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Unlocking the Internet of Things with Telco APIs: Telstra’s Track and Monitor

BY Alan Quayle 18 May 2021

As Australia’s longest serving telco, Telstra is expanding their developer program to provide the APIs and IoT offerings that can leverage the century of investment in our mobile network and the growing IoT ecosystem.

With our asset tracking solution; Track and Monitor, Telstra is connecting businesses to the largest coverage IoT network in Australia, and giving them the tools to innovate and create experiences on top of it.

Hear from Telstra’s Developer Advocate and Track and Monitor API Product Manager how Telstra is changing the game in IoT APIs for established telcos by focusing on the Developer Experience.

 

Originally posted on the Teleco Application Developer (TAD) 2021 Summit Blog: https://blog.tadsummit.com/2021/05/09/telstra-track-and-monitor/

This Blog is a review of TelstraDev's presentation at TAD 2021. Watch the original presentation here:

 

Presentation Review

Developer Advocate Michelle Howie and Track and Monitor Product Owner Lauren Demarchi, Telstra.

Michelle provides a nice summary on the importance of connectivity. Telstra’s IoT network coverage includes indoors (WiFi and BT) as well as 4/5G wide area (NB-IoT and LTE-M). Supporting not only telematic solutions, but also low power battery-based solutions. All with security baked into the networks.

For over 20 years I’ve been promoting the importance of APIs to telcos and it’s great to see TelstraDev making a difference in Australia with its APIs. Michelle highlights the importance of data insights from the network usage to help improve customers’ business operations. All easily accessible through both a portal (dashboard) and API.

Hearing from Lauren Demarchi, the product manager for Track and Monitor, provides great insight into how the service is being used in the field. And often it is a field  A great insight that demonstrates the understanding of their customers is, ‘user testing showed the portal needs to readable in a warehouse by someone without their reading glasses on!’ It’s a small thing, but critical to the service’s success.

Another excellent insight in knowing where to stop, leaving room for partners to add value. Resellers are an important component of Lauren’s business. Telstra can not be expert across all IoT applications, nor installation and deployment of all IoT use cases. The API and portal enable a healthy ecosystem to exist around Track and Monitor.

42% of Track and Monitor customers are using the API, with their top customer using both the portal and the API. And the next 2 largest customers (both resellers) using the API. That percentage of API use will only increase.

Michelle wraps-up with some teasers on what’s coming in TelstraDev, including more documentation and support.

Thank you Michelle and Lauren for an insightful presentation on the success of Track and Monitor, and the growing importance of APIs for a Telco’s business. Contact them directly, or email telstradev@team.telstra.com to ask them any follow-up questions!

 

Questions and Answers from the Audience

1) How has telcos' culture changed to embrace API? Or has the culture remained the same in most of the organization, rather they've introduced a buffer of dev evangelists and product managers that understand APIs?

(Michelle): Culture is not an easy thing to change, especially in large organisations. But it is essential! Telstra has been setting on the journey to being a world class technology company for years now, with the Telstra Developer Portal and our API program being live since 2015. But it’s a long journey. Telstra is continually transforming and shifting towards APIs, and you can see that with products like Track and Monitor and our upcoming Smart Spaces IoT offering which are really API-led products. We have an entire team dedicated to Developer Experience at Telstra, including UX designers, data scientists, and of course a Developer Evangelist, but everyone from Product Managers to Sales have to be on board too! I’m excited to see that the DevOps culture at Telstra is no longer just for Developers.

 

2) Which network has the most devices and which sees the most traffic, indoors (BT/WiFi) or (Cellular IoT/LPWAN)?

(Michelle): Overall, Cellular IoT is a growing space. Telstra saw a 600% increase in LPWAN services (i.e on Narrowband-IoT and LTE-M networks) last year alone and our IoT network now connects over four million things! (More info in our 2020 Annual Report)

(Lauren): As for Track and Monitor specifically, many customers, they prefer the more stable and available communication from Cellular IoT/LPWAN, especially when they are travelling long distances. Our Solar Tracking Unit sends data at higher frequencies (up to once every minute) and so generates a lot of Cellular IoT traffic. But Bluetooth tracking units are not far behind.

 

3) What's your favourite example of "Data Driven Insights" with IoT at Telstra?

