Podcast: Harnessing the power of IoT and AI – The age of Connectivity Twins

December 18, 2023

Posted by: Barto Szkaradek

In this insightful episode of our technology-focused podcast, host Antony Savvas, International Technology Editor, delves into the evolving landscape of the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) with industry expert Gabriel Salvate from BICS. They explore the concept of ‘connectivity twins’ and its pivotal role in efficient operations within various sectors. Gabriel sheds light on the integration of AI and data analytics in IoT, transforming mundane objects into smart, interconnected systems. Plus, get a glimpse into the future with a discussion on Amazon’s innovative drone delivery system.

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[00:00:00] Antony Savvas: Hi, welcome to our latest Internet of Things and communication services podcast. This is Antony Savvas, International Technology Editor, accompanied by a distinct industry guest. Today, the main topic we’re talking about is the efficient operations around connectivity twins. We’ll also be talking about another key development in the communication industry, and we’ll finish our discussion with some light hearted industry news that has surfaced.

Today’s podcast is sponsored by BICS. BICS was established nearly two decades ago, and it provides communication service providers and enterprises with easy access to digital communications, trusted fraud prevention, and analytics, along with IoT and 5G global connectivity. It has headquarters in Europe and teams all over the world.

That’s BICS.com. Again, I’m Antony Savvas. I’ve been covering the networking in telecom space continuously for the last 25 years, working as a writer and editor for leading international technology magazines and websites. I’m currently a contributing editor for both IoT Now and communications service provider title Vanilla Plus, a sister title of IoT Now.

My guest today is Gabriel Salvate from BICS. So Gabriel, what’s your job at BICS and what do you do there?

[00:01:29] Gabriel Salvate: Hello, Antony. Thank you very much for inviting me for the session.

[00:01:34] Antony Savvas: It’s a pleasure.

[00:01:35] Gabriel Salvate: I’m a senior manager focused on the IoT travel mobility and mobile private network at BICS. I’ve been working in this market since 2008. And it’s going to be a pleasure to talk with you today.

[00:01:50] Antony Savvas: Okay, right. So getting on to almost, well, 16 years that will be soon, won’t it, Gabriel?

[00:01:56] Gabriel Salvate: That’s correct.

[00:01:57] Antony Savvas: Okay. Before we go on to our main topic of the day, discussing the connectivity twin, we’ll talk about something else. Gabriel, I understand you want to talk about scaling the IoT value chain with AI and data analytics.

Before I ask you a couple of questions, I’ll just put people in the loop who don’t know too much about this. AI and data analytics unlock valuable insights from the vast data generated from IoT devices, enabling data driven decision making. So, Gabriel, how are these systems to adopt, and can more be done to allow their deployment?

[00:02:32] Gabriel Salvate: That’s a good question. But before I’ll start answering this one let’s just go quickly to main concepts of IoT and AI.

[00:02:41] Antony Savvas: That’s fair enough, Gabriel, yeah.

[00:02:43] Gabriel Salvate: I like to say that IoT is about turning regular objects into smart objects by giving them the ability to communicate with each other and with us.

And of course, IoT it’s not a product, not a solution. IoT is an ecosystem. There are some studies about the quantity of layers it can have, but I would say there are three main ones. So the first one is the hardware, which we have sensors and actuators, then we have the connectivity. It could be LAN.

It could be WAN local wire network, wireless area network. And we have the application. When we go to the AI part, AI is not something really new. It’s a broad field of computer science that aims to create machines or, I would say, systems that are capable of performing tasks that typically require human, I would say, intelligence you know, these tasks include learning, reasoning, problem solving, understanding lateral language, perceptions. And the good part is that from now on that the adoption of AI, data analytics in conjunction with IoT can bring significant benefits that we will explore during the session today.

[00:04:07] Antony Savvas: Okay, thanks very much for that great outline from your side Gabriel. That was very helpful for the listeners. So going back to how, you know, whether these, systems are easy to adopt or not. Can more be done to allow their deployment if they’re not that easy to deploy, I should say.

[00:04:25] Gabriel Salvate: Well nowadays, 80% of the applications are hosted in cloud. So the main challenge from an IoT device is how this data can be shared or how they can fill it, the, the cloud system. So basically companies, the tech companies such as AWS, Microsoft and others. They have a kind of host that can get this data and each of their systems there are some again, there is the cloud ecosystem and part of this ecosystem. They have the machine learning tools, they have AI tools and etc. That can be used to process this data. And one good example is the predictive analysis. So nowadays everyone has been talking about that. And I truly believe this is value added and something easy that can be implemented using or combining these two solutions.

