CABLE NEXT-GEN -- Denver -- The Internet of Things is a treasure trove of opportunities for cable operators, a panel of industry executives agreed during a panel discussion here at Light Reading's Cable Next-Gen Technologies & Strategies conference today.
Indeed, vertical and horizontal possibilities abound as startups and established vendors work on sensor- and software-based solutions that address everything from agriculture and business automation to people, pets and currently unconsidered markets, panelists told moderator Mari Silbey, senior editor for Cable and Video at Light Reading.
Today, however, the residential market often is a confusing mishmash of singularly connected devices whose lack of interoperability or seamless user interface create customer experience headaches for operators, said Doug Blue, director of field marketing at Calix. Even though cablecos typically don't sell the IoT devices themselves, WiFi problems -- which can be due to incorrect modem placement, issues with the smart-home devices themselves or incompatibilities between devices, for example -- generate customer support calls (and dissatisfied customers), he said.
"A smart home is not a smart home. It's a very complicated home. As devices keep going down in price, it's going to become an extremely complicated type of home," said Blue. "From a revenue perspective, I don't think it's about controlling somebody's thermostat. It's all about elevating the brand. It's about using mesh networks to improve WiFi."
Subscribers must have control over all devices via one panel, platform or app, agreed Dale Turner, director of product development business at Shaw Communications. The large Canadian operator is a syndication partner with Comcast and plans to enter the enterprise IoT space before targeting smart homes.
"It has to be one panel or one app," he said. "The power is having one panel."
Other imperatives for providers to consider include:
- Revenue models
- Platform ownership
- Integration of legacy and new devices
- Opportunities in licensed and unlicensed spectrum
"One size doesn't fit all, just like one technology doesn't fit all," said Calix's Blue. "You can't unseat an Amazon Echo home. You can't unseat a Google home. It's all about subscriber experience."
Other panelists included Chris Bastian, chief technology officer at SCTE/ISBE and Daryl Malas, smart cities architect and team leadership at CableLabs.
Actions speak louder
On March 20, Comcast unveiled five new business customers for its MachineQ scalable IoT network service and platform. MachineQ uses LPWAN to build enterprise-grade solutions for enterprises and municipal organizations, with new clients ranging from Fortune 1000 corporations to startups, a href="https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20180320005138/en/"target="new">according to Comcast.
Pest-control company Woodstream Corp., for example, will use the platform for its Victor brand of products, said Tom Daly, senior director of strategic technology, in a statement.
"By joining this cutting-edge platform, we'll be able to leverage our industry-leading portfolio of products to a larger audience and continue pioneering the marketplace with innovative, cost-effective solutions for pest control," he said.
For its part, Cox Communications debuted Cox2M, which leverages its core broadband telecom services to connect more than 6 million people and businesses to devices. Instead of meeting the needs of LoRa or another technology, Cox2M is designed to work across multiple IoT networks, a Cox spokeswoman told Light Reading's Mari Silbey. (See Comcast, Cox Go Big on IoT, Smart Cities and Cox Joins IoT Race With Cox2M)
Therefore, once tested and proven (and the spokeswoman said Cox has done so already for a number of IoT networks), customers will have a turnkey ability to monitor and track commercial assets, regardless of network combination. In combination with analytics, real-time intelligence and notifications, enterprises can stay aware of devices' condition, maintenance needs, theft and other issues, thereby improving customer experience, revenue and profitability.
"With Cox2M, we will play an even more significant role in supporting the smart businesses and smart cities of the future," said Sujata Gosalia, executive vice president and chief strategy officer, Cox Communications, in a statement.
— Alison Diana, Editor, Broadband World News. Follow us on Twitter @BroadbandWN or @alisoncdiana.