For Avneesh Prakash, Vice President of Mobility and MOVE at Tata Communications, there are plenty of reasons to be excited. Over 600 to be precise.
Avneesh is managing one of the world’s largest ecosystems of network partners – over 600 in total. Second, is that this may have just helped him solve one of the most pressing security issues facing IoT.
In our latest episode of Accelerators, we dive deep with Avneesh exploring opportunities, challenges, trends and tech within IoT. We discuss Tata’s approach towards managing such an extensive partner network, and how they’re using it to encourage co-creation, innovation and ubiquitous connectivity among their clients.
We also hear how this experience of extensive collaborations and ecosystems has led Avneesh to address IoT security, by embedding security at all layers, starting with the microchip. It’s a compelling proposal, potentially scalable to any level, and suitable for any vertical or any use case.
Avneesh explains more in episode two of Accelerators. He also talks to us about his vision for an ‘anticipatory IoT’ and how this can benefit Industry 4.0. Listen now – and go further, faster and beyond.
“Our customers want security by design, not as an afterthought. They're looking at zero trust, zero touch security deployments, increasingly software driven so that they become flexible, and scalable.”
Avneesh Prakash – Vice President of Mobility & MOVE
Speaker 1: Accelerators from Beyond Now. Hello, and welcome to Accelerators by Beyond Now, join us as we speak with industry leaders and explore the big opportunities ahead in 5G, IoT, AI and cloud and the role of the ecosystem. We discuss how to stay ahead and what technologies innovation and business models are driving the industry to accelerate.
Michal Harris: Hi, I'm Michal Harris, Head of Marketing at Beyond Now. I'm here with our host, Jeremy Cowan, co-founder of IoT Now and VanillaPlus. Today, we will discuss the role of ecosystem in the IoT industry. We are here with Avneesh Prakash. Avneesh is the vice president of Mobility and IoT at Tata Communications MOVE. He has over 27 years of international business experience working throughout Europe, the US, India and the Middle East. He has a particular interest in digital identity, security and connectivity platforms and mobility and cloud. Jeremy, did you know that Tata MOVE utilise more than 600 mobile network operators?
Jeremy Cowan: That's an astonishing number, and shows something of the depth of experience that we have with us today. Avneesh, welcome. It's great to have you here.
Avneesh Prakash: Thank you, Jeremy. Thank you for having me. Thank you, Michal. Pleasure to be here.
Jeremy Cowan: Avneesh, using all of this experience that you and Tata Communications can call on, what do you think are the key elements to leverage the full potential of the internet of things?
Avneesh Prakash: Jeremy, I think with any IoT deployment, I think enterprises should and will leverage the full potential., and that will cause our enterprises to go from being reactive, to proactive, from proactive to being predictive and from being predictive to anticipatory. Now, in this journey of deployments for enterprises, a first good step would be gaining insight into real time visibility in enterprises connected assets, but that's just more a start. And I firmly believe here at Tata Communication, we are seeing the transformation of organizations and that begin to way soon take advantage of the tremendous intelligence and the tremendous insights that come out of this massive data that is generated out of the connected ecosystems. And that's where it lies the great power of IoT deployments. I think it's important to also recognize that for enterprises to take advantage of this, they need to pay attention to a few things, select the right use cases, link them to the anticipated and expected desired business outcomes, and all of this built on a foundation of relevant and scalable solutions, ubiquitous connectivity, which has given things like security and easy to use future-proof solutions. That's what I think are the ingredients to a successful IoT implementation and realization of the benefits.
Jeremy Cowan: Well, you've mentioned a number of interesting factors there. One of them is absolutely key and has become a much bigger function within the internet of things in recent years as people bring in consideration of it a great deal earlier, I'm talking of course about security. Avneesh, what's the role of security looking at it broadest in the IoT ecosystem?
