5G’s impact on transport and logistics: $280bn of benefits in 2030

The challenges facing the transport and logistics industry

The transport and logistics industry is a fundamental sector that acts as the backbone to a country’s economy, and plays an essential role underpinning other core sectors such as manufacturing and retail. Challenges and opportunities facing the transport and logistics industry are also closely tracked and influenced by national and local governments, who are often responsible for investments in supporting transport infrastructure (e.g. roads, rail networks etc.).

As the movement of people and goods across the world increases, the industry is evolving to meet these demands. However, it faces challenges in doing so. The logistics industry has been under significant pressure for some time. Capital and fixed operating costs are high, and companies are struggling to differentiate. Despite growing demand, many firms are suffering from eroding margins. The UK market exemplifies these issues, with revenue growth across the industry low or negative. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these issues and thrown up unforeseen challenges, with the airline industry being particularly badly hit.

UK top 100 hauliers reported operating margin

Declining logistics margins

Source: FTA Logistics Report 2019

Although the rise in online retail and growing international trade have helped to stimulate the industry, there are still pain-points that are hindering growth. These include volatile diesel prices, driver shortages, and increasing pressure from governments and the general public to be more environmentally friendly.

The focus for the majority of the industry is therefore on cost-cutting and improving operating efficiency. For many companies, investing in new technologies provides an opportunity to transform their operations and drive efficiencies. There is significant scope to do this since the industry as a whole is generally not as digitised as other verticals, and because there is room to make improvements to currently under-utilised assets. For example, in the UK, 30% of goods vehicles on roads are running completely empty, and the freight vehicles that are carrying goods carry an average of 60% of their potential capacity.

UK logistics industry focus is cost-cutting and efficiency

Cost-cutting and efficiencies in logistics

Source: FTA Logistics Report 2019

As well as looking to improve efficiencies, safety and environmental impact are key areas of focus for the transport and logistics industry and government stakeholders:

  • Safety: enhancing safety of transport, particularly road transport, which is the most widely used, is an ongoing goal for the industry. Doing so benefits society as a whole, with fewer casualties due to road traffic accidents, for example, but also directly benefits transport and logistics companies through a positive impact on their branding and a decrease in insurance premiums. The industry is adopting new innovations and technologies such as ‘black box’ driver monitoring and/or alerts to improve safety.
  • Environmental impact: the drive to become greener is increasingly paramount. The industry is currently responsible for almost a quarter of the world’s CO2 emissions , and 14% of overall emissions. Road vehicles are responsible for the majority of this, contributing to nearly three-quarters of global transport emissions. As the population becomes more environmentally conscious, governments are passing regulations and setting sustainability targets to try to reduce emissions and consumption of non-renewable energy sources. For example, the United Nations has adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that aim to reduce inequality while tackling climate change. The industry must adapt to these regulations, and large players are taking steps to improve their practices. Logistics heavyweight DHL has committed to zero emissions by 2050 and in the shipping industry, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) have declared they will halve carbon emissions in this time period.

The role of technology in driving efficiency

For the industry to address these challenges and achieve efficiencies, it will need to adopt new technologies.

The catalyst for digital transformation will be data – in particular the generation of richer and more comprehensive data and the analysis of this data to produce insights to better inform decision making. The figure below shows the four pillars of technology that will drive improvements in efficiency.

The four pillars of technology that will help in driving efficiency

Digital pillars for efficiency

Source: STL Partners

Digital transformation: Transport and logistics lags behind

The need to digitise is not only driven by internal ambitions for greater efficiency in operations, but also by external pressures as customer expectations change. Requirements for last mile experiences in particular are evolving, as customers become accustomed to shorter and more flexible delivery times and greater visibility of the delivery process. Their cost expectations are also changing, with these improvements being expected for a smaller fee or even for free.

Despite the impetus to transform, the logistics industry lags behind other industries when it comes to digital transformation. There are two core reasons for this:

  • The degree of automation is limited
  • There is a reluctance to share information

The role of 5G networks in digital transformation

5G especially holds the potential to help drive digitalisation and address some of these challenges, both through enabling new and improved use cases and in its role in helping to catalyse the digital transformation journey. As 5G is rolled out, it could have a significant effect on supply chains, the wider transport industry and society more generally. This report explores the benefit of 5G to the industry and consider the actions that need to be taken by the industry, by governments, and by telecoms operators to reap the benefits.

Report findings are based on extensive research into the impact of 5G on the transport and logistics industry, including 10 interviews with enterprises and telco executives and an industry survey with more than 100 participants in both developed and developing markets.

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Table of contents

  • Preface
  • Executive Summary
    • 5G can provide $280Bn of benefits to the transport and logistics industry
    • 5G’s unique capabilities enable new and enhanced use cases
    • However, there are challenges to adopting 5G
  • Introduction: A major industry under increasing pressure
    • The challenges facing the transport and logistics industry
    • The role of technology in driving efficiency
    • Digital transformation: Transport and logistics lags behind
    • The role of 5G networks in digital transformation
  • The impact of 5G on the transport and logistics industry
    • What is 5G?
    • 5G’s relevance in transport and logistics
  • New and improved use cases and applications enabled by 5G
    • Real-time routing and optimisation
    • Automated last 100 yards delivery
    • Connected traffic infrastructure
  • 5G impact: Increased productivity to drive $280bn rise in GDP
    • It’s not just about money: 5G’s socio-economic benefits
  • Next steps for the T&L industry
    • The role of governments
    • Collaboration with the telecommunications industry
  • Conclusion

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Recovering from COVID: 5G to stimulate growth and drive productivity

For the accompanying PPT chart pack download the additional file on the left

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Related webinar: How will 5G transform transport and logistics?

In this webinar, we share learnings from 100+ interviews and surveys with industry professionals. During the presentation we will look to answer:

  • How will 5G accelerate digital transformation of the transport and logistics industry?
  • What are the key 5G-enabled use cases and what benefits could these deliver?
  • What must change within the industry to unlock this transformation?
  • What is the role for telcos – how can they work with industry leaders to increase adoption of 5G and build new revenues beyond core communication services?

Date: Thursday 10th September 2020
Time: 4pm BST

View the webinar recording

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The 5G opportunity and value to verticals

In October 2019, STL Partners published research highlighting the benefits 5G-enabled use cases could unlock for industries. Our forecast predicted a potential $1.4 trillion increase in global GDP by 2030 across eight key industries.

In this short paper we look to update these numbers and explore new insights and conclusions based on two key factors:

  1. STL Partners has produced new research on the impact of 5G on the transport and logistics industry. This has led to more granular insight on the unique benefits and use cases for this vertical.
  2. COVID has changed the global landscape. It has increased demand for some 5G use cases, such as remote patient monitoring or video analytics solutions that determine if the public are respecting social distancing, but has also brought about economic uncertainty. We reflect these nuances in our updated figures.

