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Friends in high places: AT&T’s cloud partnerships boost IoT business

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AT&T has more IoT devices on its wireless network than any other U.S. carrier, and the company sees partnerships as a key driver of its success. The carrier has leveraged its relationships with the world’s biggest providers of cloud services to create new partnerships focused on the internet of things.

Amazon Web Services, Microsoft and IBM are all IoT partners for AT&T, and smaller cloud service providers are also part of the carrier’s IoT ecosystem. A total of 19 different cloud service providers connect to AT&T’s IoT device management platform through the company’s NetBond portal, which integrates cloud service providers as virtual extensions of the multiprotocol label switching virtual private networks that AT&T offers business customers.

With AWS, the world’s biggest provider of cloud services, AT&T has focused most recently on helping developers create new connected devices. AT&T has launched an IoT starter kit that is pre-configured for the AWS cloud, and developers using the AWS cloud have access to the AT&T network and AT&T’s IoT platforms.

Chris Penrose, president of AT&T’s IoT business, said his goal is to “make it super easy for people to innovate and launch products with AT&T both domestically and around the world.” He sees AWS as a key partner, and said his company will have more joint announcements with AWS at the AWS re: INVENT conference later this month.

Asset tracking partnerships
AT&T and IBM have been IoT partners for almost four years now. IBM’s Maximo asset management platform is now integrated with AT&T’s asset management operations center, and the carrier showcased this integration recently at its AT&T Summit in Dallas. Penrose said that with the basic framework in place, the partners can easily add new vertical solutions and new pre-certified sensor devices that can connect directly to the AT&T network and the IBM cloud.

AT&T has also partnered with Microsoft Azure for asset management. In September the company announced an asset management and operations center that will run on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform, and will use several Microsoft enterprise components. AT&T has said that it sees smart manufacturing and supply chain logistics as two primary use cases for these capabilities.

Initially, AT&T will deploy the solution using its global SIM on LTE and LTE-M networks. In the future, the carrier plans to integrate satellite and Wi-Fi connectivity as well.

Other cloud providers
By integrating its IoT control center with its NetBond portal, AT&T wants to give IoT customers easy access to multiple cloud environments. AT&T’s IoT control center, which runs on Cisco’s Jasper platform, is the interface AT&T customers use to add IoT devices and change rate plans.

“The Cisco Jasper platform we’re using for AT&T Control Center is now tied into all the major cloud environments so you can securely get your data from all your IoT devices into all those different clouds,” said Penrose.

With cloud capabilities in place, AT&T is focusing on adding more endpoints to its IoT network. Right now the carrier has six pre-certified sensor-enabled nodes that customers can use to connect IoT devices to the LTE network. Penrose said the goal is to add many more in the months ahead.

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