AT&T wants organisations to serve up 'life-changing' IoT solutions, not just gimmicks

The connectivity giant's Australia and New Zealand managing director said a digital transformation should include Internet of Things technology, but it needs to offer more than just a gimmick.

With estimations that there will be around 20.4 billion things connected to the internet by 2020, deploying Internet of Things (IoT) technologies is at the forefront of many digital transformation initiatives.

But according to Martin Creighan, managing director for AT&T Australia and New Zealand, if an organisation is going to connect something, it has to be relevant and there has to be an outcome that is going to make a difference to people's lives.

With connected appliances and smart televisions flooding the IoT landscape, there are also life-changing connected devices that are making more of a difference, he said.

"If you really want to get traction or make a difference, you need to look at building a platform or a service or an app ... that's going to have an impact on a life experience or a customer experience," Creighan told ZDNet.

AT&T boasts a handful of innovation centres known as foundries, and in Texas, one is focused on IoT.

Working out of the IoT centre, smart glasses startup Aira took the idea of the Google Glass and expanded on it by building out a platform that helps a vision-impaired person "see".

The Aira remote assistive technology connects the user with a network of agents via wearable smart glasses and an augmented reality dashboard.

Agents, serving as real-time visual interpreters for the blind, then help users accomplish a wide range of daily tasks and activities. According to Creighan, Aira is essentially taking the idea of smart glasses and giving folks that are legally blind the opportunity to see.

"If an enterprise organisation is embarking on a mission to build a platform, an app, a service, etc, that is going to generate a life experience or give a more positive customer experience, then they are absolutely focused in the right area," Creighton said.

"It has to be relevant, and if it's relevant then it's going to make sense and people are going to continue to pursue it."

He believes this is what is going to lead to the success of IoT devices emerging during the explosion of connected "things" over the next three to five years.

"Today, we're seeing companies enter into the marketplace, and when they enter into the marketplace their ability to start up and get global at scale is absolutely automatic," he explained. "For businesses to stay ahead of the competition, they need, or their requirement is, to adapt to new technology models."

In addition to the IoT, Creighan said all of AT&T's enterprise technology customers are focusing on cloud, mobility, the proliferation of software, AI, data insights, and security. But as they embark on the journey of connecting "things", Creighan said he asks them to do it with an open mind and a "startup" mentality -- that is, understanding that they will most likely fail a few times.

He also tells them to look at their project with security in mind.

Asking customers that are decades old to think like a startup isn't easy, Creighan said, but when they realise the only way to survive is to adapt, it's "pretty easy" for them to get.

"If I were rolling out a digital transformation plan for AT&T or any of our customers, then I would absolutely have IoT as a main component of it to be successful," he added.

"We want to embark on IoT and IoT projects to better enhance our lives or our customers' lives better, and in order for us to make those experiences better, what we need is access to data. By having connected things, what I now have is access to data."

Creighan likened the necessity for an organisation to have data to the way a human needs air.

"Data is the oxygen of the enterprise," he said. "Without data, and with the rapid pace of business transformation, if I don't have data and I don't have a means of mining that data to get to the relevant pieces, then I am not going to exist."

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