5G enabled use cases could increase GDP by $1.5 trillion by 2030 – an increase from our original forecast

Source: STL Partners

5G’s impact on transport and logistics: Fresh analysis and new use cases

In 2019, we deep-dived into the 5G opportunity within two key verticals: healthcare and manufacturing. We have since performed a similar deep-dive on the transport and logistics industry, consisting of primary research with experts in the industry. We interviewed 10 enterprises, solutions providers, and members of 5G testbeds who were focused on transport and logistics, as well as surveying 100+ individuals who work in the industry to test the impact they predicted for three key 5G use cases. We will shortly be publishing a full report on these findings in detail.

We have revised our estimation on the impact of 5G on the transport and logistics industry. In 2019, we predicted 5G enabled use cases could increase the GDP value of the transport and logistics industry by 3.5% in 2030. We now believe the impact could be as high as 6%, though importantly some of these benefits are indirect rather than direct.

New forecasts show a bigger impact to the transport and logistics industry

Source: STL Partners

The three 5G-enabled solutions newly explored in detail in our study were:

  • Real-time routing and optimisation: Sensors collect data throughout the supply chain to improve visibility and optimise processes through real-time dynamic routing and scheduling;
  • Automated last 100 metres delivery: Using drones or automated delivery vehicles for the last ‘hundred yards’ of delivery, where the delivery van acts as a mobile final distribution point;
  • Connected traffic infrastructure: Smart sensors or cameras are integrated into traffic infrastructure to collect data about oncoming traffic and trigger real-time actions such as rerouting vehicles or changing traffic lights.

Benefits from these use cases include fewer traffic jams, more efficient supply chains, less fuel required and fewer accidents on the roads.

COVID has changed the landscape and appetite for 5G services

COVID-19 has caused a global economic slowdown. There has been a widespread fall in output across services, production, and construction in all major economies. Social distancing and nationwide lockdowns have led to a significant fall in consumer demand, to business and factory closures, and to supply chain disruptions. The pandemic’s interruption to international trade has far exceeded the impact of the US-China trade war and had a major impact on national economies. Lower international trade, coupled with a precipitous fall in passenger air travel, has also caused the air industry to enter a tailspin.

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • The 5G opportunity: Updated forecast on value to verticals
  • 5G’s impact on transport and logistics: Fresh analysis and new use cases
    • Increased productivity through more efficient roads: An impact beyond transport and logistics
  • COVID has changed the landscape and appetite for 5G services
    • COVID has impacted the GDP of every country – and outlook for recovery is still unclear
    • Operators’ 5G strategies and roll out have also been impacted
    • Appetite for 5G-enabled healthcare services has been accelerated
  • Conclusion: Where next for the industry?

COVID-19: Now, next and after

Executive Summary

It won’t be over by Christmas

The Coronavirus pandemic is an unprecedented event in our lifetimes. As well as the virus’s impact on health, shock and fear have rippled across the world. Everyday life is changing almost everywhere, with major impacts across the economy. It is having many of the same effects as a new world war, albeit a war against a common invisible enemy.

At the start of every world world war, people in the UK thought it would be over by Christmas. Coronavirus won’t be over by Christmas (December) 2020. Unchecked. Each person with COVID-19 infects about 3 people, on average. This means it is hugely infectious and can (re)infect populations rapidly. Hopefully, better healthcare treatments will be developed fast, and in time a vaccine too – though the World Health Organisation (WHO) believes this will take at least a year, and longer to immunise the population.

On this basis, unless several miracles happen, we think the world is likely to be dealing with some form of social distancing and other preventative and curative measures for a while. Given what we know today, here is our initial take on what telcos are doing now – and what they should do next, including four scenarios to help envisage a range of possibilities amid the current uncertainty.

Telcos and vendors can and should now do some great things

Telecoms is an essential service in today’s world. The initial focus of telcos has inevitably been on the short term crisis response: keeping the network working, adapting to new and changing patterns of customer behaviour, and trying to keep their employees and customers safe. Beyond that, telcos have been offering additional services and help to customers, and we outline some of the measures taken so far in this report (summarised below).

Beyond that, telco leaders must keep thinking and planning ahead. As a sector it is in a relatively strong position. Telecoms stocks are among those least impacted in the crisis, showing that shareholders see telecoms as a relatively safe haven with a more reliable future than many other sectors (e.g. travel, hospitality, etc.).

That’s not to say that all telcos will survive the crisis in the state they are in today. Some may be nationalised or struggle to finance debt or worse, though for the most part we imagine telcos will find state support where needed because of the importance of the service they deliver.

On a more positive note, the near term future will see an enhanced focus on addressing some big problems, such as accelerating the transformation of healthcare and making it and other critical functions such as logistics even more robust and resilient.

STL Partners believes that the crisis will further accelerate the evolution of the Coordination Age, as customers and governments will accept, change and learn new behaviours (such as online ordering, remote delivery, automated services, etc.) fast in the context of an environment in which they simply have to do so. The crisis will also place the importance of critical and sometimes limited resources (e.g. food, healthcare, communications) firmly in the spotlight, along with issues such as potential conflicts between the use of data and privacy.

It’s too early to say whether highly controlled economies like China will do better than less controlled ones. Yet the strengths of a coordinated response to a problem (such as how a national health service can organise and plan collectively) will become clearer, and is likely to shape regulation that prioritises desired outcomes in a more pragmatic way, potentially bringing regulated collaboration back into fashion somewhat compared to pure competition in some sectors.

True leaders think ahead

Despite all the near term focus that a crisis brings, the challenge of addressing future problems should not just be dropped. We recommend that telcos and vendors shouldn’t abandon their longer term ambitions to develop new services and solutions in order to deal with the crisis. By analogy, the countries that are doing best in the COVID-19 response today are those that were best prepared for a viral pandemic, i.e. those that have planned how to scale up testing and hospital capacity, and have previously outlined a pandemic response strategy. Likewise, the telcos that will do best will continue to offer resilient support to their communities, and develop new solutions for customer problems.

Perhaps the best that could happen is that telcos and other service providers could ultimately find this crisis a stimulant to accelerate internal and business model change. For this to happen, the change needs to come from the top, and leaders in telecoms need to set the example of looking to do everything possible to help deal with the crisis, while maintaining a strong forward looking outlook.

STL Partners will continue to research how to do that realistically in the new context. We believe that Coronavirus will change how services evolve. For example, some 5G capital investments are likely to proceed with greater caution in the near term. Our initial thoughts on this is that, rather than bin all development, telcos should use this as an opportunity to better develop their understanding of customer needs, and develop the non-network capabilities and offerings to support consumers and other sectors to prepare the ground better for when 5G does arrive.

