16 Jan 2020

Building a successful IoT business in Asia Pacific isn’t easy, but Bosch Software Innovations has done just that.

In this podcast, I speak with Thomas Jakob, Regional President for Asia Pacific, to find out how Bosch developed their impressive IoT solutions portfolio.

What I found most interesting is that while many tech vendors drive innovation by acquiring innovative companies, Bosch has built many of their own custom solutions – and partnered with start-ups to jointly develop others – to meet the diverse local requirements of the Asia Pacific market.

We hear about the importance of the “localisation” of solutions – Bosch in Asia Pacific is the perfect example of how it should be delivered.

(Note: In January 2020, Bosch Software Innovations was renamed Bosch.IO)

Show notes:

1:40 Intro to Thomas

2:50 Tell us about Bosch Software Innovations

4:20 Which industries does Bosch work with in Asia?

7:00 How Bosch is using technology to transform the agriculture industry

8:45 How Bosch sources innovation

10:00 Bosch’s new lift/elevator management solution

13:50 How Bosch has leveraged Smart Building solutions to IoT-ise their business

16:35 An overview of Bosch in China

18:40 The importance of localised solutions that meet customer requirements

25:00 What has kept the IoT industry from reaching its potential

29:25 What is the most interesting IoT market in Asia?

31:45 Name one solution over the past decade that has exceeded your expectations? And failed to live up to expectations?

35:20 The fun questions

  • Electric or classic cars?
  • German or Singaporean food?
  • Christmas by the fire or the beach?

TechBurst Asia



14 Jan 2020

You’re at an industry event and the presenter is forecasting HUGE market growth for industry X. You think, “Wow, that market is really taking off!”

Then, you come back to reality and remind yourself that you’ve heard it all before – headline grabbing forecasts seldom live up to the hype.

I have a love / hate relationship with market forecasts. I’ve created and analysed financial models for nearly 30 years. I understand why market forecasts are needed, but more importantly, why they MUST be questioned.

And since I spent a lot of time last year researching Smart City market forecasts, I thought I’d share my findings with you.

How long is a piece of string?

Last week, my article, “Lies, Damned Lies & Smart City Rankings,” discussed that while Smart City rankings are fun to read, they are NOT an accurate reflection of how “smart” a city is.

But what about Smart City market forecasts? Are they any better? In a nutshell, no. And here’s why.

According to the Harvard Business Review, there are four requirements to create a market forecast:

  1. Define the market
  2. Segment the market
  3. Forecast the demand drivers
  4. Conduct sensitivity analyses

Sounds simple, but it isn’t. How do you define the Smart City market? Which government agencies, solutions and use cases should be included? The truth of the matter is that there is no agreed definition of a Smart City and that’s one of the main reasons why the market forecasts vary so wildly.

Note: All the numbers quoted below are publicly available and issued in 2019 – I will list the sources at the bottom of the article. 

The Baseline: How large is the Smart Cities market today?

“The most reliable way to forecast the future is to try to understand the present.”  – John Naisbitt, author of “Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives”

Before we look at the Smart City forecasts, let’s look at the “actual” market size – the baseline data. You would think that removing the forecasting “guess work” from the equation would provide some consistency. It doesn’t. Because a “Smart City” means different things to different people, reports on actual Smart City market size are all over the place.

I found ten firms that listed Smart City baseline figures for either 2017 or 2018.

The numbers that should be based on “actuals” range from USD 71 billion to USD 900 billion in 2018 alone. That doesn’t mean they are wrong. It means they define a Smart City differently. But that doesn’t make it any easier for those that need the data.

Say, for instance, I run Sales for a tech vendor and need to know the Smart Cities market opportunity to set sales targets. Which baseline should I use?

This choice impacts whether the sales team can achieve their targets, and that has financial (over- / under-payment of bonuses / commissions) and operational (e.g. employee retention) impact on my business.

The Forecasts: How large will the Smart City market be in the future?

“No one can escape the iron rule that once you make a forecast, you know you’re going to be wrong; you just don’t know when and in which direction.” – Edgar Fiedler, Economist

Bad news – the randomness of the baseline figures leads to the exponential randomness of the forecasts. The forecasts below all come from 2019 press releases.

