IoT will help NZ businesses find their edge


By Michael Stribling, General Manager IoT, Spark
Monday, 16 April, 2018


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Last year, when Spark announced it was launching two IoT networks in New Zealand, the huge potential of these for businesses soon became evident. Companies big and small across the country reached out, keen to be at the forefront of IoT. For many, this was the technology they needed to keep better track of their resources, or to start testing the new product they’d been developing.

Increasingly, organisations are being presented a range of options through which to plug into IoT. IDC recently pointed out that New Zealand already has seven LPWAN networks, creating a ‘criteria conundrum’ for organisations.

While choice is great, in the rush to maximise on IoT we mustn’t compromise long-term opportunities. In this criteria conundrum, there are some things that I believe should be considered: security, service level agreements, the ease of future upgrades and the maturity of ecosystems.

By its nature, IoT carries a degree of manageable risk. With all that valuable data being carried from a range of places to a diverse set of applications, it’s important that organisations consider the security behind their IoT infrastructure. They also need to think about the quality of the IoT network — how robust are the systems monitoring it? What support will there be if something goes wrong?

IoT is still very new. Time will tell which options out there will be most pervasive. Spark is investing in public IoT networks designed to connect large numbers of devices, across New Zealand, with a range of use cases. However, rather than tapping into public networks, some organisations are choosing to deploy their own. There are risks in doing this: there’s the significant, often hidden cost of running a network, along with the potential to become wedded to technology that might not be best in the future. A public, standards-based network delivers the benefit of someone else carrying the upgrade and maintenance responsibility.

That’s why Spark is leveraging the huge investments we’ve made in our 4G network to deploy a cellular low-power option (LTE Cat-M1) and to prepare for 5G. We also recognise IoT will be more than licensed cellular, so we’re investing in LoRaWAN. These networks will provide opportunities for very different use cases, along with the network resiliency, support and security that Spark already has.

These networks also have mature ecosystems — another important consideration for New Zealand companies wanting to build and trial IoT solutions before exporting them in the future. The ability for a product to run over a network in another country may not be there if it’s been developed over a proprietary network misaligned with global network standards. For LoRaWAN we’ve chosen carrier-grade partners and worked hard with the LoRa Alliance internationally to agree a standard that operates across the Asia–Pacific region.

It’s Spark’s vision to help New Zealand businesses find their edge here in New Zealand and overseas, and connected technologies play a big role in bridging the geographical barriers we face as a country. It’s critical for us that the IoT networks we provide enable New Zealand businesses to reach the world.

Like any product, there are a range of options out there. But when IoT data is as sensitive and business critical as most of it is turning out to be, what might seem like a small compromise now could bring with it a big penalty later on.

Michael Stribling is Spark’s General Manager IoT, responsible for identifying and building new business models in the Internet of Things. He is also a member of the Executive Council for the New Zealand IoT alliance. Catch his plenary address at Comms Connect Auckland on 3 May.

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