Short-term: Some smart offers to copy

Telcos are broadly offering customer support in four ways:

  • Supporting healthcare, government and other critical care customers: prioritising communications and resources for first line responders and healthcare facilities, offering population movement statistics, participating in national tests, and providing other services (e.g. bulk SMS updates to patients and healthcare communities)
  • Business customers: support for home working such as increased capacity on collaboration services, support on business continuity
  • Consumer customers: quite a wide range of offers, varying from suspending data bundle usage caps, to providing free calls for pensioners, free calls to the worst hit countries, waiving roaming charges and late payment relief for COVID-19 impacted customers
  • Shops and customer premise visits: a range of measures to ensure customer and employee safety, including shutting shops entirely, keeping some open, and introducing social distancing

Mid term: Adjust, but don’t forget the future

For the next few months, humans will interact differently. People and businesses will want to survive, and will be keen to return to ‘normal’ – but they won’t be able to.

Thus new habits, such as home working, and work and social video conferencing, will become more deeply embedded behaviours. New support structures to care remotely for the isolated will evolve, potentially with lasting effects. Telcos will need to support these behaviours with appropriate service and capacity, and with considerate offers as they have started to do as the crisis bites. Telcos should not behave like or risk being seen as profiteers during the crisis. Such action would be wrong – and a PR disaster.

They will need to continue to focus on the needs of critical sectors such as  healthcare, government, security and logistics, and maintain a close relationship with government to assist the centralised efforts to combat COVID-19 and support the pandemic relief effort.

Long term: Four possible scenarios

When the future is as uncertain as it is now, scenarios are a useful way to envisage possible alternatives and enrich planning. We’ve therefore outlined four scenarios for the recovery stage:

  • Scenario 1: Back to (almost) normal. A cautiously optimistic scenario in which all economies recover reasonably swiftly without much impact on the global order. Global trade recovers gradually, and activities like 5G investments are merely delayed at the outset.
  • Scenario 2: Fragmented recovery. A moderately pessimistic scenario in which some economies are much more significantly damaged than others. Recovery takes longer and global initiatives are less successful because of lower collaboration. 5G take-up is patchy, nation by nation.
  • Scenario 3: Weak and distanced. The most pessimistic scenario in which nations have become much more insular and distrustful, and economic and social recovery is much slower. Economic realities have significantly delayed 5Ginvestments in most nations.
  • Scenario 4: Stronger than before. The most optimistic scenario. Collaboration and cooperation are enhanced, and the broadly successful response and recovery to the crisis has refocused strategic thoughts on the importance of resilience in the long-term. 5G is close to the trajectory it would have been on before the crisis and accelerating fast.

Introduction

World War C

The Coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world in 2020 is a truly disruptive ‘black swan’ event. It is impacting people’s lives in almost every nation and will continue to do so for many years ahead.

STL Partners, like all our customers and partners, families and friends, is feeling the impact already. We are lucky enough to be able to continue to work because the nature of our work is relatively unaffected by virtual working. Many in the global economy are not so lucky, and many others have been even more directly impacted by the illness. Our thoughts and best wishes are with you all.

Our job is to try to help others make better decisions to shape the future of their businesses. We believe that COVID-19 will change the global economy in a way that will impact all previous strategies and plans. This analysis is therefore intended to help preparations and planning for the next few months and years. Yet certainty is in short supply, and the situation is changing all the time. We do not claim to have all the answers and will update our analysis when it makes sense.

The scale and speed of this pandemic is unprecedented in the lives of the few alive today under the age of 102. Even so, when the so-called “Spanish Flu” swept the world in 1918, road and air travel were relative novelties, information spread slowly and its distribution was highly limited.

Today, the virus has spread much faster – but so too has news, information and research relating to it. The primary challenges for economies and societies as a whole are:

  • Supporting the frontline medical battle for the lives of the severely infected.
  • How the available information can be used to manage the disease to best effect by governments and authorities.
  • How other technological and economic developments such as globalised food chains and online information and entertainment services can help to sustain the rest of the population until the virus and the fear and disruption it has brought are defeated, or at least brought under control.
  • Operational and financial support to maintain economies and employment wherever possible.

Coronavirus and the Coordination Age

STL Partners has written at length about the Coordination Age – our view that the world economy now needs on-demand solutions enabled by the emergence of new technologies like AI, virtualisation, 5G, etc. These solutions must deliver outcomes (e.g. in healthcare) in a resource efficient way.

This age impacts all industries, but in the forefront are healthcare and logistics, which are also those most under test by Coronavirus. Succeeding against COVID-19 will require a massive and sustained effort of coordination, in this case mostly orchestrated by governments and health authorities.

Telcos and the telecoms industry will not solve this, but they can be major enablers of success. They can also have a major role in helping societies deal with the crisis and rebuilding and reshaping themselves after it has passed. This report starts to sketch out how this might happen.

Three stages and three questions for telcos

To simplify the analysis of what could happen, we’ve split the near future into three stages, and have structured the report correspondingly:

  • Now: shock and lockdown. Dealing with the initial global spread of the pandemic.
  • Next: finding a new, temporary normal. Coping with the longer-term impacts of social isolation, healthcare, and economic damage.
  • After: rebuilding and reshaping. What will be the lasting changes, what will need to be rebuilt?

In each case, we outline our best views on the ‘certainties’ – or at least more certain outcomes, and explore different scenarios where uncertainty is currently prime.

Throughout, we address three questions about what actions telcos and the industry should take:

  • What do telcos need to do to survive?
  • What can telcos do to help their customers?
  • How can telcos help the immediate response, then rebuild and reshape society?

Now: Shock and lockdown

The problems that need to be solved

A health crisis is a hard reminder of the need to serve the greater good of our societies. We need other people and organisations to survive and thrive, especially in today’s highly globalised and connected world. In this regard, there is an over-riding responsibility for those in positions of power to direct that power in service of the integrity of society and the economy – how we exchange goods and services to maintain our lives.

In such moments, the pursuit of competitive gains which is the normal function of companies and markets becomes secondary to the overall well-being of the society and the economy that supports it. This is a fundamental – albeit temporary – suspension of ‘business as usual’.

Telcos have a long history of providing support in times of crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic is the broadest and most systemic global crisis of our times. The fundamental functions and sectors that the industry needs to support are:

  • Healthcare – sustaining and protecting the healthcare system in a time of critical demand and pressure
  • Logistics – ensuring that supply and delivery chains are enabled to operate and deliver the goods (e.g. food and medical supplies) and services (e.g. water, power, hygiene) required for the healthy function of society
  • Government – ensuring that governments and responsible authorities are enabled to function and make decisions to best manage, control and mitigate the impact of the virus and the accompanying fear and disruption
  • General communications – ensuring that the public, businesses and others can stay in touch with each other to provide information, economic, medical and emotional support, and maintain employment.

