Mobile Operator M2M App Development Strategies

Kathryn Weldon
Kathryn Weldon

Summary Bullets:

  • Mobile operators do not usually build M2M apps from scratch. Building custom solutions is expensive, doesn’t scale and is not really in most operators’ set of core competencies.
  • So how do operators ensure a robust portfolio of M2M solutions across multiple verticals and use cases?

We asked several mobile operators about their M2M application development strategies and partner ecosystems – do they have a formal program to find and seed ecosystem partners? How many partners and what kind of partners have they brought in? How successful have they been with their approach?

Orange Business Services’ (OBS) strategies depends on the project and customer. OBS will develop products internally (as with Fleet Performance, its fleet management service) and will continue to invest in new capabilities for these products depending on market analysis. OBS will also develop products by adding off-the-shelf components and using their Intelligent Application Enabler platform to improve time-to-market.Most of the time, OBS is an end-to-end integrator providing hardware recommendation/embedded development/connectivity/data collection and aggregation, and adding “big data” integration with the customer’s applications via an SI if requested. They work with application providers, hardware suppliers and semiconductor companies such as ARM. OBS is an international operator, and can propose services, connectivity, hosting and application support (level 0 to 3) with global contractual SLAs. OBS’ big projects have mostly been in smart cities, healthcare and transport.

Deutsche Telekom (DT) views developers as very important partners, offering them programs and tools including APIs, toolkits, evaluation boards, SIM cards, and access to cloud services, and helping them monetize their apps via the online M2M marketplace. DT finds developers through marcom initiatives and special “incubation” events such as innovation contests and boot camps. DT may provide marketing and financial support to developers, assisting from proof of concept to production by providing both a development environment and access to DT’s M2M device cloud, a production environment for customers or SIs. DT also helps developers solve privacy and security issues, and offers dedicated documents for developers, downloadable from their partner portal, with rules on how to design and work with the mobile network. DT will handle custom development, in which case T-Systems does the actual coding, often using offshore partners/suppliers. DT has a set of M2M apps that are 80% complete that can be customized, and they showcase future products and applications at the T-Gallery in Bonn.

AT&T is unique because it has such a tight relationship with application enablement platform (AEP) vendor Axeda and because Axeda is already integrated with AT&T’s Jasper-powered service delivery platform. This lets AT&T go farther than many other operators in developing apps on behalf of customers or helping developers. AT&T notes that Axeda’s ability to “connect, build and manage,” is a differentiator compared to competitors who only do one or two of these things. AT&T also may bring in partner Wipro for app development and systems integration and Wipro has expertise with the Axeda platform. Aside from Axeda, AT&T has taken other steps to attract and support app developers – foundries, innovation centers, exposing APIs, etc. And like DT, while some apps are custom built, they also create repeatable solutions via partners. For example, in asset tracking, mid-market utilities, and the heavy equipment market they have standardized repeatable solutions.  AT&T notes that sometimes companies build their own solutions, sometimes AT&T builds them for them, or sometimes they use SIs like Wipro.

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