CVF and its media partner Automotive India News had the opportunity for a brief tete-a-tete with Farhana Haque, who heads the Vodafone Internet of Things (IoT) business in India. Her key focus area in the region is the increased adoption of M2M/IoT as an enabler for creative business model transformation in established and new industries. Here she shares with us a few insights on Vodafone’s IoT journey in India so far.
IoT is the buzz word these days. But for the uninitiated, would you please share a brief example as to how a typical IoT solution works?
Internet of Things is an ecosystem that connects ‘things’ to the internet, transforming them into intelligent devices that exchange real time information and open up a range of possibilities for transforming the way we run businesses, bring in operational efficiencies, and providing superior customer experience.Be it your mobile phones, coffee machines, home appliances, or even automobiles, IoT connects these devices through embedded sensors and processors, which help consumers live smarter and business run more efficiently.
For instance,fleet management poses several risks such as delay in delivery, diversion of route, theft or damage of property, potential accidents, etc. Besides, it has traditionally been heavily dependent on people for managing the fleet. However, increasingly IoT is becoming the mainstay transport operations where freight needs to be delivered rapidly across continents and where drivers and vehicle monitoring is essential to maintain competitive advantage and safety. This is helping organizations improve ROI of assets, while achieving business efficiency.
Lots of global case studies are available online as to how Vodafone has deployed its IoT solutions. Would request you to share a similar example from India?
Vodafone is a leading global IoT technology provider, spanning industries like automotive, banking, retail, utilities, etc. we are infact the 1st carrier to have 50 million IOT connections globally. In India, Vodafone’s range of IoT solutions include Vodafone Location Tracker, Automotive Telematics, Remote Asset Management, Managed IoT Connectivity Platform, Wireless Payment solutions, Security &Surveillance solutions, Smart Metering solutions and Special SIMS designed for operating in harsh conditions.
The automotive sector is a key area of adoption and growth for us, and we have deployed our IoT solutions for some of the most well-known organizations in the country. JCB (a leading Construction & Agriculture Equipment Manufacturer in India) is amongst our most valued customers in India, using our IoT SIM cards in all its machines. JCB users receive real-time data and alerts to remotely manage the efficiency, maintenance and health of their equipment. This has made it easier to manage working-versus-idle time, fuel usage, and identify small problems before they cause unscheduled downtime.The IoT platform has also helped them identify maintenance areas in advance, save additional overheads, offer better customer service and manage business better.
Vodafone is not looking at simply being a connectivity provider with its IoT offerings but an end to end solution provider? Could you explain how such a typical solution would be provided by Vodafone?
Globally Vodafone provides end to end solutions for key verticals like Automotive. The business model of operation often depends on the customer requirement and we typically work with an ecosystem of partners to provide superior IoT experience.
For example, when a utility company deploys lacs of devices pan India, the challenge of these sims getting misused becomes high because of them being in machines which are remotely placed. But with our managed iot connectivity platform, customers can remotely manage the sim usage, lock the sim to the device and control the lifecycle of the sim, preventing misuse and providing key reports to the company for better management. Vodafone is the only carrier which has this inhouse capability, our platform is made to meet the Indian telecom regulation needs.
Do you think the other telecom incumbents will emulate Vodafone’s example with its IoT offerings?
Vodafone was one of the earliest believers in the potential of IoT to transform the lives of business organizations and consumers. We recently became the first global IoT mobile provider to exceed 50 million connections and are demonstrating a growth rate of around 50 million new connections every month.
We acquired the Italian car technology company Cobra Automotive as a part of our strategy to expand ‘machine to machine’ beyond connectivity and offer superior telematics solutions to customers.We have also made significant investments in Narrowband-IoT, which is the future of IoT connectivity we are betting on. In India, we were the first service provider to offer a SIM management platform, making it easier and more secure for customers to deploy IoT projects.
We understand that IoT is no longer a technology discussion but a business outcome discussion, which is increasingly becoming a part of most organization’s digital strategy. This is driving us to make larger investments in IoT, not just in India but worldwide, as it is a key growth area for us.
What key challenges on the technology front do you see inhibiting the large-scale deployment of IoT solutions in India?
