Podcast: Telcos’ new hope: Keep customers safe and they’ll love you for it

Valuable new software is coming to a telco near you, and it could change your home life. Big claim? Well, early evidence shows that communication service providers (CSPs) may be on the cusp of a major revenue and reputation boost. In the latest Tech Trends Podcast Jeremy Cowan quizzes telecoms analyst, Teresa Cottam of Omnisperience about their new report showing that connected customer assurance & protection services (CCAPS) are urgently needed by consumers as well as small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The signs are there are big reputations and big money to be won. But will telcos be the ones that win?

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Podcast transcript:

Jeremy Cowan  0:04  

Hi and Welcome to the latest Tech Trends podcast brought to you by VanillaPlus.com, The Evolving Enterprise (www.TheEE.aiand IoT Now (www.IoT-Now.com). I’m Jeremy Cowan, and I want to thank you for joining us for today’s sometimes serious, sometimes light-hearted look at digital transformation for enterprises. 

Our guest today is a well-known and highly respected figure in the telecoms community, having worked in this space for a couple of decades, with the result that she knows many of the world’s network operators, service providers, and solution vendors globally. The telecom analyst firm she founded, Omnisperience, is headquartered in the UK and operates worldwide. She is also a judge of the GSMA’s GLOMO Awards. I am, of course, talking about Teresa Cottam, CEO and founder of Omnisperience. Good to have you here, Teresa.

Teresa Cottam  1:05  

Hi, Jeremy, it’s great to be talking to you today.

Jeremy Cowan  1:08  

Thank you. Well, okay, we’ve both been digging to find out important stories that listeners may not have seen in the world’s tech news lately. After all, there’s a heck of a lot out there. So, we’ll do a little bit of exploring of that. And then we’ll do a deeper dive into a new solution to a growing problem. And we’re going to find out if it really is new. I’m sure you’ve all seen all sorts of software solutions in telecoms over the years, ranging from access management to workforce protection. So you may be surprised to learn that Omnisperience has identified a customer need that they think could be a really big new business opportunity for network operators, and digital service providers. 

Inevitably, this being telecoms, there’s an acronym for it. It’s CCAPS, which stands for connected customer protection and assurance services. But what in the Sam Hill is that all about? So, what does it offer now? Or in the future? We’ll find out who needs it. And will it help? Well, we’ll ask Teresa. So, stay with us for the next few minutes. And let’s see if Teresa is about to make all of our fortunes from happy customers using a whole new revenue stream. 

And then finally in What The Tech!, the pair of us will look at some of the weirdest stuff, the news stories that the tech sector always seems to throw up. And I do use the term throwing up advisedly. Anyway, let’s look at the hard news.

The piece that’s caught my attention, Teresa, in digital transformation … well it’s really about the whole effect on future jobs. To be fair, the report that I’m referring to came out at the tail end of last year, but its findings didn’t really get quite as much coverage as I thought they should. I don’t know if that’s because it’s from the World Economic Forum, you know, the crowd that hosts the annual champagne and private jet Fest in Davos. Clearly, not this year with Switzerland in lockdown. But anyway, the WEF came out with something quite interesting, I thought in the shape of a report called “The Future of Jobs“. And it’s not just about the pandemic. It tackles enterprise transformations, and the prospects for tech-related jobs and skills.

I’m afraid there isn’t going to be time to go into the detail of all 11 findings, and you’re probably glad of that. But I do recommend downloading the free report from weforum.org because it gives an in-depth information source for 15 different industry sectors, and 26 advanced and emerging countries. And the report’s key findings include the following:
That the pace of technology adoption is not slowing. And it may well actually be accelerating in some areas. If you thought it’s hard to keep up with the rate of change. Well hang on to your hat because they reckon that more is coming and it’s coming faster. The adoption of cloud computing, big data and e-commerce are still obviously high priorities for business leaders, not least of all, in a period of lockdown, and demand is growing for skills in encryption and AI – artificial intelligence. I think we’ve seen a lot of that, we’ve certainly covered it on our website, TheEE.ai.

The second point that they highlighted was the combination of automation and recession sparked by COVID is creating what they call a “double disruption scenario”. And they put some figures on this, 43% of businesses surveyed said they’re cutting their workforce due to integrating technology, which is a really shocking statistic. It’s going to have an impact on so many of us, and 41% are expanding their use of contractors for specialist work, and 34% are expanding their workforce. So there are some bright spots clearly that people are taking on new teams and new staff, but it’s very selective. And that’s where they talk about the good news.

