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Integrating a complex fragmented IoT ecosystem

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Podcast internet of things ecosystem
Welcome to the latest DNV GL Talks Energy podcast series, which was recorded live at the Singapore International Energy Week (SIEW) 2017. Each week notable industry thought leaders join us to discuss the hot topics from SIEW, and provide their insights into the main drivers behind the global energy transition.

With an abundance of devices, networks and platforms coming together to create a complex environment, how easy is it to create the perfect IoT system? Ludovic Lassauce, Director of IoT and Mobility at Tata Communications considers the benefits and challenges of global communication in today’s digital era.

Modern-day businesses use a multitude of platforms, systems and networks all with different protocols and languages. So how do we ensure that they are all able to connect seamlessly? In this engaging and informative interview, Ludovic discusses the challenges in creating an increasingly connected world. He explains why customers will no longer tolerate an inability to connect globally, and introduces the Tata Communications’ platform, ‘MOVE’, which aims to enable a borderless mobile experience. Finally, Ludovic shares how advancements in communication have and will continue to impact on our lives through technology.

This interview was hosted by Mathias Steck, Executive Vice President Asia Pacific, DNV GL – Energy.   

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00:00:00

NARRATOR    Welcome to the DNV GL Talks Energy podcast series. Electrification, rise of renewables and new technologies supported by more data and IT systems are transforming the power system. Join us each week as we discuss these changes with guests from around the industry.

MATHIAS STECK    Welcome back after our year end break to a new episode of DNV GL Talks Energy, and Happy New Year to everyone. My guest today is Ludovic Lassauce, Director of IoT and Mobility at Tata Communications. Welcome Ludovic.

LUDOVIC LASSAUCE    Good morning Mathias, and thank you for welcoming me.

MATHIAS STECK    Yes, great to have you here. Ludovic, today we want to talk about Tata’s strategy or vision – enable everyone or everything in the world to become seamlessly connected. But before we start with this, it would be great if you could introduce yourself as well a little bit what Tata Communications is doing.

00:00:57

LUDOVIC LASSAUCE    Absolutely. Thanks, Mathias. So, talking about myself, who I am is a very passionate tech entrepreneur; and that probably comes from the fact that I was inspired during my young age from anticipation movies that shows a world driven by machines. So, I always actually anticipated a convergence that will happen between the IT, telecommunication and electronics as underpinning foundation of next economic or more economic revolutions, if you want to say. So, basically, contributing to that vision has always been the engine of my career, which I realized in a solar start-up company like Netsize, which was acquired lately by Gemalto; or Jasper Wireless which was acquired by Cisco; all creating new business within the large organizations like Ericsson, Singapore Power and now Tata Communications.

So, at Tata Communications I’m responsible for an emerging modile connectivity business for IoT and Human Mobility in the Asia Pacific region. We call that business Tata Communications MOVE, and that’s the name for global mobility offering that basically enables borderless mobile experience, so that any mobile device can seamlessly connect and be managed over a set of APIs wherever they are in the world on any mobile network. And MOVE basically leverages Tata Communications’ relationship with over 600 mobile operators and a leading global network that is currently fuelling 24% of the world’s internet route.

00:02:57

MATHIAS STECK    Okay, I understand. So, what I read when I visited your website was that Tata’s ambition is to connect the world with its programme, MOVE. Can you outline what that means? I think part of this you explained already, but what is MOVE?

LUDOVIC LASSAUCE    Right. So, many companies and enterprises have been deploying connected solutions for the last ten years, but we can’t really say we have reached a mass market adoption. That’s probably due to the complexity to design and launch such services. So, if you consider the networks that are supporting communication between the edge device and Cloud application, you can see a recent explosion of various access technology, which show a clear gap in the current offering. So, it is calling for a simplification, for rationalization.

The cost of connecting a device remains still a significant barrier to entry for some IoT solutions. On the other hand, we can also see a demand, so, you just have to create a strong ground for it. For an organization, networks plays a fundamental role, as most analysts would forecast, because it provides a cost-effective way to reach remote assets or to interact with customers, employees, suppliers and business partners in real time.

00:04:33

So, at Tata Communications it’s really important to make the consumption of mobile network for IoT a simple experience to deploy, operate and secure. This is really our mission and we want to enable each single device to be born connected; and being able to connect and stay connected reliably anywhere, anytime at a producible and affordable cost. So, what we think is to achieve this goal we have to create a different paradigm in how mobile networks shall behave and deliver experience to customers.

