Steve Priestley, Managing Director EMEA at Wyless interviewed by Manuel Nau [March 2013]
During the last Mobile World Congress (2013 edition), we had the opportunity to interview Steve Priestley. Steve tells us how Wyless gets prepared for the future of M2M and shares his vision of the M2M market.
Can you please present Wyless’ offering and key differentiating factors?
S.P: Wyless has been established for around 10 years as an M2M data centric virtual operator. We are proud to be able to bring together 15 operators and more in the future to a single customer and provide them with a unique, single interface to manage all of the connections from any operator globally. We have a single solution that helps enterprises deploy their M2M or IT projects which require multi-countries, multi-zones or multi-regions.
We have started to build some services & supportive structures to enable the bundling of devices and applications to help customers optimize their supply chain also to build and deploy their solutions globally. We are now engaged actively with them in device choice, device configuration, device deployment and we go to an extent where we partner with several installation & maintenance teams globally. This way we can help customers get their solutions to market effectively, not being concerned about some of the complexities of configuration, commissioning. And we bring all that onboard Porthos, which is our managed services platform.
What has been Wyless’ recent developments and achievements on the market?
S.P: Some of our key developments can been split into 2 or 3 layers. Firstly, we have now built significant partnerships with device manufacturers to enable us to understand their world better but also to enable our customers to understand how network & devices work in delivering solutions. Further, we will continue to add more devices support over the next 2-3 years to enable a more complete solution.
Our platform Porthos is now getting to the point where we have a significant number of connections and it’s scaling where the features have been driven out to enable customers to build, maintain and manage their own devices with key API and self-served features that ease the deployment of SIM-based infrastructures.
In other words, we are taking the complexity that MNO provides and turn it into a very seamless simple user interface by which customers can actually manage, activate, suspend, control, report, monitor and maintain all of their connections and tell that to the device itself.
Over the next 12 to 24 months, we will mostly be active in the device management sphere so there isn’t a notion then of unconnected or untethered elements of the solution. Thus, they will be tethered together in a single platform
The third element is that we continue to build out our MNO base. We have actively introduced 3 network operators in the last 6 months and we will continue to build out more network operators in the next 24 months. We are building a local multi-domestic strategy, where we can offer a roamed and a local domestic capability. As M2M isn’t about fleet only, it is about the static devices that need local support. Hence, we are really proud of the fact that we are building a multi MNO with a very diverse product base from the MNO strategy.
What are your most dynamic market zones and segments?
S.P: For us, the US continues to be a really big growth area. It has been a fuel for the expansion over the last few years; Europe is now picking up again as we see a significant activity in customers in the European market space. The interesting point is that M2M is becoming a little blurred from what it originally was, which was SIMs in dark machines. Though it’s uncertain from where the blurring started from but we are now seeing areas like business continuity, leased lines replacement, mobile broadband, high bandwidth services such as real time surveillance, CCTV, really start to drive different engagement with us as a solution provider and this is, what is driving our multi-domestic strategy. Today, to buy high bandwidth roamed environments is very difficult and the applications have started to require high data rates; but most of them are static. So, those are the areas that will really drive us forward in the next few years. Therefore, the more we get into these challenging environments, the more requirements there are on solutions rather than products. This solution may be as simple as adding a layer of service or support around the device up to include the integration of the SIM, the device and the application in a provision to the customer.
Can you mention some examples of applications and customers?
S.P: I can provide you with some of the examples of the things we are doing. For example, we are engaged very actively with a company that is providing real-time services around motorcycle accidents and the ability to link all of the emergency services together. So, when people think of an accident, they think of an ambulance or the recovery of the person whereas there are a lot of things beyond that. In UK, that whole market is around 1.2 million individuals. So, to provide a service that enables the collation of all the services that go around any form of accidents be it large or small including the insurance, the medical and the legal professions is an exciting venture for us. We’re deploying that right now and it has really started to show some acceleration. We also have some areas around asset tracking and fleet management and we are very excited about the usage-based insurance market space particularly when getting into driver behavior, driver telematics and not just vehicle telematics and that again is driving significant growth for us. But, we have diverse solutions all the way from credit-cards and parking meters to tracking of animals in the wild. Although, what really is driving significant growth is mainly retail applications such as digital signage, security applications such as CCTV, border entry or facial recognition. They’ve moved into mainstream M2M now!