Again, they could all be “reasonable” depending on their inputs. The Smart City market could be as large as USD 3 trillion globally in the coming years, or as small as USD 190 billion, depending on which firm, if any, you believe.

The good news is that if you have an opinion about how large the Smart City market opportunity will be, there’s a forecast to support your confirmation bias.

With the wide range of Smart City market forecasts, it’s impossible to understand the current state of the market and the size of the market opportunity. But these forecasts do achieve one thing – they generate headlines. And speaking of generating headlines…

Ok, so which Smart City forecast gets the prize for being the most ridiculous?

That’s easy. It’s the one that reminds me of playing Snake on my Nokia phone in 2003. Confused? Let me explain.

“The old rule of forecasting was to make as many forecasts as possible and publicise the ones you got right. The new rule is to forecast so far in the future, no one will know you got it wrong.” – Ruchir Sharma, author of “Breakout Nations: In Pursuit of the Next Economic Miracles”

In June 2019, ABI Research forecasted the 5G component of Connected Cities would generate USD 17 Trillion in economic value by 2035. Why do I think this is so ridiculous?

  1. Firstly, 2035 was 16 in the future when they released the forecast. No one can accurately predict 16 years in the future. If you are old enough, think back to your mobile phone from 16 years ago – most likely a Nokia. Back when you were playing Snake on your Nokia phone – do you honestly believe you could have ACCURATELY predicted the market size for ANY industry today? Or the impact from market drivers such as iOS, Android, Uber and Netflix?
  2. Secondly, I find it hard to understand the basis for the forecast when the 5G mobile network equipment manufacturers and operators are still learning which use cases and solutions will drive value and how they will monetise 5G networks across ALL industries, let alone just the Connected Cities component. So, what does ABI know about the longer term that we don’t know?
  3. Finally, the GSMA, which oversees mobile operators globally, states 5G across ALL industries will add USD 2.2 Trillion to global GDP by 2034. I don’t like long horizon forecasts, but USD 2.2 Trillion for everything 5G by 2034 versus USD 17 Trillion for just the Connected Cities component of 5G by 2035 seems like a bit of a discrepancy, don’t you think?

As a side note, I put a reminder in my phone calendar for 2035 to fact-check this forecast, which was stupid. Who knows if we will be using calendars OR phones in 2035?

I still need Smart City forecasts – what should i do?

Here are four recommendations for you.

  1. Understand the methodology – ask the analyst firm what is included in their forecast. And, for good measure, use the forecasts above to ask them why their forecast is higher or lower than the others. Understand what a Smart City means to them.
  2. Focus on the underlying drivers – find out which segments (e.g. security, autonomous vehicles) drive the forecasts in the near term. Those segments should be relatively consistent, even if the forecasts are not.
  3. Fact-check the numbers – firms regularly revise their forecasts based on the latest data, so make sure your numbers are up to date. When I searched for Smart City forecasts released in 2019 only, I found three different forecasts from one firm above – with the largest being 60% bigger than the smallest.
  4. Re-read the press release – press releases can be misinterpreted and misreported. What starts out as a market opportunity of $X “by 202X”, meaning the cumulative value, gets reported later as “in 202X”, a single year’s value. I found examples of this in my research and I’m still confused about what the real size of the Smart City market opp for some of the firms above.

Remember, Smart City market forecasts – as well as Smart City rankings – and this article – should be taken with a pinch of salt. A large pinch.

I’ll close with one final quote, from someone far more knowledgeable than me…

“We really can’t forecast all that well, and yet we pretend that we can, but we really can’t.” Alan Greenspan, Economist & former Head of the US Federal Reserve





21 Oct 2019

I’m sure many of you are wearing an Apple WatchSamsung Gear or other gadget on your wrist right now. This market started to gain attention when the first Apple Watch launched in 2016 – and the market has advanced in terms of technology & sales since then – but the question is, what does the future hold for the smartwatch? Is it the one size fits all model of the large vendors? Or is it better to customise the smartwatches to target specific users or use cases?

In this podcast, we’ll talk to Omate’s Laurent Le Pen, a smartwatch industry pioneer, to find out how he views this evolving market.

