Rise of the Enterprise Network Operator
IOT Insights Interview with Sam Colley, CEO, Pod Group
“We believe that going forward, a new type of operator is needed to enable enterprises to own and control their IoT networks so they can maximise the potential benefits of IoT. An Operator that is focused on delivering the infrastructure and tools enterprises need to deploy and scale IoT easily to extract maximum operational efficiency.”
Interview by Abraham Joseph, Editorial Director, IoT Insights
15 September 2021
Congratulations on your deal with G+D. How did the acquisition come about?
Over the last year and a half, we worked with a broker to explore growth opportunities. This led to discussions with G+D over an eight-month period and culminated in G+D acquiring Pod Group in July. For us, it was very important to find the right partner. G+D was well placed to help us accelerate our product ideas, and we were in a good position to help them accelerate some of their ambitions. So it was a very good fit.
In which specific areas does the deal enable you to grow?
It helps us accelerate our eSIM ambitions: the idea of a true global single offering for IoT. G+D is the market leader in eSIM and has a lot of pre-existing relationships with carriers, multinational enterprises and hardware manufacturers. This gives us a different starting position and more credibility to accelerate our Enterprise Network Operator (ENO) strategy. G+D brings best in class eSIM security and management, and Pod Group brings the cellular network elements and the platform to manage the overall solution at enterprise scale. There are considerable product synergies and this enables the combined group to accelerate deployment of ENO solutions which are designed to help enterprises own and control their IoT connectivity, for example, private networks, including those based on 5G.
What is an Enterprise Network Operator?
It is a relatively new concept, developed by Pod Group. It has been out in the ether for about a year and has received a good reception. People are familiar with the mobile network operator (MNO) and mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) concepts. We believe that going forward, a new type of operator is needed to enable enterprises to own and control their IoT networks so they can maximise the potential benefits of IoT. An Operator that is focused on delivering the infrastructure and tools enterprises need to deploy and scale IoT easily to extract maximum operational efficiency. Your readers can learn more about the ENO concept at www.whatisaneno.com.
How do enterprises respond to the concept of the ENO?
What we are saying resonates with them. They agree with the need for the decentralisation of network ownership and the incorporation of private networks. Also, the idea of ultra-flexible networking infrastructure as a service, enabling them to adopt and scale IoT is very appealing.
How does the Pod Group/G+D offering help enterprises with their networking challenges?
At the moment, there is a lot of focus on building campus networks. However, we see the real value in the future as the hybrid model of campus to public to campus, so that you can track things all the way through supply chains. One of our USPs is that we can enable that seamless roaming from private networks to public networks, and then back into private networks again. Campus networks, including private 5G networks, are a big focus for us. Delivering out-of-the-box solutions for this market is one of our key objectives.
You mentioned security earlier. Given G+Ds security heritage, what security opportunities does this partnership open for you?
Security has always been a huge focus for us and this partnership helps us boost our capabilities in this area considerably. Prior to the acquisition, we were investigating creating higher levels of security from the SIM card itself, but in early discussions with G+D, it became clear that they were exploring similar concepts, with greater resources.
For private networking, a lot of the focus is on security and that's obviously a natural fit for G+D. The company already works with large enterprises to deliver services based on SIM cards, eSIMs and other platforms. These applications offer tremendous opportunities for the combined G+D-Pod Group offering.
Does the new partnership give rise to conflicts of interest in certain segments or with certain customer groups? If so, how do you plan to resolve these conflicts?
Potentially it could, however, the overriding objective for both G+D and Pod is to create long term partnerships. Therefore, one of our top priorities is ensuring that previous relationships are strengthened or remain unaffected. For example, G+D has many existing carrier relationships and part of Pod’s ENO strategy is to help carriers deal with the long tail of opportunities for eSIM and eSIM management. Pod Group already works with carriers that use its platform to provide value-added services for specific enterprise segments, and we anticipate that there will be many more opportunities to work with G+D’s carrier partners as we move forward. Our aim is to become a more integrated partner focused on delivering additional value to them, rather than a competitor.
What about the big guys like Amazon, Microsoft, etc? Where do you see them positioned vs G+D and large industrial players looking to build their own solutions?
To some extent, it is good that we have some level of standardisation in large, well-adopted environments. However, this can be bad if you are limited in what your application can do or the technologies and solutions you can adopt.
