Where Does IoT Connectivity Live in the Organization?
IoT connectivity is an essential piece of the IoT stack. Without it, data would simply live on the devices and never yield insights.
Yet many organizations we work with don’t have a connectivity department. Because connectivity cuts across many areas, some companies struggle to decide who’s responsible.
As IoT evolves and expands, perhaps more organizations will assign a dedicated connectivity team—but for many companies, that’s not immediately possible due to resource constraints. In some larger enterprises, organizations may enlist an existing relationship with a carrier to manage their connectivity externally. But for organizations newer to IoT, handling connectivity can be a voyage into uncharted waters.
Making Assumptions about IoT Connectivity
We live in an era when Wi-Fi is pervasive and consumer cellular connectivity is commonplace. Device connectivity works, but few people know how it works.
In many of today’s IoT companies, a lot of the internal experience comes from the software side. These software companies are concerned about uptime and service levels, but actual connectivity to the cloud internet is often a baked-in assumption. There are servers, VPN links, and integration protocols on their internal block diagrams, but chances are there aren’t required blocks for underlying connectivity. For IoT, a device’s connection to the internet—and in some cases, to other devices on the network—is a critical link that must be intentionally designed along with the software infrastructure.
How Can Your Organization Foster a Better Understanding of IoT Connectivity?
First off, communicate the message that every department plays a role in connectivity, especially with cellular. It’s not just the engineering team making sure devices stay connected. Everyone—from the finance department to the product team—needs to understand the basics of how it works and the value it provides to the business.
Here’s how connectivity responsibilities reach into various departments—and how they evolve during the product’s lifecycle:
Engineers are the most obvious stewards of connectivity. They’re often the first team members responsible for an organization’s IoT connectivity decisions, especially when a team is still developing their IoT product. Engineers provide technical recommendations and research for connectivity options, whether that’s Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, cellular, or LoRa. If cellular is the right choice, there are additional decisions to make around the specific technology—which module category and connection protocol are best suited for the use case? How much data will be sent, and how frequently? Do the devices require persistent network connections or just occasional check-ins? How long does the battery need to last? How will antenna selection affect signal performance?
The product team helps an organization interpret the device data that connectivity provides from the field. With that goal in mind, they need to understand the deployment’s data connectivity needs. If the project requires high bandwidth connection with a Category 6 4G LTE modem and 500 GB of data per month, it falls to the product team to dictate those requirements and determine the capabilities of the organization’s connectivity partner. Other responsibilities could include validating carrier partner API capabilities, creating device launch plans, and assessing radio access and coverage requirements. The product team also determines how the organization will handle customer lifecycle and billing in regards to connectivity. Will the cost of connectivity be integrated into an existing monthly service fee model? Will it be an up-front fee based on the product’s life cycle? Or will the organization pass connectivity costs directly to the customer for each billing cycle?
For the finance team, IoT connectivity must be understood as a value driver, not just a cost line item. In the pre-launch stage, the finance department receives the connectivity requirements from the product team and determines how the expected costs align with the organization’s business model. How will those costs affect hardware payback or product lifecycle ROI? The finance team should consider additional value from connectivity platform providers through redundant coverage, dashboard collaboration and analytics, and API availability. Working with connectivity providers with these features will reduce up-front integration costs as well as future operational overhead. Once budget expectations are established and the project is launched, the finance team should continue to monitor data usage and costs, to adjust ongoing budget expectations and gain a clear picture of connectivity investment.
For the operations team, working SIM cards into the supply chain may be their biggest connectivity-related responsibility. To achieve that, they coordinate with their contract manufacturer and IoT SIM vendor to keep up with purchasing and manufacturing timelines—making sure parts arrive on time, in the right format, and in the right quantity. They also facilitate the initial device provisioning process into internal systems as units get tested, ship, and come online. As part of this, operations will likely have the best perspective on how to link a provider’s SIM card identifiers such as ICCID to device IMEI or the organization’s internal device identifier. After launch, the operations team continues to monitor the inventory of available SIMs and maintains an ongoing conversation with the connectivity vendor on potential new markets, forecasts, and deployments
Once a device is launched in the field, the customer success team takes the lead on understanding connectivity problems and how to deal with them. They should familiarize themselves with the tools, dashboards, and applications available through the connectivity vendor and leverage that data along with their own internal metrics. The customer success team also needs to incorporate connectivity in their technical support. When a problem arises, they should be checking for connectivity issues in addition to device firmware or internal server problems.
So, Who’s Really Responsible For Connectivity?
Essentially, the answer is “everyone.” The entire organization needs to understand the value of connectivity and have access to the connectivity platform. Teams should communicate concerns, expectations, ideas, and roadblocks to each other. Collaboration is essential to making this work.
Hologram: Enabling Connectivity Collaboration for the New IoT Team
We’ve built an IoT platform based on our observations from working with hundreds of clients implementing their IoT projects. Ultimately, our goal is to simplify connectivity and make it accessible throughout the organization.
As you prepare for a connected product launch, we want to make sure all of your teams have access to the data they need. For example, if an engineer wants to check a single device’s connection status and recent history, they can open Hologram’s dashboard and find that data. If the finance department needs to review pricing features and flexibility, they can login through the portal and make needed changes. The operations team can access Preflight, our dashboard feature that enables an automated connectivity lifecycle, as well as SIM and usage reporting once the project is live. And the customer success department will be able to pull up single device pages, view live connection status updates, and get in touch with our success team.
Looking for a Connectivity Partner?
Getting to know you is our first priority. We strive to understand how your organization operates so we can offer the most targeted advice on how to make use of our platform.
Our onboarding process includes tailored training for each department in your organization. We want to understand your device, use case, and timeline—that way, we can detect and avert problems before they derail your IoT project.
We’ll walk you through the billing process beforehand, and you’ll have the opportunity to choose from flexible IoT data plan pricing options depending on the scale and geographical breadth of your deployment.
We’re constantly creating new features to improve the experience for teams and fulfill our mission of helping organizations connect, launch, and scale any device, anywhere.
As time goes on, we’ll continue to add layers of intelligence to Hologram’s platform, giving your entire organization additional tools to manage your deployment.