Show notes:

01:30 Introduction to Omate

02:20 How did someone from France end out starting a device manufacturer in Shenzhen?

03:50 The market segments and challenges Omate targets – Elderly Care, Children, Lone Workers

07:00 Deep dive into the Omate’s Elderly Care solution

10:50 How Omate brought together the supply and demand sides of the market, including SafeMotionCredit Mutual Arkea and Medical Guardian, to launch their Elderly Care management solution in France and the US

12:45 Omate’s innovative Wearables-as-a-Service (WaaS) business model

15:15 The challenges in launched a wearables service in the healthcare industry

17:20 Omate’s Nanoblock children’s watch – and the importance of end-to-end security

21:10 The latest device and solution launches from Omate

24:00 What has prevented wearables from living up to the hype?

30:50 The fun round of questions, including Laurent’s side project, the Oclean smart toothbrush

Laurent’s details 


Twitter: @llepen @omateofficial

17 Sep 2019

In this TechBurst Asia podcast, I speak with Gerhard Loots, Telstra’s Global IoT Solutions Executive at the end of the Telstra Vantage event, to discuss the role of the service provider, or Telco, in the Internet of Things.

While most service providers see IoT as a lucrative new revenue stream, few have been able to capitalise on that market opportunity. Telstra, on the other hand, has expanded its IoT solutions and services portfolio to make sure it doesn’t miss the opp.

Show Notes:

01:48 How did a guy from South Africa’s winelands end out running the IoT business for Australia’s leading service provider?

02:30 Telstra has been in the IoT business for many years, how has the IoT solution portfolio and business evolved over the years?

05:48 What are the latest developments with Telstra’s IoT solutions and products?

07:33 How has Telstra moved across the IoT solution stack, branching out from connectivity to hardware, software and services?

09:50 What advice would you give to a service provider that is just starting out in IoT?

11:20 Telstra offers similar solutions that can run across many network types, including Bluetooth, NB-IoT, LTE, etc., and at many different price points. Where is the current market demand coming from?

13:15 Overview of Telstra’s Enterprise eSIM offering – and why it is attractive to manufacturers.

18:30 Why I think Telstra is now Asia Pacific’s “benchmark” for IoT solutions for a service provider

  • Choice (networks and price points)
  • New Revenue opportunities – moving across the IoT solution stack
  • The services opp with Telstra Purple
  • The eSIM offering

20:00 What’s next for Telstra’s IoT portfolio and solution offering

23:00 What has held the IoT industry back from reaching its potential?

  • Amara’s Law: We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.

26:28 What are the unique challenges and opportunities for Australia’s IoT market?

27:50 Which emerging technology enabler (e.g. 5G, blockchain, AI) is Gerhard most excited about?

29:40 The REALLY important things, Gerhard’s view on…

  • Surfing in Australia versus South Africa
  • Who makes better wine, Australia or South Africa?
  • What’s better, shrimp on the barbie or boerwors on the braai?
  • How well will Australia and South Africa do in the Rugby World Cup – who will Gerhard support –  and who will win


Telstra’s IoT offering:

Gerhard on LinkedIn:

09 Sep 2019

Ever wondered how the World Bank leverages the technology and innovation to disrupt the agriculture industry in developing markets? In this podcast, we speak with the World Bank’s Parmesh Shah to find out how they engage developed countries like Korea to drive disruption and innovation in developing markets like Vietnam, Kenya & Nigeria.

Show Notes:

01:10   Background on the World Bank’s Parmesh Shah – Global lead for a global solutions group that looks to find innovative and creative solutions for rural entrepreneurship and innovation

  • How the combination of being an agricultural engineer with an MBA and a doctorate in development studies led him to his role at the world bank

04:00 What is the World Bank’s “Disruptive Agriculture Technology Roadshow” – and what do you mean by “Disruptive Agriculture”?  

  • How does the World Bank work with the Korean government to help you reach your objectives?

