July 20, 2021

Solution Consultants: Your Friendly IoT Expert

Helping you get the most from your IoT solution

When people ask me what I do I tell them that I’m a solution consultant, which sounds very specific but doesn’t really tell you anything concrete. Basically, my job is to advise customers on the latest technologies in communications, and also hardware. The customer is focused on what they do best, which is their business, while we focus on what we do best, which is IoT.  We have the knowledge of IoT and the knowledge of connectivity and the different ways of creating your own IoT cloud, etc. That’s really heart of what I do. 

Customers usually have an idea about what they want to accomplish, but don’t always know the exact route they should take. I take their needs and desires and translate those into a technology solution. I advise them about the best way forward for their IoT solution, while keeping a close eye on the future.

I don’t just advise customers on the project for the next three months, I also look at the longer perspective, such as what does the customer want to do now, what do the next two years look like, and how do they want to evolve in IoT.

Arjen Zijlstra Solution Consultant Tele2 IoT

I get a lot of questions around LTE-M – our customers are very eager to use it and are eager to know when roaming agreements will be in place in different regions. This is particularly important when it comes to customers who are doing Covid tracking, especially in Asia. 

Right now, LPWA technologies like LTE-M and NB-IoT are often the right solution due to battery capabilities and power consumption – and with LTE-M, stability. But of course, there could be other options that are more suitable – it all depends on their needs and what they want to do.  

There are times, of course, when a customer wants to do something and it’s not possible. Often, customers want to be able to reach their devices from the internet, but that’s a completely insecure way of building your IoT setup, so for security reasons we don’t support it. This sometimes needs a bit of extra explaining as to why using the public internet to communicate with their devices is going to be nothing but headaches. 

Security is always important when talking about IoT and emerging technologies such as LTE-M and 5G, because these mean we’re heading into massive IoT – and that the attack surface will increase.  

Normally, when I talk about security, I pinpoint several factors. You don’t want to read in the newspaper that your cloud was compromised. Basically, you want to stay away from the public internet, and you want secure communication.  If you want to go for high level security as step number two in a big IoT deployment, you consider it from day one. If you deploy 5000 devices and then start thinking about security, you will have to re-do the whole thing, so it’s important to think about it from the beginning – this will save a lot of effort, a lot of time. If you’re connecting to an open internet connection, nearly anyone can influence it. There are a few examples of temperature readers that were compromised, and all the data was fake – you don’t want this to happen to you.  

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Not everyone needs the highest level of security of course, but everyone does need some level of security. I always start with ‘we can go straight to the internet on a public APN. You will share it with a lot of people where you have certain visibility. Or, you can go with a private VPN, where in the mobile network this will already separate yourself from the rest of the world.

The second step would be to ask how you will communicate your data traffic from the mobile network towards your application or your cloud. Will you do it with just raw data over the internet? Will you use a certain level of encryption? Is the device too small or too cheap to limit your options and/or you don’t want to use device resources to enable your security?  If this is case, you can still move your data over IPSec VPN, which still goes over the internet, but it elevates your security. If you really want to stay away from the internet – perhaps your solution is mission critical, such as healthcare or utilities – then you can use private interconnect – fixed lines – from our mobile network straight into your cloud, which would be extremely secure. 

When it comes to hardware, I won’t advise them on specific hardware, but I will advise them on technology that might suit them best, and of course we have a number of excellent hardware vendors in our partner network who are able to meet the needs of customers. I try to bring the two parties together and let them do what they’re good at. Basically, I let them know what options are available and would be best suited for their particular solution. 

Basically, my job is to use my knowledge and experience to help the customer implement their IoT solution in the best way possible, and to create a future proof solution from day one. We don’t want to sell anything to customers and then have them come back in three months or a year or two with problems or want to do things completely different. We want them to get it right and not have to change their roadmap well into the process. No one wins if that happens, so I make sure it doesn’t. If the foundation is laid and it’s solid it’s much less likely problems will arise – and if challenges do arise, everyone is in a good position to address them.  

If you’d like to learn more about how IoT can enable your business, please get in touch.

Arjen Zijlstra
Solution Consultant
Tele2 IoT

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