Avneesh Prakash: I think, Jeremy, it's important to recognize that security is foundational, fundamental and paramount to any IoT deployment success. And it's very important for any large scale, cross-border global enterprise deployment. Having said that, we also recognize that security comes to the context, it is very context sensitive and context-aware of the use cases. Just to give you an example, the kind of security that you would want in an mHealth application deployment is a bit different from an industrial gateway, which is a bit different to ... I mean, maybe an oracle to put an EL five plus security when you're dealing with a payload of you just conveying the GPS location of an asset tracker. Security is context sensitive. It's very crucial, very important, but at least it's context driven.
At Tata Communications, what you're seeing is that our customers want security by design, not as an afterthought. They're looking at zero touch security deployments, increasingly soft bedroom, so that they become flexible and scalable. And then quite proud to say that at Tata Communications we are putting together a number of things, security comes with also the context of multiple layers of the deployment. We're putting things like embedded security, embedded connectivity at microchip level to fundamentally change the nature of security and the nature of scalability of any outdoor deployment.
Jeremy Cowan: I really liked that focus on appropriate security because for so long there seem to be in the early days of IoT, there was this discussion about almost one-size-fits-all when clearly the kind of security required for smart healthcare is nothing like the kind of security required for smart parking. Thank you for that and for explaining that. But what I don't understand is why hasn't the industry implemented global security standards already. I mean, IoT has been around for, in its latest incarnation, if you don't account M2M for over a decade. So, how come we don't have global security standards already?
Avneesh Prakash: I think, Jeremy, you raise a great point, surely. I mean, there is no one global standard for all global IoT deployments. And that's a fact that there've been a number of initiatives across the world, but that's a fact, the industry still needs to do a little bit of work around that. But before I address that, before I flip on a very important aspect that you raised, I'd like to raise a few things if you fill on me. First, not having a global standard per se does not mean that IoT deployments are insecure. So, I just wanted to call that out. Secondly, I think what I firmly believe is that having standardization or better standardization will ease the deployment of security in any deployment. And it will actually lead to a much higher degree of scalability and the speed of deployment. Having said that, security, in this context deals with multiple layers of security, you have to secure the device at the device layer to secure the service credentials of the device, the network, the connectivity layer, analytics layer, application layer, and all in the context of evolving local and regional regulations, industry regulations.
And I think you're right that a machine-to-machine communication is not new, it has been there for a couple of decades. But I think the tremendous amount of heterogeneity in the entire ecosystem is what is also a challenge to a whole one single standard. It's heterogeneity of segments, industry verticals, connectivity types, the Wisers and what have you. And that's what I think is one of the challenges. So, there's tremendous work happening at the 3G, PP, GSM, ETSI. With various levels we're just airing, but having a global standard, which cuts across all industries for all use cases is a topic which acquires a much broader and a much more complex collaboration. But nevertheless there are initiatives which are happening at regional levels within industries. So, I think that's the way I look at it. When I look at why standards have not evolved. As a single standard, the industry still needs to get to that stages.
Jeremy Cowan: So picking up from what you say, do you anticipate that standards in the broadest sense will evolve regionally first before they evolve globally?
Avneesh Prakash: I mean, the standards are certainly evolving regionally and also industry sector wise. So, I think when they evolve sector wise, they have the context of specific use cases, when they evolve regionally, they have the more bigger regulatory context. I think there'll be a mix and match of the two axes actually.
Jeremy Cowan: Well, I'm sure coming back to the use cases later, I find it intriguing what you're saying. Tata Communications MOVE has reported a unique play in the market, both in the way you're collaborating with as Michal said earlier 600 network providers. Can you please share a bit with us from that experience?
Avneesh Prakash: Well, absolutely, Jeremy. I mean, quite proud to carry the global aggregation, but before I go into that, Tata Communications has a DNA, we are a digital ecosystem enabler. What that really means is that across our solutions services platforms, it will be done in our network transformation offers, be it our cloud offers, mobility offers, connectivity management, enterprise, user collaboration. What we fundamentally do is bring together robust, almost telco grade, digital assets and enablers and we simplify the adoption of these through simplified APIs and single pane of glass interfaces for our customers. That becomes kind of the accelerator in whichever use case we are addressing, not just in the context of MOVE. Now, that's the ethos which runs through all the platforms and all this is powered and it takes advantage of the latest in the technology, including AI, ML and analytics.