08:15 Overview of the some of the Smart Agriculture solutions behind deployed across Africa

  • Hello Tractor – an Uber-like solution helping rural tractor owners get the most value out of their assets – and how this benefits farmers that cannot afford their own tractors. The new buzz word, Tractors-as-a-Service! 
  • Tulaa – provides smallholder farmers with quality agricultural inputs on credit and brokers the sale of their crop at harvest time. 
  • AgriWallet – a mobile business account allowing farmers to save, borrow and pay for income generating activities to increase food security and fight poverty

14:30 How the World Bank is leveraging IoT sensors to help rice farmers in Vietnam better manage their crops. 

17:00 What challenges to you encounter when trying to deliver Disruptive Agriculture in developing markets?

20:50 The World Bank’s three “labs” to experiment and drive innovation: BlockChain Lab – Big Data Lab – Disruptive Technology Lab. 

22:15 Overview of some of the Korean Smart Agriculture startups

  • Telofarm – sensors that you can stick into the plant’s stem – The Internet of Plants 
  • N.thing – indoor and container farming

27:40 What role does Korea play in the World Bank’s plan?

30:30 How to find the best #SmartAg innovators? Run a Challenge! More info at:

34:40 what will the World Bank do to keep the Disruptive Agriculture momentum going?

36:20 Let’s say it’s a perfect world and I can grant you one wish to help you drive Disruptive Agriculture in developing markets, what would you wish for?

38:15 How can our audience get more information about you and the World Bank’s Disruptive Agriculture initiatives?


Twitter: @ShahParmesh

World Bank Disruptive Technologies:

Disruptive Agriculture Initiatives:

03 Sep 2019

In this podcast, we take a look at the role Venture Capital and Accelerator programs play in the tech ecosystem. While some countries, like Singapore, are inundated with them, why have other markets, like Taiwan, not seen the same level of interest? 

Podcast Overview with time stamps

01:30 Intro to Edgar Chiu, Managing Partner of SparkLabs Taipei and founder of JumpStart Global, a talent acceleration program that focuses on matching top talent from large corporates with exciting startups.

03:00 The evolution of SparkLabs Taipei since its founding less than two years ago

06:00 Overview of SparkLabs Taipei Demo Day #2

  • Over 800 attendees, including 150 investors from Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Silicon Valley, etc.
  • 6 startup presentations
  • Panel with 4 leading players from the Silicon Valley VC scene
  • How high labour costs are forcing Silicon Valley startups to look farther afield for talent – and why Taiwan is well suited to reap the benefits.

11:30 Overview of the fireside chat with best-selling author Steven Johnson where he discusses his book Where Good Ideas Come From: A Natural History of Innovation

12:40 How has the Taiwan start-up scene has evolved over the past 8 years

  • Used to be well known for manufacturing products (e.g. iPhones)
  • Companies (e.g. Google) are now coming to Taiwan to leverage its strong Software Engineering skills to drive their R&D
  • The transformation from a manufacturing power to a digital power

14:45 Singapore has been invested heavily by both Venture Capital firms and Accelerator programs in recent years, is Taiwan going to be Asia’s next “hot spot” for startups and innovation?

17:00 The importance of startups in Taiwan having a “global” mentality due to the limited size of the local market

18:35 What types of companies presented at Demo Day?

23:40 What advice would Edgar give to Taiwan and international startups or entrepreneurs?

25:20 What advice would you give to the Silicon Valley Venture Capital players about tapping into Taiwan market opportunity?

26:30 What advice would you give the Taiwanese government to help drive entrepreneurship and innovation while attracting foreign investment?

27:30 Which emerging technologies do you think will create the next wave of opportunities for startups?

29:30 And which emerging technologies will have the greatest impact on society?

31:55 How do you think the Taiwanese startup scene – and SparkLabs Taipei – will evolve in the coming years?

33:00 What do you think will happen in Taiwan’s 2020 Presidential election – and how do you think that will/could impact the country’s startup ecosystem

36:15 Tell us something about yourself or your background that will surprise us

  •  Note: if you want to know why Edgar started JumpStart and SparkLabs Taipei, his answer to this question will make it clear.

39:30 What is the best food for visitors to Taiwan to try

  • Try the fruit!
  • Edgar’s wife’s CookInn Taiwan cooking school – which teaches foreign visitors how to make local dishes like beef noodle, xiao long bao, and bubble tea.

