Mr. Lautz, the Internet of Things is on the advance in nearly all areas of work and life. What is the role of telecommunications companies in this development?
Telcos contribute a crucial ingredient – connectivity – toward connected products and services. On the Internet of Things, products and solutions must be cost-optimized because readiness to pay extra for connectivity is very low. With GSM-based solutions low connection charges are countervailed by high prices charged for wireless modules. That is why many applications are relying on local networks with gateways. If, for example, a smoke alarm is to be connected, the wireless module must not cost more than a few euros, and that is not yet possible with GSM technology. Use cases of this kind can in the future be developed using Low-Power Wide Area Networks such as are currently being standardized in the 3 GPP project. That is because the hardware costs are significantly lower. Deutsche Telekom sees enormous potential here, which is why it is supporting standardization.
What does that mean for Telekom’s connectivity offering?
We ensure that data is relayed securely, reliably and inexpensively from the machine to the server. We adapt the transport route to the customer’s needs. For the customer it is not of decisive importance whether data is transferred via a mobile network or via DSL. They merely want to be able to access their sensors’ information at any time in a secure environment and not to be bombarded with technical details and concepts. We as an industry must find a simpler language.
Why is that such an important criterion?
We increasingly observe that investment decisions on ndustrial Internet applications are not made by the person in charge of IT or telecommunications but actually by management. The reason is obvious. M2M solutions deliver clear economic benefits and also affect many business processes. If a service company is paid an annual fixed sum per machine as a maintenance fee, its earnings depend to a large extent on how often the field service is called out. If a technician visits the customer, connects his laptop to the equipment, sees which spare parts he needs and then collects them from the depot, these are costs the company does not really need to incur. A simple remote maintenance solution delivers significant savings.
How can a solution of this kind be implemented?
Let us take for example an elevator manufacturer, who would like to connect an elevator. They must first check which hardware is suitable and how it can be built into the elevator. The next step is to deal with data transmission and storage. In other words, the SIM cards must be activated and installed, the control system has to know where to send the data and the server must be able to process and evaluate it. Many solutions end right there. Yet this is where the exciting part – integration into other systems – begins. Service companies could feed the elevator’s data to their IT system, for example, and thereby improve their employees’ scheduling.
Can one provider on its own implement M2M solutions of this kind in full?
That may be possible in individual instances, but it is usually not the norm. This is why Deutsche Telekom has for several years collaborated with M2M and IoT industry partners. These partners provide individual components such as hardware or software. We with our certification ensure that the devices function without problems with our network and our platforms. Together with T-Systems, however, we also supply one-stop shop products and solutions. That enables us to provide our customers around the world with a very wide-ranging and, where needed, a very specialized offering.