[00:05:21] Antony Savvas: Yeah. Just confirming IoT combined with AI can predict equipment failures, reducing operational costs and downtime, for example, and improving service reliability generally. What is the current take up of such solutions and which industry verticals, for instance, are using them the most? Is take up currently low overall?

[00:05:42] Gabriel Salvate: Well we do see a huge number of people working on these verticals, evaluating how to combine both solutions. Of course, there are some industries at the forefront of adopting this. Some good examples are, I’ll say the first one, it’s on the manufacturing side. Then we have fleet management, telematics, smart cities and there is a nice example that I just saw recently to emphasize what I’m saying.

So when we are talking about smart cities. AI now can analyse traffic patterns in real time and adjust traffic signals timing to optimise the traffic flow. And of course, in this traffic signals, there are some IoT devices getting the data and sharing the data in the cloud. So there are a lot of nice things happening.

But again, these are the three and we also can add health care as another good one.

[00:06:43] Antony Savvas: So… healthcare, how significant is that? Is that an important area for BICS?

[00:06:48] Gabriel Salvate: Yes, we are basically everything that is in movement as we are a, a home and provider and persons are always in movement, I would say it’s a target for us. But more than that, we, we care about people and how this data will be moving from a person to assistant and making sure that these people will be safe.

[00:07:12] Antony Savvas: Yes. Okay, so we’ve covered some major points there, Gabriel. What is the BICS story in all this regarding, for example, let’s start with AI. Where is the company with AI? Has it made a lot of progress with that?

[00:07:26] Gabriel Salvate: That’s an interesting question because every time that we are developing a new product at BICS, we try to understand the problematic. And when we were discussing how to implement AI in our solutions, how to approach, how to work with these companies, the main question we had on the table was, how can I get my device and connectivity data into my application that is hosted in the cloud. And then we decided to provide or to create a solution that basically is a one click solution to send the connectivity and IoT device data into the public cloud in a scalable way. That’s that’s important to emphasize. But more than that in a secure way to solve a lot of complexities of doing protocol conversions or delivering that data into the public cloud.

So, basically, we were looking on how to unlock opportunities. So basically now you can have, for example, a 360 device management view. You can do faster troubleshooting. You can have an end to end security view. So some of these benefits are extremely important, but… Going into your question in terms of use cases especially on the IoT side.

We know that the battery life cycle is one of the main nightmares for developers and etc. And using this type of solution, we can, for example, predict the battery life for low power wide area devices, or we can identify when the device firmware should be updated and things like that.

So that’s again, a nice merge of the solutions and using our solution connectivity twin, we can allow customers to do this type of stuff.

[00:09:27] Antony Savvas: That’s, that’s that sounds like there’s some good progress being made there at the company. So that’s good to hear. Because obviously everyone’s got an AI story. And the last thing we want to hear is what I would call as AI washing. Just like greenwashing when it comes to the environment. It looks like you’re making some real progress there, Gabriel.

[00:09:44] Gabriel Salvate: That’s correct. So again, the main objective is to create, in our environment, as I said, we have the hardware, we have the connectivity, we have the application. And sometimes developers, they should manage different applications from different vendors. So, and this brings a lot of complexity and that said. So the idea here is, of course, we are selling for developers because BICS is a, it’s a B2B company and part of our target is to improve I’ll say customer journey, right? And the customer journey on the developer side, and if they can buy time, if they can optimize their solution, if they can predict something using our products.

This is what we are looking for.

[00:10:28] Antony Savvas: And another area, I imagine that, you know, 5G has a major role in all this, putting all the important pieces together and supporting them.

[00:10:37] Gabriel Salvate: Yes. Yes. 5G is, I mean one of the main advantages to have IoT devices running on 5G it’s not only about the downloads, the upload rates, and, etc. So here we are talking about latency. But the 5G will allow devices to process high or huge amount of data and on the other side you should have or you must have systems that can predict real time decisions, right?

[00:11:08] Antony Savvas: Yeah. So in terms of real time decision making that’s very important in these scenarios. What sort of progress as a company have you done in real time decision making to actually help the partners and the end customers there?

[00:11:23] Gabriel Salvate: Basically one of the, I would say the, pillars of the AI is to optimize the decision making process. Of course, when you are developing a product, you need to focus on how optimize operational costs, minimize downtimes and, etc. Now with 5G, and BICS has been investing a lot on 5G standalone, so that’s something important to highlight. We do see a huge number of IoT devices using this type of technology, because then you can transact a huge amount of data, and then, act and react as quick as possible. It’s extremely important. So that’s another good example of what IoT and AI can do together.

