Q&A: How Nokia’s WING will help African Enterprises Track their IoT Deployments – Dr. Muneer Zuhdi, Director of Solution Line Management

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Dr Muneer Zuhdi, Director of Solution Line Management in the Global Digital Economy Practice at Nokia

Back in February, Nokia announced the launch its Worldwide IoT Network Grid (WING) as a service to help businesses better track and manage their large-scale IoT deployments. WING will be able to manage a broad range of IoT applications and devices, including connected cars and connected cargo, such as freight containers.

WING, like other management services, aims to simplify the way an enterprise deals with its connected devices, especially dealing with the complexity of assets that may traverse the globe. Whereas businesses would typically need to rely on multiple vendors to manage such a deployment, WING gives them a central location to handle it all.

PC Tech Magazine caught up with Dr Muneer Zuhdi, Director of Solution Line Management in the Global Digital Economy Practice at Nokia to find out more about Nokia WING and how it will impact businesses across Africa.

What is Nokia WING?

The Nokia Worldwide IoT Network Grid (WING) is a managed service to help communications service providers (CSPs) enter the world of IoT or grow their existing IoT offerings with a worldwide network grid designed by Nokia for IoT devices.

WING can be provided as a white label managed-service model, enabling operators to offer the service to their enterprise customers under their own brand. In addition to delivering a one-stop IoT services model that includes IoT infrastructure as a service, Nokia also provides CSPs with the services needed to assess the IoT opportunities in specific markets, as well as go-to-market consultancy services to make it easier to capture new revenue streams quickly and efficiently.

What is new in IoT? We have been talking to devices for a long time across various protocols. Is it the contribution to big data?

Internet of Things (or IoT) is a very transformative technology with the potential to transform every industry, including traditional ones. With IoT, we have the ability to not only provide connectivity to end devices and terminals, but also to be able to control them and collect data that can be used to gather intelligent information and drive business decisions. We are seeing this technology gaining momentum as companies throughout the value chain and across different industries are looking to embrace IoT to reduce cost, generate new revenues, or enhance customer experience. The difference now is that IoT will not be limited to siloed deployments but is expected to be adopted widely. This is triggered by the miniaturization of hardware, the growth and economics of cloud deployment, the proliferation of intelligent devices, and the increased innovation in identifying valuable IoT-based used cases.

Nokia has been extremely active in IoT by optimizing our products to support IoT applications, investing in IoT technologies, acquiring innovative companies, collaborating with IoT technology leaders, and building IoT ecosystems to develop solutions covering different industries. This multi-prong approach enables Nokia to partner with our customers in this IoT journey and provide them the most innovative end-to-end IoT solutions.

Two things, IoT and Big data. Can you talk about how they intersect and relate to one another? 

IoT is all about providing connectivity to devices and controlling them while collecting and analyzing their data. The more devices that are connected through IoT, the more data emerges. This pool of data will grow massively as IoT becomes more prevalent and will form what has become to be known as big data. Big data is useless unless it is analyzed and the outcome of the analysis is used to form business intelligence and derive business decisions.

Big Data would not exist without IoT as it needs the raw data to turn it into actionable insights. Neither can exist in isolation of the other. The two intersect when the need arises to process and analyze large sets of data – quickly, accurately, and on demand.

The Nokia end to end portfolio provides customers analytics driven network and excellent network and application real-time insights, such as popular applications and how traffic is flowing to reach subscribers. Furthermore, data collection and analytics is a key module inside the Nokia IMPACT IoT platform. The IMPACT IoT platform goes beyond the management of IoT devices into data collection, event processing, data contextualization, and trend monitoring.

How will Nokia WING change business models for everyone in the value chain? 

Operators can quickly take advantage of new business opportunities by joining a global federation of IoT connectivity services. This enables them to use their excess network capacity to win new revenue streams, rapidly and with little effort, by serving enterprises that require near-global IoT connectivity.

Nokia can fast-track an operator’s planned IoT business launch to achieve a short time to market. Nokia WING provides a white label managed service model, allowing operators to offer the service under their own brand. Consumers will be able to benefit from a wide range of seamlessly connected IoT applications and devices as Nokia takes the lead in collaborating with operators to create one global IoT grid.

