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Google calls on carriers to craft IoT plans

$40 a month to send a heartbeat too much, says Chocolate Factory

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Google has offered up some uncommon good sense about the Internet of Things, telling a US conference that cheap networking is more important than fast networking for IoT applications.

What's emerging in the machine-to-machine world of the IoT is that many “things” really don't have that much to say, and when they're saying it, they're doing so infrequently. That sits oddly next to the traditional view of how Internet services need to be provided, which is all about capacity and lots of it.

Don Dodge, a developer advocate at the Chocolate Factory, gave the reality-check at the MIT Technology Review Digital Summit.

According to Light Reading, Dodge cited a Verizon advertisement in which a telephone attached to a pole in a field is handling communications for sensors, saying that mobile phone plans aren't geared to the IoT world – and that carriers haven't caught up with this.

He told the conference that “a sensor on the dumpster that's only sending kilobytes of information maybe once a day, or maybe once a week” isn't a good fit with even a cheap postpaid mobile plan at $40 a month.

It's a sensible observation – and perhaps a surprising one, since along with networking vendors like Cisco (name-checked by Dodge), Google is also a fan of high throughput networking.

Assuming that Dodge's comments aren't just a one-off throwaway, it could be that people with an interest in the Internet of Thing, and with more influence than the fragmented bit players that characterise much of the IoT business at the moment, have noticed that the carriers are standing in the way of the market.

At the moment, many if not most carriers direct their machine-to-machine efforts towards crafting big, bespoke deals with big names. Someone like Coca-Cola can certainly break down the “$40 month plan, take it or leave it” model to stick SIMs and comms kits into vending machines.

That's not, however, a mass market model. What Dodge seems to envision goes beyond the world of serving enterprise contracts. Instead, he seems to have in mind a more democratised Internet of Things in which there are off-the-shelf mass-market plans, with prices better matched to a handful of sensors that need only occasional, low-throughput connections.

Whether carriers will – or even can, considering the sunk costs in their networks – come to that party will have to stay on the “wait and see” list for now. And that's before anyone considers the possibilities of meshed networks relying on radios built into "things". ®

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