Immediate actions

Following airline safety advice

The classic airline safety advice is to fit your own oxygen mask before attempting to help others.

We expect that telcos will be putting in place their contingency plans for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic – though of course, the exact circumstances cannot have been foreseen.

Clearly, maintaining the core functions of telecommunications networks will be the priority – doubling down on enabling and protecting data and voice communications across the network, especially to mission-critical establishments like hospitals, and  other healthcare and state facilities.

This may require operators to scale up network capacity at key points, although early data suggests most traffic growth from home-working and home-schooling may come at historical off-peak times. There is likely to be a shift from mobile to fixed broadband in many cases, with mobile use being concentrated in residential areas rather than urban centres and transport corridors. Mobile voice traffic is likely to rise substantially (in Spain, a 50% rise has been reported) as people speak to elder relatives and connect to conference calls and other services. Encouraging customers to shift usage to fixed-line telephony (which usually has extra capacity) could be wise.

Most cloud and enterprise facilities have been engineered to be highly resilient, but there is also likely to be increased demand in the distributed consumption of data in many societies as social isolation measures move populations into home-working environments and away from traditional daytime centres of communications localised on business.

How telcos can support and are supporting their customers

Many telcos are putting in place wider measures to support their customers.

Figure 1: How telcos are supporting their customers
overview telco coronavirus actions
Telco responses to Coronavirus

Source: Operator announcements, STL Partners

For healthcare, government and other critical support customers:

  • Prioritising connectivity for frontline healthcareresponders (AT&T, Verizon and others)
  • Offering bulk text upgrades to patients and healthcarecommunities (Vodafone)
  • Offering insights on population movements and statistics (Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica)
  • Collaborating in other hospital and healthcaretrials and programmes (China Mobile, China Telecom, TELUS)
  • Extending free hospital Wi-Fi (Globe)
  • Free-rating data on healthcaresites and apps

For these sectors and business more broadly, additional:

  • Conferencing lines, VPN capacity, and capacity / licenses for collaborationtools (BT)
  • Other home-working security(BT, NTT)
  • Cut price access to digital marketing services and conferencing for small businesses (Telstra)

For consumer customers, telco measures include:

  • Additional free data in bundles (Telefónica, Telstra, Dialog)
  • Removing caps on some limited data bundles (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, TELUS, Telstra, Dialog)
  • Additional entertainmentcontent in some packages (Telefónica, TELUS, Dialog)
  • Free or reduced tariff calls to the countries most impacted by COVID-19(Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile)
  • Free landline calls for pensioners (Telstra)
  • Free medical hotline service (Dialog)
  • Free data packages for families with school children without internet access or no data charges on educational services (Du, Etisalat, Dialog)
  • Waiving fees / suspension of service for non or late payment for impacted customers, or extending payment terms / credit (AT&T, Verizon, Telstra, Dialog)
  • Waiving all or some roamingfees for overseas customers (TELUS)
  • Encouraging the use of digital cash and health apps (Globe)

And in terms of shops and customer premises visits, telcos are taking a range of measures from:

  • Closing shops, or keeping some open to provide critical equipment (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, DTAG, TELUS)
  • Possibly stopping or limiting customer premises visits, or continuing but with new isolation/protection procedures in place (AT&T, Globe)

NB This is illustrative and not an exhaustive or comprehensive list. Please see our blog for links to some of the companies’ policies and articles relating to them at the time of research.

STL Partners is conducting a rapid survey of telco responses which can be found here. We will be updating and freely sharing what operators tell us over the next few weeks with details of the measures used so that other telcos can review what they can copy or learn from these measures to support their customers.

Help your employees

Again, many telcos in directly impacted environments have asked employees that can to work from home. We would also hope telcos are putting in place additional health measures to protect those employees that do need to make physical contact with customers and others, such as health advice and screening.

Starting to look ahead

Which sectors will be most affected?

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic across the economy is very hard to predict at this stage, although there are certain sectors that are clearly already under immediate pressure, such as:

  • Consumer leisure and mass transport: cruise lines, passenger airlines, hotels and tourism as people shun travel and self-isolate
  • Consumer service industries such as cafes, bars, restaurants, gyms, hairdressers
  • Entertainment and mass gatherings such as sporting events, festivals, conferences and events, concerts, museums.

Wider impacts are anticipated in demand for other consumer goods and services, such as cars, clothes and other non-food and everyday items, and this knocks on to the value chains of those industries too.

This pattern is evident looking at the impact on FT.com share indices over the last month in Figure 2. Indeed, of the major sectors, telecommunications was the least devalued on the 16th March when we looked at this data (a day on which there was a 10% drop in global financial indicators).

Figure 2: Financial markets rate telecoms as one of the sectors of the economy least hit by Coronavirus
coronavirus impact on industries
Coronavirus impact on industries

NB Oil and gas sectors have recently faced additional pressures from an industry price war. Source: STL Partners, FT.com

Moody’s credit rating agency paints a similar picture of their estimated impact of the pandemic on the credit worthiness of industries by sector as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Moody’s credit rating impact of Coronavirus by industry

moody's covid-19 impact chart

Source: Moody’s

At this early stage it’s very hard to be sure of what the overall impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will be on each sector. But there’s certainly some consistency between the logic of what is causing the impacts, and the degree to which markets and market rate-setters are reflecting likely changes in future value.

For telcos, the questions are: how can they support all sectors effectively during the crisis, and how can they help them recover and rebuild in due course. We will explore this a little further in subsequent sections.

Table of contents

  • Executive Summary
    • It won’t be over by Christmas
    • Telcos and vendors can and should now do some great things
    • True leaders think ahead
    • Short-term: Some smart offers to copy
    • Mid term: Adjust, but don’t forget the future
    • Long term: Four possible scenarios
  • Introduction
    • World War C
    • Coronavirus and the Coordination Age
    • Three stages and three questions for telcos
  • Now: Shock and lockdown
    • The problems that need to be solved
    • Immediate actions
    • Starting to look ahead
  • Next: Finding a new, temporary normal
    • Identify possible turning points
    • The problems that need to be solved
    • Mid-term actions
    • Planning and contingencies
    • Telcos and the rise of the surveillance society
  • After: Rebuild and reshape
      • Scenario-planning: Looking back from 2025
      • Scenario 1: Back to (almost) normal
      • Scenario 2: Fragmented recovery
      • Scenario 3: Weak and distanced
    • Scenario 4: Stronger than before


The IoT is dead: Long live the I4T – the Internet for Things

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Introduction

The Internet for Things and the Coordination Age

In our recent research report The Coordination Age: A third age of telecoms, STL Partners described how the global economy is moving into a new age: the Coordination Age.