Credit: Nokia

Share some examples of how the solution will generate business benefits?

Nokia WING accelerates the entry of operators and enterprises into providing global IoT services through a white label managed service model. This model enables operators and enterprises to have a rapid deployment of IoT services, and deliver this services under their own brand.

Other business benefits come from minimizing the investment required by operator and enterprises to provide IoT applications. It also enables them to provide new IoT applications without causing any disruptions to existing services. All this is done using a cost-effective, scalable, cloud-based solution while having end-to-end security of the provided IoT services.

What is the state of the IoT Ecosystem in Africa?

IoT is starting to gain traction in Africa across different verticals. The maturity level varies between different markets. Some are in the exploring phase, while others are more concrete about their IoT plans. As the maturity level increases, the ecosystem will follow suite. This will be a natural evolution when innovation is fostered and the different stakeholders are involved from the public and private sectors and the academic community.

Nokia is fully engaged with several African cities and service providers on the specific requirements in their unique markets. Nokia has been investing in building ecosystem of partners focusing on developing innovative IoT applications and performing technology and market trials. When we engage with customers in Africa, we provide them access to the extensive Nokia IoT ecosystem of partners.

What do you envision will be the most active industries in IoT uptake in Sub-Saharan Africa?

Although the IoT journey is still in the early stages in Africa, but you can see the momentum in concentrated in few industries. Most of the interest for IoT is focused on smart cities, public safety, connected automotive, and digital health. This is understandable as these verticals solve challenges that people in Africa face, so IoT based solution addressing them would bring huge values to them. As deployment takes off in these industries, others will quickly follow especially if the economies of scale support such expansion.

Nokia is in a unique position to be the trusted partner for our customers in this journey. Nokia has all the building blocks for the complete IoT E2E solution whether it is over fixed or mobile network. The solution is highlighted by the IMPACT IoT platform, which is scalable, horizontal, and multi-tenant platform. It enables cities or operators to securely host applications from multiple agencies in addition to their own applications. So when deployment starts in one of the lead mentioned industries, the solution can scale to support other industries and the service providers will have improved economics with every new added solution.

Security has been an issue, with the recent ransomeware attacks. How will end-to-end security be handled with Nokia WING?

Several factors can increase the security threat for IoT applications. It is important to evaluate the end-to-end security for the entire IoT solution. This includes devices, network, platform, cloud, and application security. This is the approach for the Nokia security products which include end-points, gateway, DNS, and platform security, along with certificate management, security management, and identity & access management.

The IMPACT IoT platform allows secured and authenticated collection of IoT data and distribute only to authorized applications and end users. While the NetGuard End-point Security provides a network-based anti-malware solution combining monitoring, detection, and mitigation for smart devices and IoT end-points. Possible action that can be taken by the IMPACT IoT platform when detecting abnormal traffic is to send a notification to the application or end user, update the firmware to fix a security hole, and/or instruct the network to stop the device from transmitting.

Firmware upgrade is particularly important since IoT devices are expected to be operational for long time, and it is very important from a security point of view to make sure the firmware is up to date. Nokia has helped operators and enterprises globally to provide over-the-air (OTA) firmware updates to end device, such as in connected cars, to proactively address any security concern.

You have been involved in smart cities initiatives before, how do you see smart cities tackling Africa’s problems across the different sectors?

IoT has been gaining great traction in Smart Cities and Nokia has been involved in multiple Smart City opportunities across Africa. Although these cities are in the same region, but each one of them is different as their challenges and priorities are specific to their residents and businesses.

Nokia has been very active in discussing different possible use cases within these verticals to improve people’s lives and enhance the safety, and the economic and environmental sustainability in Africa. Video analytics, for example, utilizes advanced machine learning algorithm for crowd and traffic management, which helps with public safety. While smart lighting and fleet management enhances the sustainability of natural and business/city resources. Finally, applications like smart parking achieve multiple goals in terms of making people work and live smarter by eliminating time waste, generating new revenues for businesses/cities, and reducing road congestions, pollution and fuel waste. Our goal is to enable cities and operators in Africa to provide their customers applications that enhance the quality of their lives, and enhance their environment and business sustainability while making them safer.