Given that both Amazon and Microsoft have very significant incubator programmes and partnership communities – usually a precursor to them figuring out what works and what doesn’t, I expect they’ll play an important role in the development of IoT. Nevertheless, we believe that the market needs choice and flexibility, otherwise, innovation will suffer.
Tell me about the team and the brand. Will the name Pod Group disappear?
In the short term, we will remain as Pod Group. G+D wants to hang on to the Pod team. We're small, nimble and flexible. Also, they like our culture. We plan to continue running the business as before, but additionally to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves through G+D. We have a major focus on product integration because that's where the most value can be derived in the short term. In the future, we plan to evolve as a joint proposition to our various markets.
What about changes to the overall mission of Pod Group?
The mission of becoming an Enterprise Network Operator has not changed. The vision of taking it from a concept that we’re starting to deliver today to delivering the full flexibility of network ownership remains exactly the same. Medium term, this extends in scope to encompass other G+D-led initiatives focused on positive real-world contributions, such as measuring and monitoring environmental impact throughout supply chains.
Both you and Carsten Ahrens (whom I interviewed in Part 1 of this series) mentioned that G+D liked the Pod culture, did you build this culture based on a specific philosophy or did it develop accidentally?
Pod was part of a cultural experiment by its founder Charles Tower-Clark, the philosophy promotes transparency, decentralisation of decision making, autonomy and creativity. We have learnt a lot along the way and I think we have found the right balance between very little structure and control to encourage initiative and creative ideas throughout the team, and just enough to ensure that we are all focused on delivering on the business objectives.
What role do you see IoT playing in sustainability or other ESG challenges around the world?
IoT helps us monitor and control our impact on the environment. It enables us to track things throughout their life cycles, extract useful data and assess impact, e.g., carbon footprint. We need to exploit IoT more aggressively to make better progress with ESG goals. Also, IoT must be made much more accessible. In addition to government and corporate initiatives, we need real-time tools such as apps on phones that show people exactly what each purchase or decision means for both them and the world.
Do you have an interest in Africa?
Our business development team is currently focused on connectivity in that market but we're seeing a lot of additional demand. Much of this demand is for traditional applications like asset tracking and vehicle tracking. Part of our ENO strategy is to enable MNOs and resellers with turnkey solutions. Today, many carriers in emerging markets are not set up to provide IoT services. We are developing solutions to help them sell IoT applications and connect IoT devices. From a sustainability perspective, there's a lot of interest coming from Africa. We see Africa as one of the larger markets for investment, beyond Latin America and Southeast Asia.
What would you like the world to know about your new vision and capabilities?
Simply this. If you've run into problems delivering connectivity or infrastructure for your IoT application, there is now an end-to-end solution from the very bottom of the connectivity stack to the very top as well as within the connectivity stack itself. Now, you have an array of new technologies and tools to solve problems easily and deliver solutions for what was previously a very challenging environment. For enterprises, our key message is enterprise-grade connectivity is here.
Should all enterprises beat a path to your door, or are you focused on specific segments?
Although the ENO model appeals to enterprises of all sizes and across all sectors, the major benefits of IoT network ownership are likely to be of greatest interest to companies needing better control and security of their networks. For example, utilities, mining companies and oil and gas companies. Another important group is large organisations that are deploying applications that require a uniform approach across different territories. For them, the ENO model resolves many problems, including those previously associated with roaming.
Which of your hobbies have the least to do with technology?
Almost all of them have nothing to do with technology. With home-working, the lines between work time and non-work time are already very blurred. When I’m not working, I like to disconnect completely and enjoy hobbies that give me time to process what I’ve learnt. I love history. Also, I like to read. Currently, I’m reading Entangled Life, a book about how fungi have shaped and continues to shape our world. It is blowing my mind. The last book I finished was Breathe. It gave me a whole new perspective on how to breathe and how breath can be used to improve well-being and manage anxiety.
What advice do you have for budding entrepreneurs?
I believe that an individual is only as strong as the team around them and so my advice is to always remember this and not be afraid of not being the smartest person in the room. You will do better if you surround yourself with smarter people than you. Teamwork really does make the dream work!