[00:12:06] Antony Savvas: Yeah, and overall, I mean, we mentioned scalability at the end. People, you know, listening to this would be thinking, well, if, if I go into this arena and I want to test things, how do I actually, scale it up to make it commercially advantageous to my company? How can BICS, you know, help these organizations with their scaling up of this technology?

I imagine you’ve got the support networks, the internal expertise to help them do that.

[00:12:32] Gabriel Salvate: Yes, that’s correct. What BICS does and it’s important to emphasize. At BICS we have two big groups. We have the Telco group, which we are working on the 5G standalone selling those solutions for MNOs. On the, on the enterprise side, BICS is connectivity provider. So we are part of the ecosystem.

So, in terms of enabling customers to have the best connectivity in terms of performance and etc. But now we are going one step beyond, so we are working with the cloud providers to offer the solution through the connectivity twin. So here again, we can talk about stability, scalability on two different scenarios.

We can look for the connectivity perspective. So BICS owns the entire infrastructure and on the cloud side, which players have been using companies such as AWS and Microsoft or others, we are part of it. So that’s the two ways we can work. Making sure the developers or the company will have the best solution for, for it.

[00:13:40] Antony Savvas: That’s great. So that was a good introduction to the podcast with our first topic there. We’re now going to move on to the main topic. So thanks for that first part, Gabriel. We’re going to be talking about connectivity twins. Now, just to sort of set the scene here for the audience, speaking of digital twins in general, a digital twin is basically software representation from sensors.

With digital twins, the idea is that a virtual twin of an existing product, for example, is maintained with constantly collected manufacturing and business data. That’s the general concept of digital twins. What we’re talking about here today Gabriel, isn’t it? Is the connectivity twin. And we had the subject of how can I get my device and connectivity data into my application that is hosted in the cloud?

So if you could just explain to the audience, Gabriel, what are we talking about when we talk about a connectivity twin?

[00:14:35] Gabriel Salvate: Nice. Okay. So let’s think in three big blocks. We have the digital twin application, right? Then we have the connectivity which customer can use BICS connectivity. And then the idea is: how can I bring connectivity data in the cloud, simplifying the complexity of it? So that’s the that’s the first part.

So basically connectivity twins, it’s a digital representation of device connectivity properties, right? So on the connectivity, there are several items that can be analysed and this let’s say this. Infos will be available for users in a bidirectional way so they can read, they can check, they can act, and etc.

So in short, you can bring connectivity data straight to the digital twin platform. So that’s the first thing. The second one you can translate, them into an understandable language for our customer, because when we are talking again, using the battery life cycle management. So, here we have items such as DRX, PSM operator hat, and et cetera.

So we are talking about complex, items that can be easily presented in a dashboard for customers. And the third one is to provide exactly a smart connectivity dashboard. So in short they will have the connectivity data in the cloud. The data it’s going to be translated in simple terms through dashboards, that’s I would say the concept of the product. The good part is that can run in AWS and Microsoft, which represents, I would say, 90 percent of the applications.

[00:16:34] Antony Savvas: That’s right. So what other benefits for the users are there from this way of working provided by BICS and its partners? What other things come to mind? I imagine you’re thinking of, what are the listeners asking here? What are the things they’ll be screaming for?

As far as you’re concerned. Is BICS addressing the issues our audience are probably thinking about there in terms of what their needs are with this connectivity solution?

[00:16:59] Gabriel Salvate: Well, there are several items that can be covered. I would say the first one is that you can select automatically network with better coverage, right? So one of the things we provide, it’s a multi-IMSI and using this solution, you can choose the best one.

The second one, we know, is that customers are extremely concerned about fraud. Security is one of the topics, so basically here you can block connectivity in case of suspected fraud. The third one I have highlighted before is you have the ability to identify when the device should be updated when the firmware should be upgraded, for example and we are talking about low power wide devices like narrow band IoT, LTE-M, cat-m you can predict the battery life. So that’s these four items are extremely important in the IoT scenario. And to finalise more than that, you can have not only the connectivity data but you can also have the device data running in the single or in the same platform, the single pane of glass. That’s another interesting thing about this product.

[00:18:17] Antony Savvas: So just, just so I’ve got this right. So using this solution BICS customers can manage all their IoT devices to gain control to improve the overall quality of service and data security for their customers. Is that, this is what we’re doing here. Yeah.

[00:18:33] Gabriel Salvate: That’s correct. It’s absolutely correct.

[00:18:35] Antony Savvas: Okay. That’s great to know. And is it right that you get the complete picture by managing your connectivity and devices from a single platform, effectively, is that correct?