The good news is the number of jobs destroyed by digital transformation will be exceeded by the number of jobs they reckon will be created. The bad news is that that job creation is slowing while job destruction is accelerating. So, there are conflicting trends here. Based on their figures, I think the WEF estimates that by 2025, 85 million jobs worldwide will be displaced by a shift in the division of labour. That’s between humans and machines, while 97 million new roles may emerge. So, it’s not all doom and gloom. But it is a very, very mixed picture. And worryingly, skills gaps continue to be high, as in-demand skills across jobs change in the next five years. So, the top skills for employers in the run up to 2025 are obviously going to be things like critical thinking, and analysis, as well as problem solving.

I think on average, they (the WEF) say that companies estimate that around 40% of workers will need to re skill for a period of six months. So, it’s a big impact on the workforce. I’d like to go on, I’d like to add more. But Teresa, I’d love to get your view on this. What do you make of all of these conclusions?

Teresa Cottam  7:16  

I think we’re going to have to ready for a period of automation that we’re going into, and I think this is the downside or the other flip side, shall we say, as you know, the technology that we’re producing is going to have massive social change for us. And we need to think about what that means. But this isn’t new. I mean, Jeremy it’s always happened. If you think about the Industrial Revolution, some people were winners, and some people were losers, and everybody had to adjust to the change. I mean, the word Luddite is thrown around a lot, and it’s misused sometimes. But it referred to skilled weavers who actually, you know, were automated out by machinery, in the industrial revolution. So it’s inevitable, we can’t stop this from happening, Jeremy. We do have to think about what it means socially for us. I mean, I don’t think it’s good that we’re working such long hours, as we are doing in the UK and elsewhere in the US. And perhaps getting, you know, AI and automation to take some of that burden is a good thing. But clearly the issue is, automation is good when it means that we get a better experience, that our lives still have a good quality to them. 

If it means that we have a lot of people who financially lose out economically lose out, then it would, it would be a bad thing. So, the key isn’t really for us, the technology so much, it’s more about the policymakers thinking about how our societies are going to change and what they’re going to do with people. And there is still a lot of things to discover, to invent places to go, adjustments to our lifestyle. So, it doesn’t have to be a bad thing necessarily, it could actually be a massive opportunity for us.

Jeremy Cowan  8:56  

I’m sure you’re right. And you only need to cast your mind back, if you’re as old as I am anyway, to try to think about what it’s like when the PC revolution came in. And everybody was predicting that people would be made redundant by computers. And in fact, quite the reverse happened because more jobs were created where all of us were able to use our newly-acquired PC skills to do the things that we now take for granted.

Teresa Cottam  9:24  

But I think there are certain things aren’t there that are uniquely human and that for the foreseeable future, we don’t envisage computers or AI or whatever can do. Empathy is one of those things, you know, the human touch, creativity is also another uniquely human thing. And maybe that won’t always be the case, but it’s going to be the case for a very long time. Somebody has to still tell the machines what to do. So, there will be these new jobs created. We are going to have to reskill, we are going to have to adjust and maybe for once in human history, we’ve reached a point where we don’t have to work all hours God sends In order to actually, you know, get a reasonable lifestyle. But, as I said, I think that the secret sauce here, the answer to this, is our policymakers have to look at how we share the benefits of this new world fairly across everybody and that we don’t leave people behind.

Jeremy Cowan  10:16  

Yeah. Are you one of the optimists like me who believes that the arrival of AI and machine learning are going to enable us to have a better quality of life, as more and more of the productive, but non-creative sides of work will be undertaken by systems that we can’t even currently envisage?

Teresa Cottam  10:40  

I hope so. I mean, I don’t know about you, Jeremy, when I was younger, I did work in factories, I was a management consultant for a while, and I’ve been inside factories, and I’ve seen how soul-destroying some of that work can be. So, I do hope we are going to create better quality jobs for people. And that requires our education system to change as well, and to change about the way we think about work. But yeah, I’m optimistic, quietly optimistic. I think there’s also a big warning here to governments, which is, if we don’t create a better society as a result of this, if we don’t give people those opportunities, there’s going to be a lot of disgruntlement out there. So, really, it’s in all of our interests to try to make this a good experience for everyone. And to do the, to do the revolution differently. So, the Industrial Revolution created haves and have nots. And I think the digital revolution, our biggest challenge is to create more haves than have nots, you know, we want to minimise the negative impacts of this both, both on people and our environment as well.