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Carsten Ahrens, CEO G+D Mobile Security
“The Pod Group acquisition enables G+D not only to provide the security, but also to take away the barriers to adoption of IoT. One of the things I am most excited about is the group’s Enterprise Network Operator (ENO) concept”.
Interview by Abraham Joseph, Editorial Director, IoT Insights
3 September 2021
How did the deal come about?
We are always on the lookout for opportunities to develop our business. We see a massive market for IoT, for which we have several key ingredients. Combined with Pod Group, we see an opportunity to expand our scope and take away many of the barriers to wider IoT adoption that many perceive still exist.
For us it was a strategic move. Although the acquisition was relatively small, it is an important part of our future strategy.
How big was the deal? I didn't see any metrics related to it – apart from staff numbers.
We are not disclosing the financial details of the transaction. However, we are happy to talk about the team and the capabilities we are bringing on board.
The team consist of about 50 people, the majority of whom are located in Spain. They are on a great development trajectory and we saw a great opportunity to leverage this based on the reach that we have and the contributions we can make.
What does the deal enable you to do now that you weren't able to do before?
Let me take a moment to explain where we came from and the rationale for the acquisition. There are four core components in our portfolio. The traditional subscriber identification module (SIM) that we are familiar with, the embedded SIM (eSIM), the embedded OS (eOS) which we license as software to OEMs and the SIM/eSIM life cycle management solutions (OTA, SM-SR, SMDP+) including our Identity Service Platform for on-line generation of eSIM profiles (IDSP).
The pluggable SIM is still the majority of our business. However, over the last 10 years we were successful in expanding it into embedded devices primarily for the automotive sector, but also some consumer device manufacturers with software licensing business for our eOS.
We are very proud to have been one of the inventors of the eSIM, along with the carriers and manufacturers like Samsung and Apple. When we began licensing our embedded OS, many of our partners told us that in addition to this solution, it would be extremely useful if we could provide connectivity to the devices and entities – i.e., include operator SIM profiles. We worked with another company to address this requirement initially, but knew that having this capability in-house would enable us to address a broader range of features and security and hence add even greater value.
Our identity service platform (IDSP) is a major investment into our data generation capabilities. We need to do this because we are shipping hundreds of millions of SIMs every year that are today manufactured in batches. So data generation for the cards is also operated in batches. To unleash the full potential of eSIM and IoT, we need to do data generation on the fly, with partners sending us input data and G+D generating profiles and sending them back to devices in near real time.
Security is at the heart of everything G+D is doing. People work with us because they trust our technology. Like many other major IoT industry stakeholders, we believe the eSIM, and the integrated SIM (iSIM), will be important security anchors for IoT. This is why we are enhancing their features and capabilities to boost security and safety of IoT.
The Pod Group acquisition enables G+D not only to provide the security, but also to take away the barriers to adoption of IoT. Currently, a chipmaker, device maker or software developer trying to build a global solution faces major challenges. The same is true for enterprises that wish to deploy IoT solutions across national boundaries. G+D can contribute by helping to make IoT solutions safe, scalable and seamless to deploy. This is the compelling logic of the Pod Group acquisition.
Do you think concerns about IoT security are overblown?
No I don’t. The Internet of Things is the biggest machine that mankind has ever built and we need to make it safe. IoT devices are sending data across networks, and increasingly, these data sets are being received by algorithms rather than people and become training sequences for machine learning. In many emerging scenarios, if data is compromised, we might do the training badly and not find out until it is too late – until there is a catastrophic failure.
At what stage is the deal currently? Has everything been agreed?
The deal is closed and everything is agreed. We are actively working with Pod Group’s CEO, Sam Colley, and the great team he built on the post-merger integration process. Also, we have some technology integration processes to enable the new team to make full use of the wider G+D technology base to address new customers and markets.
We're very excited about the new team, their culture and spirit and are bringing the portfolios together to provide a unique offer to the market.
Has Sam got a new role?
Sam has the same responsibility as before. We like the way he’s set up the company and the way it operates. So the team will continue as before – led by Sam. Both old and new teams will continue to learn from each other and the new team will have more support to continue down the successful path they have had so far. They will have more tailwind, and the combined group will have a wider portfolio of offerings.