(Michelle): There's so many to choose from! My favourite right now would have to be from one of our newest IoT offerings as part of the Connected Supply Chain; Telstra Visibility Imports, which helps provide holistic views of ocean freight coming into Australia. Being able to see the average lead times between port of origin and port of destination, and calculate trends over 6 months, an Aussie customer of ours who manufactures products in Europe has been able to use this data, and draw insights to select the most appropriate shipping line to bring their products to Australia with predictable times. This is enabling our Telstra Visibility Imports customers to track their imports into Australia and all the way onto their customers' shelves, at a purchase order level, container level, but also at individual product level.

And it’s all underpinned by event-based APIs! The most excited part is when the imports get onshore to Australia and leverage the Track and Monitor and Telstra Telemetry data insights to get a really rich picture of their supply chain from source to destination. This comes under the Connected Supply Chain: https://www.telstra.com.au/business-enterprise/products/internet-of-things/solutions/supply-chain 

 

4) Do you have plans for open data on TelstraDev? I'm a big fan of what both Singapore (https://data.gov.sg/) and NYC (https://opendata.cityofnewyork.us/) have achieved.

(Michelle): With 99% of all data remaining unused, data-sharing is an exciting area! With Telstra’s deep and wide reach of physical infrastructure and customer base, Telstra is looking to harness the tsunami of data provided by the Internet of Things for the benefit of our customers with the Data Hub platform. Companies will be able to securely share, view and exchange data that can deliver real benefits to their productivity. Our initial industry focus areas are Connected Supply Chain, water management, and agribusiness. 

Privacy is critical for our customers and partners who can leverage this data, so Data Hub is not currently “Open” like the government/council datasets out there. That said, there are a few "open data" systems that Telstra contributes to today, like the national database of mobile network towers at https://www.rfnsa.com.au/

Find out more on the Data Hub here: https://exchange.telstra.com.au/helping-companies-better-share-use-and-solve-problems-with-their-data/ . Some of the projects underway include optimising rural water management with the Queensland government and developing digital farming solutions with Charles Sturt University. Watch this space!

 

5) What are some of the inspirational use cases of Track and Monitor?

(Lauren): I have loved seeing our customers utilise their Track and Monitor to enrich other data sets. Telstra has a growing Connected Supply Chain offering which when combined with Track and Monitor allows large scale logistics customers to use the tracking of vehicles on the move to estimate time of arrival of purchase orders and enable their customers to have near real time insights. It’s still early days. Customers are only just becoming used to seeing where their deliveries are. We are now seeing their customer experience align with organisational asset efficiency.

(Michelle): The magic happens when the end consumer opens their package which has been delivered on time and in good condition, and it all happens seamlessly behind the scenes. As the saying goes, good technology is indistinguishable from magic! That’s the power of APIs connecting B2B2X.

 

6) What are some of the rules you use on knowing where to stop in your Track and Monitor service to create space for your resellers/partners?

 (Lauren): When a request comes up for a potential expansion of our Track and Monitor offering, I first ask myself whether the request logically fits within an asset location and monitoring service, and what other services already exist to deliver that request. If we have a partner or reseller that already addresses that need, there’s no appetite for us.

You then consider how many customers will actually want this, and whether it makes sense to Telstra to be the one to address the need.

(Michelle): It can be tempting to continue adding features, but the great thing about making this product available via APIs is that the customer has the opportunity to build their own bespoke solution around our raw data!

 

7) You mentioned 42% of customers are using the API. By 2025, what do you think that % could be?

(Lauren): For the Track and Monitor product specifically, we are seeing an upward trend for customers increasingly accessing their location insights via API rather than the on dashboard directly. In the coming years it will undoubtedly grow as developers choose to consume their IoT data in more flexible and scalable ways.

 

8) What other APIs can we expect from Telstra?

(Michelle): We are always looking to leverage existing digital products and network capabilities to make them interface with customers via API when possible. In the short term we are focusing on Messaging and Verification APIs, but soon more broadly into APIs that interface with our mobile network.

That’s all I can say for now, but keep an eye on our API registry and Developer Blogs; http://dev.telstra.com/  Watch this space!

We’d love to hear from you if you have an existing interaction with Telstra you’d rather do via API! Let me know at telstradev@team.telstra.com

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