Telcos need to review their approach to IoT if they are to avoid becoming commoditised connectivity providers. RFID can help them learn what is important in IoT.

It’s not just a “bar code on steroids” or a way to speed up toll roads, and we must never allow our vision to shrink to that scale. Kevin Ashton about RFID

The term Internet of Things was coined by Kevin Ashton in 1999, and was about the widespread use of RFID technology with the internet. It predates the advent of smart phones, smart devices or even smart cities. Telco currently views “things” in the same way they see people and their phones. The distinction between people and things originally drove Kevin Ashton to propose the Internet of Things. if IoT is to be anything more than another commoditised connectivity service for CSPs, this thinking needs to change.

RFID can point the way to the true IoT need

Telco can learn a lot about the true needs (and opportunities) of mass IoT by looking at RFID devices, with their very different characteristics from people with phones. RFID devices can be regarded as the ultimate in limited communication and compute devices; they only send data when illuminated by RF and typically they hold fixed data or are capable of simple programming. The value of RFID is not in the device and its immediate communication, these have no value! Instead the value comes from what is done with the RFID information after communication. The value is in handling huge volumes of data messages, filtering, aggregating, securing, analysing and making decisions on this information. In the future it may even be about creating a “social” network or marketplace of “things” with this data. This is all business value that requires edge cloud capability, the strong combination of an access network close to the device, with powerful compute. Today, this is something that only CSPs are capable of delivering globally.

Changing the CSP IoT focus

We need to shift our IoT focus away from 5G radio access technology choice. Instead, we need to be thinking about how Telco can provide an IoT edge cloud that creates business value to its IoT customers, whether the communication to the device is using the latest heavyweight 5G radio standard or is just the humble RFID.

Appledore look at the economics of the edge in our ROI at the edge report and the use cases for edge in Winning at the Edge. We will be looking at the drivers and future for edge in more detail in our upcoming reports.

The importance of RFID in IoT, was described in this week’s episode on RFID from the excellent BBC podcast series 50 things that made the modern economy .