One of the things I am most excited about is the group’s Enterprise Network Operator (ENO) concept. When you speak to Sam, he will explain this in detail. For now, I’ll just summarise and say that it delivers comprehensive new capabilities for enterprises to deploy and manage IoT networks easily across campuses as well as across national boundaries.
In the context of campus networks, 5G will not be an evolution like 4G was. It has the potential to be a revolution. I think the amount of traffic that 5G networks will absorb from other connectivity technology such as LoRA Wan, Sigfox or WLAN is probably much bigger than we anticipate today. In Germany, for example, 140 campus network licences have been awarded. In a recent call with NTT DoCoMo, they confirmed that 40 such licenses have been issued in Japan. Similar campus network initiatives are under way in many other countries. Most of these networks will need eSIMs. This is why I think the combination of the two portfolios will be very attractive.
How does the acquisition alter G+D’s market position?
We are the leading player, with more than 230 operators connected to our eSIM platforms. We have shipped hundreds of millions of embedded operating system licenses for eSIMs. This move we are making will remove many of the roadblocks we discussed. So at the end of the day, it will be good for G+D and for the entire industry as well .
Does the deal create any conflict of interest, for example, with your carrier customers?
We don’t believe that our carrier customers will see the acquisition as competitive although Pod Group has its own core network. Rather, as demonstrated by the types of solutions Pod Group has been offering, the acquisition enables us to bring traffic to our carrier partners and that’s the way they also see it.
One of the challenges in addressing the massive IoT opportunity we talked about earlier is the huge variety of devices and applications on the market. Many carriers have challenges serving this long tail of applications. Many also have difficulties with the very low average revenue per user/connection, associated with many IoT applications. So rather than being competitive, we see the acquisition as supportive – helping our partners unleash opportunities in the long tail.
What are the major priorities for you right now?
One key issue that is top of mind at present is the chip shortage. It is a major crisis for many in the ecosystem. So far, we have been successful in managing the situation and meeting demand for shipments. This is a great accomplishment. We are putting a great deal of effort into qualifying new vendors to continue to be able to support the demand of our customers.
My second major focus area – which I am very excited about – is carriers’ interest in using eSIM as the primary activation mechanism for phones. We are getting geared up to support this at scale. We are running data centres that offer this as a managed service with 99.99% availability and carriers are approaching us with requests for significant capacity increases – in some cases double or triple their existing capacity.
And finally, but not least, as we discussed in the beginning, leveraging the Pod Group acquisition to go after new opportunities together with an expanded team and portfolio.
How do you prioritise the expanded range of opportunities you see in addition to the acquisition?
We have a strong business in automotive and we plan to continue to develop this. For us it's very important to continue to innovate in that segment. An example of our recent innovation is the concept of dual-SIM dual-active. It is now gaining traction with automakers. It enables the consumer or another party to bring a separate data plan into the vehicle for entertainment and other uses. This combination of a car-centric eSIM and a consumer-centric eSIM is very interesting for many players because it provides greater flexibility to present a variety of propositions to vehicle manufacturers, owners and users. Additionally, we are developing a range of vertical solutions – not necessarily targeted at specific vertical industries. The first is track and trace. This IoT application is not new, but enhanced with the security we can provide, it becomes very attractive to many new stakeholders.
What role do you see IoT playing in helping with sustainability and the other ESG challenges we see around the world?
This is a topic that keeps me very engaged. I'm absolutely convinced that if we get it right, IoT can be a massive contributor to sustainability. It presents us with powerful new tools to sense, monitor, analyse and control the world around us as well as our interactions with (and impact on) it.
Independent of its role in IoT, the eSIM will be a major contributor to sustainability. Building phones and other devices with eSIMs instead of traditional SIM slots will result in tremendous savings in material, time and cost (and in turn the adverse sustainability impacts) associated with the production, logistics, packaging and distribution of traditional SIMs. Billions of SIMs are manufactured and distributed each year. With eSIM all this can be done in a fully digital format. Hence I say, the eSIM is the most sustainable SIM.
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Kenta Yasukawa Co-Founder and CTO, SORACOM, INC.
“When Amazon web services came onto the market, it stimulated cloud innovations in many industries. Today, AWS powers many major brands including Netflix, Spotify, Airbnb and Lyft. We’d like to become the Amazon equivalent for IoT.”
