IoT Channel Chronicles: Cisco Partner Actility Launches Vehicle Tracking Solution

New Tracking Solutions For IoT

Cisco Systems partner Actility this week launched a new asset and location tracking platform. The solution, which was used at the Las Vegas-based Cisco Live event to help attendees track the arrival of their shuttles in real time, enables end users to track information in real time through a specially designed app. This end-to-end solution used Actility's Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) platform for the Internet of Things, Cisco LPWAN gateways, and Abeeway tracking hardware.

CRN talked with Gabor Pop, solutions marketing manager at Actility, about the company's IoT solution, how it first got involved, and its future strategy around the Internet of Things.

What are Actility's future plans for building out its IoT strategy?

We are very focused on offering end-to-end solutions – meaning the device, the connectivity, and the application -- for end-user IoT applications. For instance, one of the main reasons we acquired a company like Abeeway is so that we can offer a completely packaged, end-to-end solution for the asset tracking market, along with highly improved battery life thanks to innovative Assisted-GPS capabilities. That solution was launched in the U.S.

Our strategy is to address the enterprise market and select new vertical markets, especially for companies who might be struggling to fully leverage LoRa technology.

What kind of partnerships have you been building around IoT?

We decided to build new partnerships to propose these new end-to-end solutions, including smart cities, metering, connected agriculture, connected industries like oil and gas, mining, tracking, etc. For smart cities, we are focused on street lights, waste management and smart parking. We would like to have dedicated partners in each area. So our immediate strategy is to build up all of these solutions for each market and enterprise clients and offer a completely packaged solution for water meter connectivity, for instance. The customer won't have to do anything – just plug and play, and it works.

Talk about LPWAN as it relates to IoT, and how the U.S. market has been in adopting LPWAN solutions.

LPWAN technology has been primarily developed in Europe, and more specifically, France. Southeast Asia, including Japan and Korea, have also been some of the first markets for trying new telecommunications technology, including LPWAN. The U.S. is a very stable market and no traditional player had interest in moving forward into a new market. As long as there is no disruption in the market, the main players have no reason to move and develop new technology. They focused on selling traditional cellular-based connectivity solutions. And even if the battery life is bad and the connectivity is very expensive, people will buy it because there has been no alternative.

How are cable companies reacting to LPWAN and other networks around IoT?

In Europe and Asia there is much more competition so people really need to innovate and propose new things to differentiate their companies. That's why we wanted to work with a company like Comcast, as they have no spectrum and no frequency in the market. But they do have clients and connections in the cable markets. So they had to come up with a new technology versus the traditional mobile operators. And that's why Comcast chose to go with LoRaWAN as you don't need to have radio spectrum to be able to deploy it. We are very confident that now that Comcast has begun moving on this LPWA IoT market, it will make things move much more quickly along with other players and network operators in the U.S. Because if Comcast is moving as a cable company, it's going to disrupt the entire IoT market. All the other cable companies like Cox or Charter are all also going to move on the market. Because the cable companies are going to move, the traditional telecom players like AT&T and Verizon will also move in on this market.

Why did you choose Cisco as a partner? What does this vendor bring to the table?

We chose Cisco because they are a very large company with a huge footprint across the world. Actility is a great company, but at the end of the day we can't address all the opportunities in the world directly. Our strategy is to address the market through indirect channels. We need channels to market, we need system integrators, distributors. We cannot be in front of all the potential partners in the world. Cisco is a great partner because they are able to touch and deliver solutions anywhere … they also decided to develop LoRaWAN gateways, which means they can basically provide end-to-end, turnkey LoRaWAN solutions through a partnership with Actility. It's a win-win situation with Cisco. The company culture is also very similar to Actility's. It's very action-based and decisive – they go out and test solutions and try out new ideas without wasting time. They are very committed to this market, and we are happy to have them as partners and investors to develop it.

What is the IoT opportunity for Cisco's overall channel and other solution providers?

I think there are many advantages to the U.S. IoT market. It is a huge country, so there is no one operator that can easily cover the entire country. We have many medium-sized network operators that are able to deploy and cover specific areas and cities in the U.S. This means that we have a very large amount of available client opportunities. We can address mobile network operators, cable operators, tower companies – we can address a large spectrum of companies that can deploy an area-based private LPWA network.

What kind of vertical market opportunities are you seeing around IoT?

Because [the U.S.] is a very difficult country to cover completely, we think that we will have a huge amount of enterprise-based opportunities to sell to a large amount of verticals that are not necessarily covered by mobile operators. Compared to Europe, we have a much larger number of potential client opportunities. Many of these clients cannot launch their own networks, so we are going to leverage our relationship with Cisco and other channels and distributors to address the variety of customers. In the U.S., it's going to be mainly about developing private networks. Once you are outside of the large U.S. cities, it's not so easy to cover. It will likely turn out that the traditional network operators and cable companies will cover the cities and private networks will cover areas like farms, commercial areas and mines.