Cisco Jasper: Connected cars the fastest-growing IoT sector

Connected cars and NB-IoT are the fastest-growing segments for Jasper, which is partnering with nearly every auto maker globally as the company also prepares to launch its cellular NB-IoT solution.

Cisco's Jasper is making a big play into connected cars, a sector the company currently sees as its largest growth industry in the Internet of Things (IoT) space.

According to Jasper MD for Cisco ANZ Tom Fisher, Cisco's cloud-based IoT platform Jasper is now powering nearly every connected car in the world.

"Our largest vertical is the connected car market," Fisher told ZDNet.

"Practically every single car manufacturer in the world ... anyone that's in the connected car space, it's more than likely that Jasper's powering that. We have more than 50 brands globally using the control centre.

"It's an absolutely huge growth market for us."

Jasper -- which Cisco SVP of Enterprise Infrastructure and Solutions Jeff Reed called "an absolute home run for Cisco" during his keynote on Thursday -- supplies the cloud-based software-as-a-service control centre that sits between mobile providers and enterprise customers wanting IoT solutions.

One such auto maker using Jasper's platform is Honda, with the companies last week announcing at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona that they would be using Cisco's Jasper and Bright Box to deliver the MyHonda Connected Car platform.

Honda will launch connected car services across every country in Europe, with Jasper providing connectivity, network coverage, and telematics, using sensors to improve maintenance scheduling, vehicle information and diagnostics, and location-based notifications for Honda owners.

Inherent in such car connectivity is the ability to offer third-party apps such as Spotify and GPS providers, Fisher added, which has presented challenges for monetisation that Jasper has been working on with its automotive customers.

"Car manufacturers want to deliver their own services to the car plus those of third parties ... now how does [a company like] GM monetise that?" Fisher said.

"They come to companies like Jasper to make sure that we can identify those individual data streams and provide them billing fees so that they can bill back to some of those third-party providers ... the business models are really complex.

"It's a massive industry for us, but also it's got a lot of challenges for us that we need to solve."

Regarding its other big growth area, narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) connectivity, Fisher said Jasper's trial with Optus is almost complete -- meaning it can soon embark on commercial projects with other companies wanting to utilise such a network.

"The trial that we're doing with Optus right now is nearing completion, and it's based on a customer that has wanted Optus' network to do NB-IoT connectivity," Fisher told ZDNet.

"In Australia, we see many, many companies needing or waiting for the adoption of NB-IoT, so we have customers lined up that are ready to go when we complete this trial. And so operators like Optus, and even other operators in the Australian and New Zealand market, are ready to launch NB-IoT as soon as their network is ready, and we stand there ready to support them."

The wireless low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) trial with Optus has seen Cisco integrate Jasper to support NB-IoT technology across Optus' 4G network.

"Incorporating Cisco Jasper into our NB-IoT plans allows us to provide a consistent user experience to our customers across both traditional cellular and NB-IoT, all on a single platform," Allan Burdekin, head of Optus' NCSi Incorporating Safe and Smart Cities business arm, said last week.

Despite Optus being the only publicly announced NB-IoT trial that Jasper is undertaking currently, and Fisher not being drawn on naming any others, he reaffirmed that there is strong interest from operators across the globe.

"We are doing trials with other operators globally ... it's certainly something that I think practically every operator that we're working with is exploring in one way, shape, or form," he said.

"So we're doubling down on that and that's a growth area for us."

Fisher said Cisco Jasper is also working with Telstra in the Australian market, and Spark in New Zealand.

Also continuing to grow are already established areas of IoT, though at a slower pace than connected cars, Fisher added.

"The biggest growth areas for us still are in fairly traditional areas: Security and home automation is really big for us; retail and point of sales is really big; in this market in particular, utilities is a very big growth vertical for us too, and connected transport," Fisher told ZDNet.

"We have connected transport solutions in every state and territory in Australia across private and public enterprises."

In terms of network technology powering IoT, Fisher said Jasper is still most interested in NB-IoT across cellular networks, but is also continuing to explore enterprise Wi-Fi and low-power, long-range (LoRa) networks.

""When it comes to other network technologies in the low-power space, including LoRa and including even Wi-Fi for IoT purposes ... we've got both enterprise Wi-Fi and service provider Wi-Fi ... to see if it's going to be the right fit for our customer base, but for now it's NB-IoT that we're pushing forward with," he explained.

"The low-power wide-area network area of the industry is something that we've been watching for a long time now. At the moment, we're building out capability for NB-IoT."

Over the last year, he said that Jasper has grown its enterprise services from 3,500 to 9,000; active devices from 17 million to 40 million; and the number of service providers using the platform from 35 to 50 -- with Fisher adding that being bought out by Cisco has allowed Jasper to grow at a much faster rate and do more for its customers.

Cisco's $1.4 billion acquisition of Jasper was aimed at enabling enterprises to put connected products on mobile networks to take the complexity out of IoT, head of IoT Strategy for Cisco Jasper Macario Namie told ZDNet last year. Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins previously said Jasper was "critically important" to the networking giant's overarching strategy.

Disclosure: Corinne Reichert travelled to Cisco Live in Melbourne as a guest of Cisco