Focus on consumers’ needs for IoT, telcos urged

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Operators and vendors need to develop a greater sense of consumers' needs if the Internet of Things is to succeed, a conference has heard.

Professor Mischa Dohler at King's College, London told delegates at the eighth Future of Wireless International Conference: “People don’t care about smart homes and smart cities, they care about better healthcare and less congestion.”

Delegates heard that a customer-focused approach to IoT was crucial, whether it was in the health, retail, automotive or energy sectors, among others.

Simon Fletcher, CTO at Real Wireless and Chair of the Future of Wireless International Conference, said: “From a vertical market perspective the pace of technology change in IoT and nascent 5G can be daunting. What is becoming more important is a change in thinking to focus more on the demand side and identifying where the IoT can make a real difference, rather than just a technology push.”

Bob Driver, CEO at Cambridge Wireless, added: “While it may be some time before predictions of many billions of connected devices becomes a reality for consumers, it is clear that the early winners in the new connected world will be those who can identify real customer needs and drive disruption in vertical industries. These companies may be established players who are fast to adapt or agile new players – but the race is certainly on.”

Jon Carter, UK Head of Business Development at Deutsche Telekom, defended the role of operators. He said: “Telcos have recognised both the threats and opportunities presented by the IoT and are responding to the need for innovation and creativity to be at the heart of the consumer IoT ecosystem.”

The scale of disruption by IoT was underlined by the VP of R&D at automotive supplier Magna International. Ian Simmons said the car industry had experienced more change in the past five years than the previous 50.

He said: "Drivers of this change come from the sharing economy, stringent fuel economy and emissions targets, and advanced technology challenges of autonomous vehicles, connectivity and the IoT."

While operators are keen to take advantage of demands for automotive connectivity, David Wong, Technology and Innovation Manager at the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders claimed more than 4,500 miles of British roads lack 2G, 3G or LTE coverage.