Interview by Abraham Joseph, Editorial Director, IOT Insights – 1 August 2017
What does SORACOM do?
We connect things to the cloud. Some people think IoT is about connecting things to the Internet, but essentially it is about connecting things to cloud services and making use of the intelligence implemented in the cloud. We provide the services to help developers do that.
What IoT developers want to do is to create networks of their servers and their devices and implement intelligence based on the information collected from their devices.
Who are the other co-founders of SORACOM?
Our CEO Ken Tamagawa and our COO Daichi Funato. Ken and I worked together previously. He ran the technology side of Amazon’s business in Japan, and I was on his team.
What was your role before co-founding SORACOM?
I was an Amazon Web Services (AWS) solutions architect. My role was to provide technical help for customers that were using AWS to develop their infrastructure.
I worked with a wide variety of clients including technology startups, gaming companies and media companies. That experience gave me the ability to think about cloud-native architectures for different systems and applications.
What was the initial spark that led to SORACOM?
Before joining Amazon, I worked at Ericsson. In 2010 to 2011 cloud computing was just emerging and I thought that telecom infrastructure could be implemented in the cloud.
After I tried AWS, I continued to believe that it should be possible. However, I realised that I needed to extend my knowledge of how to use the cloud, so I decided to join AWS as a solutions architect.
One night I was having a beer with Ken, and I mentioned the idea of implementing a mobile core network on AWS. The following morning, Ken came up with the idea of connecting things and people to improve lives and make the world a better place to live. That was when we decided: let’s do this. Shortly after, we teamed up with Dan. Dan previously worked for NTT DOCOMO and had a strong telecom background. Together, we had the fundamental elements for the foundation of the company.
The time you mentioned, 2010 to 2011 was that not the time of network architecture evolution to IP and IP Multimedia Subsystems (IMS)?
Yes. That was exactly the time we were discussing IMS. At Ericsson, we talked a lot about IMS, and there were lots of research projects about IMS. But to me, it looked like IMS was more about replacing old switches with IP-based switches rather than about replacing switches with web technologies.
Implementing a telecom stack on AWS sounds hard. How was all that heavy lifting done?
We started as an MVNO of NTT DOCOMO. When we launched our first service, we needed a GGSN or PDN Gateway to terminate the cellular network at the edge. Then, I started to look at the protocol stack to figure out how it could be implemented in the cloud. Ken, Dan and I spent some time discussing this, and together we designed the architecture. Subsequently, we implemented the first proof of concept.
How long did that take?
It took about 6 to 8 months to develop a solution that accepted ‘live’ customer traffic. At that time, we were operating in stealth mode. We offered alpha and beta versions of the service to some friendly customers, got feedback, improved the offering and prepared for a public launch. Thanks to the capabilities that AWS offered, it was not as hard as it might sound.
From my ancient telecom background, I imagine reams of specifications, years of development and millions of lines of code. How easy did you find it?
It is true that it was not simple. We needed to deal with telecom protocols, the Internet world and web technologies. Thanks to our backgrounds, we had insights into each aspect. We combined forces to make it possible. Additionally, we leveraged AWS managed services such as Amazon DynamoDB, Amazon S3 and Amazon SQS that gave us tremendous capabilities from the onset. The ‘super power’ given by these AWS services enabled us to focus our resources on the core parts of our platform.
It sounds like you did a lot of the coding yourself. Was that the case?
Yes, I wrote quite a lot of code. Although I have the title CTO, I introduce myself as a developer and CTO. I’m still a part of our development team, and I still do a lot of hands-on coding. I find it the best way to engage with the team.
How handy was your telecom vendor background?
Sometimes I get misunderstood by people. They think that since I worked for Ericsson, I had knowledge of the internal aspects of the switches and equipment. This is not the case. I was a researcher at Ericsson, working on connected home and application area research. To develop our platform, I had to dig into and learn many technical aspects.
Fortunately, at SORACOM we had a dream team for developing systems based on AWS cloud. This enabled me to focus solely on developing telecom interfaces.
The development of our billing system that enables detailed billing for pay-as-you-go use is an example of this good fortune. Fairly early in the development of the platform, I said to a colleague, Akio Katayama, now VP of Engineering, “Periodically, I’ll send an archive containing the amount of data each SIM has consumed to an S3 bucket. Can you build a billing system?” The outcome is the real-time billing system that is now at the heart of the SORACOM platform.