Jeremy Cowan  11:41  

Yeah, fair point. Teresa, what sort of things have you seen in the news that caught your eye lately?

Teresa Cottam  11:47  

Okay, so going on to that point that I’ve just made. I mean, one of the big things everybody here has been talking about in the UK, and I’m sure internationally, is that the COVID-19 crisis has really laid bare the problem with connectivity and the divide between the haves and the have nots when it comes to connections. So, we’ve seen, you know, particularly with children and education, but also with businesses, the problems of keeping everything going when your network is not quite there. And I mean, in a country like the UK, you would expect, wouldn’t you, Jeremy, that we have network everywhere. And in fact, we don’t. 

I mean, if you live in a big city like London, you probably think the networks are pretty good. And there, it’s more about affordability, and can people afford to connect. But out here in rural areas where I live you realise that …
 Jeremy Cowan           12:40
And me …

Teresa Cottam           12:41

… you live in a rural area, as well, and quite a lot of the population lives outside the major cities. You know, you find that we don’t have the fibre networks that bring the gigabit speeds, we might not even have 4G connectivity in these areas, and that people have really, really struggled. And we’ve seen a range of stories around this, over the last few months. Some service providers, you know, have got together or have worked alone, to try to make altruistic moves to connect, you know, children to the internet, or people that are struggling to pay. Ofcom, our regulator, has said that there’s about 4.7 million people in the UK, that are really struggling to pay their connectivity bills at the moment. So, you know, there’s this economic divide between the haves and the have nots. But apart from that, you know, we find that in the north of England, it’s all around the edges of the UK. There’s this really big problem with connection, it’s something that’s common, you know, all over the world, and you find the cities always get the connection first, and then everybody else has to play catch-up. And you know, it’s caused a lot of pain, children who have not been able to continue with their education, because either they haven’t had the devices or they haven’t had the connectivity. 

You know, I’ve seen a lot of stories from different service providers claiming that they are giving free connectivity to these vulnerable groups. And I have to report to you, Jeremy, that this often comes with lots of strings. As an analyst, I have to call these companies out and say that, you know, I have nothing against companies trying to expand their market. But I do have a problem when they’re trying to do that at the expense of vulnerable people, by which I mean, for example, tier one service providers in the UK, who are trumpeting that they’re going to give one year of free connectivity. But when you read those terms and conditions, what you discover is that people have to sign up for three years in order to get one year free. Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that’s free. I just think that’s a discount.

Jeremy Cowan  14:51  

That’s a loss leader, isn’t it? Yeah.

Teresa Cottam  14:53  

Yeah. And yet there are others that have done the opposite. And I have to say that and I’m going to name the ones, the good guys. But you do get some of the smaller fibre providers who have taken a very different view on this. So, there’s companies like Community Fibre, and Hyperoptic, which have actually agreed to give away connectivity to vulnerable groups. And they are doing that completely for free. And there isn’t these these tie-ins. So, what they’ve said is, at the end of the period of time, if you don’t want to keep their network, it’s absolutely fine. Just send the routers back and it’s all good. So, I think that, you know, this has laid bare a few things; the importance and our reliance on connectivity all over the world, you know, has been shown during this crisis. We’ve seen that how much devices and handsets are a gateway to the connected world. And that’s a big issue. And we’re going to have to, you know, come back to that I think, Jeremy, because not everybody can afford these devices and what are we going to do about that? 

Jeremy Cowan  15:57  

I think you’re absolutely right. But it’s not just a question of being able to afford the devices. And I’m delighted that you’ve given a shout out to those that have done well by the potential users of this, people who are in the more vulnerable parts of the community. But I still think it’s worth noting that, you know, in most of these cases, it still requires if they’re going to be rolling out free fibre, it still requires that the landlords have installed fibre infrastructure. And if the landlord is disinterested or can’t afford it, then it’s still a nice to have, but it’s not going to make it.

