If you are in a technology related industry then you are likely aware of the latest zeitgeist around the “future” of technology, namely, M2M & iOT. These now are assuming the mantle of the “future” and leaving Big Data as “yesterday’s” news, so to speak. M2M, or machine-to-machine, is the idea that machines can communicate, exchange data and actually initiate actions without human interaction. You know, kind of like that whole “Skynet” thing from the movie Terminator that ended up ushering in WWIII and ending human civilization. Luckily, we are at the inception of M2M and we have at least a decade or so before the end of civilization is brought upon us because of M2M.
M2M is encroaching in every aspect of technology as devices are able to initiate communication via access to OTA internet availability. IoT, Internet of Things, is anything that is ‘connected’ to the internet. The key difference or nuance here is what comprises “anything”. Until now, it was devices that had a natural relationship to technology (i.e. computers and networking equipment). Today, newly manufactured machines are being designed and assembled with the ability to “connect”, from automobiles, to kitchen appliances, to the machines that make these products. Devices and products that historically weren’t associated with a “network” are now being manufactured with the ability to connect to the internet. From now on, the internet will be dominated by devices, machines and “parts” connected to the internet. It will be an internet of things.
Sounds interesting, but what the heck does this have to do with the world of interconnect voice? Well, turns out quite a lot. We spend a lot of time talking to our customers and trying to understand what their needs and wants are with respect to their voice business. A lot of the conversation centers around automation. Not just automation of processes, but workforce automation. Historically, interconnect voice has been a resource intensive activity. From contract management, to pricing, to rate negotiation, to invoicing, to re-rating, to traffic management…it is an industry with a complex set of activities that need to be performed consistently, efficiently and profitably. The problem or challenge is that the volume of information that is inherent in performing these tasks is moving beyond human capabilities. The volume of data, the frequency of the data change and the speed at which the information needs to be processed are just too much for human resources. You need technology. Further, you have the other market force of price & margin compression that all commoditized industries face. There just simply isn’t enough revenue and margin to justify investing in 100 plus person teams to manage interconnect voice operations. And the problem is only going to get worse.
But M2M & iOT actually offer hope to the market and CSPs. in 2016, human beings are the “middleman”. And as technology advances, the solutions of tomorrow will reduce and eventually eliminate the “middleman” (That Skynet reference really hits home now, doesn’t it?). When we talk to our customers, we talk about automating 90-95% of their interconnect voice operations. But our goal, and, in fact, the industry’s goal is to get as close to 100% automation as possible. Simply put, interconnect voice doesn’t need the volume of people that many CSPs currently allocate. We have customers that are doing over 4 billion calls per month and they are doing that with a staff of 7 people. 15 years ago, there were companies doing 1/4 of that volume but employing 50-60 times that number of staff. So, M2M & iOT are freight trains coming. But, the smart CPSs, will be out in front, looking for technology solutions to help them leverage the capabilities needed for today and the future. Automation is the goal and it’s going to be here soon. Embracing M2M & iOT will help all CSPs and the industry. And, it might allow us to forestall Skynet from evolving too quickly!