AT&T aims for "effortless" IoT with new starter kits, consulting services

​With the number of connected devices poised to take off, AT&T is taking a number of steps to ensure its network is supporting the new IoT ecosystem.

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At the 2017 AT&T Developer Summit, the networking provider's IoT leaders discussed the challenges facing developers.

With the number of connected devices poised to take off, AT&T is taking a number of steps to ensure its network is supporting the new IoT ecosystem.

At the AT&T Developer Summit in Las Vegas on Wednesday, the company announced it's launching a lighter version of the all-in-one IoT Starter Kit, which it debuted last August. The kit helps developers prototype new IoT solutions and comes bundled with an a la carte data plan.

The new version makes it easier to connect any USB-based device. Additionally, AT&T on Wednesday rolled out a dedicated kit for the AWS IoT service. Both of these kits are produced in collaboration with Avnet.

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The new products "continue our vision of making IoT effortless," AT&T's Sunder Somasundaram said at the summit, which is taking place alongside CES.

The new starter kit includes an LTE Cat-1 modem, US and Mexico SIM with 300 MB of prepaid data good for six months, two antennas, two USB cables and a USB plug. The top requested feature, Somasundaram said, was making it work with the Raspberry Pi.

Meanwhile, the AWS kit is one of the first products to come out of the strategic relationship that AT&T forged with Amazon Web Services in October. It comes with an LTE Cat-1 modem, US & Mexico SIM with 300 MB of prepaid data good for 6 months, two antennas, two USB cables and a USB plug, an NXP K64F development board, and a microSD card for storing security credentials and configuration.

"Security is paramount," Somasundaram said. The new kit offers "plug-and-play compatibility with the AWS ecosystem with security certificates from the get go."

AT&T is also now providing native support within AT&T Flow Designer for PubNub's Data Stream Network (DSN) and API, which provides low latency and secure two-way messaging for every device.

AT&T announced Wednesday that it's offering a suite of management and consulting services, as well as a streamlined certification process and partner program, for companies aiming to develop IoT products and services.

The company's IoT consultants will help businesses with various issues like designing a secure IoT architecture, threat management and speeding up innovation. Post deployment, AT&T will offer operational services like device and SIM management, billing support and customized reporting.

AT&T isn't about to start emulating Deloitte or Accenture, but "where it makes sense, we'll do it," AT&T's Mobeen Khan explained to ZDNet. The IoT ecosystem is still in its early stages, he said, where plenty of companies are asking, "How do we get from a working experiment to a commercial deployment?"

IoT is also a challenge from a developer standpoint - in a survey that AT&T commissioned, 63 percent of developers said so.

Those challenges include device variability - knowing how to connect those devices will be a "key decision," Khan said. Selecting the right network technologies entails finding the right price point and capabilities, he explained, while multiple technologies like satellite and cellular may be necessary. Other challenges include grappling with a fragmented toolset for managing data, as well as finding the right platform. Security and privacy, of course, are serious IoT challenges. Developers also face challenges from the business side, Khan said, such as budgeting and conducting ROI analysis.

Khan noted, "The platform and capabilities challenges are the same whether a developer is building in the enterprise or consumer space."

Understanding those challenges drives AT&T's product roadmaps and feature functionalities, Khan said.

In addition to adding consulting services, AT&T announced Wednesday it's making it easier for companies to certify new IoT devices for its network. IoT device integrators can speed up the process by performing their own in-house on-network testing, or by having the testing performed by a lab participating in the AT&T Mobile Broadband Accelerator Program.

AT&T is also introducing an IoT Partner Program, making partners certified resellers, solutions providers, solution integrators, and technology product and service providers.Members also receive access to AT&T's ecosystem of IoT professional resources and communities.

Why building IoT solutions remains a challenge for developers An AT&T survey showed that 63 percent of developers say IoT presents a challenge: Mobeen Khan, AT&T's AVP of strategy and product management for IoT solutions, explains why.