This is driven by a global need to improve the efficiency of resource utilisation, arising from a combination of developments in both demand and supply. In terms of demand, there are pressing needs from all customers to make less do more. On the supply side, technologies like AI, automation, ‘digitisation’, NFV/SDN, and potentially 5G, provide a smarter and more flexible way to do things.

The consequence is that coordination is the job that needs to be done across many market areas. People, things and information need to be brought together at the right time and in the right place to deliver the desired outcome.

Examples include:

  • Smart home: devices, sensors, appliances and applications created by many different companies need to be coordinated into an easy-to-manage solution for consumers (see our latest report Can telcos create a compelling smart home?)
  • Healthcare: where clinicians, patients, treatments, resources and information need to be coordinated for successful healthcare outcomes (see Telcos in health – Part 1: Where is the opportunity? and Part 2: How to crack the healthcare opportunity)
  • Transport: coordination is needed to manage transport flows for both public and private transportation, to ensure the best use of available resources and where to direct investment most effectively
  • Logistics: to manage the distribution and delivery of stock and produced goods across highly complex, international supply chains
  • Industry: to ensure that manufacturing and supply-chain processes deliver, assemble and process goods and materials efficiently

The best description we’ve come up with for the common need across these areas is “to make our world run better”. It’s not a generic do-gooding mission, it’s about improving what people and companies get for their time, money, effort and attention.

It’s an over-arching principle (or meta-trend) that makes sense of, and gives direction to, the many technology led ideas like “Internet of Things”, “Industry 4.0”, and others.

But … so what?

It matters because to have a winning strategy first requires a superior (or at least appropriate) mental grasp of the environment, or frame of reference, for that strategy.

Put another way, if you don’t understand how the new game is being played, how can you possibly win?

Telcos frequently missed this trick in the previous 30-year transition into the Information Age.

Figure 1: The three ages of telecoms / ICT

Source: STL Partners


Over the last 30 years, telcos have continued to think, talk and act like network builders. Consequently, telcos did well out of the broadband and mobile data revolution, but they largely missed out on the services that make use of the raw connectivity and turn it into something more useful.

There are numerous examples of changes the Information Age brought to communications, information discovery, and commerce. These new ways of doing things have ultimately been dominated by other players, like Google, Facebook, Apple, Alibaba and Amazon.

Sometimes, when telcos spotted those opportunities, they missed out because they applied old-style business model approaches in the new world. For example, they often tried to make payments and early information products walled gardens and/or failed to grasp the need to collaborate with others to create a proposition with sufficient scale in practice (e.g. see Apple Pay & Weve Fail: A Wake Up Call).

We discuss the reasons why telcos missed opportunities in more depth in our report How the coordination age changes the game.

Now that growth is reaching the end of its cycle in communications (see Figure 2) telcos have a simple choice: stay as a pure connectivity player in a flat or declining market or develop new service propositions in addition.

Figure 2: The well-worn path of slowing telecoms growth

Source: STL Partners

Whichever route they choose (connectivity only, or connectivity plus services), to succeed and grow going forward, telcos need to rethink their purpose and role in the economy.

How does an “Internet for Things” fit with this?

From about 1990 onwards, the internet was the catalyst for change and growth in the Information Age. By making a huge trove of new information – the World Wide Web – accessible and discoverable, and enabling the delivery of data at volume, it ultimately unlocked new business models, huge disruption, and digital transformation across the entire global economy.

To move into the next age – the Coordination Age – a similar concept and mechanism is needed to be able to discover and access connected things[1].

What’s wrong with the Internet of Things?

There’s a catch with what is currently called the ‘Internet of Things’: it isn’t an internet. It isn’t even a continuous network, and as such is severely limited in its capacity to grow, evolve in intelligence and capability, and deliver the benefits sought.

The Internet of Things (IoT) originated as concept around the turn of the century and has been widely discussed since the early 2010s. Over that time many thousands of ‘smart devices’ and machine to machine (M2M) applications have been developed, creating efficiencies and enhancing functionality in industries as diverse as agriculture, logistics, transportation and medicine. Such applications continue to increase and are often described as ‘the IoT’.

However, most current applications are in reality closed (and private) command and control solutions using standalone technology to limited ends – typically to enhance existing industrial, business or lifestyle functions – such as crop-watering applications that only turn on when the ground is dry, or lifestyle apps like Nest that allow remote control of household functions.

In fact, most of what is commonly referred to as ‘IoT’ is simply an effective use of ICT, contributing to a growing world of connected things – but not constituting ‘an internet’, which is a searchable network of networks that allows users to find and connect to any end-point for which they have appropriate access[2].

There’s a second problem. What’s really needed is not just an Internet of Things, but an “Internet for Things”. Interestingly, in one of the first mentions of the concept, that is precisely what it was called.

“We need an internet for things, a standardized way for computers to understand the real world,”

Kevin Ashton, Auto ID Center at MIT from 1999[3]

The reason STL Partners thinks an Internet for Things (I4T) is a more useful concept today, is that to make some of the most complex and dynamic applications of the Coordination Age work, “things”, including not just sensors but also IT systems, will need to be able to find and communicate with each other relatively autonomously.

The essential components of an Internet for Things

A true Internet for Things, would be much more open than most current IoT systems, and would:

  • Allow discovery of previously unknown sources (e.g. through a search engine), and interactions between communities of things within public or private domains.
  • Allow ‘things’ (including IT processes and software as well as devices) to discover each other within certain predefined rules or protocols, rather than either being given carte blanche to talk with any strange device, or being firmly controlled by a single, central authority.
  • Contain data that is published, searchable, and accessible to anyone – or anything – with the appropriate security access. It would bring data from machines, sensors and other intelligent things into the sharing economy and semi-public domain.

It could also open the door to much more radical initiatives that would combine data from multiple sources to deliver outcomes as yet unconceived of – perhaps triggering further revolutions in terms of efficiency, productivity and innovation.

So why isn’t there an Internet for Things that works more like the world-wide web, but in a machine-based context?

Many companies implicitly recognise the limitations of today’s IoT and are working on solutions to overcome them, some of which are covered in this report, while others will be examined in upcoming reports on Digital Twins and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). This report details further what an Internet for Things is, how it differs from what is described as the Internet of Things, its benefits, and some of the steps that have so far been taken towards it.

What is the Internet for Things (I4T)?

How is an Internet for Things different to an Internet of Things?

Before considering what it would take to create an Internet for Things, it is useful to understand what is currently meant by the expression the “Internet of Things” (IoT).

First, what is a “thing”?

