Simplifying IoT cellular data (Reader Forum)

The emergence of centralized and customizable IoT data management enables scalability

The sheer volume of data being created today can best be summed up by a Google executive who said, “There were 5 exabytes of information created between the dawn of civilization and 2003. Now that much information is created every two days.” 

Moving that much data requires more than just hard-wired connections, much of it depends on reliable, secure and cost-effective cellular connectivity. However, outside of large enterprise users, major cellular carriers are often ill-equipped to meet the unique needs of modern IoT data-centric businesses. So, the emergence of IoT data management solution providers that allow small-to-medium- sized businesses to build and deploy their cellular connectivity infrastructure is proving to be a game changer. 

Not only are IoT data users benefiting from a more streamlined process, at significantly lower costs, but they are also finding that a centralized and customizable IoT data management solution can enable them to scale up. 

Cellular frustrations

Whether it is for automation, real-time data, video, analytics, asset management, telemetry, or SCADA, managing cellular data is a growing and frustrating issue for many businesses today. 

Case in point, Stallion Infrastructure Services has a nationwide fleet of mobile surveillance trailers that provide security monitoring at construction sites, industrial facilities, retail stores and other critical infrastructure. The trailers require uninterrupted data transmission to and from the cloud which is dependent on reliable cellular connectivity.   

“Uptime is paramount,” said Cameron Simon, senior vice president of industrial, technology and services with Stallion IS. “We were utilizing all of the major cellular carriers which meant multiple agreements, support teams, account managers, billing dates and various device hardware. It just became a major pain point for our operations.”  

While working in a completely different industry, the story was very much the same for MagicTix. The company utilizes RFID technology to load digital credits onto wristbands for events such as carnivals, fairs, or music festivals. At each ride, game, or food stand there is a cellular-connected scanner that deducts the credits from the user’s account, creating an improved customer experience.

“We had multiple clients, each with hundreds, or even thousands, of SIM cards,” explained Brian Meade, vice president of MagicTix. “Keeping track of each account was a nightmare. At one point a scanner was stolen, and because we did not have real-time monitoring through our carrier, they ran up a $16,000 bill before we figured out it was missing and shut it off.” 

Data complexities

One of the biggest issues for MagicTix, in Meade’s opinion, was that because they were not a top-tier user of data, they were not a high priority for cellular providers. 

“We had over 2,000 lines, and they still treated us as if we had one,” added Meade. “We told them that we’re only using these scanners as an IoT device. We only wanted data. Yet, the scanners would still receive phone calls and spam texts – which would run up our data bills. There wasn’t a lot of control.”

Another issue IoT providers are experiencing with the major carriers is something known as throttling. This can happen when a user goes over their data limit. At that point, most carriers don’t cut off service but instead slow data speeds until the next billing cycle begins. Which for most IoT businesses is a nonstarter. Throttling can also occur when the bandwidth of a tower gets overloaded. A good example of this is at a crowded football stadium, where service may become “spotty” or simply non-existent. 

However, independent machine-to-machine, also called M2M, and IoT data providers can utilize tier-one data, and therefore, are not constrained by the throttling issues that come with using the major carriers.  

Simon admits that Stallion was eager to offload their cellular data management headaches to one of these providers.  

“What we really needed was a one-stop, turnkey solution provider with the ability to assemble all these components as seamlessly, securely and cost effectively as possible,” said Simon. 

Meade at MagicTix was also desperate to find a better overall solution. 

“We heard about Simetry and were intrigued by the fact that they were offering an IoT cellular data alternative,” added Meade. “Now, we get just cellular data we need without the telephony, without the throttling, and without the billing and logistics issues.”  

Simplifying the IoT experience

Recognizing the myriad of problems IoT and data-dependent businesses were facing, companies, like Simetry, began looking for ways to bridge the gap between what the major carriers were offering and what large cellular data users were looking for. This often included features like private APNs (Access Point Name), content filtering and secure bandwidth management.  

By consolidating all the major carriers into a single high-speed internet throughput, these new carrier-agnostic providers were able to deliver real-time, high-speed, tier-one cellular data, while essentially eliminating the typical hassles.   

“We know what these data-centric businesses are going through, because we had to figure out how solve all those same hardships as well,” said Cash Blackburn, general manager of Simetry. “You have to set up multiple accounts with the major carriers, procure the hardware from another supplier, then you have to test it and provision it, all that before you even start managing it.” 

That, he added, is typically where the issues begin to mount exponentially. 

“Now, you are logging into three different platforms to look at data,” added Blackburn. “You also have three different call centers, each with a different account manager. Then, if you have a problem, you spend all your time on something that is not even your core business.”

Putting data to work

For Stallion, the primary focus is on keeping people, property and places safe and secure. 

“Our priority is to provide surveillance and monitoring, and end-to-end communications and connectivity solutions for our clients,” said Simon. “These combined services provide us with many layers of protection so we can avoid any failure points without worrying about managing data, devices, customer service and billing from multiple vendors.”   

While every IoT data user has different needs, getting customized plans like connectivity, SIM deployment, network security, account management, support and billing from a single source can not only streamline the IoT experience but also enable scalability.

“We are a unique business and Simetry adapted to us, which has been essential to our success,” concludes Meade from MagicTix. “We’ve grown from 2,000 to 4,000 devices this year and are planning to move into more events. Taking data management off our plate has allowed us to focus on our core business and explore new opportunities which has facilitated our rapid growth.” 

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