.
That is the long term trend for Ericsson, as we have more experience on owning and operating systems on behalf of customers. We can make that more centralised and get even better economies of scale. Then, because we have visibility into multiple businesses and multiple sources of data, we can provide new forms of revenue opportunities and business models back to those customers that are participating.
CBR: Ericsson has also been involved in the connected car industry. Can you talk us through this area?
JM: Ericsson has done a connected car with Volvo, advancing the evolution of the connected car. The industrial connected car keeps track of the physical operation of the car, the stats of the engine and takes most of the on-board data making it more real-time, interactive and connected to the cloud.
Car manufacturers are now trying to develop infotainment systems, allowing the car and passengers to get more real time maps, traffic data and have other types of connected apps that will allow users to do new things in the car. That might eventually tie with the future of autonomous vehicles: as companies introduce more powerful infotainment systems, they ask drivers not to be distracted, and the obvious solution for this situation is to stop people from driving.
If we let cars worry about communicating with each other as well as the road, telling them about where they are going, the driver can then be productive by having a connected car in terms of a computer and a network system. The car becomes more of a work place in the future.
Manufacturers are also rolling out new solutions. For example Scania AB, the truck company in Sweden, combined both IoT and 5G technologies, equipping trucks in terms of providing real time diagnostics measurements, fleet management and telematics through the 5G network. The network helped handle that expanded scope of data and it has been acting as a proof point for what it will become more broad 5G telematics based roll outs around the world.