“A standards-based communications ecosystem will allow everyone to realize the full benefits of a connected society.”Chris Drake, CTO, Iconectiv
Q. Let’s begin with an overview of your role and responsibilities within iconectiv.
CD I am the CTO of iconectiv and have responsibility for our strategic technology initiatives. One of my responsibilities is to anticipate, recognize and adapt to technological shifts to identify promising opportunities and incubate new offerings. We are currently exploring opportunities in identity management, cyber-security and the Internet of Things (IoT) as these will all have significant impacts in the global market.
Q. Tell us about iconectiv for readers who might not be familiar with the company.
CD As a global leader in telecommunication solutions, iconectiv helps service providers and enterprises discover resources, route data and interact with their customers. Our vision of world is one where there are no barriers to the visibility and exchange of information by authorized parties and that information may enable a service or be the service itself.
This vision is evident in our product portfolio which enables communications between services providers, enterprises and end-users. Our portfolio includes the management of interconnection and messaging services as well as databases and registries that facilitate the secure and efficient exchange of data. As an example, we manage a world-wide, mobile identity database of about 2.2 billion numbers that all kinds of providers use to deliver their services to end-users. We also offer messaging services that enterprises use to deliver branded, real-time, targeted messages to their customers. IoT is a natural extension for iconectiv; it needs the same level of complex, high-volume and ubiquitous connectivity.
Q. How is iconectiv active in the IoT market?
CD First and foremost, we see the IoT market as one of tremendous scale that significantly exceeds the 7 billion phone numbers on the planet. Over the past few years, we have been working on making our product line IoT-ready. This is important because the scale of the IoT will change many of the existing operating paradigms. Routing in data networks, for example, will be supplanted by content-aware technologies resulting in a more instant, and improved, customer experience.
In the regulatory arena, we recently launched a program on IoT-related issues covering topics such as the use of phone numbers (a national, regulated asset) in IoT applications as well as emerging issues relating to privacy and spectrum usage.
We are also the designated provider of the oneM2M™ App-ID Registry on behalf of ATIS, the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions. The App-ID Registry is the official source of global, IoT-application identifiers that comply with the oneM2M™ standard.
Q. What is the value of App-ID and what types of business should care about it?
CD The App-ID Registry provides ground-breaking value because it offers global identifiers based on common standards. It is a guaranteed way to identify applications uniquely. What this means is that any IoT application from any developer can communicate and share data with any IoT device. It’s particularly valuable for organizations that do not operate within the same networks or platforms and which could not easily communicate with one another. The App-ID Registry helps to break down silos. This increases the addressable market opportunity for application developers, device makers, and service providers.
Consider a hospital setting where a patient is connected to a range of vital signs monitors, medication dispensers and other testing instruments. The data from these sensors is important to many different users ranging from nurse-practitioners to physicians and hospital administrators. Here you have a situation with multiple suppliers and users of data. Data interoperability is very important in this context and so is the ability for hospital administrators to purchase interoperable devices from different suppliers. In this example, the App-ID registry allows medical-device manufacturers to make their devices easily visible to different applications and end-users.
Most companies in the IoT market recognise that they do not have the expertise to address end-to-end application requirements. In a smart-home situation, we see companies developing one or two device categories (e.g. lighting and security) who need to partner with other companies to deliver a complete smart-home experience. Partnering becomes much easier once developers open up their protocol stacks and use the App-ID Registry to gain visibility in the smart-home ecosystem. In a market of thousands of applications and hundreds of thousands of developers, App-ID ensures that individual applications are both unique and discoverable.
In the long run, we see consumers and enterprises buying equipment that is oneM2M™ App-ID designated because it will be less expensive and more innovative compared to ‘walled-garden’ solutions.
Q. App-ID conforms to the oneM2M standard. What does this mean in practice?
CD While App-ID conforms to the oneM2M™ standard, it does not depend on any particular architecture and can certainly function in proprietary IoT environments. One of the benefits of the standardization process is the continuing development of the specification. From an App-ID standpoint, this opens up new possibilities to use meta-data for real-time routing, security, encryption and policy management in a highly interoperable manner.
Q. What have been the biggest challenges in your IoT strategy?
CD There is a lot of pressure on companies to deploy vertical application stacks using bespoke approaches because this offers a quick route to market. Many of the eco-system players we have spoken to are basing their 2016 sales plans on this approach. The problem comes when these companies have to deploy their 3rd or 4th applications. Now they are captive to their suppliers and the long-term costs of managing multiple systems or integrating them are significantly higher.
A standards-based communications ecosystem addresses these challenges and will allow everyone to realize the full benefits of a connected society.