Droning On: Verizon’s Skyward Buy Targets Enterprises
IoT is Becoming Big Business
The use of drones in business is not new but it has come with challenges that were difficult to surmount without significant resources. Given all of the planning and regulations involved, an enterprise would need big money and the right people to pull off a drone strategy by itself. That’s changing, as Verizon’s recent purchase of Oregon-based drone firm Skyward indicates.
The deal, announced in mid-February, gives Verizon heft in the Internet of Things (IoT) sector by connecting drone operators with information about regulatory standards and approved routes. Pair that with Verizon’s certification and wireless service for LTE in-flight connectivity and end users now have a single platform for designing, deploying and managing drone operations. Capabilities include:
- Mission planning
- FAA compliance support
- Rate plans on Verizon’s network
Of course, other carriers will follow Verizon’s lead as the IoT space heats up. AT&T, for example, has been conducting drone trials and working with NASA although it had yet to announce, by press time, an acquisition or approach along the lines of Verizon’s.
Nonetheless, as IoT becomes a viable, affordable business tactic, enterprises in a range of industries can turn to drones to save time, and improve operations and safety. Doing so also means learning what to expect from a services management perspective.
The first step will be to use a WMM or MDM provider with a “clear knowledge” of carrier contracts and IoT-specific pricing, said Christine Kruze, subscription services manager at AOTMP. AOTMP Research shows that only a select number of vendors offers this level of expertise, and even fewer customers are relying on it. That will require vetting options with care and thoroughness. The next will require expertise in information security. “There is a huge amount of data required to control and monitor drone use,” Kruze said. Drones, like any Internet-connected device, come with the risk of hacking and loss of pilot control and/or data, she added. Skyward (and similar companies) brings software to the Verizon deal for managing these concerns.
Even so, enterprises should expect a variety of challenges as drones become part of the business world. Those include:
- Security concerns about the drone itself
- Security concerns about the information captured by the drone
- Potential liability
- Network capacity requirements
- Data storage for the vast amounts of data captured
- Purchase, maintenance, and device lifecycle management for the drones themselves
Regardless of the WMM or MDM platform in use, employ some additional best practices for dealing with these issues. Kruze advises the following:
- Explore all of the options for security of the drone technology and weigh the ROI of using the highest level of encryption to secure both the device and the data it captures.
- Compare, analyze and maintain all levels of insurance necessary for the drone use that your enterprise has enabled. All kinds of potential losses might occur from an incident involving drone usage; consider how the technology is being used when evaluating risk.
- Analyze and compare costs relevant to the kind of data that will be captured by the device, what access will be needed for data analysis, what long-term storage requirements will be needed, any recovery requirements and the level of security needed for storing the data long-term.
On the whole, be aware that drones do not necessarily save money. “There could be a significant upswing in how much data will be used, how much network capacity an enterprise will need to manage new deployments and how much it will cost to scale up as your enterprise expands,” Kruze said. In other words, an enterprise must ensure a drone strategy fits into and benefits the business. One simple metric: “If you can assign the work of five people to one drone and one operator, then it is cost-efficient,” said Kruze.
Resources for Enterprises
Organizations crafting and deploying a drone or other IoT strategy need help to identify the right WMM/MDM provider. After all, not every such vendor can handle IoT-centric needs or, if one does, the fit may not be correct. Consider these options for learning more about IoT and deciding on a management supplier:
AOTMP Fixed & Mobile Telecom Management Conference IoT Sessions
- “Unlock the Potential of IoT,” Wednesday, April 12, 3 p.m.
- “Dealing with IoT: From Devices to Connectivity,” Wednesday, April 12, 3:45 p.m.
AOTMP Advisory Services
Talking with an independent subject matter expert makes all the difference when deciding how to take advantage of an opportunity such as IoT. AOTMP’s advisory services give enterprises access to research authorities who provide guidance and deliverables via monthly teleconferences. Learn more here.
Sectors Ripe for Drone Use
Agriculture (“Drones have been used in agricultural practice since the 1980s,” said AOTMP’s Christine Kruze. “They are used for planting seeds more cost effectively, spraying crops with more accuracy, taking soil samples, checking for moisture levels in the soil and using infrared light to detect fungal infections in the leaves of plants. There are ever-expanding ways that drones can and are being used for agriculture.”)
Insurance (“Drones can be sent into dangerous zones for evaluation of claims, or sent into remote areas for inspections. Due to the speed at which drones fly and the amount of information they can capture, it reduces the need for adjusters within the insurance company. Or, if a specialty contractor would be needed to access internal structures, a drone can be used instead,” Kruze said.)
Oil & Gas
Real Estate (“The use of drones allows faster, more accurate recording and evaluation of potential land development or housing project development,” Kruze said.)