[00:18:46] Gabriel Salvate: That’s correct. Then, because in short, we can I’ll say unlock new opportunities for customers because now they have a DMP, a device management platform running in one side. They have the connectivity management platform running in another side. So they do the interactions or the integrations via APIs.

But from now on, they will have the ability to have both items working together, and then this will help them to have the 360 device management view. So you don’t need to spend time on product integrations and that’s it. As I said, it’s going to be a one single click integration. That’s it.

Basically we are helping them to buy in time.

[00:19:24] Antony Savvas: Yeah. So just, I’ve got this right as well. So effectively, BICS customers integrate their digital twin with all the connectivity metadata of their SIMs or eSIMs to unlock new insights faster. Is this all linked to what you’re talking about here?

[00:19:39] Gabriel Salvate: Yeah, yeah, that’s correct.

[00:19:41] Antony Savvas: Okay, right. So, Gabriel there are issues around you know, digital twins and related to the connectivity twin, the data that’s been generated, it’s going up and up and up, just like is everywhere.

It affects the IoT industry. I’ve been at conferences before. Some people have explained that the sensors that exist are going to have to be developed to actually keep up with the processing power which is generating all this data. The chipsets are getting faster. The sensors are going to have to get faster.

The amount of data being generated by companies is getting bigger. So the systems have to get more powerful. As an IoT industry, which obviously BICS is a key player in. How do you think as an ecosystem the IoT industry with BICS can actually tackle these problems with its cloud partners about the speeds of the data and the amount of data?

What comes into your mind in terms of how we can move forward as an industry, Gabriel?

[00:20:42] Gabriel Salvate: That’s an excellent point. Antony. Here we, we see the technologies getting more mature. So on the connectivity side, we have 5G. Now we have five 5G SA. The quantity of data that in a certain way needs to be transacted are increasing heavily. There are some methodologies which we can treat this data.

Okay, so on the hardware side we have the edge computing part. So you can process the data near to the sensor. So you can get the data, you can interpret what is important or not. Disregard what is not and send to the next layer what is important. On the connectivity side as the networks are getting more powerful so we can make sure that the latency it’s not going to be affected, that the download and upload rates will be okay and as soon as the data arrives Into the cloud system then there is an ecosystem ready to prepare that.

So just to do an example on the AWS and Microsoft, they have the IoT core or the IoT hub. So these two systems, they act like a concierge. They will get the data and they will distribute internally based on the customer application, and then you can apply machine learning, you can apply artificial intelligence, you can store data, you can simply show the data and disregard the rest. So there are some ways to implement this, but it’s an important fact, and BICS has been investing heavily in the network side, to make sure we can offer the best solution for our customers.

[00:22:30] Antony Savvas: And there’s an extension that very briefly, obviously, I mean, data security and IoT, it’s a whole new podcast on its own, but briefly when we talk about how the data security needs are evolving and how the industry can actually look at data security. How do you see the industry coping with that in the medium to long term situation?

[00:22:51] Gabriel Salvate: Yeah, security if it’s not the first one is the second topic most discussed in, in our environment. So again, there are several parts where the security layers are applicable. Okay, so on the connectivity side, there is a solution called IoT SAFE, which is a standard defined by the GSMA.

So it’s a root of trust solution that can be installed directly in the SIM card in order to make sure that no one will have access to the SIM card itself, right? There are other ones which you can do the same on the hardware side, so you can, for example, apply virtual private networks or private APNs in order to make sure.

So again, there are several methodologies on how to treat this. But in that that’s one of the most important topics at the moment.

[00:23:52] Antony Savvas: Yeah, and thanks for those key pointers, Gabriel, maybe we’ll talk about that as a separate podcast in the in the future. So, obviously we’ve been quite detailed about some of the the general issues, talking about the industry generally, and, and going, going into what, you know BICS is doing, how it’s moving forward.

It’s important to make sure we don’t miss anything here. So would you like to have any other information about, you know, the BICS offering? Some of the key points which, because of my fault, I haven’t actually brought to the surface here. So is there anything else you’d like to say what BICS specifically is doing with this connectivity twin strategy and offering?

[00:24:27] Gabriel Salvate: Yes, I like to say that BICS is moving from connectivity. We use it to be a connectivity provider and now we are a solution provider, right? So we have, of course, we have our core network, so we are a global MVNO, MVNE. So we have private IPX solutions. We have regional platforms, we have NEFB core technology and etc.

But again in this environment, it’s always important to understand what is happening and see how you can adapt yourself. So we launched recently two new layers. One is the value added services, which we have eSIM for consumers and eSIMs for IoT solutions. We have connectivity twin, we have smart data, which is I would say the unique and global real time data analytics platform. We have solutions for resellers, we have the IoT SAFE and then we have the professional services.

