Author(s): Raghu Gopal
Last week, Vodafone introduced a consumer-focused platform for the Internet of things (IoT) and a range of products. The new line-up, dubbed V by Vodafone, will enable customers to have connected cars, cameras, pets and bags, and will be available to existing subscribers in Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK.
Vodafone's V-Auto is a dongle that fits into a car's on-board diagnostics port. Once activated, the device allows the car owner to monitor usage and track the vehicle's location. An Auto SOS service provided by Vodafone offers assistance when an accident is detected. V-Auto hardware costs £80 (about $105) with a monthly charge of £4 (about $5).
The operator also unveiled its V-Camera offering, a cellular-connected Arlo Go video camera made by Netgear. The device, which is weatherproof and runs on a rechargeable battery, allows subscribers to monitor spaces that are usually beyond the reach of Wi-Fi. The device is priced at £339 (about $445) and also incurs a £4 monthly fee.
The operator's V-Pet is a location and activity tracker for cats and dogs. It enables the user to find their pet on a map and to create geofences around specific zones, sending an alert when the animal passes a border. The product also provides maintains a dashboard with information about the pet's daily activity, calorie consumption and sleeping patterns. The tracker has a battery life of 10 days and features water and shock resistance. V-Pet costs £50 (about $66) and an additional £4 per month.
Finally, Vodafone introduced V-Bag, a location tracker for bags such as backpacks, suitcases and pocketbooks. The device, made by Alcatel, can attach to a bag or be placed inside. Owners can locate the bag using a smartphone app. The tracker works throughout most European countries, making it a useful travel accessory. The tracker costs £59 ($78) with a monthly service charge of £3 (about $4).
These connected products aren't necessarily unique — other wireless operators offer one or several of these types of device. Vodafone has cleverly brought a series of products from different hardware makers under one umbrella, one brand and a single service package. Compared with the world of smartphones, these IoT devices are niche products and Vodafone should monitor its volume forecasts closely. Nonetheless, with this move the company has created a practical consumer IoT portfolio, which offers a good introduction to the concept of connecting things.
The new devices and related services are only available to the operator's existing customers, meaning that V by Vodafone will be a way for the operator to add more lines to its accounts, increasing revenue and preventing churn.