The classic concept of an IoT “thing” is a sensor, or a connected device like a doorbell or machine in a factory. In STL Partners’ view this definition is too limited for the range of real world applications, and the “thing” being connected may be, for example:

  • a bit of data from a single sensor (e.g. the temperature measured by a given sensor, on an aircraft, at a specific time)
  • an aggregated result from a set of sensors (e.g. the average temperature near to a runway in an airport)
  • an industrial process (e.g. a status check on the maintenance needs on an aircraft’s tyres)
  • a consumer process (e.g. an app predicting the likely time of arrival of a flight).

Figure 3: Some examples of what a “thing” can be in the I4T

Examples of things in the I4T

All of these are effectively “things” and their operators may need or wish to share or access this data at any time.

The Internet of Things

Most simple definitions of the IoT describe the connection across the internet of computing devices embedded in everyday devices and machines, such as sensors and actuators, enabling them to send and receive data, be monitored, adjusted, switched on and off and so on.

This describes something that is more like conventional point-to-point or client/server communications than the Internet with which most people are familiar via the world-wide web. The Internet is a relatively open space, in which participants and resources can be identified in various searchable ways – through IP addresses, email addresses, URLs etc. – and located and engaged with.

The openness of the world-wide web makes the volume and nature of possible connections between IP-enabled entities almost infinite. The interactivity between connected things in the IoT, on the other hand, is generally much more limited. It might be better described currently as a world of partially connected things.

What is an “Internet for Things” (I4T)?

STL’s definition of an ‘Internet for Things’ is as follows:

The Internet for Things (I4T) is an open network of participatory, connected devices, objects, processes and entities. I4T entities can be located and interacted with according to their assigned security and privacy settings.

Advantages – what are the benefits of the “Internet for Things”?

An Internet for Things would not just be a collection of smart devices. It would be a digital enabling fabric for wholly new functionality, of potentially great benefit to individuals, enterprises and our environment.

    • An Internet for Things would allow data to be combined and enriched in previously inconceivable ways – mashing up intelligence from different and seemingly unconnected sources for informational, security and commercial purposes.
    • It would enable more meaningful machine to machine conversations. One device might offer enhanced functionality by deriving important contextual information from other communicable entities or devices in its environment.
    • To take a simple example, an in-building climate controller might offer more accurate control based on data taken from security devices, if it could combine data from sources within its network, such as security devices and thermostats, with external sources such as personal smartphones and smart watches, to determine which parts of the building should be heated/cooled, or local weather forecasts, in order to adjust settings in anticipation of changing temperatures.
    • It would trigger a leap in the volume and quality of intelligence available to individuals and agencies. All kinds of “things” – buildings, vehicles, infrastructure elements, people – become data points and data sources, some static, some mobile, all contributing to a vast, searchable pool of crowd-sourced information. This could be mashed and downloaded on demand to create new intelligence for users working in areas unrelated to the source data – e.g. climate data being a driver for predicting cinema attendance figures, in turn used to review film release dates, trigger ice-cream orders and so on.
    • The potential of the Internet for Things is emerging just as the world is facing massive challenges in terms of the use of its resources as we’ve outlined in The Coordination Age: A Third Age for telecoms. These resources and issues range from industrial productivity, climate change, water shortages, major weather events, the move to renewable sources of energy, air pollution and garbage disposal, to name only a few.

Contents of the I4T report:

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Credits
  • The Internet for Things and the Coordination Age
  • How does an “Internet for Things” fit with this?
  • What’s wrong with the Internet of Things?
  • The essential components of an Internet for Things
  • What is the Internet for Things (I4T)?
  • How is an Internet for Things different to an Internet of Things?
  • Advantages – what can the “Internet for Things” offer?
  • What problems does the I4T solve?
  • Problem 1: The use case paradox
  • Problem 2: No one really wants to be coordinated by someone else
  • Problem 3: A classic case of warehouse interruptus
  • Two approaches to creating the I4T…so far
  • Interoperability forums
  • Dating services for digital twins
  • Civil engineering: Making all the pieces work together in real life
  • Conclusions: It’s a tough job – but somebody’s got to do it

Figures:

  1. The three ages of telecoms / ICT
  2. The well-worn path of slowing telecoms growth
  3. Some examples of what a “thing” can be
  4. Players in the logistics ecosystem example
  5. Three functions of digital twins
  6. A possible Internet for Things (I4T) ecosystem
  7. Iotic Labs “Lego”
  8. BAM Nuttall and Iotic’s learning camera application to monitor machines

 

[1]A suitable level of security and manageability is obviously required too. More on this later.

[2] Places on the Internet may be freely viewable to all comers or need permissions such as user IDs and passwords, for example.

[3] Kevin Ashton was a Procter & Gamble Executive who headed the MIT Center at the time:   https://www.forbes.com/global/2002/0318/092.html#7a164e0f3c3e. He is regarded as the author of the term “The Internet of Things”,  https://iot-analytics.com/internet-of-things-definition/

 

The IoT money problem: 3 options

Introduction

IoT has been a hot topic since 2010, but despite countless IoT initiatives being launched questions remain about how to monetise the opportunity.

This report presents:

  • A top-level summary of our thinking on IoT so far
  • Examples of 12 IoT verticals and over 40 use-cases
  • Case-studies of four telcos’ experimentation in IoT
  • Three potential roles that could help telcos monetise IoT

Overview

In the early days of the IoT (about five years ago) cellular connectivity was expected to play a major role – Ericsson predicted 50 billion connected devices by 2020, 20 billion of which would be cellular.

However, many IoT products have evolved without cellular connectivity, and lower cost connectivity solutions – such as SIGFOX – have had a considerable impact on the market.

Ericsson now forecasts that, although the headline number of around 50 billion connected devices by 2020 will remain the same, just over 1 billion will use cellular.

Despite these changes IoT is still a significant opportunity for telcos, but they need to change their IoT strategy to become more than connectivity providers as the value of this role in the ecosystem is likely to be modest.

Mapping the IoT ecosystem

The term IoT describes a diverse ecosystem covering a wide range of different connectivity types and use-cases. Therefore, to understand IoT better it is necessary to break it down into horizontal layers and vertical segments (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: A simplified map of the IoT ecosystem

Source: STL Partners

We are seeking input from our clients to shape our IoT research and have put together a short survey asking for your thoughts on:

  • What role telcos can play in the IoT ecosystem
  • Which verticals telcos can be successful in
  • What challenges telcos facing in IoT
  • How can STL support telcos developing their IoT strategy

To thank you for your time we will send you a summary of the survey results at the end of June 2017.

