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MWC 2018: Data, not connectivity, now core to IoT, says Cisco Jasper

At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Cisco Jasper has been exploring the growing criticality of data management to the internet of things, and unveiled new NB-IoT customers in Asia

Two years after being acquired by networking behemoth Cisco – and with its enterprise customer base up from 3,000 to more than 16,000 in that time – internet of things (IoT) business Jasper has been advancing its IoT management strategy at Mobile World Congress 2018 in Barcelona.

Speaking to Computer Weekly at the annual mobile industry extravaganza, Cisco Jasper IoT cloud strategy platform director Theresa Bui said the conversation around the IoT was moving from basic core connectivity to support massive sensor and device deployments to wider management platforms that can help enterprise users get the most out of the vast amounts of data now being generated by the IoT.

“In the early days of the IoT, there was a simplified user model for data,” said Bui. “You’d pull one stream into one app, which is easy to do. But today it’s not one stream of data and one app, it’s multiple streams to one app, or one stream to multiple apps.

“When you have multiple devices made by multiple manufacturers all generating different data models, it’s difficult to extract data, it’s difficult to uniformly analyse that in a single data model, and difficult to decide when, where and how often you want to run compute – on-premise, at the edge, in the cloud...”

In the past year, Cisco Jasper has been refining its Control Centre IoT management platform to address these challenges, introducing Kinetic, a distributed software architecture to help extract, move and apply policy to data. It has also taken advantage of its parent’s foray into the world of intent-based networking (IBN) – the application of machine learning techniques to network management, and beefed up its IoT security services wrap.

“To me, when I think about what Cisco brings to bear, it really gives customers an end-to-end solution for managing IoT deployments,” said Bui.

“But that isn’t, in the early days of IoT, what people had in mind – the ability to splice and dice data streams and use those streams anywhere and everywhere.”

NB-IoT strategy officially launched

All the same, Cisco Jasper’s big announcements at this year’s show still centred on connectivity, as the supplier marked the official global launch of its narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) platform (trials of which were first announced at MWC in 2017), Control Centre for Narrowband IoT, with early proof-of-concept customers already up and running in Australia, China and Singapore.

In China, operator China Unicom has been trialling the NB-IoT platform for about 16 months, with use cases centring on smart city deployments in China’s fast-urbanising society.

“The demand for low-cost, low-power connectivity is extremely high throughout China, and we expect to have over 100 million NB-IoT connections on our network by 2020,” said Xiaotian Chen, general manager of China Unicom’s IoT business.

“By embracing multiple technologies for both traditional and low-power devices, we give our customers – regardless of their industry – the flexibility to choose what fits their specific business needs,” said Chen.

Bui said that in the city of Shandong in eastern China, a smart street lighting project using the Control Centre platform had shown a 24% reduction in energy cost and a 56% cut in field support costs.

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“The benefit of NB-IoT is it’s so inexpensive to roll out devices on it and the data consumption is so low, so it lets service providers and customers think about how to monetise the IoT differently, thinking not about data costs, but business outcomes and transactions,” she said. “That is a real shift in how service providers can think about NB-IoT as they scale, and it puts them more in direct partnership with customers.”

When used in conjunction with the refined Control Centre product, Control Centre for NB-IoT will: enable customers to manage multiple modes of connectivity across IoT devices besides NB-IoT – such as traditional 4G; offer them customisable service packages to let users manage connectivity based on the business value they derive from each device; and enable them combine automation capabilities with real-time visibility and insight across vast IoT estates, letting users manage large-scale deployments at minimal cost.

Cisco’s recently announced IBN portfolio will be of particular value when it comes to automating IoT deployments, said Bui.

“While we are beyond connectivity, the first thing you need to do is still to get devices quickly and securely on the network,” said Bui. “Our IBN solution set helps companies quickly deploy IoT devices out into the field. That, to me, is job number one – to make sure you can scale devices very quickly, wherever and whenever you need them.”

Read more on Internet of Things (IoT)

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