So basically now customers can have, the support during the development phase from an expert team that can help them during the entire process. So that’s what we are doing now. Of course, connectivity twin is one of the most interesting projects that we are working on.

And again, it’s important to emphasize that it’s not only about connectivity, but it’s about how we help customers on the ecosystem itself.

[00:25:55] Antony Savvas: Okay, well thanks for that great discussion. I’m sure there are many important and interesting pieces of information for the listeners to digest there. We’ll finish today with some more light hearted industry developments. Gabriel something has caught your eye and before you, will talk about it, I’ll just tell the readers where we read this.

In it was reported in IoT tech news and other places to be honest about Amazon’s plans about expanding their prime edge roaming package delivery system to international locations. Starting next year, customers in the UK, Italy. And a third undisclosed city in the U. S. will have the option to receive their packages via drones.

And we talked about drones at the beginning of our conversation, that some of the listeners may remember. The current Prime Air service is already operational in the U. S., and it has been for a year, and it’s been delivering packages weighing up to five pounds with one hour. That’s quite a key service promise.

Prime Air’s expansion will include the introduction of the MK 30 drone, which is also a quieter, smaller, and lighter model compared to its predecessors. And so it sounds like there’s some exciting news after perhaps talking about this over, um, the last few years. Gabriel, how do you actually see this Industry opportunity developing and can you see any difficulties, for example…

[00:27:22] Gabriel Salvate: Yes. That’s one of the reasons why I love technology. So we can see those things happening. And of course, improving our lives in the end of the day. That’s what is important. It’s a nice example on how IoT, robotics and artificial intelligence can work together. So you have a drone that is controlled by someone, and basically, you can deliver packages remotely. So look, you have a drone with a huge amount of sensors connected in a 5G network, taking decisions in real time, sending perhaps SMS or message to the end customers informing that the package will be delivered then you need to make sure that no one will access the drone and change the route.

So security is, one of the important topics. Then you need to make sure that your air traffic system will be available to have these drones working you know, that there are a lot of components working at the same type of project. So this could be considered IoT, robotics, AI, but also part of the smart city project.

It’s something that will help to improve our lives, that’s what I love and I truly believe this is something extremely disruptive and more than that, we cannot forget that these drones also have a GPS or satellite connections. So you see a 5G satellite on the connectivity side, you see cloud, artificial intelligence, machine learning, taking real-time decisions, saving the data, informing the customer. Then you have another communication platform to save the data, so there’s a bunch of applications running into the same ecosystem. It’s really really interesting. And I truly believe this is the future.

And more than this, it’s happening and it’s happening now.

[00:29:24] Antony Savvas: That’s it. It’s what we call leading edge technology, but then what some people also describe as bleeding edge technology, and I imagine that may be a BICS may want to get more involved when maybe it’s not bleeding so much. Is that correct?

[00:29:37] Gabriel Salvate: Yeah, we are trying to prepare ourselves for that. That’s the point.

[00:29:44] Antony Savvas: Okay. So I’ll just tell the listeners now, I mean that’s the end of podcast that making the points. But there’s a, there’s a bit of housekeeping here. I’ve got to mention the fact there will a transcript of important discussion here, the whole podcast and appear on the published podcast on our website, and it will confirm any links that we’ve been talking about as well. I’d also um, like to give the listeners the opportunity to be able to contact you if they wanted to Gabriel. So, what would be the best way of them, you know, tracking you down on the internet? What, is there any social media platform you’d like to mention that they can contact you?

[00:30:20] Gabriel Salvate: Yeah, I can share my LinkedIn yes. Yeah. I can put here in the, the chat. https://www.linkedin.com/in/gabriel-salvate-97200429/

[00:30:26] Antony Savvas: So maybe we could put those in the transcript. So if you could supply those we can put them in the transcript and then they could just contact you. Is that fair enough?

[00:30:35] Gabriel Salvate: Yeah. Of course.

[00:30:36] Antony Savvas: Okay. Right. And so after that very detailed discussion, it just remains for me to say thanks very much to the listeners for tuning in.

And then, when you see this podcast published, if you could use the social media buttons on the published podcast to let us know what you thought about it. And that just remains for me to say that’s goodbye from me, Antony Savvas. And Gabriel, it’s goodbye from you, yes?

[00:31:01] Gabriel Salvate: Yes. It was a pleasure to talk with you. Looking forward for the next opportunity. Thank you very much.

[00:31:06] Antony Savvas: Absolutely. Thanks very much. Bye bye all. Bye bye now.

[00:31:09] Gabriel Salvate: Bye bye.​