Now, within MOVE and to the context that you're stating, our collaboration or our usage of multiple networks, what that has given to us is an aggregated global access, which gives our customers ubiquitous access connectivity, and all this, it's first of all, globally regulatory compliant. It's exposed simplified interfaces, simplified APIs. And what this gives us, a platform to any enterprise which we're just looking to deploy these multitudes of connected devices across the world, keep them connected, keep them regulatory compliant. So, very simple interface, that solves one problem. It is an example also of tremendous collaboration that not only Tata Communications has done with multiple partners across the world, in this case, access providers. But that's not the only example. I think if you allow me, I'll give you a couple of other things that we find very interesting around the whole team of collaboration and partnership.
I mentioned to you that we are doing with our partners, like OSS, Infinian and Micron. We have brought to life what's called the born connected ecosystem. So, we are embedding connectivity at the microchip level, really addressing a few things. The moment you do that, the reference designs don't change. That's the case which aides massive IoT deployment, which has been a problem in this entire space. It also solves the security at a different level. It takes the security from the SIM down to a level lower at the operating system level of devices. So, today when I say that customers want security, not just at the silicon level, but silicon to cloud back to silicon, it helps us promote that ecosystem. On one side, we are giving cloud-based simplified interfaces to connectivity management. On the other side, we are trying to facilitate the ecosystem to adopt born connected devices.
And other really interesting thing is that, and it's not just about connectivity. And as I said earlier, the more you start generating data there's insights that come out of it, and they are helping our customers drive new use cases, drive new business workflows, new applications. And applications is an area which is a huge area of collaboration. Certainly, that's also an area where we are collaborating quite heavily with BearingPoint, helping simplify the interfaces for our end customers, helping bring new use cases to them. That's the collaborative ecosystem and that's the digital enablement that we do. And we continue to add capabilities as you know to the MOVE platform like any other tower. We just bought an article, which was both organic coming out of data and also collaboratively coming out of our partners or even going awaiting with our customers really.
Jeremy Cowan: That's a perfect lead into something that I wanted to ask you, which is about the use cases themselves about vertical IoT sectors, which of the industry verticals is Tata Communications most interested in at the moment and why?
Avneesh Prakash: Jeremy, I think a good question. There's a number of sectors that we focus on and at a principle foundational level, any asset which acquires intelligent mobility, intelligent connectivity, and in this context, the mobility could be to the service lifetime or the asset, or the mobility could just be limited to the asset moving from the factory to a distribution point, to eventually a customer end point to be stationary for the rest of its life. Whenever intelligent connectivity is required, that's our sweet spot. Calling out very specific segments, connected car, connected mobility, industrial IoT, logistics are sectors where we see a lot of acceleration. We continue to innovate in our traditional sectors, traditional focus segments like the NBN segment and the aviation where we've done tremendous work in the past. The urban mobility continues to be very foundational to smart cities.
While we address a broader team in smart cities, just the context on mobility, helping automotive OEMs to either better manage their telematics or to drive the next generation driver experience or to make travel safer. These are the kinds of use cases we see acceleration in. But as I said, anything which moves or doesn't move, which requires intelligent connectivity is a sweet spot. So, we do believe that there will be significant things to be done in industrial IoT logistics, which is where, as I said, our embedded connectivity with that, we look forward to making a significant acceleration in this entire ecosystem development.
Jeremy Cowan: Just following on from what you said there, I mean, I know that it's not one size fits all insecurity, it never is, but are you able to lift and shift solutions that work really well in one industry vertical and place them into another quickly and efficiently?
