Internet of Things: Understanding the Basics of Invoicing

The Fourth Industrial Revolution offers huge opportunities for economic growth, as well as significant challenges for a low-skill economy like South Africa.

In particular, the Internet of Things (IOT), the growing number of objects connected to the network, most often via SIM cards, offers a multitude of opportunities for entrepreneurs to design products and services to improve current businesses or create new ones.

Analysts predict that in the European market alone, IOT spending will reach $ 202 billion in 2021 and continue to experience double-digit growth through 2025.

Gone are the days when IT and telecommunications products and services existed in separate environments. The infrastructure and co-dependency requirements for the two environments present considerable overlaps and synergies. Treating the two areas separately not only dilutes purchasing power, but also significantly limits the true benefit and effectiveness that an ICT strategy can and should bring to the business.

Visibility into how ICT products and services relate to a company, region, branch, cost center, GL code and / or end user within the company, and what the landscape is From a business perspective and vendor perspective is really the tip of the iceberg in terms of what a strong Technology Expenditure Management (TEM) platform can offer. The analytical capacity contained in these platforms is where the real value lies.

South Africa has adopted IOT heavily, with our security industry leading the pack – think vehicle telematics and intrusion alarms that connect to control rooms. But other industries are quickly seizing the potential of IOT to improve their ability to monitor a whole range of things, from equipment to people, and then take appropriate action. The medical, financial services, insurance, agriculture and consumer products industries, to name a few, are all getting on the bandwagon.

As an economy, we can learn lessons from the experience of the vehicle telematics industry, and aspiring IOT entrepreneurs should take these valuable lessons to heart. The key lesson is the absolute imperative to keep a close eye on billing on a growing number of SIM cards – remember, the IOT is all about scalability.

Without this capability, the aspiring IOT company risks ending up with surprisingly large network costs that are not covered by customer fees – all business leaders are clear that if you cannot predict the costs. cash flow accurately, failure is certain.

Automation is the key to visibility

This ability to monitor what can turn out to be a huge SIM card empire is vital for the IOT business using the GSM protocol, not only to keep tight cost control, but also to ensure that contractual obligations are met at the outset. both with clients and the network.

A business can quickly end up with thousands of SIM cards – especially in times of COVID – from a range of network operators in a multitude of devices. The ability to keep track of all this information is vital and cannot be done manually on a growing number of SIM cards.

Gone are the days when IT and telecommunications products and services existed in separate environments.

At the most fundamental level, the IOT business needs to have visibility of all their SIMs in a very granular way, but in a centralized view. It is necessary not only to know what charges have been incurred each month for each SIM, but also whether those charges are in line with the service offered to a specific customer.

Added to this is the need to tie these costs and various data sets to financial metrics such as profitability and breakage.

From the customer’s point of view, a detailed report that justifies the “off-plan” billing is crucial. An example would be SIM cards that have incurred roaming charges which are usually received after the fact.

Another related consideration is whether the SIM card is using the GSM network correctly. For example, the business case may be based on mobile data connectivity, but a SIM card can use voice, at a much higher cost.

Another problem may be that a SIM card somehow opts for a push service to receive, for example, a new ringtone every day, at R7 a ringtone. The IOT company must be able to identify such anomalies.

From a network perspective, the IOT company must be able to monitor business compliance. Is each SIM billed according to the original plan?

The ability to monitor helps control

It is also important to be able to control that each SIM load can be traced back to a customer. For example, if a customer terminates the service, does the SIM card continue to accumulate charges with the network operator?

Is the SIM card used for international roaming? For example, when a vehicle leaves the country, its SIM card will incur high charges during transmission to the control room. Being able to close a SIM card quickly is essential.

It is not easy to achieve this level of visibility and control. This will require the integration of multiple datasets: network billing, your own CRM system, and an inventory management system, to name a few, and it’s far too risky to leave that to internal applications. developed by a single resource. dependency (which is often the case).

Achieving such a capability will allow the IOT business to be successful. Not only will he be able to monitor his spending, but he will also be able to ensure that customers are re-billed as needed. Equally important, he will be able to quickly establish the profitability of a given product, service or customer.

Basically, this high level of visibility will also allow the entrepreneur to create new products and services at scale, knowing that they can be properly costed and monitored.

So, yes, IOT represents a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs, but getting the basics of invoicing in place first is essential.

In my last article in this series, I will examine the impact of COVID, remote working, and how, in this environment, TEM solutions are truly a growth catalyst for businesses.

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