What was the most challenging part of the technical effort?
We spent a lot of time figuring out how to develop a scalable and reliable infrastructure. We needed to implement the GGSN and PDN Gateway so that they scale as we increase the number of servers. Also, we wanted to have no single point of failure in the system.
In the web world, there are lots of existing frameworks and programming languages we can use for building common web servers and reliable, scalable systems. For telecoms, there are not as many interesting tools and insights. We needed to design new architectures and invent cloud-native telecom gateways. That was a challenge, but it is a good challenge because it enabled us to develop and patent important intellectual property.
Unlike the traditional ways of implementing GGSNs and PDN Gateways using ultra-reliable hardware, our way is the cloud way, using EC2 instances running on commodity hardware.
Any server in our system can fail at any time without affecting the service, and when an instance fails, the system automatically heals itself by replacing the node.
How have you tackled security?
Security has been the most important consideration in our architecture. The fact that we have our GGSN and PDN Gateway running on AWS not only contributes to infrastructure security but also it enables our value-added services to improve security for customers. For example, if the customer’s back end is also on AWS, we can peer the customer’s virtual private cloud with our core network and the customer can implement an end-to-end virtual private network by taking advantage of our connectivity solution. Also, we have application layer services that provide additional security for device communications. For example, we have a service called SORACOM Beam that can receive data from a customer by opening an endpoint at which we apply Internet-grade encryption to the data. If we receive a single UDP packet from the device, we extract the payload and forward it with HTTPS to the cloud side. This approach has added the benefit of improving communication efficiency by reducing overheads on cellular links.
We hear a lot about devices being hacked. How does your solution solve this problem?
Typically, manufacturers ship devices that connect to cloud back ends through the public Internet. In many cases, the devices use home Wi-Fi to connect to servers via the public Internet, and there are several points where an attacker may steal or alter information.
When a customer uses SORACOM Air and services built on it, their devices are connected to the cellular network and data is transferred through the local operator to SORACOM’s back end through the inter-operator network. Also, as I mentioned earlier, if the customer is also running on AWS infrastructure, we can pair with the customer’s back end through Amazon VPC peering, a private fibre or a virtual private network and data does not go through the Internet.
Does SORACOM offer a solution for managing devices?
We provide management at several levels. Customers have always had the ability to view and manage their SIMs through our console. Often the SIM card is tied to a device ID and in the past customers managed devices through their SIMs via the console.
Recently we launched a new service, SORACOM Inventory, to allow customers to manage their devices as well as the communications service. SORACOM Inventory makes it possible to change settings on, restart, issue commands to and monitor various metrics on an individual device or group of devices remotely and securely. It leverages SIM identity to ease the provisioning of credentials to each device and enables device management with low protocol overheads.
Have you seen any changes in the types of devices people are trying to manage?
Yes. Recently, we have been seeing requests for the management of less capable devices like tiny controllers and sensors that are not running a fully-fledged OS. When we designed SORACOM Inventory, we considered those restricted devices.
What other features are we likely to see from SORACOM in the coming months?
We are always in listening mode and continuously collecting requirements from customers. When these lead to a common feature we can offer, we consider implementing it. Our roadmap is determined by what we learn from customers.
You wish to democratise IoT by liberating developers. How much experience does a developer need to have to use SORACOM’s services?
Our services aim to get rid of the barriers that developers usually face when implementing communications between devices and servers. For example, once a developer has a SORACOM SIM and a 3G/LTE module connected to their device, the knowledge they need is a basic use of familiar protocols such as HTTP or MQTT. Our application layer services provide additional security enhancements and help integrate with cloud services so that devices can use simple, low-overhead protocols. Developers can send data to our HTTP endpoint, and we can apply SSL and the additional authentication. Also, if they use SORACOM Air and set the private networking features properly, they don’t have to be afraid of going through the Internet. This means that developers do not have to waste time on the typical heavy lifting associated with using most other IoT connectivity solutions.
What type of developers are you targeting?
Any developer is welcome. We have a wide spectrum of developers, including those working with startups, SMEs and large enterprises like Canon, Komatsu and Toyota.
We designed our platform so that any size of customer can leverage our services. Our self-service model is liked by startups and SMEs. At the same time, the features we offer to build secure networks are of great importance to large enterprises.