…to access the other 28 pages of this 31 page Telco 2.0 Report, including…

  • Introduction
  • Mapping the IoT ecosystem
  • Overview
  • Mapping the IoT ecosystem
  • IoT: A complicated and evolving market
  • Telcos are moving beyond connectivity
  • And use cases are increasing in complexity
  • IoT verticals – different end-customers with different needs
  • 12 examples of IoT verticals
  • What connectivity should telcos provide?
  • Four examples of IoT experimentation
  • Case study 1: AT&T: Vertically-integrated ecosystem architect
  • Case study 2: Vodafone: a ‘connectivity plus’ approach
  • Case study 3: SK Telecom: ecnouraging innovation through interoperability
  • Case study 4: Deutsche Telekom AG: the open platform integrator
  • Three potential monetisation strategies
  • Ecosystem orchestrator
  • Vertical champion
  • Trust broker
  • Conclusions

…and the following figures…   

  • Figure 1: A simplified map of the IoT ecosystem
  • Figure 2: Telcos moving beyond connectivity
  • Figure 3: IoT use cases are increasing in complexity
  • Figure 4: Use cases in manufacturing
  • Figure 5: Use cases in transportation
  • Figure 6: Use cases in utilities
  • Figure 7: Use cases in surveillance
  • Figure 8: Use cases in smart cities
  • Figure 9: Use cases in health & care
  • Figure 10: Use cases in agriculture
  • Figure 11: Use cases in extractive industries
  • Figure 12: Use cases in retail
  • Figure 13: Use cases in finance
  • Figure 14: Use cases in logistics
  • Figure 15: Use cases in smart home / building
  • Figure 16: Connectivity complexity profile for pay-as-you-drive insurance and rental services
  • Figure 17: Telco opportunity for deep learning pay-as-you-drive insurance and rental services

Autonomous cars: Where’s the money for telcos?

Introduction

Connected cars have been around for about two decades. GM first launched its OnStar in-vehicle communications service in 1996. Although the vast majority of the 1.4 billion cars on the world’s roads still lack embedded cellular connectivity, there is growing demand from drivers for wireless safety and security features, and streamed entertainment and information services. Today, many people simply use their smartphones inside their cars to help them navigate, find local amenities and listen to music.

The falling cost of cellular connectivity and equipment is now making it increasingly cost-effective to equip vehicles with their own cellular modules and antenna to support emergency calls, navigation, vehicle diagnostics and pay-as-you-drive insurance. OnStar, which offers emergency, security, navigation, connections and vehicle manager services across GM’s various vehicle brands, says it now has more than 11 million customers in North America, Europe, China and South America. Moreover, as semi-autonomous cars begin to emerge from the labs, there is growing demand from vehicle manufacturers and technology companies for data on how people drive and the roads they are using. The recent STL Partners report, AI: How telcos can profit from deep learning, describes how companies can use real-world data to teach computers to perform everyday tasks, such as driving a car down a highway.

This report will explore the connected and autonomous vehicle market from telcos’ perspective, focusing on the role they can play in this sector and the business models they should adopt to make the most of the opportunity.

As STL Partners described in the report, The IoT ecosystem and four leading operators’ strategies, telcos are looking to provide more than just connectivity as they strive to monetise the Internet of Things. They are increasingly bundling connectivity with value-added services, such as security, authentication, billing, systems integration and data analytics. However, in the connected vehicle market, specialist technology companies, systems integrators and Internet players are also looking to provide many of the services being targeted by telcos.

Moreover, it is not yet clear to what extent the vehicles of the future will rely on cellular connectivity, rather than short-range wireless systems. Therefore, this report spends some time discussing different connectivity technologies that will enable connected and autonomous vehicles, before estimating the incremental revenues telcos may be able to earn and making some high-level recommendations on how to maximise this opportunity.

 

  • Executive Summary
  • The role of cellular connectivity
  • High level recommendations
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • The evolution of connected cars
  • How to connect cars to cellular networks
  • What are the opportunities for telcos?
  • How much cellular connectivity do vehicles need?
  • Takeaways
  • The size of the opportunity
  • How much can telcos charge for in-vehicle connectivity?
  • How will vehicles use cellular connectivity?
  • Telco connected car case studies
  • Vodafone – far-sighted strategy
  • AT&T – building an enabling ecosystem
  • Orange – exploring new possibilities with network slicing
  • SoftBank – developing self-driving buses
  • Conclusions and Recommendations
  • High level recommendations
  • STL Partners and Telco 2.0: Change the Game 

 

  • Figure 1: Incremental annual revenue estimates by service
  • Figure 2: Autonomous vehicles will change how we use cars
  • Figure 3: Vehicles can harness connectivity in many different ways
  • Figure 4: V2X may require large numbers of simultaneous connections
  • Figure 5: Annual sales of connected vehicles are rising rapidly
  • Figure 6: Mobile connectivity in cars will grow quickly
  • Figure 7: Estimates of what telcos can charge for connected car services
  • Figure 8: Potential use cases for in-vehicle cellular connectivity
  • Figure 9: Connectivity complexity profile criteria
  • Figure 10: Infotainment connectivity complexity profile
  • Figure 11: In-vehicle infotainment services estimates
  • Figure 12: Real-time information connectivity complexity profile
  • Figure 13: Real-time information services estimates
  • Figure 14: The connectivity complexity profile for deep learning data
  • Figure 15: Collecting deep learning data services estimates
  • Figure 16: Insurance and rental services’ connectivity complexity profile
  • Figure 17: Pay-as-you-drive insurance and rental services estimates
  • Figure 18: Automated emergency calls’ connectivity complexity profile
  • Figure 19: Automated emergency calls estimates
  • Figure 20: Remote monitoring and control connectivity complexity profile
  • Figure 21: Remote monitoring and control of vehicle services estimates
  • Figure 22: Fleet management connectivity complexity profile
  • Figure 23: Fleet management services estimates
  • Figure 24: Vehicle diagnostics connectivity complexity profile
  • Figure 25: Vehicle diagnostics and maintenance services estimates
  • Figure 26: Inter-vehicle coordination connectivity complexity profile
  • Figure 27: Inter-vehicle coordination revenue estimates
  • Figure 28: Traffic management connectivity complexity profile
  • Figure 29: Traffic management revenue estimates
  • Figure 30: Vodafone Automotive is aiming to be global
  • Figure 31: Forecasts for incremental annual revenue increase by service

AI: How telcos can profit from deep learning

The enduring value of connected assets

In the digital economy, the old adage knowledge is power applies as much as ever. The ongoing advances in computing science mean that knowledge (in the form of insights gleaned from large volumes of detailed data) can increasingly be used to perform predictive analytics, enabling new services and cutting costs. At the same time, the widespread deployment of connected devices, appliances, machines and vehicles (the Internet of Things) now means enterprises can get their hands on granular real-time data, giving them a comprehensive and detailed picture of what is happening now and what is likely to happen next.

A handful of companies already have a very detailed picture of their markets thanks to far-sighted decisions to add connectivity to the products they sell. Komatsu, for example, uses its Komtrax system to track the activities of almost 430,000 bulldozers, dump-trucks and forklifts belonging to its customers. The Japan-based company has integrated monitoring technologies and connectivity into its construction and mining equipment since the late 1990s. Komatsu says the Komtrax system is standard equipment on “most Komatsu Tier-3 Construction machines” and on most small utility machines and backhoes.