Teresa Cottam  16:37  

And you know that is a big problem. There is a big issue around Wayleaves, you know, permission to build a network. But there’s another interesting little example here, there’s a small broadband provider, fibre provider called B4RN, I don’t know whether you’ve come across them up in Lancashire. And they’re basically doing DIY networks. So, they are a bunch of farmers and landowners who’ve got together. And they’re digging the trenches themselves with their own tractors and laying fibre, connecting up really, really rural parts of the UK, because they can do it so much cheaper than the big providers. So, I think decentralisation – we’ve seen that in work, haven’t we – but decentralisation of network build, as well, as a big theme, I think that’s going on around the country and elsewhere.

Jeremy Cowan  17:29  

I mean, I don’t want to be too UK-specific about it, because this is a global podcast and there’s a lot going on around the world. But it is interesting. I was brought up short when my eldest, went away on Gap Year travels, and he was travelling all the way around the Far East. And I said, I guess you’re pretty reliant on Wi-Fi. And he said, ‘You’re kidding Dad, I didn’t use it’. Virtually everywhere I went it was 4G. And I’m living in a village, only barely an hour from London. And not only do we not have fibre, 4G is pretty flakey. It’s not just the UK either. You know, there are an awful lot of countries where you don’t need to go very far into what might be loosely termed the boondocks, to find that there isn’t very good coverage. And yet, in many of the developing countries, as they’re often referred to, you know, the coverage is infinitely better.

Teresa Cottam  18:25  

Yeah, because they’ve leapfrogged us, haven’t they? 

Jeremy Cowan  18:27
They have.

Teresa Cottam  18:25  

They didn’t have that existing infrastructure. And interestingly, that brings me to another piece of news that I came across that I thought was really interesting and I’d like to bring up to your listeners’ attention. Which was a new book that’s just come out by a lady called Sibel Kusimba and I hope, Sibel that I’m pronouncing your name, right. I’m sorry, if I haven’t. And she’s written a book called ‘Reimagining Money, Kenya in the Digital Finance Revolution’. And she covers a whole host of issues to do with how in Africa there’s a digital divide, and what we need to do about it. And she brings up some really good examples. They’ve actually got a lot of connectivity going into Africa now. They were in the centre of Africa in particular, somewhat connectivity poor, but that is getting fixed. There’s lots of connectivity being built into Africa, now steadily. But she brings up the issues of things like affordability. 

We were talking about handsets a bit earlier. And she was saying that in Kenya and parts of Africa, women in particular, but poorer people as well, often share mobile phones because they can’t afford to have their own. Sometimes they have their own SIM card. And sometimes they just share the mobile with friends and that brings up all sorts of issues to do with what she calls social dilemmas. You know, should I lend it to my friend or not? You know, risk from sharing PINs, are they going to abuse the handset, abuse your account, and safety issues as well. So we have to remember that the whole world is not like the UK and like North America, where we can afford, you know, to have very expensive handsets, the GSMA, I think, has made the point that while smartphones are going to double in Africa over the next few years, between now and 2025, they’re going to double the number. In 2025, 35% of people will still have feature phones. So, the connectivity might be there. But the gateway to the digital world will be limited by the handset that they actually have.

Jeremy Cowan  20:29  

And I think it’s beholden on the rest of us who are in economies where often the phone is a subsidised element of our subscription plan, that it’s not always thus. There are a great number of people who are making the best of a scratchy service. And there’s a scratchy availability of very expensive devices,

Teresa Cottam  20:57  

Which means things like device financing become very important. And I think perhaps the secondhand market as well. So I don’t know whether you’re aware, but MTN, for example, have done some sterling work – and other service providers in Africa – of recycling handsets. So, they take them in and they look at them and then either they can refurbish them and resell them on or you know, if they are at the end of their life, they recycle them. They take all the materials out of it that can be recycled. And I think that kind of approach, you know, that we know we reuse, recycle, refurbish, I think is a really important one going forward.

Jeremy Cowan  21:32  

I couldn’t agree more. I think it’s something that, as an industry, we have done far too little about the use of coltan and other resources, very rare and precious resources in mobile phone should be far greater in a recycling phase than it is. 

Well, let’s turn to a different matter, which is something that you’ve identified, Teresa, as a burgeoning area for our attention. And that’s connecting customers better, connected customer protection and assurance services. Obviously, our networks have never been more important to us than they are now, and particularly in a pandemic. But you say there’s a gap in our security and Service Assurance measures. What is it?