Avneesh Prakash: So, I think to take the example of specifically the MOVE platform, the MOVE platform is a platform by DNA. So, we can configure a number of different use cases. But it's very fundamental to understand that different use cases have a different driver. You have to understand the driver, you don't understand the outcome, and yes, we are able to lift and shift significant, but then the outcome drives what we do with the use case, what we do with the platform and how we enable solution. But yes, it's the same platform as humans of different colors.
Jeremy Cowan: That's a fantastically useful facility. So, moving on from that, how does the Tata Communications ecosystem, which you've already referenced support and enable the underlying technologies? I'm thinking I hear things like 5G and Edge computing. And how also do you see 5G connectivity and Edge compute impacting your customers? What are they going to see?
Avneesh Prakash: Jeremy, I think Tata Communications has a fairly robust and mature ecosystem of both innovation and adoption. And by that I mean that we work on both emerging and accelerating technologies. Just for instance all our platforms actually are powered by the strong power of AIML and analytics, but to give them a deeper diagnostic expertise and to give them a predictive capability. Now, we see 5G and Edge, it's a fundamental shift. I mean, it's a fundamental technology shift. Of course, you would imagine that we are investing heavily. And we believe that for our customers, it's going to make a transformational change.
And just to give you an example use cases which required ultra low latency, high reliability, extreme compute, which required dedicated transport bandwidth, they all become real with 5G back haul and with the distribute architecture that's not possible with Edge computing. For instance, we do see the whole adoption of industry 4.0 really accelerating with the emergence of smart factories, with use cases which were not recognizable, either two will become reality. That's how I see customers getting impacted and it's all for the positive and very substantial transformation.
Jeremy Cowan: We're such a wealth of opportunities to choose from in the IoT in so many industry verticals impacted by the IoT. How do you pick the best IoT use cases for Tata Communications to engage with?
Avneesh Prakash: Great point, Jeremy. I think it's all about choosing the right use cases. And I think one key measure of the choice needs to be whether a use case delivers lasting value for our customers or not, and very closely associated with it is the fact that I'm quite interactively associated with that as the fact that these use cases should be able to scale. They deliver lasting value, they will scale. But I think one of the other measures, which we should bear in mind is the ability for any of these use cases to ultimately impact positively an enterprise's capability to become more customer centric. It doesn't matter whether the IoT case is for the kitchen, for the factory backend or for the front office. If it doesn't let an enterprise change its customer centricity, allows it to become more agile to respond to the mass changing market needs and customer needs. I think the longterm value will not be created. And when the long-term value is created, it could be created anywhere, in cost efficiencies or revenue generation. But that's what is an impactful use case for us. As I said, for the MOVE platform, being a platform, we can configure a number of use cases. We try to be very, very ... I mean, we are use case driven. We try to select the right use cases, help our customers choose the right use cases. In doing that, I think we have recognized that there is no cookie cutter approach. I mean, there's no one use case that will fit all the industries.
Wise words there Avneesh. I mean, if there was one bit of advice that I would pass on from you to anybody joining this industry, that it's got to be scalable and it's got to be customer centric. If you just focused on those two, you'd have a success on your hands. So you said there is, as you rightly say, no cookie cutter approach to picking use cases, could you compare and contrast maybe a couple of use cases in Tata Communications experience of support? For example, maybe, I don't know, manufacturing and automotive? Avneesh Prakash:
Sure, sure, Jeremy. I mean, I think it is about use cases and if I were to pick one example of working with a very large manufacturer, the case we have deployed there is for worker safety, and it's a connected variable deployment. Fundamentally, if you look at the drivers for this use case and for the solution, it's worker safety, worker health, and there is no that economic outcome that is imagined, or that is the objective. That's one side of the spectrum. You contrast that with an automotive OEM manufacturing luxury cars, industry building cars to across the world, for them, of course being connected with the car to maintain the health of the car. Being able to roll out engineering changes faster, more efficiently is very key, just as by the nature of it, luxury is a changing goalpost.