What are the most important things you’d like people to know about SORACOM’s solutions?
There are three things. The first is that our services are meant for IoT innovators – people who want to leverage the key technologies available today, like cloud, secure connectivity and new devices, and focus on innovation rather than the complexities of managing communication protocols and implementing security layers. We handle all the heavy lifting, leaving them to focus on their devices and their applications.
The second is that we offer a self-service model. Customers can order a SIM card online and get started at any time. They do not need to call us or fill in an application form.
The third is that our pricing is based on a simple pay-as-you-go model. Customers can implement quick prototypes and grow them by adding features.
When Amazon web services came onto the market, it stimulated cloud innovations in many industries. Today, AWS powers many major brands including Netflix, Spotify, Airbnb and Lyft. We’d like to become the Amazon equivalent for IoT.
Doesn’t that mean having to fight off many of the big players like Amazon and Microsoft?
We have good relationships with all the mega-cloud vendors. Although I said we would like to be the Amazon for IoT, it doesn’t mean we plan to compete with the mega-cloud vendors. Rather, we would like to extend their service capabilities to IoT devices. For example, we have an integration with Amazon’s AWS IoT that enables devices to exploit AWS’s capabilities simply by configuring some parameters on the platform rather than having to write code. Similarly, we integrate with Microsoft Azure event hubs so that developers can use machine learning or the analytics services offered by Microsoft Azure. Recently, we announced integration with Google IoT and Google Cloud Pub/Sub.
What are your proudest customer case studies?
The first would be Komatsu. They have huge construction machines in the field and have been players in M2M for a long time. They have had cellular modules in their machines and have been monitoring them remotely. They had a different provider but switched to using our service because we offer cloud integration as well as secure, bidirectional communication between their machines and back end services.
The second example I’m especially proud of is Tokachi Bus, a local bus company in Hokkaido Island, Japan. They started by putting a GPS locator on each bus and tracking bus locations in real time. Then they offered a smartphone application to bus users. The reason I chose this example is that they found us shortly after we launched our service, ordered the SIMs online, built the system and started offering services to their customers. We didn’t know about them until they launched the service. They are a typical self-service customer, and their case shows how easy it is to use the service and how easy it is to expand a solution built on our service to support additional customers.
What are your greatest hopes for the development of IoT?
My greatest hope relates to the vision Ken expressed in our initial discussion that led to the founding of the SORACOM. That IoT will be a major force for good in the world, that it will help to improve lives and help us build better, safer communities. Also, since there is always the opportunity for technology to be misused, I hope that we will be wise enough to develop and deploy IoT in ways that minimise potential abuses.
Parag Mittal, Chief Commercial Officer, SORACOM
“Our focus is the democratisation of IoT. For me, the measure of success would be that Soracom is recognised not just for excellent commercial performance, but also for the work it has done to support the industry.”
Interview by Abraham Joseph, Editorial Director, IoT Insights
What is the origin of Soracom?
Soracom was founded in Japan in 2015 by three experts in telecommunications and cloud technologies, our CEO, Ken Tamagawa, our CTO Kenta Yasukawa and our COO Daichi Funato. We launched our service in Japan on 30 September 2015. From the onset, our objective was to develop a communications network that was optimised for IoT, with the performance and scalability to serve all customer groups. One year after launch, we had over 4000 clients. Today we have over 5000 clients. (Read interview...)
"When we think of the Internet of things, we don’t just think about data in the cloud, we think about how to build devices, organise their information flows and operate the devices around assets and the management life cycles of the assets”
Christopher O'Connor, General Manager, Internet of Things, IBM
Interview by Abraham Joseph, Editorial Director, IOT Insights
What is IBM’s position on IOT?
We have been around this space – which has had a variety of names – for many years. We have a strong presence in IT data centres and for many years we’ve been providing a range of solutions that take a set of physical devices, convert their outputs to digital data, analyse this data and provide information for business decisions. (Read interview...)
13 April 2010 -
Kevin Maher is Managing Director of Arkessa. He has over 25 years’ experience in the mobile industry and has held leadership roles at industry-leading organisations including Ericsson, Nokia, NEC and Huawei.
Interview by Abraham Joseph of M2M Insights.