Vodafone recently reported higher profits on lower sales for the year, and its progress towards establishing a firm Internet of Things (IoT) business in the transport sector was a key highlight in the results. Antony Savvas applauds its efforts in helping to drive the industry along.
For the 12 months, Vodafone group reported that operating profits were up 15.4% to €4.3bn on revenue down 2.2% to €46.6bn, primarily due to the de-consolidation of Vodafone Netherlands and foreign exchange movements, said Vodafone.
The results were posted during advancements in next generation broadband partnerships in Italy and the UK (rolling out fibre to the home with CityFibre there), and just after announcing the acquisition of useful cable assets from Liberty Global in Germany and the CEE region.
“Organic service revenue was up 1.6%, with good momentum in data, fixed/convergence and Enterprise,” said Vodafone.
Vittorio Colao, outgoing group chief executive, said mobile data usage “continues to grow strongly”, and that this was “despite roaming headwinds” [the end of European roaming charges]. Colao may be stepping down in October after ten years at Vodafone’s helm, but at least he is leaving with the company making progress in new markets, not least in IoT transport.
Though still relatively small, turnover from IoT connectivity was up 14% year-on-year. Vodafone has now hooked up 68m active SIMs to its IoT platform, including 14.4m vehicles, helped by deals with the likes of pan-European and US car insurance firm Admiral and global tyre company Continental.
Continental aims to make roads safer with Vodafone’s support through its digital tyre monitoring platform ContiConnect. The companies are using IoT to connect commercial vehicle fleets to the monitoring platform, which is currently deployed in the US, Canada, Malaysia and Thailand. Markets in Europe and other parts of Asia are to follow this year and next.
Using sensors, ContiConnect communicates tyre temperature and pressure data to a central web portal via the wireless network, allowing fleet managers to continuously monitor the data for their entire fleet. The system sends alerts via e-mail or SMS to fleet managers if tyre pressures or temperatures deviate from set values, and suggests corrective measures where necessary.
The platform “helps prevent expensive tyre-related breakdowns affecting commercial fleets and maximises vehicle uptime”, said the partners.
Michael Neuheisel, Continental’s commercial vehicle tyre division head of digital solutions, says ContiConnect provides commercial vehicle fleet operators, such as haulage, bus or construction companies, with “greater transparency” in their fleet management activities and “reduces maintenance and fuel costs”.
Vodafone’s IoT director Stefano Gestaut says this is a “great example” of how IoT can make “real world differences”. We all know that the likes of Waymo, Tesla and Uber are ploughing resources into trying to revolutionise how fleet management eventually goes forward, but it’s the here and now that mainly matters for hard nosed business operators.
And with this system drivers don’t even need to have a display unit in their cockpits, with everything being done remotely for them, alleviating any need to take their eyes off the road as the system boosts overall safety.
It is good to see big incumbent mobile players moving in the right direction in giving IoT transport a good push, and hopefully Vodafone will create a decent ecosystem around its efforts to bring the niche startups that are required along with it.
The author of this blog is freelance IT and technology writer Antony Savvas