Opportunities in IoT adoption in India are galore, and the rate at which enterprises – both big and small – are stitching IoT in their everyday business operations and strategies is overwhelming. However, large-scale deployment is still a challenge in several sectors:
- The market lacks standardization for IoT hardware
- The value chain consists of a number of players who offer fragmented solutions to customers, rather than a complete, integrated solution
- Customers find it difficult and cumbersome to coordinate with multiple vendors for one common solution
- Data security and privacy is at risk in large-scale deployments and consumers are wary of sharing their personal data over connected machines
- Also,lack of drivers such as eCall globally impacts the rate of growth of the business in India
How do you see the future evolving on that front?
The Annual IoT Barometer Report 2016 by Vodafone is an in-depth global study into how enterprises are using IoT technologies. The latest report revealed that 76% of all companies interviewed believe that taking advantage of IoT technologies will be critical for the future success of any organisation. In fact, 28% of businesses already have liveprojects, with a further 35% less than a year away from launch. We have also observed that more and more businesses today are making IoT a priority and are looking at them as key business enablers.
We believe in the potential of Government’s Digital India project, which will fuel massive synergies between IoT and Smart Cities initiatives, be it smart waste management, smart transport, automated street lighting, security and surveillance, smart metering, energy data management and much more. This, along with the increased penetration of mobile and data consumption, will help expand the market for IoT solutions in India for us.
IoT is a rapid response to customer needs, complaints and wants? What should be the approach here – wait for developing best permanent solution or temporary solution with improvised patches to keep solution afloat until you find a more permanent solution?
Thomas Edison failed a 100 times before he built a working model of a light bulb. The journey of IoT is similar to that – we can’t wait for the perfect solution to be developed; we must build on it. Customers have already embarked on that journey and are in the process of building solutions through the process of trial and error.
A key point to note is that most of these IoT solutions are also evolving. A basic telematics solution was meant to solve the track and trace/ location problem. The solutions being developed today are far more advanced and can provide more information than just the location of the vehicle. And very soon you will see vehicles communicating to other infrastructure such as traffic lights/ surveillance cameras, to name a few and of course, the much awaited driver less car. So these solutions are also evolving with the needs of the customer. And this is true for any technology.
How would you rate Indian CV OEMs and Logistics Service Providers on the IoT adoption scale and why?
The adoption of IoT in India would have been faster if we had drivers like eCall in Europe or Glonass from Russia. In the absence of such drivers, OEMs need to build RoI models/ business models that would work in a cost-driven market like India. OEMs are at various stages of this interesting journey, with some of them having already launched solutions for fleet management. Vodafone is working with them to expand their scale in the industry.
The logistics market in India is quite fragmented, with a huge dependence on market trucks. This also impacts the adoption of IoT in these markets. However,it’s exciting to see manufacturers in India address these challenges with evolving solutions to track assets as a consignment rather than the truck / carrier itself. The lines are blurring for the larger benefit of the country.
In your opinion which aspects of IoT should CV OEMs and Logistics Service Providers be careful of in the future?
All areas of Information Technology are prone to security risks, and IoT is no exception. As more and more devices get connected to each other through the Internet, data security and privacy have higher chances of getting compromised. There have been cases of data breaches where customers’ private information have been leaked and traded against the laws.
Keeping this in mind, OEMs need to incorporate additional layers of security for consumers, such as a dedicated Managed Connectivity platform, similar to what Vodafone offers. In fact,since we ourselves own the IPs of this platform, we are able to give our customers better visibility of their deployments. Not only this, we are constantly evolving the platform along with our partners to meet the changing needs of the market.
When devices generate so much data does it become imperative to develop data analytics capabilities in-house or to have strategic tie-ups?
IoT generates huge amounts of data & business organizations can derive useful information with correct analysis of the data. Vodafone Automotive globally does exactly that, helping OEMs make sense of the data they get to grow their business or provide better customer service or gain insights for future product development.
We are working with customers in India who are trying to build new products around usage-based insurance on information gathered from vehicles.
What expectations do you have from your participation at the upcoming Commercial Vehicle Forum (taking place on 18th May 2017 at the Westin in Pune, http://cvforum.in/)?
I am looking forward to attending the Commercial Vehicle Forum as it will help me understand where the industry is headed and the market opportunities which can be tapped appropriately. It will also provide a platform to network with my industry peers and customers and share my insights of Vodafone’s work in this space.