So, increasingly giving a luxury experience, the next generation experience is very paramount to what they bring to the market. And ultimately, all of this, ultimately, maybe even safer driving. But ultimately when you look at it, there's a number of things that begin to show up. Both these use cases, in the case of an OEM, the drivers at efficiency, it's about customer experience, customer satisfaction. It's about revenue generation. What are the use cases? Fundamentally, require ubiquitous connectivity, extreme insights, but what you do with those insights and what you drive as a business outcome is very different in both these cases. That's the way I would ... Those two cases, they belong to two different planets if you will.
Jeremy Cowan: Fair enough. The name, as you know of this podcast is Accelerators. So, as someone who's been in the industry for some time, how do you view the importance of speed of development and deployment? Is it something that's changing? Is it becoming more important?
Avneesh Prakash: I think, Jeremy, first of all, the team Accelerators close to my heart and close to Tata Communications. Just to take a quick view of why it is close to me personally, I've been very fortunate to be part of many social and business transformations, purely through technology interventions. I've seen technology interventions change lives for real. When you connect people, allowing them to transact safely, securely and fundamentally change their lives, it's the most humbling experience. These have been the most humbling experiences for me. And some of these interventions have tremendously accelerated transformations. At Tata Communications, we pride ourselves in being digital ecosystem enablers to accelerate digital transformation of our customers.
Now, in all of this, I think it's important to recognize that the speed and the speed of development and deployment is like never seen before. We all recognize that. But what I see as more relevant and what I see as a growing relevance is the relevance of the deployment. People are looking at engaging the customers, ecosystem partners to actually bring true business value and not just looking at speed of deployment and speed of development. That's what I feel, and that's the ingredient for collaboration across. And that's where the real sweet spot lies for all of us, I think.
Jeremy Cowan: So, it's not just speed for speed’s sake, there is a customer centric necessity at the end?
Avneesh Prakash: I think so. I think so. If IoT deployments have to improve customer centricity for end customers, our deployments for them have to be customer centric as well. That's the forbearing thought and that's how we're constructing our ecosystems. We are bringing solutions to our end customers. And I think that's what is speed, relevance and outcomes.
Jeremy Cowan: Yeah. Well, I think there's exceptional watch words for any business. Finally, Avneesh, what would you recommend to your peers if they were looking to learn from your experience growing their own IoT business? Whatever position they may hold in the IoT stack?
Avneesh Prakash: I think, Jeremy, I'll draw from what you just mentioned before this, it's about speed. It's about speed of development, speed of technology change. I think we've already crossed the tipping point. We are in an age where technology will continue to beat its own pace. Technology only has technology to beat, and the pace is going to outpace everything else. So, any new business, anybody who's out there to solve any kind of a customer, has to get over this, that the change will continue. What we need to focus on, that's just one piece of recommendation suggestion for anybody, is that focus on your customers outcomes. I think the rest will fall in place. That's what we have learned. That's what our customers trust us for. This requires relevant solutions, collaborative solutions, quite often with the customers, quite often to the ecosystem partners. This is a place of massive and previously unseen type of collaborations. And I think that's the only little thing I would tell to anybody who's looking to make a success in the IoT business.
Jeremy Cowan: Well, I hope they're listening because, Avneesh, you've embodied what I love about the IoT. I've been in this space for a decade or more and there's always more to learn as I found listening to you today. It's been an absolute pleasure talking to you, Avneesh.
Avneesh Prakash: Absolute pleasure for me, Jeremy. Always a pleasure to be with you. Thanks, Michal, for having me on the show.
Jeremy Cowan: Yes, indeed. Thank you, Michal, for anchoring, and over to you.
Michal Harris: Thank you, Jeremy, and thank you, Avneesh. It was such a treat to discuss IoT with you. Thank you again for taking the time to join us on Accelerators. Accelerators is a podcast by Beyond Now, hosted by Jeremy Cowan and joined by me, Michal Harris. We hope today's topic has inspire you to accelerate further, faster and beyond. Be sure to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, Spotify or Apple. This podcast is published biweekly and produced by Fox Agency.
Speaker 1: Accelerators, from Beyond Now.
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