Vendor to Watch: Ericsson
It’s difficult to monitor the progress of an IoT vendor that stays behind the scenes, like Ericsson does when providing cellular infrastructure to major telecom carriers. Luckily for us, Ericsson is stepping into the spotlight just a little for the Dallas Smart+Connected City project. We had a chance to hear details about that initiative and get the word more generally on how Ericsson works in IoT. In this case, the word is 5G networking, cloud support, and tearing down old silos of information.
Lisa Elénius Taylor, Ericsson’s head of IoT marketing, says the company is ready to support massive IoT solutions around the world, thanks in part to its early embrace of 5G. “All the hardware we’ve sold for quite a while is 5G enabled,” she says. “IoT and 5G are very much a priority for us.” The advantages 5G will provide to IoT networks include wider bandwidth, low latency, and network slicing that allows a portion of the 5G signal to provide a guaranteed quality of service.
Some of the largest IoT solutions Ericsson has supported include working with the automotive industry in general (Connected Vehicle Cloud, Connect Vehicle Marketplace, and Connected Fleet) and Volvo in particular to deliver connected vehicles. Ericsson IoT solutions are used in landslide monitoring technology in Barcelona as a partner to the China Geological Institute. “We use lots of small, low-power sensors to monitor soil movements,” says Taylor.
“Cellular connectivity is our bread and butter.”
Ericsson relies on resellers and integrators to reach small and medium businesses and the residential market. “We don’t have smart home offerings, but we can give telecom operators and integrators the ability to offer smart home services,” adds Taylor.
Integrators employing any type of cellular data service, from leftover 3G to brand-new 5G networks, will be using Ericsson somewhere, even if they don’t know it. “We have a strong collaboration program with every telecom vendor on the planet,” says Taylor. “Cellular connectivity is our bread and butter.”
Even if IoT integrators won’t connect directly to Ericsson, Taylor has some advice based on IoT global projects she monitors. “Look for partners with connectivity expertise,” she says. “Don’t connect to just anything. Details about security, battery life, lifecycle of the products, and support networks matter in an IoT solution.”
The Dallas Smart+Connected City Project
Ericsson’s North American headquarters are in Plano, one of the northern suburbs of Dallas. Dr. Brenda Connor, head of smart cities and ITS Region North America, is the liaison between Ericsson and the city of Dallas. She’s been working on this project since the RFP came out in 2015.
“Smart cities is a team sport,” says Connor. “Dallas, along with Fort Worth and Richardson, put out the RFP together for a Transportation 2.0 system.” It’s about 32 miles from downtown Dallas to downtown Forth Worth, and 14 miles from downtown Dallas to Richardson, a suburb sandwiched between Dallas and Plano. There are about 7.1 million people in the Dallas-Fort Worth “metroplex,” and it seems every one of them is on the road every day.
The goal is easy to state but hard to achieve: Allow each city to use different vendors for cameras, traffic controls, and other devices but all work together in one system. In this project, Ericsson is not adding hardware or connectivity directly but providing integration and data analytics.
“We have Zero Touch Onboarding for lightweight smart objects, and provide data analytics across a heterogeneous environment,” says Connor. “We know what pieces of data come from each device and each different vendor, have a model for standardized naming, and we can then analyze data from different vendor products all at once. We do data exchange between data silos, not just from the gear that collects the data.” One detail definitely surprises: The city doesn’t care about the monetization of collected data, just the safety and services for citizens.
Local integrators handle many parts of the Smart+Connected City project, Connor adds. “We bring in local partners on lots of the integration we’re doing. Local firms do some of the hardware development, so they can do the care and feeding later. Training will be ongoing, so that should be local.”
As other cities begin similar projects, Ericsson will work with operator partners to answer those RFPs. “We can say, if you want to respond to a similar RFP, you need to respond like this,” says Connor.
What would Connor like to tell IoT integrators? “For IoT projects and integrators, we have to transform the way we think and focus on the results we’re providing,” she says. “Look at the outside in, how things are used, and package the answer to the set of needs of the client.”
While Ericsson is “shy” according to Connor, the company will be there, usually one or two steps removed from the end client. Especially when 5G is part of the solution.