Having returned from Huawei’s annual analyst conference freshly updated with “all things” Huawei, I have to say my mind has been opened, at least a bit, to the potential for Huawei to be one of the leaders in Industrial IoT (IIoT) applications. For those of us who live in the United States, our exposure to Huawei is minimal. That is to say, when I mention the name Huawei to my friends, many have never heard of the $60B Chinese conglomerate. Not that they should have, since Huawei is currently a small player in the US consumer market.
As someone who has been involved with technology for 30 years, Huawei was familiar to me, but I had never put the words Huawei and IoT in the same sentence. With Huawei’s restrictions in sales in the US (by US law for being a Chinese company) and my being a US-based analyst, I just didn’t see the connection. I should have known better.
As many may know, Huawei is one of the world’s largest suppliers of infrastructure (telephony / networking) equipment. Unbeknownst to me, Huawei also has a real IIoT plan, and the marketing and technology strength and muscle to get there.
(Image courtesy of Huawei)
Huawei’s IoT strategy is very telecom-centric, not surprising given their dominance in the telecom space. They call their strategy the “1+2+1” solution:
- 1 IoT platform
- 2 access methods
- 1 IoT operating system (OS)
Let’s take a look at each of these.
1 IoT Platform
Given the nature of the IoT platform space, I’m tempted to say somewhat sarcastically, “Just what we need, another IoT platform”. However, let’s not forget this is Huawei—a proven provider of software and technology. Huawei’s platform is probably not something that an enterprise would buy as the only piece of their solution, rather they would integrate the platform in conjunction with Huawei hardware / infrastructure equipment into larger applications. Huawei has provided all the pieces of a robust IoT platform solution:
- An open platform: Huawei’s solution is targeted at the Smart Cities, Connected Cars, Smart Homes, as well as other IoT verticals. As such, Huawei knows they have to be easily integrated into 3rd party solutions and have open networking, security and data APIs to support this integration. In addition, Huawei is working closely with both a large set of 3rd parties and standards organizations to make sure they have a platform that is highly flexible while being standards-based.
- Cloud-based: As with all modern IoT platforms, Huawei’s solution is cloud-based for easy access and integration with other adjacent applications
- Access agnostic: Huawei’s Access Agent / SDK provides easy integration with any network: fixed, mobile, cable, both licensed and unlicensed spectrum
2 Access Methods
Being a leader in telecom infrastructure and networking makes Huawei a force to be reckoned with in IoT deployment. Huawei is focusing on two access methods:
- NB-IoT / LTE / 5G: Already a major player in LTE, Huawei is leading both the development and deployment of NarrowBand IoT, a technology standard being developed by 3GPP for deployment of IoT devices over existing LTE networks. I expect Huawei to be one of (if not the) first infrastructure company to deploy NB-IoT based networks. Huawei is also a key contributor to the development of 5G.
- Agile Gateways: Focused currently on smart home applications, Huawei has deployed gateways that include their IoT agent, support multiple technologies (WiFi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, etc.) and a variety of protocols (RFID, CAN, ModBus, 6LowPAN) and provide increased computation and storage needs for analytics at the edge.
1 IoT OS
Huawei is also delivering an IoT operating system (OS) called LiteOS. LiteOS was developed over many years to be a secure, lightweight, intelligent OS with flexible connectivity options. Huawei’s advantage is that they have already deployed LiteOS in a number of applications. The LiteOS is well designed and well thought out in terms of features and functions for IoT applications. It has a small footprint, is ultra-low power and designed with security in mind. This is, however, a congested area with major ecosystems under development like Google Brillo, mbed from ARM Holdings, HomeKit from Apple and a variety of Realtime OS (RTOS) competitors. Considering Huawei’s strong play in the telecom space, I can see LiteOS having a major presence in these types of applications, especially smart homes applications in China. Outside of the Chinese market, the use of LiteOS is not clear considering the strong competition from major players.
The Bottom Line
Huawei is a $60B aggressive player in the infrastructure and networking world that most consumers in the United States have never heard of. Given their size, breadth of product and the technology and marketing skills, we should have expected them to be a major player in the Internet of Things arena. Let me tell you, as someone just recently introduced in depth to Huawei’s IoT strategy, they are going to be force to be reckoned with and a key player in IoT, whether US-based consumers know them or not.