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Verizon unveils global IoT strategy and launches developer platform

Steve Rogerson
November 3, 2015
 
Verizon unveiled its global IoT strategy during an event at its San Francisco Innovation Centre. A key element of this strategy resides in the launch of ThingSpace – an open platform for developers, technology partners and end-users to build, experiment and deploy applications of the IoT.
 
Alongside this, Verizon also announced a number of key innovations, including:the creation of a dedicated network based on LTE to be used by connected devices; an expansion of its smart cities services to include lighting, video and traffic management; the availability of its big data analytics engine for use in IoT deployments; and the forthcoming launch of Verizon Track & Trace, to help monitor supply chains and improve safety in the pharmaceutical industry
 
The new strategy re-affirms Verizon’s commitment to supporting IoT infrastructure alongside its ecosystem of more than 1000 channel partners. Revenue from its IoT and telematics services total $495m for the year so far.
 
“Continued innovation in smart cities, connected cars and wearables demonstrates that IoT is the future for how we will live and work,” said Mike Lanman, senior vice president at Verizon. “Despite the exciting potential, IoT is still too complex, too fragmented, too expensive to connect and too hard to scale. Success in that future relies on a leader that can cut through the complexity and change the IoT model. That’s where Verizon comes in. With our experience in networks, devices, platforms and applications, we are taking a holistic approach to simplifying adoption to expand the IoT market from millions to billions of connections.”
 
At last week’s event, the company also showcased how it’s putting its IoT capabilities to work for customers in the marketplace today through on-going collaboration.
 
For example, it is collaborating with Intel to pilot Verizon’s agricultural platform at Hahn Family Wines, a family-owned winery based in the Santa Lucia Highlands, in California’s Monterey County. With more than 1000 acres of vineyards, the pilot uses sensor data and analytics that can be used effectively to conserve and add precision to resources such as water and energy, prevent disease and lower operating costs – resulting in increased and consistently predictable crop yields.
 
The company is also teaming up with Japanese company Renesas, one of the largest suppliers of microcontrollers in the world, to enable manufacturers of connected machines in IoT and industrial segments to embed Verizon IoT’s technology early in the design process and scale quickly.
 
And it is helping monitor pharmaceutical products in the supply chain and improve safety using Track & Trace. Verizon’s strategic relationship with RFXcel uses IoT technology and leverages the Verizon network to provide near real-time monitoring of product environments. The commercial launch of Track & Trace is expected in spring 2016.
 
Verizon is helping colleges and universities across the USA reduce their carbon footprints by up to 20 per cent by powering the Innova EV car share fleet of all-electric vehicles with the Verizon Share app. As millennials place more emphasis on sharing than on owning vehicles, Verizon’s partnership with Innova is aimed at expanding its reach beyond the existing pilot programme to other campuses. Pilot sites include the University of Pittsburgh, Colorado State University, the University of Wisconsin–Madison and Washington State University.
 
“We are thrilled to be working with Hahn Family Wines, Innova, Intel, Renesas and RFXcel, among many others, to help them scale and create new business models,” said Lanman. “These projects show the tremendous range of issues that we can attack in new ways with IoT. We look forward to engaging other customers, partners and developers through our new ThingSpace platform and helping them bring transformational ideas to market.”
 
One barrier to innovation is that developers of new IoT services have to go through multiple channels and cumbersome processes to access the tools they need to create and launch applications. Verizon is simplifying that process with the ThingSpace self-service web interface.
 
ThingSpace lets users manage their IoT environments and related data, end-to-end, from device to network to application. Developers can also build IoT services using Verizon’s capabilities and innovation resources. As of today, all developers – even if they are not a Verizon customer – can code and test on the ThingSpace platform. The company will hold a developers conference in Boston, USA, in December at which a wide-range of coders including academia, start-ups, businesses and public sector organisations will gain access to an expanded set of APIs and application enablement capabilities on ThingSpace. Verizon plans to roll out hundreds more APIs on the platform throughout 2016.
 
Another barrier to widespread IoT deployment is the cost to connect to a wide-area network compared with other networks such as Wifi, Bluetooth and Zigbee. Non-cellular-enabled IoT devices typically connect to a network through a hub or router, which complicates the set-up for customers and increases the potential for failure. As IoT becomes more widely adopted, network connectivity needs to be simple, reliable and economically viable.
 
Recognising this market gap, Verizon has created a core IoT network within its LTE architecture optimised for Cat1 devices. Verizon has also worked with partners to embed LTE chipsets in a wide-range of connected machines to automate the provisioning process and make it faster to deploy IoT devices on its wide-area network. These enhancements are designed to meet or exceed the economic requirements of the next-generation of IoT use cases. Additional enhancements planned in 2016 include enabling power save mode for IoT devices to facilitate several years of battery life.
 
Understanding how to consume and manage data to address customer needs, solve market problems and generate societal benefits is another barrier to scaling IoT. To help businesses and consumers gain more actionable insights, Verizon is powering IoT technology with its big data engine. The platform is designed to consume massive amounts of data generated by IoT devices and other machines, analyse them at extremely high speeds and use scalable machine learning to turn raw data into usable intelligence.
 
Designed under the direction of the company’s chief data scientist at Verizon’s labs in Palo Alto, California, this multi-tenant data and analytics platform is being commercialised for large-scale IoT deployments.
 
The market for smart city services is projected to grow by more than 20 per cent annually from 2015 to 2020, according to industry analysts. Yet urban areas still suffer from the effects of traffic congestion, aging infrastructure and inefficient use of resources. Over the past year, Verizon has addressed the smart city market with IoT services for the connected car and smart grid including GridWire, Verizon Share and Hum. Now Verizon is leveraging its network, cloud, security and IoT capabilities to launch intelligent video, lighting and traffic management services to address the difficulties facing urban and rural communities in a more integrated and scalable way.
 
These should help municipalities integrate disparate systems, monitor traffic and safety conditions in real time, and manage their systems in a dynamic way to improve efficiency and public safety. Verizon is offering these as a service so municipal leaders can start small and scale fast.
 
“Smart cities are complex,” said Lanman. “They work best when their systems can coordinate and communicate with each other seamlessly. What is the correlation between a streetlight and public safety, or parking and traffic flow? Our intelligent solutions can be used as important tools for revitalising urban life, stimulating economic development and making communities more dynamic, resilient, sustainable and secure.”