A Truly Connected World: The Need for Global Device Connectivity and Control

By Tim Sherwood

Access to a cloud-based mobile network platform allows enterprises to optimize international connectivity with their customers, employees or assets—wherever they are.

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Every journey has a beginning, but the destination is not always clear from the outset. So far, the beginning of the CIO’s journey in enterprise mobility has been mostly about the lock-down and control of access and information. As the journey continues, emphasis is shifting toward unlocking the potential of the Internet of Things and the mobile-enabled workforce. This is particularly relevant at a time when enterprises need to find efficient ways to connect with multiple end-points, including customers, partners, employees and assets distributed around the world.

Forrester Research indicates that up to 45 percent of some enterprise workforces can now be categorized as “anytime, anywhere.” Gartner reveals that up to 70 percent of mobile professionals expect to be conducting all of their work on smart mobile devices by 2018. Extending slightly further ahead to 2021, based on forecasts released by Ericsson, we can expect 6.3 billion smartphones to be in use globally, along with 28 billion connected devices, mainly falling into the IoT category.

For enterprises considering how to mobilize their workforce, as well as deploy the IoT efficiently, a broader mobile platform approach presents obvious advantages. In order for a company to achieve a global digital transformation, a move to cloud-based, mobile-first strategies is key. The mobile digital platform economy model should be considered as being similar to the shared economy models associated with organizations such as Amazon, Uber or AirBnB—organizations that have applied digital transformation very successfully at an industry level.

The challenge is that a global platform approach currently is restricted, not so much by technical limitations such as spectrum availability, but by the commercial models that have been used for the past two decades to manage and provide mobile services. One significant challenge facing IoT deployments is how to achieve multiple-country connectivity. This is a problem for developers at multinational enterprises that want to be able to deploy their solutions or services across multiple geographies. Mobile network operators are defined by the limits of their own networks, so in cases for which international IoT requirements exist, this requires partnership with other connectivity providers and the need to find new models for inter-operator settlement.

As indicated by Ovum , negotiating agreements with network access providers in every target country is a long, complex and expensive business. In this case, an international connectivity platform provider takes on this aggregation activity on behalf of the developer or enterprise. This international, mobile platform approach unlocks the potential of large-scale, cross-border IoT deployments. This type of platform is of particular value when it comes to so-called permanent-roaming IoT scenarios—for example, involving automotive, transportation, logistics, telematics, fleet management, consumer devices, etc. By aggregating access to multiple networks, we are able to remove the complexity and high cost of connectivity that makes international IoT deployment a challenge.

With the dual challenges of IoT deployment and a rapidly mobilizing workforce, the CIO’s mobile transformation journey needs to focus on the mobile platform approach, whereby multiple corporate applications can be accessed and utilized in real time, by machines or by humans, regardless of location or network. This approach not only liberates enterprise employees from the restrictions of a physical workplace and the need to work within the constraints of a fixed environment, it also liberates the enterprise itself in terms of asset deployment and control.

With multinational enterprises, increasing adoption of the IoT adds another dimension to the CIO’s mobile digital transformation journey, with the potential of the mobile platform as an enabler to realize operational efficiencies and unlock new business growth opportunities on an international level.

Digital service providers already use this idea of communications platform as a service (CPaaS) to access and consume mobile communications services, irrespective of where the end user is located or which network they are using. Deploying network functionality and subscriber/device management in a cloud model can simplify many of the challenges associated with mobile end-point connectivity, security and cost.

There is considerable value that can be unlocked through the provision of more advanced mobile network services, such as QoS, policy management, billing or access to network intelligence—all deployed in a cloud-based model. This means connecting remote machines to centralized applications, information and related services via mobile regardless of national borders or commercial access restrictions—but also without the traditionally high cost of data roaming and within a secure connectivity environment.

IoT services need to be delivered in a similar way to how the World Wide Web is constituted: with service continuity and security, regardless of location. With access to a cloud-based mobile network platform, enterprises can optimize international connectivity with their customers, employees or assets, wherever they are located.

Such an approach can enable the CIO’s mobile journey, supporting programmable, borderless mobile services for machines or humans, without the cost, security, regulatory or access restrictions that currently exist. This is the premise of the mobile communications platform of the future, and it can be a powerful new revenue generator for enterprises, providing an innovation engine for the next wave of digital transformation.

Tim Sherwood is the VP of business development for mobility and IoT solutions at Tata Communications. He is responsible for shaping and driving the firm’s market-development strategy for business collaboration, mobility and the IoT. In this role, he works with the sales, marketing, product-management and services evolution teams to evaluate and bring to market new business opportunities to enable affordable and consistent cross-border mobile communications, collaboration and customer engagement. Prior to his current role, Tim was the VP of market development and regional alliances within Tata’s Global Voice Solutions business unit. Before that, he was the director of market management in the company’s Voice Commercial Operations team.