Internet of Things (IoT) is set to overtake mobile phones as the largest category of connected devices by 2018, predicts the Swedish telecom equipment maker Ericsson. Between 2015 and 2021, the number of IoT connected devices is expected to grow 23% annually, of which cellular IoT is forecast to have the highest growth rate. Of the 28 billion total devices that will be connected by 2021, close to 16 billion will be IoT devices. “IoT is now accelerating as device costs fall and innovative applications emerge,” says Ulf Ewaldsson, chief technology officer, Ericsson. “We are also seeing IoT happening around us in India. The most common example is wearable devices; today we see many people using fitness bands and connected watches,”he tells Sudhir Chowdhary in a recent interaction. Excerpts:
Ericsson has been heavily focusing on 5G, IoT and cloud. What is the rationale for that?
5G is the next big step in mobile communication technologies. It will help realise the vision of essentially unlimited access to information and sharing of data anywhere and anytime for anyone and anything. 5G will enable new applications and use cases in areas such as cloud-enabled robotics and intelligent transportation that can benefit people, business and society—and it will therefore help realise the full potential of the Networked Society.
Ericsson’s industry-leading 4G/LTE technology is the foundation for 5G, and we therefore expect many 5G components to be launched before 2020. We believe most customers will implement a carefully planned, step-by-step transition to 5G, with field trials and commercial deployment in the next few years. In 2016, Ericsson is involved in 5G field trials with Verizon, Telia-Sonera, Korea Telecom, MTS and others.
Our innovation, technology leadership and thought leadership put us at the forefront of 5G R&D. We help our customers to create new 5G use cases, business models and revenue streams; to build 5G innovation platforms; to exploit all the capabilities that 5G has to offer; and to find the right 5G strategy and architecture. At the same time, we believe that realising 5G’s full potential requires cross-industry collaboration. We are therefore committed to driving a global 5G ecosystem that combines Ericsson’s capabilities with the strengths and insights of customers, partners, industries and academia.
What kind of IoT uptake are we experiencing globally?
The latest edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report, published recently, reveals that the IoT is set to overtake mobile phones as the largest category of connected device by 2018.
Between 2015 and 2021, the number of IoT connected devices is expected to grow 23% annually, of which cellular IoT is forecast to have the highest growth rate. Of the 28 billion total devices that will be connected by 2021, close to 16 billion will be IoT devices.
IoT is now accelerating as device costs fall and innovative applications emerge. From 2020, commercial deployment of 5G networks will provide additional capabilities that are critical for IoT, such as network slicing and the capacity to connect exponentially more devices than is possible today.
How does the future look like for IoT in India?
IoT landscape in the country has witnessed rapid expansion and is primarily driven by the need to ease lifestyle. Besides, rising customers’ expectations, increasing number of affordable smart devices, cloud and analytics are the key enabler for uptake in the IoT market in the country. The most common example of IoT is wearable devices and today we see many people across the country using these—be it fitness bands or connected watches.
India currently has over 4 million mobile app developers; and the number is expected to grow, making it one of the largest innovation and development hubs. An increasing portion of these developers are already focusing on IoT apps and innovations, so the industry readiness is definitely there.
What, according to you, are the infrastructure requirements for IoT proliferation?
Today proliferation of IoT is more than just technology or connectivity. In today’s world devices increasingly either already have some form of connectivity inbuilt or have sensors from which data may be transmitted. In case a device has sensors but no connectivity, it’s not technologically difficult to add some form of communication that can be used to transmit the data that is being captured.
IoT is about total value chain or ecosystem which includes sensors, connectivity, data and the analytics that help in capturing and analysing data that promises to change the way we live and work in ways never before possible. This will require connections in orders of magnitude higher than those used by current systems and solutions that work together and scale to meet diverse requirements. Stable, scalable and secure networks will be key to IoT proliferation.
What is your prediction on cloud update in the country?
India has the potential of being Ericsson’s largest market for cloud. As per Gartner report, 53% of organisations in India indicated they are using cloud services, with another 43% indicated their plans to begin using cloud services in the subsequent year. The overall cloud computing market reached $1.08 bn by 2015 end. At Ericsson, we use network experience to create compelling cloud solutions and aim to be among the top three players in selected areas by 2020.
Today, cloud is much more than a technology platform; a cloud business model is needed to compete with today’s digital businesses. Network services, applications and data analytics are all part of the digital transformation redefining businesses globally. This digitalisation is prompting companies to shift the role of IT from a cost and control function to a strategic enabler and an internal service and innovation provider. Using the cloud as part of this process improves business agility and positions companies for a successful digital transformation.
Ericsson Cloud business models are service-driven, and aim at creating higher-value, differentiated digital services quickly.
India has responded well to the cloud solutions that Ericsson has introduced in the past year. We try to keep the price-point very competitive and wish to reduce the costs by 60% in hardware, 60% in power and 75% in operations. With such offering we are confident to have a fair share of the market in the country.
What are the use cases possible in India for IoT?
The IoT use cases in India can be very diverse and distinct; as it will serve different users such as—consumers, communities and enterprises. IoT can be used to deliver utility, transport and public safety and these are also some of the areas targeted by Ericsson. Let’s take an example. Utility companies can use M2M solutions, primarily for control of power grid communications between different devices, and
remote reading of commercial, industrial and residential customers. There is now a growing need to monitor the distribution grid, in
order to guarantee reliability. The cost of sensors has also gone down drastically. As a result, the number of connections and the volume of grid data will increase rapidly.
What are some of the new technologies that Ericsson is working on?
We recently launched new software, called Networks Software 17A, that addresses the anticipated massive number IoT devices and the diversity of their connectivity requirements.
Talking about utility we have smart metering as a service. It puts consumers in control and enables utility companies to offer smart services to consumers in the future. One of our recent project in India is with Assam Power Distribution Company. Under the smart meters project, we will provide a comprehensive advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) solution for operating the 15,000 units, along with systems integration and support services in Guwahati, which will be deployed over next 3 years.