41:25 How can the listeners get more information about SparkLabs Taipei

SparkLabs Taipei




JumpStart Global:



28 Aug 2019

In this TechBurst Asia podcast, we interview Bernard Leong, Vice President of Airbus Aerial and founder and host of the Analyse Asia podcast, to discuss the future of drones.

What are the roles of drones in society? More importantly, just because it is technically feasible to deliver a package or person via drone, does that mean we should? Will drones take over the skies and transform our lives? Or will the potential security risks hold the industry back and hinder innovation and progress?

Show notes and timestamps:

01:30 Bernard’s background – university and early career

04:10 The move from academia to the start-up world

05:45 Leaving the start-up world for the corporate life

09:56 The rationale behind starting the Analyse Asia podcast

11:05 Tell us something about yourself that we won’t know

13:15 Ok, time to discuss drones. Tell us about your role in delivering the world’s first drone postal deliver for SingPost (Sept 2015).

20:29 How has the drone industry evolved since 2015? And what is the impact of the recent drone security scares (e.g. Gatwick airport)

21:34 The economics behind drone parcel delivery (e.g. Uber drone deliveries of McDonalds in San Diego). Are the financial and business models really viable?, including cost per delivery in western markets versus China. And how China leads the low cost delivery race despite having a lower cost labour base than the more developed markets like the US and Australia.

26:37 Will B2C drone deliveries create new security risks? What is the role of government regulation to ensure the safety of drones. And tell us about China’s drone regulatory environment compares to the rest of the world.

31:10 Air Taxis – are we ready for for it?

34:55 The enterprise use cases for drones – including real estate, emergency services, mining, etc.

37:45 Which markets excite you for the future of drones (besides China)?

38:42 What challenges to governments need to overcome to help drive drones in the future

40:30 Bernard’s view of the best case scenario for drones in the coming 3 – 5 years – and the worst case.

41:50 The main question – will drones move beyond the hype in the coming years and deliver true value and use cases – or will drones become an overhyped toy?

43:20 How can the audience find out more about you and the Analyse Asia podcast?


Twitter: @BernardLeong

Analyse Asia podcast:

Bernard’s Blog:

Note: This interview was recorded at the end of June 2019. Bernard has since left Airbus Aerial to pursue other career opportunities. 


11 Jun 2019
You’ve heard the news – 5G is coming! And if you believe everything you hear, 5G will be the next battleground for service providers. However, in my opinion, it isn’t.

While the 5G hype is in overdrive, there’s a more interesting battle that you hear less about, but that doesn’t make it less important. For me, the next battleground for service providers is embedded SIMS, or eSIMs. And while most service providers are trying to figure out how eSIMs will impact their business, service providers like Tata Communications and Vodafone are racing ahead.

Don’t get me wrong, I am excited by the opportunities that 5G will create, but I’m a pragmatist. It will take years to rollout 5G networks and identify the use cases that will allow the service providers to monetise them.

The eSIM opportunities are here today – and we are talking about hundreds of millions of new connections and billions of dollars of revenue, with the market is expected to grow at a CAGR of between 25%and 40% in the coming years, depending on which analyst firm you believe.

And let’s face it, service providers could use those revenues to help fund their 5G investments. Before I digress further, let’s get back to basics – what are eSIMs and why do they matter?

The traditional SIM card model has been around for decades. New smartphones purchased from a service provider come with their SIM card installed. Traditional SIMs only connect to the service providers that issued them, and they like that because it locks in the customer relationship and drives revenues.

When you are at home, that’s not a big deal, but when you travel, it is because of data roaming. Let’s say I’m travelling to Japan – upon arrival, I could buy a local SIM and replace my Singapore SIM (assuming my phone doesn’t have a second SIM slot) to save money on data roaming. But then I couldn’t receive calls on my Singapore number – and let’s face it – replacing a SIM is a hassle. So, I don’t bother, and I reluctantly accept the high roaming fees for voice and data.

eSIMs disrupt that model. eSIMs are built into a device, and while a traditional SIM can only connect to the service provider that issued it, eSIMs can connect to multiple service providers. This allows me to buy a short-term data plan from a Japanese provider via my phone’s browser and saves me from incurring high data roaming fees. Then, when I travel to Australia, I use the same eSIM to purchase data from a local provider there. Just think, no more SIM-swapping or painful visits to the mobile phone shop.