Teresa Cottam  22:20  

Well, in fact, there are loads of gaps, Jeremy. (Laughter). There’s a whole bunch of gaps really, when we start to think about it. So, we’ve talked a little bit about that, it’s so important to have the connection. And we’ve inferred as well, that actually making it easier to connect is a really big thing. And we talked a little bit about digital inclusion, and education as well. So, if we start to look at the gaps that there are in terms of connectivity, and protecting our customers and assuring them, there is first of all, what we call a functional gap. 

So, a lot of the cybersecurity products that are out there are licensed products, they’re really just protecting individual devices. And you as a customer, Jeremy, have to go out and figure out how many licences you want, and then you have to go and install them. You might get something like a firewall as well as part of that or you may not. You know, you might get protection and other things. But you have to go out and buy bits and pieces and then try to cobble them together in some very Wallace & Gromit kind of way to make it all work. And that’s a big problem. There’s also a domain gap. So, there is a big gap between enterprise cybersecurity, on the one hand, and consumer cybersecurity on the other. And in the middle of that falls our SMEs, our small and medium-sized businesses. So the enterprise guys have got lots and lots of money, lots of expertise at their fingertips and some really heavy duty technology. But for the rest of us, we’re the paupers of the digital world. And we can’t really afford that, we don’t have the expertise available to us to install it or manage it. So, we’re not able to use that heavy duty cybersecurity technology. 

There’s also a knowledge gap. And we’ve hinted about this, when we were talking earlier, which is that people that you know, we are all technophiles, we know quite a lot. We know what our limitations are in this world. But ordinary people often they’re lost, they just don’t know what to do. And the easier we make it for them to connect things to the internet, actually what we’re doing is opening them up to more and more risks that they’re not really aware of, or they don’t really understand. And I found an hilarious article recently written by a cyber security professional, where he was advocating that you know this scenario where you’re working at home, you’ve got your laptop, and under no circumstances must you allow your child to use your laptop because they will start playing games and downloading things, and then compromise the security of your work laptop. So, this man clearly doesn’t have children. (Laughter)

Jeremy Cowan  25:04 
Clearly not.

 Teresa Cottam  25:05  

Otherwise, he would realise that that’s an impossible thing to ask the average person to do. Either they have a multipurpose device because they’re a small business and they don’t have separate devices. Or, you know, what are we expected to do? Lock our devices up in cupboards and drawers so that our kids can’t get to them. No. Instead, what we need to do is have something that has our backs and can take care of this stuff with less effort on our part.

Jeremy Cowan  25:27  

I see. So, one element of this would be a new kind of cybersecurity service? Would that be part of it?

Teresa Cottam  25:35  

Yes. So, what we’re saying is, that what has to happen is we need something that works from a customer-centric point of view, not a technology-centric point of view. So, it is more affordable for small businesses and households. It takes the effort out, so you don’t have to have so much knowledge. And it’s a solution. It’s more comprehensive. It covers two key things roughly, it keeps you safe. And it delivers the kind of experience that you expect from your network. So, it stops everything slowing down, stopping working. And you could expand it beyond that into things like fault management. I don’t know about you, Jeremy but I think in every household nowadays, we have one poor person who has been designated as the household IT support desk and CISO. They have to spend an ever-increasing amount of their time trying to make sure that everything works properly. And clearly you would rather be down the pub and not doing that. So, I think that there is a real opportunity here to take the effort out of things, and to actually enable customers to enjoy their connected experience safely for a small amount of money every month.

Jeremy Cowan  26:54  

But in my house, it’s our youngest son, and I’m doing everything I can to keep him out of the pub. Telcos haven’t always been good at making the most of these new commercial opportunities that come along. And I am only casting my mind back a little bit to think about walled gardens for mobile apps, and the more recent direct carrier billing, which hasn’t quite taken off yet. I’m wondering, why do you think they’ll seize and exploit this opportunity? I mean, they’ve done it well with SMS. But, you know, there are more examples out there where it hasn’t gone well.

Teresa Cottam  27:36  

Well, Jeremy, Necessity is the Mother of Invention, they need the cash. It’s as simple as that. So it’s really honed their minds to where can we make revenue quickly? And this is an area where there is an opportunity to make significant amounts of money without having to wait years and years and years for anything to mature because there’s customer demand today. And I think one of the reasons why this is more likely to be successful is that, for once, they are not seeking to develop this internally, which always slows everything down. They’re actually partnering with vendors and acting as solution providers and managed service providers. Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel and develop all this technology themselves. 