Komatsu’s machines ship with GPS chips that can pinpoint their position, together with a unit that gathers engine data. They can then transmit the resulting data to a communication satellite, which relays that information to the Komtrax data centre.

The data captured by Komtrax (and other Internet of Things solutions) has value on multiple different levels:

  • It provides Komatsu with market intelligence
  • It enables Komatsu to offer value added services for customers
  • It gives detailed data on the global economy that can be used for computer modelling and to support the development of artificial intelligence

Market intelligence for Komatsu

For Komatsu, Komtrax provides valuable information about how its customers use its equipment, which can then be used to refine its R&D activities. Usage data can also help sales teams figure out which customers may need to upgrade or replace their equipment and when.

Komatsu’s sales and finance departments use the findings, for example, to offer trade-ins and sales of lighter machines where heavy ones are underused. Its leasing firm can also use the information to help find customers for its rental fleet.

Furthermore, Komatsu is linking market information directly with its production plants through Komtrax (see Figure 1). It says its factories “aggressively monitor and analyse the conditions of machine operation and abrasion of components” to enable Komatsu and its distributors to improve operations by better predicting the lifetime of parts and the best time for overhauls.

Figure 1: How Komatsu uses data captured by its customers’ equipment

Source: Komatsu slide adapted by STL Partners

Value added services for customers

The Komtrax system can also flag up useful information for Komatsu’s customers. Komatsu enables its customers to access the information captured by their machines’ onboard units, via an Internet connection to the Komtrax data centre.

Customers can use this data to monitor how their machines are being used by their employees. For example, it can show how long individual machines are sitting idle and how much fuel they are using. Komatsu Australia, for example, says Komtrax enables its customers to track a wide range of performance indicators, including:

  • Location
  • Operation map (times of day the engine was on/off)
  • Actual fuel consumptionAverage hourly fuel consumption
  • Residual fuel level
  • High water temperature during the day’s operation
  • Dashboard cautions
  • Maintenance reminders/notifications
  • “Night Time” lock
  • Calendar lock
  • Out of Area alerts
  • Movement generated position reports
  • Actual working hours (engine on time less idle time)
  • Operation hours in each work mode (economy, power, breaker, lifting)
  • Digging hours
  • Hoisting hours
  • Travel hours
  • Hydraulic relief hours
  • Eco-mode usage hours
  • Load frequency (hours spent in four different load levels determined by pump pressures or engine torque)

 

Content:

  • Introduction
  • Executive Summary
  • The enduring value of connected assets
  • Tapping telecoms networks
  • Enabling Deep Neural Networks
  • Real world data: the raw material
  • Learning from Tesla
  • The role of telcos
  • Conclusions and Recommendations

Figures:

  • Figure 1: How Komatsu uses data captured by its customers’ equipment
  • Figure 2: Interest in deep learning has risen rapidly in the past two years
  • Figure 3: Deep learning buzz has helped drive up Nvidia’s share price
  • Figure 4: The key players in the development of deep learning technology
  • Figure 5: Mainstream enterprises are exploring deep learning
  • Figure 6: The automotive sector is embracing Nvidia’s artificial intelligence
  • Figure 7: Google Photos learns when users correct mistakes
  • Figure 8: Tesla’s Autopilot system uses models to make decisions
  • Figure 9: Tesla is collecting very detailed data on how to drive the world’s roads

Amazon: Telcos’ Chameleon-King Ally?

Introduction

Amazon is using an array of innovative propositions to sidestep the Android-Apple duopoly in the smartphone market and Facebook’s rapidly expanding digital commerce ecosystem. Amazon’s vast selection, unparalleled logistics, innovative bundling, laser-like focus on the customer, rapidly improving entertainment proposition and leadership in voice-controlled in-home systems mean the Seattle-based e-commerce giant is fast becoming a omnipresent convenience store that always has what you want, when you want it.

Continually reinventing itself, Amazon’s restlessness could seriously disrupt the balance of power between the major global Internet ecosystems. Although the Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google ecosystems all originate from the PC-era, they have each managed to successfully extend their digital platforms into the smartphone and tablet markets. But not without a dramatic change in the pecking order. In fact, the advent of touch-controlled smartphones enabled Apple to become a major force in the digital consumer market, while weakening the position of its long-standing foe Microsoft.

Now these ecosystems need to navigate the tricky transition to voice-controlled digital platforms, which depend heavily on advanced speech recognition, artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies. Amazon is leading the way, having created this new market with the rollout of its Echo speaker, underpinned by the cloud-based Alexa personal assistant system.

This report analyses Amazon’s financial firepower, the Amazon Prime bundle and strategy of bundling entertainment with retail, before considering Amazon’s areas of relative weakness – the smartphone and communications markets. In this section, the report also considers whether Amazon can sustain its lead in the nascent market for voice-controlled speakers for the home.

It concludes by exploring whether Amazon has sufficient economies of scope to build the expertise in artificial intelligence that will be required to ensure the Apple-Android duopoly that exists in the smartphone market won’t also dominate the emerging smart home sector. Finally, it considers the ramifications for telcos and makes several high level recommendations.

The global e-commerce market

Online commerce continues to grow rapidly. In 2016, global retail e-commerce sales (products and services ordered via the internet) will rise almost 24% to reach $1.915 trillion in 2016, according to research firm eMarketer. As that represents just 8.7% of total retail spending worldwide, there is plenty more growth to come. eMarketer expects retail ecommerce sales will increase to $4.058 trillion in 2020, making up 14.6% of total retail spending that year (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Retail online commerce continues to grow rapidly

The major global Internet ecosystems – Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google – all take a slice of this market. Within their ecosystems, they act as brokers bringing buyers and sellers together, earning a commission for facilitating interactions and transactions. Google and Facebook are the leading players in online advertising, while Apple is a leading distributor of digital content: Although Apple still generates most of its revenue from devices, its App Store and iTunes service are now major contributors to its top line. Still, in online commerce, Amazon rules the roost: Its online marketplace, which offers a vast selection of products and services from millions of merchants, continues to grow rapidly.

 

  • Introduction
  • Executive Summary
  • The global e-commerce market
  • Amazon’s financial firepower
  • Key takeaways
  • Amazon Prime: The Convenience Engine
  • Eroding Google Search
  • Key takeaways
  • Why Amazon wants to entertain us
  • A push into user-generated content
  • Key takeaways
  • Amazon’s Devices: Ups and Downs
  • Navigating Google’s mobile maze
  • Amazon’s Attempts to Develop Device Platforms
  • Key takeaways
  • Communications: Amazon’s Blind Spot?
  • Conclusions and Recommendations