Big Vendors Get It

Big vendors have taken notice of the disruptive nature of this technology. In early 2018, Microsoft and Qualcomm launched the “Always Connected PC” platform, which encouraged manufacturers (e.g. Acer, Asus, Lenovo, HP) to launch their latest Windows 10 laptops with eSIM functionality. Consumers could just go online and purchase data connectivity.

Later in 2018, Apple announced that its latest iPhone’s would come with an eSIM as a second SIM on the device.

This “should” be great news for consumers, but this model requires eSIM support from the providers, and so far they have been reluctant to do so. Providers don’t like the eSIM model because it makes it easier for consumers to switch providers, leading to higher churn and decreased roaming revenues.

Not only have these concerns led to the slow support of eSIMs, but also for some providers to actively try to block them. Things got so bad that in April 2018, the U.S. Justice Department started an anti-trust investigation against Verizon, AT&T and the GSMA for allegedly trying to establish standards that would allow them to lock a device to their network even if it had eSIM technology.

Service providers finally have started to support eSIMs, but from the consumer perspective, it will be some time before they will reap the full benefits that eSIMs offer.

But, on the enterprise side, things are more interesting.

While providers are (somewhat reluctantly) launching eSIM consumer offerings, the enterprise side is racing ahead – and for good reason.

eSIMs Fix Ecosystem Inefficiencies

Let’s say that you want to launch a 4G/LTE connected Elderly Care Management wearable in multiple countries, as Omate, a Shenzhen-based ODM, did a couple years ago. You have pulled together the technology partners from across the IoT solution ecosystem and are ready to launch – all you need to do now is “connect” those devices to a service provider. Then, suddenly, a challenge arises.

In the first country you want to launch, it takes 3 months to negotiate a contract with a local service provider. In the next country, it takes 2.5 months. Not only has your global go-to-market strategy slowed to a crawl, but you are paying higher rates because you cannot guarantee high volumes. In this scenario, the service providers have become an IoT ecosystem blocker rather than an enabler.

eSIMs help hardware manufacturers overcome this challenge. For its new devices, Omate uses a Tata Communications eSIM, which allows Omate to sign one service provider contract with Tata Comms and have the capability to provide network connectivity through its relationships with over 600 service providers globally without roaming. When a new customer first turns on the smartwatch in nearly any country, it is seamlessly connected as a local SIM on the local network.

For Omate, this eliminates the need for lengthy country-by-country negotiations with service providers, accelerates their go-to-market strategy, and reduces the costs to their customers as they leverage Tata Comms’ scale to offer lower data charges than they could get from other service providers.

Products and devices can now be, as Tata Comms puts it, Born Connected.”

eSIMs Transform the Enterprise Connectivity Model

With the growth of the Internet of Things, service providers have tried to move away from providing “connectivity” to providing “solutions”, but this is harder than it sounds. While enterprises trust service providers for connectivity, they are less likely to do so with a business critical application or service.

The good news for service providers is that eSIMs are about connectivity, and that’s what they are good at. And some service providers already leverage eSIMs to transform the enterprise connectivity model.

Vodafone owns and operates networks in 26 countries, has partner networks in over 40 others, and is one of the leading service providers for enterprise customers globally. This combination makes it well-placed to take advantage of the eSIM enterprise opportunity.

First of all, Vodafone has a strong automotive business thanks to its acquisition of Cobra in 2014, and is set to capitalise on the eSIM “connected cars” opportunities for infotainment, real-time navigation, insurance and breakdown services, as well as telematics and remote diagnostics.

In addition, the European Commission has selected eSIMs to form a part of in-car emergency call systems. This means that all cars manufactured in Europe from 2018 are required to have an eSIM that perform emergency functions such as reporting breakdowns and crashes. And considering that the EU manufactures approximately 20m cars annually, that’s a lot of eSIM connections and revenues – and Vodafone is strong across Europe.

