LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE 360 LATIN AMERICA, BOGOTA: IoT technology holds the potential to deliver real benefits to citizens in Latin America, improving productivity and enabling a new set of smart city applications, a panel of industry experts said.
According to Gina Sanchez from Frost & Sullivan, Colombia’s IoT market was worth $168.3 million in 2016 and will grow to more than $438 million by 2021. In 2016, the lion’s share of the revenue was attributable to hardware (44.5 per cent), ahead of services (31.8 per cent), software (16.7 per cent) and – lastly – connectivity (7 per cent).
Technology consultants Azlogica “strived to reach a market that demands education about a very fragmented world in terms of technology,” according to Edgar Salas, CEO. This means offering a holistic solution which solves business challenges while offering flexibility and security – and a path to return on investment (RoI).
“No customer should be impeded in deploying IoT,” he said.
William Guerrero, executive director of the Telco & Media Portfolio at HP Enterprise, said his organisation has “a vision that is shared across markets, of closing gaps and accelerating productivity in specific industries in order to improve lives”.
He said while many commercial deployments are focused on RoI, there are other considerations related to quality of living for public projects. For example, the return on smart city projects should be thought of “not in terms of money, but in terms of the welfare of the people”.
Osvaldo Di Campli, head of Latin America for Nokia, noted there is a different approach being taken to technology evolution in emerging markets compared with their more developed counterparts: “To make an analogy with the US, there is a great focus on entertainment over there. If you take it to Latin America, we think about power or water,” he said.
It is important for the industry to highlight specific examples of the benefits of IoT technology in order to ensure buy-in across the industry – including among regulators, which “need to understand these types of cases. The more specific we are, the better,” he said.
Salas said while it makes sense for the region to take advantage of the technologies used in more developed territories, “if we don’t focus on the priorities for these markets, we will be distracted when what is happening here deserves a different approach”.
Luis Guillermo Amu, director of harvest logistics for agricultural company Manuelita, said it started looking at technology ten years ago to “move one level up” in the business. While it is an early adopter of machine-to-machine technology, “just taking data and measurements was not enough”. What it is looking for are “tools to make realtime decisions”.
“We must know what variables we desire to measure, and based on that use the technology that is most appropriate,” he said.
With regard to deploying technology “it wasn’t easy initially”, he continued: “Once we had information to show, that’s when we’re able to sell it. Initially, we didn’t sell the vision.”
The role of operators spreads beyond connectivity, Flor Tolosa, director of M2M/IoT Development and Advertising at Telefonica Colombia, said: “The message is that operators are focusing on being throughout the value chain, being facilitators of this ecosystem,” she said.
For customers, this isn’t simply about technology: what they are looking for is “a human team to support their digital transformation”.
Jose Luis Gomez, VP of VAS and Innovation at Claro Colombia, also highlighted the importance of partnerships in developing IoT solutions: “IoT has two parts – co-creation and development. We need to work with the client to meet their needs,” he said.
Of course, for operators connectivity is an important part of the proposition, and one where Telefonica’s Tolosa said operators have a “beautiful challenge” due to the wide number of options available – standards-based and proprietary, using licensed or unlicensed spectrum: “We are in the middle of this process to find what, along with the use cases, will be the most appropriate networks to support this ecosystem,” she said.
Claro is looking to deploy 4.5G technology in 2018 in order to address both narrowband and more data-intensive IoT applications. Gomez also cited the company’s data centre as important, because customers are saying: “We want our information to be stored at a safe place, so we can worry about our business and not our hardware.”