Will Alliance with ATT Bring IBM Closer to the Internet of Things

The $19 trillion Internet of Things (IoT) may be closer than you think. Two of the world's biggest companies -- IBM and AT&T -- just entered into a global alliance to develop solutions to support the IoT. 

According to a joint statement from the two US giants, the companies are combining their analytic platforms, cloud and security technologies "with privacy in mind" to gain more insights on data collected from machines in a variety of industries.

The alliance will focus on creating new solutions initially targeted for city governments and midsize utilities — organizations that intend to integrate and analyze vast quantities of data from assets such as mass transit vehicles, utility meters and video cameras, Mobeen Khan, executive director of Mobility Marketing at AT&T Business wrote in a blog post.

IBM’s Smarter Cities

At least that’s the long term plan. However, the IoT will not reach its full potential until the price of processors fall to around $1 each or low enough that economies of scale will make mass use possible. Once that happens, though, the potential of the IoT is staggering.

In fact, according to recent IDC research in the Worldwide Internet of Things 2013-2020 Forecast, the installed base of things connected will be 212 billion by the end of 2020, including 30.1 billion connected autonomous things. IDC adds that this growth will be driven largely by intelligent systems that will be installed and collecting data -- across both consumer and enterprise applications.

In the meantime, both companies will focus on creating new solutions targeted for city governments and midsize utilities through connections that already exist through IBM’s Smarter Cities initiative.

The initial aim of the IBM-AT&T alliance — focused on cities and utilities — should sound familiar to IBM watchers. IBM’s Smarter Cities initiative has been pulling different parts of city infrastructure together to develop cities that run more efficiently and economically for a number of years.

There are already a number of cities around the world that have adopted this strategy since it was first outlined at the IBM Pulse conference in March 2011. The "Smarter Planet" concept is even older: It  was proposed by former IBM CEO Sam Palmisano during a speech before the Council on Foreign Relations in 2008.

So How is the IoT Different?

Smarter Cities and the IoT, while similar, are not the same. Last month, in an interview with CMSWire, Katharine Frase, the Chief Technology Officer with IBM’s Public Sector business, described Smarter Cities as much more developed.

She also pointed out that at least in the public sector, the concept and practice of taking information from all kinds of devices to provide actionable insights has a long history both in and outside the US.

In other words, while IBM has been working to a large extent with municipal and even state bodies, it hasn’t really been working at the consumer level that the IoT anticipates working with when it is fully up and running.

The New Alliance

With the AT&T alliance, this may be set to change. AT&T is bringing to the partnership its machine-to-machine (M2M) globally accessible network, along with its Global Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) to help connect assets worldwide into a single global network.

Through this, AT&T has the capability to bring IBM into all aspects of people’s lives. For its part, IBM will bring its Intelligent Operations Center, Maximo Asset Management, its advanced analytics capabilities and IBM MessageSight MQTT Appliance to take meaning from what is happening in people’s homes.

"The new collaboration with AT&T will offer insights from crowdsourcing, mobile applications, sensors and analytics on the cloud, enabling all organizations to better listen, respond and predict,” said Rick Qualman, vice president, Strategy and Business Development, Telecom Industry at IBM.

The IBM applications will supplement the IBM MobileFirst platform, which offers enterprises management, security and analytics capabilities  to capitalize on mobile devices in the development of the IoT.

IBM and AT&T companies will work together to build solutions at the AT&T M2M Foundry in Plano, Texas and IBM Global Solution Centers around the world.  Chris Hill, senior vice president, AT&T Advanced Solutions, said the companies “share a vision that the ‘Internet of Things’ will help companies in a variety of industries rely on their remote and connected devices to take their business to the next level.”

Title image by gui jun peng (Shutterstock).