Dec 04, 2014

LTE: Like Water or Not?

When water wants to go somewhere, it normally finds a way to get there. Of course, it receives valuable help from gravity, but that’s just a detail. The point is that it gets there.

So here we are, right in the middle of the dawn of an IoT world, and we must ask the question: Is IoT like water, in that it’s going to happen, no matter what? Or is it possible that certain markets – due to their particular set of characteristics – will avoid IoT altogether?

For example, let’s take the utilities. I recently spent a few days at Utility Week in Europe, so I had the opportunity to have conversations with the decision-makers of Europe’s largest (and also some of the smaller) utilities, such as water companies, electricity providers and others.

In many cases, these guys are very low-tech. Some believe cellular technology does not related directly to their business, not to mention cutting-edge wireless technologies like LTE.

But as with every part of the market, the utilities have an ecosystem. There are the utility providers themselves, the meter/device manufacturers, the system integrators and, of course, outside consultants.

Then, within the utilities, you also have some distinctions. The very large players often have their own in-house technology teams, enabling them to stay up on the latest in industry-related technology developments. The smaller utilities – and there are many of them – often focus exclusively on the provisioning of the water, the electricity, the gas, etc. They don’t understand technology at all.

Of course, they are running businesses, and many of these executives are smart enough to know what they don’t know. So they hire what has become a very strong layer of consultants and integrators – people who implement/architect solutions.

The key is that these utilities need to be able to articulate their needs to such integrators/consultants. And for that reason, we sometimes will meet with potential customers/users of LTE who today do not understand what possibilities LTE brings with it.

And that’s fine, because we don’t mind educating them.

After all, if they don’t get to the point of thinking that “this LTE thing is a good technology choice that will help our business,” it won’t matter how tech-savvy their respective consultant/integrator is. The utility will not want to spend the money.

Because utilities have not changed so much over the years, while communications technology has evolved drastically.

And I guess that’s the main point. The utility guys know their business, and we know ours. So it behooves us to explain things to them in a way that will resonate with them, in terms of ROI, business models, etc.

Trying to sell them on chipsets that were not designed for what they do will only make the business case weaker. What the LTE industry needs to do is design chipsets specifically for the utilities, and in that way, offer a solution that helps the business case.

It is not enough to say that LTE is like water, and that it is just a matter of time until it “gets through.” We have to offer solutions that speak to the various markets we are pursuing.