What we’re seeing is that there is a massive amount of activity already in this market. So, Telefonica, for example, launched a service called Conexión Segura in 2019. In the first year of rolling this out, they had enormous success with it, they had over 50% take up in their customer base, which is incredible, isn’t it? 

Jeremy Cowan  28:39 

That’s amazing. 

Teresa Cottam  28:40 

And it continues to grow as well. And there are lots of other service providers that in 2021 will be rolling out these services. In fact, we are seeing such rapid take up of this, that we are forecasting on this variance that 80% of the world’s major telcos will have this rolled out by 2023. We think it’s just going to go really quickly. 

Jeremy Cowan  29:05

Sorry, how much?

Teresa Cottam  28:06 

Eighty percent. Yes, eight, zero. That’s what we’re seeing in terms of the activity on the RFPs (Request for Proposals) that are coming through at the moment. A lot of them are investing in, or partnering with quite deeply the vendors, the strategic vendors in this market. So, it’s starting to happen, it’s starting to happen quickly. And every day, I’m actually adding more and more service providers to my list of people that are doing this. But, we think that this is just the start. So, what they tend to do is go to market with what I would call a basic CCAPS offer, which will be cybersecurity, maybe with a little bit of Service Assurance in there, or Wi-Fi optimisation. And then what they do is they add other features to this over a period of time. So, there are lots of other services they can wrap around to increase their value. They can add in things like insurance, so if something does go wrong, you know that someone’s got your back. Even into things like, you cover this in IoT Now, but nobody actually wants to run their own smart home, it would be nice to have somebody actually taking some responsibility for that. And if you’re smart objects are on the blink, you know, they’ll sort that out for you, or they’ll reboot your router automatically, or this kind of thing, which is just such a pain. You know, somebody can take care of that for you, it will take a lot of the pain out of the connected world. And service providers are ideally placed to do that, if they so desire.

Jeremy Cowan  30:32  

Well, I’m sure we’ve all had the frustration of trying to use the existing troubleshoot services that there are in things like Microsoft Outlook and finding it not work. So, I think it’s a really intriguing idea. And the idea that it could be rolled out in multiple phases with different uptakes coming for the telcos has to be appealing. What sort of timeframe are you expecting this to be achieved in?

Teresa Cottam  30:59  

Well, as I said, we think we think the next two years is going to be critical. I mean, this is like a window of opportunity thing. It’s almost if you don’t have it, then how can you tell your customers you have a quality network offering. This is so fundamental, I mean, it offers extra revenue, yes, to the telco. But there’s also a strategic play here. If you do not give your customers confidence that they can operate and experience the connected world safely, then they’re not going to adopt all the other services that you want to sell them. So, this kind of service is really essential for building value on top of, as well as the direct revenue that you hope to make out of it. And I have to tell you, Jeremy, we’ve got some really good intelligence on the sort of money that can be made out of this. 

So, we’re seeing that in the first phase, they’re making two or three pounds, dollars or euros per month in ARPU (average revenue per user) uplift on this. But some of them are going higher. Virgin Media, for example, has just rolled out a service where they’re offering it free to their higher tier customers, but for £5.00 to everybody else, which is taking them towards the top end of this. And research amongst customers has shown that they value this far higher than what the telcos are actually charging them at the moment, showing the scope for growth. For example, in the US customers are prepared to pay an average of $4.80 (per month) for this kind of service, we are told, and up to $5.50 in Latin America. So, I think there’s the scope to grow it. And you’ve also got to consider it’s a substitution service. Customers are already paying three to four pounds a month for B2C (business-to-consumer) cybersecurity. So, five pounds a month for a much wider and more efficient service doesn’t seem too painful, does it?

Jeremy Cowan  32:52  

No, it doesn’t. And from an operator viewpoint, it’s going to have a beneficial effect on customer loyalty, I feel sure.

Teresa Cottam  33:00  

Yeah. And then don’t forget, that’s about a 25% uplift in ARPU we’re talking about, which is massive. I mean, what would you do for 25% uplift in your ARPU? And a lot of it is pure profit, because it’s been delivered out of the cloud, you’ve already got the billing relationship, etc. with the customer. And some of these services are being delivered on a no-risk basis. So, the vendors are coming to the service providers and saying, we’ll risk share with you. We’ll take a proportion of the revenues that you make out of this. So, if you don’t succeed, we don’t succeed. Some of the service providers, as I said, are investing in these vendors. So, if the vendors value goes up, they’ll get some kickback from that as well. Yeah, commercially, this seems to be a bit of a no-brainer.

