Is a Cellular-Enabled Tablet Enterprise Mobility or IoT?

K. Weldon
K. Weldon

Summary Bullets:

  • MVNOs that offer IoT services are starting to offer embedded connectivity for laptops or tablets, calling these services use cases for the IoT.
  • While this suggests that the two worlds of IoT and enterprise mobility are starting to converge, it also is a somewhat misleading misuse of terminology.

According to GlobalData’s report, “2018 Predictions: What to Expect in the Industrial Internet of Things Services Market” (December 11, 2017), the two distinct ecosystems that provide solutions for enterprise mobility and for the Internet of Things (IoT), respectively, are slowly converging. This can be positive for business customers because they can theoretically go to a single vendor to manage, secure, or provide apps for traditional mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, and mobile broadband-enabled laptops, as well as for IoT devices such as machines and robots in factories and sensors collecting data in the field or in smart buildings and smart cities.

This convergence has generally originated from the enterprise mobility side; vendors for mobile device management such as AirWatch/VMware and MobileIron and application platform vendors such as Kony and Red Hat are now touting their ability to provide MDM and app enablement for IoT devices, although the majority of this business still goes to an entirely different set of vendors that specialize in IoT connectivity and IoT application enablement platforms.

A sudden spate of offerings from IoT MVNOs/MVNEs including Kore Wireless and Transatel – service providers that offer aggregated cellular connections from multiple carriers to relieve customers from the pain and expense of having to ink deals with multiple carriers – has flipped this model around. By calling a laptop or tablet with an embedded SIM an IoT device, they are enlarging their market. The problem is that these providers know little about enterprise mobility and are not well positioned to provide advanced services to customers looking for a partner to help with mobility policy, BYOD plans, and centralized management, configuration, security, and application management for their employee’s cellular-enabled devices. This also adds devices owned and used by humans into the IoT mix, muddying definitions and making the IoT market seem bigger than it is. This is reminiscent of the old fight between operators about what was included in their IoT connection numbers: if e-books and tablets were included, they were accused of inflating their numbers substantially, making apples-to-apples comparisons impossible. It is also reminiscent of the sudden switch of terminology that turned fleet management solutions into IoT solutions overnight. But, terminology and connection counting aside, it does mainstream service providers for both enterprise mobility and IoT a disservice if IoT MVNOs are offering embedded SIMs in tablets and calling this an instance of IoT. And if I were a business trying to manage mobility, I would stick with a mobile operator, IT service provider, or EMM platform vendor that really understands the complexity of managing and securing mobile devices.

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