And other countries are following suit, with Brasil, Russia, Thailand, China and the US all either issuing similar legislation or looking into it.

But it is about more than automotive. Another “hot” area for eSIMs relates to lifts (elevators). Vodafone partnered with ThyssenKrupp to support its MAX solution, the industry’s first real-time, cloud-based predictive maintenance solution. When ThyssenKrupp installs the new MAX box, it comes with Vodafone connectivity built in. Not only does this give them instant access to the data captured, but it also reduces the implementation costs to install the MAX box in their 1m lifts worldwide. Imagine if they needed to connect each of those 1m lifts to a network – even if it only took 15 minutes each – that would still cost 250,000 man hours. In this case, the eSIM pays for itself.

Other lift manufacturers have caught on to the value of built-in connectivity, with Kony also partnering with Vodafone and Schindler recently announcing its partnership with Telefonica to provide global connectivity to its Kite Platform for elevators and escalators.

This is a good model the lift manufacturers, but what about those companies that have to support multiple lift manufacturers across multiple buildings and countries?

Surbana Jurong, a Singapore government-owned consultancy that focuses on urban development, provides the lift monitoring solution used by nearly half of all lifts and escalators in Singapore and are moving into new markets like China. Their challenge is they monitor lifts from multiple manufacturers in multiple countries. To address this, they also jumped on the eSIM bandwagon by partnering with Tata Communicationsto support their “Smart City in a Box” solution.

By partnering with Tata Comms, Surbana Jurong not only addresses the multi-vendor, multi-country challenge, but also the risk of poor connectivity in a given location. Tata Comms global network can access multiple service providers in each country, meaning the eSIM could connect to the network with the best coverage at each location.

The Service Provider Impact

Relatively few manufacturers ship devices with eSIMs today, which has led to the slow growth of the consumer eSIM market. However, as more devices ship with eSIM capabilities, the market will become attractive for services providers, particularly the Tier 2/3 providers and MVNOs that are trying to compete against the Tier 1 (incumbent) provider.

Incumbent providers have stronger distribution network and more retail store locations, so the eSIM model benefits the Tier 2/3 providers and MNVOs because it allows customers to sign-up online without ever having to go to a store.

But, there is a catch. Providers first will have to invest money to deploy eSIM provisioning and support platforms, and some smaller service providers may struggle to justify the capex.

Leading eSIM management vendors (e.g. Giesecke+DevrientGemaltoIDEMIA) are wrapping up the larger service providers, but there is good news for the smaller providers and MVNOs as well. New companies are emerging (e.g. 10T Tech) that provide an eSIM Platform-as-a-Service model that eliminates the capex challenge. The eSIM ecosystem is starting to come together nicely.

eSIMs will “level the playing field” between the incumbents and the competition, which will to lower switching costs and data prices for consumers.

Revolutionising Business and Operating Models

We already discussed the impact eSIMs will have on the business and operating models of a start-up device manufacturer like Omate, but that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Another interesting model to review how Kärcher partnered with Vodafone to connect its industrial cleaning equipment and create a new service offering, Kärcher Fleet. By capturing data and displaying it on the customer dashboard in real-time, they are transforming their customer’s operations by enabling better asset utilisation, capturing service requirements, and reducing machine downtime through predictive maintenance.

In theory, this service could lead Kärcher’s customers to purchase less equipment, but they could recoup that loss through the new recurring revenue stream generated from the Kärcher Fleet service and the new customers it would help them acquire.

eSIMs help manufacturing firms transform their businesses and customer relationships. And considering sheer scale of the manufacturing industries in countries across Asia, you start to understand the size of the market opportunity.

Tata Comms eSIM solution not only supports customers directly, it also helps other service providers take their offering global. A perfect example of this is their recent eSIM partnership with China Telecom.

Why is this important? This partnership now gives China Telecom the capability to sell a global eSIM offering into the China’s massive manufacturing sector. Everything manufactured in China, from white-goods, to consumer electronics, to smart appliances, could now come “born connected”. Those manufacturers can leverage eSIMs to:

  1. Accelerate their global go-to-market strategy,
  2. Monitor product usage and performance to improve product design, and
  3. Generate new models (e.g. predictive maintenance, fleet management, usage-based charging) that leverage the data captured in real-time.