Jeremy Cowan  33:45  

Well, taking a leaf from your book and quite literally your report, we posted a story about sea CCAPS on VanillaPlus.com just this week. And I recommend all listeners to take a look at this because it’s an immensely promising area, whether you’re a consumer or you’re a service provider who could be looking to find a significant new improvement in your ARPU. I would urge people to find out more from you, Teresa. Where can people go to get the full background on your report?

Teresa Cottam  34:16  

Yeah, we’ve done a complimentary report. So, nothing’s better than free is it?  We’ve got a complimentary report for you, which you can download with no strings attached from our website at Omnisperience.com. So, we hope that you will do that and come back to us with your thoughts on this as well. We’re hoping to get a conversation started because we actually think this is a fantastic opportunity for our industry to not only make some money but as you said, Jeremy, this is really important from customer experience, and loyalty points of view as well. 

Jeremy Cowan  34:47  

Yeah. Thanks, Teresa. I think that’s really interesting. 

Well, it’s that time again, we’ve reached the final section of the pod called What The Tech, where we share something tech-based that either amused or amazed us. And I’m going to go first this week. The story that continues to amaze me, and I have to say not in a good way, is the slow burn that is described in the phrase smart homes. When my colleagues and I first started researching the possibility of launching a website called IoT Now, and looked at how it might be dedicated to, amongst many other things, connected devices in connected homes, we kept coming across reports of the imminent arrival of the smart home. And when I tell you that that was back in 2008, 2009, you’ll share my frustration that smart homes, well, they moved on and they have progressed, they certainly haven’t reached the kind of critical mass that we might have expected by now. I guess that 13 years later, that’s a bit of a surprise. It’s still imminent, apparently, genuinely connected homes. And I’m talking here, not about point solutions, but integrated lighting and heating, ventilation, security, safety, entertainment systems; these are still the exception rather than the rule in most countries. And it isn’t because there’s no interest from consumers, I think, far from it. 

From our own very unscientific data on this occasion, the highest listening figures for any of our podcasts, and for any of our stories have been for stories about smart homes. So that has to be a factor. We’re getting so much traffic when we talk about smart homes on IoT-Now.com, I find that indicative of an unmet need. We reported in November that connected home service growth was closer to reality, with new open broadband USP agents. And this was said to be thanks to the Broadband Forum adding support for the MQTT protocol and as an update for its open broadband USP agent. This obviously helps service providers develop value-added services and provides greater security. But it’s important for end users who will benefit from having all sorts of new third-party software and systems. 

I was getting frustrated about it and have been for a while and I was reading Computerworld and in a blog on there only this week called, Why smart homes are the future of the smart enterprise, they say that the first Homekit-enabled Thread accessories are beginning to appear. Now, I don’t know if you remember this, Teresa, but as listeners may have heard, Thread is a low-power mesh technology. It’s using existing standards, like Bluetooth Low Energy and IPv6. And it means that any manufacturers devices can work together. And it’s preserving battery life. And it’s said to be secure. So that has to be good news. The blog argues it should be no harder to deploy and manage a piece of smart machinery than it is to install a smart light bulb or home thermostat. I can’t disagree with that. But the area that’s lagging in deployments is not in industrial IoT, which was their concern. I think it’s in consumer IoT. What’s your view, Teresa?

Teresa Cottam  38:36  

Yeah, I agree. But I think that this also comes back to our CCAPS story, Jeremy, which is we do need to make it a lot easier for everything to be connected, and to work as we would expect it to. But at the same time, then that opens up cybersecurity risks, doesn’t it? And in fact, we’re starting to see, you know that there are some of the industrial IoT, cybersecurity vendors, I came across one, I think you pronounced it in Vdoo which is an Israeli start-up. And it started up to actually secure the industrial IoT and is now repositioning into the CCAPS market to secure the household, because such is the proliferation of these objects. So, you say it’s not taking off and I think you’re right, there are bits that are still a bit slow. But on the other hand, Jeremy, we’ve all got our Alexas now, haven’t we?

Jeremy Cowan  39:24  

Yeah. Have we? No. (Laughter)

Teresa Cottam  39:28  

You’re not a good advert for it then, are you? (Laughter)

Jeremy Cowan  39:32

I’m really not. 