Do you see a change in scale in the projects you address?
S.P: Yes, significantly. I think if in the past we were to take the fleet world for example, there are many small fleets out there that have done telematics for a long period of time. With the advent of user-based insurance or geographical insurance, we are now seeing 10 maybe a 100 times a scale of deployment because people think the more information we have the better we can manage things. It isn’t necessarily about fuel consumption, location or route anymore; it’s about those things plus how am I braking or, how am I driving or how am I accelerating. Hence, not only the scale of use has grown but also the scale of the features we are managing has grown significantly as well. Thus, this is good for the M2M business because it means more people with more information, more use cases and business models.
Security of M2M communications is more and more becoming a concern. What is Wyless’ answer to security concerns?
S.P: Wyless’ answer to security concern is that we have never been a public network. We built the company based around private & fixed IP, with IP security & VPNs laid over as a starting infrastructure, so, all our customers have access to that private fixed secured network which we either provide them as managed by them or managed by us infrastructure. Therefore, we run all the infrastructure to support that and we are very happy to engage in bringing up the individual security requirements at IT levels, at policy levels, particularly with enterprises. But, then, when it gets into the wireless world, it becomes free air! So we have to be sure that our communication is secure enough to not fall in the hands of hackers.
Is your service ready for the Internet of Things (i.e large volumes of objects connected)?
S.P: Yes, I think. As we are moving from the world of M2M to world of internet of things and probably that is why there is this blurring of objects. I think the real challenge with any object is how can you connect it and once connected what can you do with it. Also, how do you make sure that the relevant information is passed between the object and the application or the cloud. Therefore, we are actively working with as many devices manufacturers as we can to understand what the edge looks like and scale our connectivity and services at the edge to enable as many devices as needed across that infrastructure. Also, having the ability to aggregate data across not only multiple plans but also multiple operators to provide the seamless interface between all of those things, whether you are a CDMA user in the US or a GSM user in Europe, to us, it’s the same pool. We really provide as much as we can in that space, but back in our infrastructure we need to be ready for that explosion of objects that are connected. We have the ability to scale to tens of millions of objects at the edge of the network which is good. It also means that we have to be conscious of what we are trying to do within that space too. Most of the time we are not the application but we are the enabler of the application. So, for us the ability to move between our data infrastructure and the customer’s data infrastructure is the real key. It’s not only the scale in infrastructure, it’s the scale in capabilities, scale in the database architectures and infrastructures as well as the ability to connect all of those things together.
What are your projects in terms of new service offering? Can you please tell us more on what’s in your roadmap?
S.P: Well, the industry is moving at quite a fast pace. If you were to look in the MNO world, there are a couple of challenges that we think are on the horizon, for example the multi-IMSI and some of the new low-power radio operators. So, we need to consider the impact on subscription management, the ability to switch and use the right infrastructure…
It is clearly a significant piece where the roadmap of any company but particularly where Wyless will head to in the next 2-3 years. We are very actively engaged in what do networks truly become with the scale of the Internet of Things and the change in bandwidth requirements. Hence, we have a significant part to play in shaping the industry around the ability to make those features readily available. Also, if we can add that to our own device management support, bundling and tethering. I think the other side, and I am not sure many solutions exist for today, is the data warehousing and the data sales part of what this M2M or the Internet of Things world has become. Our real challenge over the next 2 or 3 years is to find those enabling technologies to add value to what we do. Everything is going to sit around that Porthos platform: that’s where we have invested a significant amount of our capital, also where all of our IPR is held and it’s our unique value. Thus, if we continue to build as well as add features and services around that core IPR, it’s going to position us well in the future.