Interview with Sandra Fernández Curias: "Beyond a technological ecosystem, the IoT is an enabler of the digital transformation of businesses"
07 Jun 2017 IoT General
What are the latest trends in the development of the IoT ecosystem? The technologies associated with the creation of platforms in the Internet of Things are a growing field. They hold the keys to the future of connected objects and their ecosystem. To learn more about the importance of the availability, scalability and security of these platforms, we spoke with Sandra Fernández Curias, Strategy Manager and expert in new IOT-based business at Telefónica.
What are the main trends in IoT development?
There are major challenges facing implementation in some areas of the Internet of Things. Even though today we cannot imagine a world in which everything is not connected, there are still barriers to overcome. What are the most promising efforts to address and overcome them? In the opinion of Sandra Fernández Curias, the fundamental trend is the creation of the ecosystem. "The IoT is a very diversified environment in which many actors in the IoT solutions value chain have been developing pieces to complete the puzzle", she tells us. “And really, the problem that is about to be solved is on which ecosystems or platforms we will be able to standardise". By this she is referring to the standardisation both technologically and in use cases, two crucial aspects of the development of the ecosystem.
"Another important challenge is regarding Analytics and Big Data. The ability to process data from various sources, both internal and external, analysing beyond "simple" business rules and vertical applications that are used to solve very specific problems, enables companies to go a step further and create value for decision-making and the generation of new products and services. This is the next big challenge, after the ecosystem creation” said Fernández Curias.
Finally, related to the previous trends, security is a very hot topic within the context of the IoT. "Security in the Internet of Things is another of the major trends, since when you develop an end-to-end IoT service, customers face numerous security risks", explains Fernández Curias. "Covering the entire spectrum in which we approach an IoT solution, from the point of view of security, is a fundamental responsibility of us actors in the value chain. By overcoming this barrier of trust for customers, in the end you will get the massive adoption of connected devices, which is one of the main objectives, aligned with the forecasts of the market analysts".
Looking for mass adoption
The Strategy Manager believes that there are still some unresolved issues with regard to the massive adoption of IoT solutions. This is the inevitable end goal in an interconnected world, but what is needed for it to happen? "You do not see a driver that speeds up the adoption of things connected to the Internet precisely because of the difficulties associated with the ecosystem, the customers’ perception of security and also the issue of technology availability at an affordable price". Even though the IoT's reception at test level is more than satisfactory, we still face large-scale limitations in adoption, which has important implications for the development timeline. "What we have seen is that the adoption of the IoT at the pilot level has been quite good", says Fernández Curias, "but then it is more difficult at the level of massive deployment. The technology is ready, but in business, it is still difficult to understand the reasons for large-scale implementation". This links back to ecosystems. "Tailor-made" developments make solutions very expensive and pose an entry barrier for companies that are not so large. "When we try to involve small and medium-sized actors in a more capillary way, the price becomes a handicap when trying to convince a company”.
Platforms, the key piece in the Internet of Things
Platforms are much more than just the technological context that supports the IoT ecosystem, as Fernández Curias explains. "The important thing about platforms is that we are talking not about a technological component but about a new way of doing business. Almost all the most successful technology-based companies have a platform-based business". But this shows a negative aspect that is sometimes forgotten: a platform ecosystem should bring value not only to the client but also to service developers. "In the end, you have to go to the company that is behind it. The main objective is to generate an ecosystem of development and data consumption that is attractive enough for a large community of developers and service providers to join, as happened with mobile OS", Fernández Curias replies when asked about this issue.
The Strategy Manager explained the concept of horizontal platforms at the last 2017 IoT Madrid Forum. This model generates a valid ecosystem for all the segments or services that exist in the IoT market today. "What it aims to do is present a frame of reference with a series of common elements that can be used in industry", she explains. "Cloud platforms and data management, and ultimately all IoT solutions, need a number of common features: a server, data processing, a buffer so that if you cannot connect in real time the information is stored at an intermediate point, capabilities to implement the ’visible face’ or the front-end of the service... and all this is also common to the business cases of different industries. When we talk about a horizontal platform, all we are doing is mentioning elements that are ‘enablers’ of full-service development in different industries.”
What is the missing piece in the development of the IoT?
"I think that technology is not a problem at this point ", Fernández Curias says in response to a crucial question: What is missing in the ability to take the Internet of Things to its utmost expression? "We have the technology to respond to the challenges of service and ecosystem creation. Beyond technological development or connecting objects, the IoT is an enabler of the digital transformation of business. But we are still in the early stages in this respect. The IoT grows in a Try & Bite model, or pilot and project. The ‘try’ part of connecting things is working very well, but we have to continue working on getting massive adoption. "There are use cases, such as autonomous cars or smart meters, where we can see mass adoption coming in different waves", she says.
"In cases like sensors, the development is subject to regulation, since regulatory intervention has been what has opened the market". In other cases, however, it does not depend on regulation but rather on the evolution of the business model. "We are faced with the disadvantage of the price of the devices. This is very close to being solved because the devices are getting cheaper quite quickly. On the other hand, it is important to have a business model based on IoT solutions that generate profits for the company, instead of just optimising their costs. It is essential to focus on helping companies to define business models in which the revenue lines come from taking advantage of the information coming from connected objects. This aspect is fundamental in optimising the business model based on IoT solutions, says Fernández Curias . This is a change in the current paradigm where both the trends and the actors are heading, as well as the clients, the ultimate beneficiaries of this evolution.