 Teresa Cottam  39:34  

I think that we are adding on our smart lightbulbs and whatever incrementally, but I think it would get a massive boost if we made it easier for people to create the smart home. It’s still a bit techy, and it’s a bit clunky to make it all work together. You spoke earlier about controls, the controls, the interfaces are not easier. And that’s another one of these things that we need to add on.

Jeremy Cowan  39:55  

Yeah, I think it’s something that we’re bound to be coming back to but either way, the imminent arrival of more IoT standards can only be a good thing. I find that encouraging. And I’m going to take the positives out of this Teresa.

Teresa Cottam  40:08  

As long as all your rooms actually have Wi Fi as well. I think that’s one of the issues, isn’t it, that we may have a hotspot in the house, but if your Internet of Things, if your internet connected devices are in your bedrooms, etc. they, they might not even meet your network at the moment, and they’re constantly falling off. So, another issue here is making sure the In-Home connectivity is working as we would want it to.

Jeremy Cowan  40:33  

Yeah. So, Teresa, finally, in What The Tech, what’s caught your eye?

Teresa Cottam  40:38  

Well, two little stories here very quickly, Jeremy. The first is we all saw, I think the deep fake Queen at Christmas, I thought you know that everybody was either horrified by it or had a bit of a giggle. But I just want to flag that up as being a really big issue from a cybersecurity point of view. I mean, how will you know that it’s your son calling you to ask for some extra pocket money, or, you know, to top up his lunch accounts, you know, you can use deep fake technology. On the plus side, you could be down the pub instead of working Jeremy and your wife will never know, because the deep fake Jeremy will appear to be still working on IoT Now. (Laughter) And then the other side of this, you know, I think an allied technology that’s going to help you here, Jeremy, is the news of the take off of automated journalism. And they’re using AI nowadays, to actually write stories. I don’t know whether you caught that. 

Jeremy Cowan  41:33  

I’m already getting nervous.

Teresa Cottam  41:35  

The Guardian newspaper used GPT3 to write a whole article in September. And this last year, Microsoft sacked all its MSN journalists, or most of them, because it’s getting AI to do it now. So, my question to you, Jeremy is why do we even need you any more?

Jeremy Cowan  41:55  

You’re not the first to have asked this, Teresa! (Laughter) My very first editor took me to one side after I’d been there about 10 days. And he said, of course, Jeremy, you do have to consider that maybe journalism isn’t for you. Which was a bit of a bolt from the blue when I’d set my heart on it. But I managed to turn things around and ended up deputy editor there, but it took me a while.

Teresa Cottam  42:16  

I feel like the deep fake, Jeremy though, could be a better bet. And the real Jeremy could be down the pub. So … 

Jeremy Cowan  42:22  

I’m all in favour of that. And I just hope the hologram is going to hold up long enough to fool my wife. (Laughter) Teresa, it’s great. It’s been lovely to have you. Thank you so much for your contributions. If people want to reach you apart from omnisperience.com, can they reach you on any social media?

Teresa Cottam  42:41  

Yeah, I’m on Twitter, teresacottam, all one word, I’m on LinkedIn, you can find me on LinkedIn, feel free to connect to me. And as I said, we’ve got lots of free content reports on our website that you can download. We’ve got a really good one on the smart lifespace which is this might like as well, in addition to the CCAPS one. So, thank you for having me. It’s been great talking to Jeremy and let’s talk soon.

Jeremy Cowan  43:05  

It’s always a pleasure, Teresa. Thank you very much for joining us. And everybody, do let us know if you agree or violently disagree with anything that you have heard this afternoon. We’re available. I can be reached on @jcIoTnow on Twitter. So you’ll find me on our various websites, which I’m sure you have got links for already. 

Time is up. I’m sad to say. Thank you very much to Teresa Cottam of Omnisperience.  Teresa, it’s been an absolute joy to have you here. And ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank you for joining us around the world. We’re absolutely stoked that so many of you are subscribing to the Tech Trends podcast. Finally, if you get a moment, please spare a thought and give us on the pod a 5-star rating and say what you’ve enjoyed about it. It’s not just to make us feel good. It has a huge impact on where people are searching for a new podcast to follow. 

And until next time, keep yourself safe. And keep checking VanillaPlus.com, IoT-Now.com and TheEE.ai for tech news and interviews, and join us again very soon for another Tech Trends podcast looking at enterprise digital transformation. Bye for now.

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