Connected cars and the future of transport

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Ankur Bhan, Head of WING at Nokia, discusses the future of connected cars, security of IoT devices and the evolution of Nokia’s WING business.

How has the WING business evolved since its inception?

Since its 2017 inception, the basic WING business model remains relatively unchanged. It’s a pay-as-you-grow, managed service built on a cloud-native, globally distributed core, optimized to deliver best-in-class IoT services. It enables Communication Service Providers (CSPs) to differentiate themselves by delivering to their enterprise customers a fast, reliable and scalable service to all corners of the globe.

In 2019, we expanded the business to include four market-ready, pre-packaged IoT vertical solutions to serve as a catalyst for CSPs to grow their IoT businesses. These solutions included smart agriculture, livestock management, logistics and asset management. This expansion did not change our fundamental business model, but it did accelerate for our CSP customers their time-to-market with IoT services for their enterprise customers.

In the future, the cloud-native, globally distributed nature of WING will support further expansion into critical areas such as IoT edge. Use case demands for lower latency, the volume and velocity of data as IoT scales, and data governance regulation will drive data processing and real-time control increasingly closer to devices. This is the harbinger to some of the compelling use cases envisioned for 5G.

What are the most common connectivity demands you are seeing from your automotive partners? Has this changed at all within the last year or so?

For clarity, we sell WING to CSPs, who, in turn, offer connectivity services to automotive OEMs. The WING business model is a white-label, managed service to CSPs, who then brand and sell the service to enterprises.

For connectivity demands, automotive OEMs want the ability to work with one CSP that will provide SIMs that will work across the globe. They need to maintain an ongoing connection to their vehicles that gives them real-time visibility and management across their entire global footprint. They need a common globe core to support uniform SLAs and a consistent set of operations. They need local breakout to deliver the high-volume, high-bandwidth, low-latency connections that many automotive connected services require. They need local data storage to meet data sovereignty regulations. They need one simple global integration to drive down costs. They get all of this with WING.

What are the major challenges affecting IoT deployments today?

IoT is global in nature. More than 70 per cent of IoT projects cross national borders; yet CSP networks are bound by geographic constraints. A fundamental challenge for CSPs is to offer IoT services that seamlessly cross geographic borders and networks and empower enterprises to optimally deliver and manage borderless IoT services.

CSPs do not have the resources to build and manage a global IoT network. They need a partner that lessens the upfront investments needed to scale to mass market and to go global. With its global network and pay-as-you-grow model, WING is that right partner to rapidly drive market success.

Finally, when services need to cross national and geographic borders, ensuring data regulatory compliance is a key and escalating challenge.  Data privacy laws are evolving and differ across the global, with a growing regulatory demand to keep user data local.

How do you ensure you keep your connectivity safe and secure from threats?

The WING infrastructure is hosted in secure public data centres with the highest level of physical and virtual security possible. Our architecture integrates Nokia’s NetGuard security platform, which provides a comprehensive security backbone to eliminate any possible threats. The WING IoT Command Centre provides 24/7 monitoring, 365 days a year.

How do you see your work changing in the next year or so?

As more and more CSPs are onboarded into the WING ecosystem, an increasing amount of effort will be focused on helping CSPs build their pipeline of enterprise customers. WING is currently compatible with a broad range of access network technologies, but as 5G begins to scale next year, it will unlock a new set of IoT services (e.g., autonomous vehicles, Industrial Age 4.0, video-as-a-sensor) with more demanding connectivity requirements. Our efforts will be focused on meeting those more stringent demands head on.

Do you think connected cars can act as a useful testbed for other IoT-connected devices in the future?

Connected cars will be at the forefront of the IoT revolution, transforming the driving experience for consumers and the entire automotive industry. It will enable a rich set of compelling IoT use cases, including the ultimate IoT device, the fully autonomous vehicle. As such, the connected car will boldly demonstrate the tangible ways that IoT will impact our lives, including safety, convenience and efficiencies. It will provide one of the most fertile testbeds for the possibilities of IoT.

What more needs to be done to ensure more IoT devices land in common usage?

From an enterprise perspective, more work needs to be done to align IoT technology and devices with tangible business needs and value (ROI), whilst helping enterprise decision makers to visualise what is possible when entering the IoT market and its revenue streams. 

From a consumer perspective, cost is the main driver. IoT devices will need to demonstrate value. B2C enterprises will need to provide simple ‘plug-and-play’ devices whilst keeping initial and recurring costs as low and affordable as possible.

Ankur Bhan, Head of WING, Nokia