It introduces new trade-off, where coverage, reliability, security and scalability have to meet new business requirements; and no matter which stage the customers are in, prototyping or large-scale deployment, networks need to be more pervasive. Companies shouldn’t think too hard on how they will get connected, or if the device that will basically be deployed somewhere in the world will find a network. A connected IoT device should latch on whichever network is available. Networks need to be reliable with a measured and programmable quality of service with the right level of security.

A network needs to be scalable, which means it needs to exhibit a clear decline in average cost when customers’ volumes are outgrowing. So, this is what it really means by being born connected.

MATHIAS STECK    Right. So, but the one thing I think we discussed also recently here on this Asia IoT Summit was that all this also comes with a lot of different types of IoT platforms where connections need to happen and this whole environment gets relatively complex. How do we go about the complexity of these many different systems in the future?

00:06:26

LUDOVIC LASSAUCE    Yes, absolutely. And this barrier is a direct consequence of a very widespread industry. I mean, there is no IoT as such as an industry, but IoTs are enablers of various different industry verticals. And unlike in the traditional mobile telephone, in the world of IoT the number of different kinds of devices being connected is just astronomical. The number of protocols and languages these devices are using is making it even more complex. So, there is no single system today that can harmonize, even within a single industry segment, such diversity. And that’s the reason why we have so many companies that attempt to create the holy grail platform, but investment by year are just huge and beyond limits.

Take for example the smart phone or smart building industry segment. I’m a bit familiar with them. Try to have a simple cooking pan that is connected from a vendor A, to interact seamlessly with fridge that is delivered by a vendor B, you still have to spend weeks of coding in order to realize that. So, for any firm that is venturing in IoT to create the right IoT solution, it has to pull together a lot of complex pieces required, requiring deep knowledge, expertise from electronic engineering, embedded software development, radio networking, IP transient security, Cloud management and web design. So, it’s really a huge investment to consider in people, and a risk for this company that still haven’t a clear view of how digital will play as part of their core business.

00:08:10

So, there are examples, especially in Singapore, of companies that have tackled that complexity by just making the investment and creating a complete separate R&D unit. So, that was the case of Singapore Power, but how many players can really do that and how far can it run? So, the real question is, what are the other alternatives and how this fragmentation can slowly disappear? So, maybe I can try to answer that a little bit here and give some sense of what we see.

MATHIAS STECK    Sure, that would be great.

LUDOVIC LASSAUCE    So, if you look at the IoT value chain, there are really three key components. You have your edge device, you have the network that carries the data and then the Cloud platform. So, what you can see, and there are significant players that are running on Cloud scale in each of these three areas; so, what really could happen is a first consolidation and rationalization with these three areas. So, on the network side, of course, Tata Communications, we definitely have the ambition to play a critical role here. But on the Cloud side and edge computing, you can see traditional Cloud players such as Amazon Web Services, or Google or Microsoft, that are really making significant investment to take leadership position here and consolidate an IoT platform. And on the device side, you can see movement from chip set players like Quad Core, Intel or MediaTek that are really stepping up so aggressively.

00:09:45

So, once simplification and clarity happens in these three areas, there will be a much easier vertical integration of the ecosystems that can happen, so that the final customer can benefit from much simpler, secured and scalable systems to run their IoT services, and that, I think, would probably constitute the engine of future IoT solutions. And I would say, as an enterprise decision maker, I would really try to pay attention to, and when making a choice of what’s really behind that solution I’m really acquiring and make sure I don’t remain in a very bespoke or hard to maintain solution. So, I think that’s how I would address this complex point.

MATHIAS STECK    Okay. So, very interesting, Ludovic. So, the issue we still have, I think, to get maximum value out of a highly connected world would be that people, companies, institutions are willing to share the data, which I think is still a bit of an issue today. Do you think that we will be able to control this the same way we saw this maybe in the private space where people were shy at the beginning, but they, nobody really cares anymore to share private information?

LUDOVIC LASSAUCE    Sure. And it’s pretty interesting because, I mean, we always hear the idea that data is now called a new currency. I mean, going back to Economics 101, the currency is more an instrument that measures a value for goods and services and used to trade. So, I’m not sure, really, we can consider data as a currency, according to that definition, given it has kind of, a relative value, actually. But we can definitely consider data as a new kind of oil, basically, an oil that has limited value until it has been properly refined for a purpose.

00:11:52

And the way to refine data in the IoT world is by correlating such data sets with other data sets to improve a model prediction, or to gain valuable insight that can be inferred from such combinations. So, that process requires sharing. As no company, institution or country will have the capacity to control all the type of data that can be created. So, today the resource and bias lay in the infrastructure or the ecosystems to really control the collection of data. It’s not really in the processing of it, to my point of view.

