How AT&T continues to drive innovation in IoT?

Internet-of-Things (IoT) is undoubtedly one of the most powerful technology trends that
have hit enterprises and consumers alike. We get into a conversation with Sandy Verma, Senior Director, AT&T Asia Pacific for Internet of Things Strategy & Solutions to know more about how the trend is shaping up, the company’s strategy to tap the space, and what is in store for the India market. Excerpts

Can you take us through AT&T’s growing role in the IoT space?
I am leading AT&T’s Asia Pacific Internet–of-Things (IoT) solutions based out of Hong
Kong. I have been with AT&T for the last 13 years. A quick background on how we are making
things possible for our customers. We believe AT&T is a global leader in developing and deploying industrial and consumer IoT communications. I can give you a sense of some numbers just to tell you where we are. As of Q4 2014, we had over 18.5 mn connected devices in our industrial IoT business. And we believe our Q3 of 1.275 mn connected devices, was probably more than any other operator across the globe in this space. The point I am trying to drive home is that we have the expertise in developing and deploying IoT solutions and that’s what we are here for—to drive credibility and grow and help businesses in the Asia-Pacific region.

Please highlight some key elements of your strategy for IoT.
We believe and share with our customers that mobility will revolutionize the society. It is not only changing the way we live and work, but it has also changed the way we organize our businesses and how we do business with our customers. We are one of the leading global telecommunications companies, we have a unique set of assets, and we are always striving to innovate. So the question arises how do we stay ahead? We are investing and making the right bet. We are failing fast but
we continue to drive innovation. We tell our customers that we will be the first ones to bring you the future. For example, we have set up five foundries across the US and the globe to innovate new technology. So that’s the kind of innovation we are talking about. The ecosystem
that we have today, that we continue to build, is our asset.

Can you tell us about the IoT potential you see in the Asia Pacific region?
At a macro level I would say, the trend in Asia Pacific in boardrooms with customers at C-level or management execution level is very similar. We are seeing IoT opportunities
in virtually all industries in Asia Pacific—logistics, transportation, automotive, and so on. There are a lot of studies out there, and one interesting study on Asia Pacific by Ovum, states that Asia Pacific will lead the world in terms of IoT revenue growth, forecasting a CAGR of 26.5%.

Where does India stand in the scheme of things?
I was in Nasscom last week, and I had the opportunity to visit some customers down South and Chennai. I also traveled to Pune to meet some customers there. I met a large automotive manufacturing company, I met a pretty large-scale supplier logistics company, several system integrators, another conglomerate which is working in the agriculture space—the trend was very similar. They have made IoT a top priority and this time they are trying to figure
out how to go to market. Same trend was seen from the government side. I heard there was a lot of discussion
on digital transformation and smart cities in India. It was encouraging as that’s the space AT&T has a lot of expertise in. In smart cities we have placed smart meters across cities in the US, where we are leveraging AT&T’s wireless connectivity and we are helping utility companies reduce major capital expense so they don’t have to deploy and manage private networks. That’s a huge reduction in expense.

What specific plans do you have in place for the India market?
AT&T has been doing business in Asia Pacific since late 1970s. So we do have a very robust setup here. Infrastructure is very important to drive the kind of relationships and connectivity. AT&T has had a presence in India for more than 20 years and its Indian affiliate started providing telecom services in India from April 2007. We now have six offices in India, and serve global multinational
customers here. Now layer that along with all that I have been talking about, our global expertise in machine-to-machine and IoT. It’s a perfect fit and that’s how we are working on the mission to help solve probably the most complex business problems for companies.

We want to grow globally. The fact that I have physically moved from the US to Hong Kong and putting together this complete business plan for going to market here in this region is one thing, apart from that what we are doing today is developing integrated industry solutions.

I can’t tell you any numbers, but I can tell you the opportunity we are seeing. Our focus areas/verticals include usage-based insurance, supply chains, smart cities, industrial assets, building security, vending, retail, and so on. Now, will we do that in India too? The answer is, absolutely.

Also, please indicate what specific investments are being made to enhance AT&T’s line of solutions and devices in IoT?

AT&T was the first to open a connected car research and innovation center, the AT&T Drive Studio, in Jan’13 and since then we have developed an expertise in the connected car and passenger vehicle domain. We have already got the partnerships in place with the likes of Audi, BMW, etc. I am going deeper into this one area that will give you a sense of how we are preparing ourselves. The interesting part is that AT&T will provide wholesale or retail connectivity to nearly 2 mn US cars, in the next year. There is a huge opportunity out there.

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