Tata Comms partnered with Taiwan’s Chunghwa Telecom as well, wrapping up another manufacturing-focused country in Asia. What I like about their offering is that they leverage both a direct and indirect model to drive the eSIM market.

eSIM, vSIM, iSIM, we all SIM

eSIMs are causing some disruption, but the next wave of SIM evolution should cause even more.

First, there are virtual SIMs (vSIMs). vSIMs provide a cloud-based number accessed via an application on a smartphone. In other words, an app on your phone replaces a physical SIM.

Let’s be clear about the vSIM impact. Consumers could buy data online through an app and never have to purchase data from their local service provider.

Skyroam is a company that provides a global mobile hotspot (SOLIS) that uses an eSIM to provide customers with unlimited data access in over 130 countries. It is an interesting solution for international travellers, but their recent service launch goes beyond “interesting” to “disruptive”.

In December 2018, Skyroam received Indonesian government approval to launch a vSIM app called SIMO that gives users instant access to affordable mobile data without physical SIM cards or eSIMs. The government realises that providing more people with internet access will drive economic growth – and approved the SIMO app to help with this.

SIMO app with vSIM comes pre-installed on the Wiko Tommy 3 smartphone, a low cost device that targets the Indonesian market. People buy the phone and purchase internet connectivity through the SIMO app without ever having to sign up with a mobile operator. Skyroam expects the SIMO app to be on 200m smartphones, either pre-installed or downloaded, by 2020 in a country that currently has 133m internet users, 91% of which access the internet through a smartphone, and a population of over 260m.

Surprisingly, not many people took notice of this launch. I spoke with some people at the Indonesian operators and I asked them if they were concerned about lost revenues. They weren’t. “People don’t know Skyroam” was the typical response.

But then I asked, what if Grab or Go-Jek built vSIM functionality into their apps, and then they were worried. Maybe it won’t be Grab or Go-Jek, but it is a matter of time before a leading consumer brand goes after this market, and that spells trouble for the service providers.

Finally, the next thing to look out for is integrated SIMs (iSIMs). Vodafone recently partnered with ARM to reduce the costs and complexity of deploying IoT solution. ARM will “integrate” SIM functionality into its chip design, thereby eliminating the need for traditional SIMs. The target will be for chips that support devices or modules that leverage NB-IoT and LTE-M networks. Devices with ARM chips will ship with the capability to remotely provision the devices, which will simplify the deployment of LPWAN solutions.


eSIMs are a huge opportunity, but many will struggle to reap the rewards. It is too early to say who will win, but keep and eye on…

  1. Providers with global capabilities, either their own (e.g. Vodafone) or through partnership (e.g. Tata Comms/China Telecom), and solid enterprise offering that targets markets that are strong in manufacturing (e.g. Germany, China, Taiwan).
  2. Tier 2/3 providers and MVNOs who will look to leverage eSIM capabilities to target selected consumer affinity groups or target segments.
  3. Strong consumer brands that want to expand into new markets. Grab already provides transport, payments, and food delivery, so why not mobile services?
  4. Global hardware vendors (e.g. laptop or smartphone manufacturer) that do NOT have strong service provider relationships will inevitably look to add data connectivity to generate a recurring revenue stream. Google has already done this with its “Fi” offering on its Pixel phone, expect more to follow.
  5. Start-ups that rely on mobile network connectivity, particularly if they manufacture connected wearables (e.g. Omate) or support Smart City/Smart Building initiatives. Built-in connectivity will remove a major hurdle in their sales cycles and accelerate their go-to-market strategy.

The other question is who will not benefit from eSIMs. My view is that Tier 1 providers (incumbents) in countries without a strong manufacturing hub will struggle to reap the benefits. Their competitors, both the Tier 2/3 providers and MVNOs, will look to “steal” business away from them by offering differentiated service offerings and the global eSIM providers will capture much of the enterprise eSIM market.

5G will be a massive battleground in the future, but for now, the battle is eSIMs. Let the games begin.