And this is how a company should see that and use it for their competitive advantage and monetizing purpose. So, creating the right joint relationship to enhance their own data set. And clearly one common fear is that prevents companies from sharing data comes from the anxiety of being disrupted or leaving too much value to a partner with who they will share. But it’s a bit like saying that you could refine oil without the oil coming from the well, so, that’s not going to happen. So, as we can see more and more success example of such partnership, perhaps it will help customers to get more comfort. 

Take, for example, Facebook and credit card companies, how they have come together to enhance advertising. Or now how even insurance companies are starting to work together to create / design packages. So, I hope we will see more of these examples, and it will give more and more confidence in people to openly share data.

00:13:44

MATHIAS STECK    Right. So, the relevance of a company will probably then in future rather depend on these partnerships, as you just mentioned, or how data is used, but not so much who is in possession of it?

LUDOVIC LASSAUCE    Well, to be in possession of a certain part of certain data you need to be able to collect, and I think to cost an investment you have to pool to collect this data is quite significant. So, that’s a source of competitive advantage. It’s like when you are in a - going back to my mining industry - the one who are actually able to create most of the value are the one who control actually the rig or the mines, not really the ones that are the platform of refinement. And whether we can make the same parallel here in the digital world, I think there is a sense it still needs to be proven.

But if you look at the utility industry, for example, I mean, the utility company have tremendous amount of data coming out of their network. If you want to have the same kind of quality data, you need to invest in a network, and that’s not a small investment, so…

MATHIAS STECK    Okay. No, I understand.

LUDOVIC LASSAUCE    Who better to share that kind of data?

MATHIAS STECK    Okay. So, a quite open question, second last, unfortunately, we are coming to an end of this episode already, but the second last question, right open, looking at a decade or maybe two ahead from now, how will the advancements in communication change our lives substantially?

00:15:22

LUDOVIC LASSAUCE    It’s always a very difficult question to anticipate, but I’ll try to give two examples. First, we are hearing a lot about current experiments in the autonomous cars. So, think about how autonomous cars will completely transform our driving habits, the transportation industry and just the society as a whole. Not only will the ability to hail a car to your door completely reverse the notion of car ownership, it will also reduce pollution and congestion in most cities.

But what’s more, areas previously used for parking can be totally revamped for different uses; enabling smart city planners to use the available real estate space more efficiently. So, try now to imagine how a city in the world of tomorrow with massive adoption of autonomous cars and other types of devices will just look like?

The second example. Try to remember the world as it was before the age of mobile phones. Do you remember how painful it was to organize a simple meeting with a friend that you could not easily reach, the anxiety to wait for him without knowing what happened or how long more you would have to wait? See how communication has already profoundly changed our habits in the way we organize our social interaction, creating much more options. Could we have predicted this change 30 years ago? Maybe.

00:16:48

MATHIAS STECK    Probably not.

LUDOVIC LASSAUCE    If you look at 4G networks. They were designed to welcome 50 billion devices, connected devices. Now we’re talking about 5G networks. They will welcome over 500 billion connected devices. As more and more electronics and machines will be able to connect, perform tasks on our behalf, we can certainly predict we will all benefit from an economic productivity growing exponentially. However, it is harder to predict how this will morph or is leading into, but it is up to us to really choose how to embrace it, and sooner or later.

MATHIAS STECK    Right. This, unfortunately, brings me already to my last question for this episode, Ludovic, and I want to tie that back to the theme of the Singapore International Energy Week, Rethinking Energy, Navigating Change. Give us your elevator pitch how is this relevant for communications, IoT and mobile solutions.

LUDOVIC LASSAUCE    Well, I will take the example of one project I was driving when I was in the energy industry a couple of months, actually, ago. And if you look at the energy data it actually provides a tremendous amount of information on consumers, on how basically consumers behave in the home, offline. And that amount of information is a very interesting type of data, if you can correlate that with our digital usage.

00:18:26

And I think there is a real opportunity for utilities to actually harvest, and tap into that kind of information, and find a way to monetize. So, unfortunately, it’s a long-term investment, but I definitely see that trend of repositioning the utilities as a very central piece of the smart city environment with that.

MATHIAS STECK    Okay. Many thanks, Ludovic. Unfortunately, our time is up, but great insights regarding connectivity, and how that is important for the future, and will change our lives. And to everybody who listened in, thank you very much. That was Ludovic Lassauce, Director IoT and Mobility Solutions from Tata Communications.

NARRATOR    Thank you for listening to this DNV GL Talks Energy podcast. To hear more podcasts in the series, please visit dnvgl.com/talksenergy.