IoT in New Zealand: About Outcomes, Not Networks

M. Rogers

Summary Bullets:

  • Vodafone NZ localizing its global IoT platform for New Zealand will help win domestic customers.
  • Overall, carriers need to move the IoT conversation away from connectivity to applications and outcomes to move up the value chain.

Earlier this week, Vodafone New Zealand announced it would be bringing new IoT capabilities to businesses in New Zealand. Specifically, the company has launched a local version of its IoT Global Data Service Platform (GDSP) called ‘Connect’ that will be delivered via Vodafone NZ’s XONE innovation labs. Vodafone NZ had previously offered only the global version of the IoT management platform, but updates to policy, software, and other support features could be hampered by latency issues. The move is important for Vodafone NZ’s ambition in the Kiwi IoT market. Rival carrier Spark has made recent investments into developing IoT solutions for New Zealand businesses that go beyond SIM management platforms. Spark now has productized solutions for asset tracking and management as well as a parking solution for both SME and enterprises. In a sign that it is gaining lost ground, Spark saw IoT connections grow 60% year over year to end June 2020. Vodafone NZ, however, is still the market leader in terms of connections and has the international advantage through its affiliate companies’ global networks. Localizing this solution will now help grow domestic-only customers with broader offers.

Despite large investments from Vodafone New Zealand and Spark in building out nationwide cellular IoT networks in New Zealand, neither company can claim to be the dominant player when it comes to providing end-to-end solutions (e.g., connectivity, data, analytics, and applications). That is not to say the carriers do not have respectable deployments, with both touting over 1 million active IoT SIMs. But despite connection growth, the market remains fragmented with both small and large businesses alike making impacts and developing innovative solutions.

Furthermore, despite efforts to grow beyond connectivity, the carriers still largely are relegated to providing SIMs and SIM management. Smaller Kiwi players like Tait Communications, KotahiNet, and Ento have been able to deliver innovative solutions that go beyond connectivity to include energy network management, health devices, water quality monitoring, and smart manufacturing. The reason these companies are able to deliver higher-value projects beyond connectivity, across many verticals and use cases, is related to their focus on delivering business outcomes as opposed to the typical telco approach of building an IoT network for utilization and capillarity. For example, in manufacturing, Tait leveraged cameras and sensors on its own factory floor production line and, through analysis, reduced time to produce by 37%; in energy, Ento IoT worked with Aurora Energy to develop a sensor that could detect the angle of wooden power poles in Dunedin and signal when they needed to be replaced. Another common use case is predictive maintenance, using sensors that detect temperature, vibration, and noise to send automated alerts to prevent unplanned outages and improve uptime,

The success of niche players in New Zealand is a global phenomenon. While network investments into NB-IoT, CAT-M, and other cellular technologies are important and will support plenty of future deployments, carriers should broaden their approach to the IoT market. They should look to be more technology agnostic as they approach clients. The ability to design IoT solutions that are not predicated on the use of the carrier’s network will help telcos address business needs and outcomes more directly. Not every IoT deployment will be best suited toward a cellular connection. Based on device, location, or application, WiFi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, Sigfox, or other standards may provide better performance or price. Carriers need to be willing to build solutions that include all flavors of IoT or bring on partners who can fill in the gaps.

Globally, Vodafone has begun to develop platforms fit for industry in areas such as automotive and more horizontal platforms for IoT app development that better tackle business outcomes. While Vodafone NZ is no longer a subsidiary of the global business, it still should look to leverage its relationship to bring some more of those capabilities to markets where there is not a local partner that can provide the same benefit.

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