Today, the vast majority of IoT devices work via wireless data connections provided by mobile network operators. To monitor a large number of devices and keep track of communications costs, companies need an easy-to-use, feature-rich tool, and they expect to get it from their operator. What they need is a Connectivity Management Platform (CMP). A solution of this class provides end-to-end control and management of IoT devices, from registering a device in the network to billing.
Russia’s Big Three mobile operators have different platforms, with MegaFon using М2М Monitoring, MTS running M2M Manager and Beeline operating M2M Management Center.
Who can benefit from CMPs?
With the rapid growth in the number of IoT devices, many strategic sectors of the economy, such as energy, fuel, transport, utilities, banking and finance, are undergoing profound changes. As more and more telecom market players realize the huge potential of IoT solutions, they start rethinking their business models to take advantage of the new opportunities such a solution can bring. With a CMP, they can meet a much broader range of needs that businesses in various branches of the economy have.
In transport, CMP-based solutions help address a number of security-related issues. Blocking or interfering with radio signals from the alarm system is a common way of stealing a vehicle. A CMP can detect jamming attempts and alert the company that owns the vehicle, thus preventing the theft.
Energy companies and utilities can use CMPs to improve the manageability and security of their connected assets, monitor data connectivity in geographically distributed environments in real time and minimize fraud risks. The IoT driven automation of asset management processes reduces the risk of human error and the need for human intervention, making energy grids more reliable and efficient.
In banking, a CMP can become a key tool in tying together distributed networks of payment terminals and ATMs into a single, centrally-managed ecosystem. It enables banks to manage huge pools of SIMs, keep track of data usage and costs as well as monitor and diagnose remotely connected POS terminals and ATMs.
The leader among SIM card management platforms
In 2017, IKS-consulting, an international consultancy agency, conducted a study to collect data on the functionality and quality of the SIM connectivity management services provided by MefaFon, Beeline and MTS, Russia’s top three mobile operators. Agency’s experts tested over 200 most popular features, bought SIM cards to assess the quality of service and conducted a series of customer surveys. At every stage of the study, MegaFon’s M2M Monitoring consistently showed the best results, outperforming its competitors, including Cisco Jasper’s cloud-based platform run by Beeline.
According to the study results, MegaFon’s M2M Monitoring service offered more SIM management operations than any of its competitors, with some of those operations being unique in the market. For example, М2М Monitoring allows you to fix the location of an IoT device and then track its current location based on data from MegaFon’s base stations in real time.
To prevent fraudulent use of IoT devices, MegaFon’s customers get a range of IMEI tracking features. Each connected device has a unique IMEI. The platform associates it with the SIM card installed in the device. If the SIM card is removed from the original device and used in another one, M2M Monitoring immediately detects the change, alerts the user or blocks the SIM card, whichever option the user chooses.
Detailed reporting is another important characteristic of an efficient M2M platform. Mobile operator’s customers need to get usage and connectivity information in a timely fashion. The study showed that MegaFon’s platform outperformed its competitors on this score as well, offering 15 reporting features compared to Beeline’s 5 and MTS’s 6.
For example, M2M Monitoring allows its users to generate a SIM diagnostics report, letting them get information about possible problems with their devices in real time. With the report, users can check their IoT devices connected to the platform for a wide range of problems. Among other things, they can:
- Check the status of the SIM card in the billing system and, if it is blocked, find out why it was blocked
- Monitor IoT device connectivity
- Check that the internet connection works properly, and so on
M2M Monitoring was developed by MegaFon in close partnership with Nexign (Peter-Service) and has Peter-Service’s IoT Connectivity Management Platform at its core.
MegaFon started working on its platform in 2012. At that time, all mobile operators already had some offerings for the IoT market. For example, as early as in 2006, MegaFon itself launched a line of Remote Asset Management data plans specifically designed for IoT devices.
At the first stage of the project, much preparatory work was done to identify customers’ actual needs and offer the functionality that could cover them. To this end, Nexign's (Peter-Service’s) developers joined forces with MegaFon’s specialists to conduct meetings and interviews with operator’s business customers. Alongside those efforts, a number of independent studies and surveys were done to find out which IoT services customers were expecting to get from their mobile operator. The results of that work were used to launch several pilot projects in 2013; and in August 2014, the M2M Monitoring platform was put into commercial use in the Capital and Central branches of MegaFon. By March 2015, the solution was deployed across all branches in Russia.
“We conducted a series of detailed analytical studies to identify the needs of businesses and government agencies who were using IoT solutions. Our experts collected data on then-existing platforms run by Russian mobile operators and analyzed their strengths and weaknesses. Among those studied were some of the world’s best solutions. As a result, we created an IoT connectivity management platform that was not only on a par with competing solutions from leading vendors but was in many ways superior to them, as evidenced by the conclusions of IKS-Consulting’s study,” said Oleg Rizaev, head of Internet of Things at Nexign (Peter-Service).
Thanks to consistent, high-quality coverage across Russia, competitive data plans and advanced features offered by M2M Monitoring, MegaFon managed to attract many new B2B and B2G customers. Platon, an electronic toll collection system connected to on-board devices of all trucks weighing over 12 tons in Russia, is a notable example of a new project implemented by a major customer in partnership with MegaFon.
By the end of 2017, the total number of IoT devices served by M2M Monitoring exceeded 2.5 million.
It’s just the beginning
Nexign (Peter-Service) and MegaFon believe that, as new breakthrough technologies appear and new standards are adopted in the coming years, telcos will be able to continually transform and sharpen their business models. Equipped with a host of new features, B2B and B2G customers will be able to benefit from new opportunities, making their business and activities more transparent and measurable, improving customer experience and making better management decisions through actionable insights.