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Our IoT’s DevOps team working on dynamic IoT projects

 1 December 2022
Our IoT’s DevOps team working on dynamic IoT projects

This article is an advertorial, brought to you by KPN and Tweakers Partners.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly. More than 35 billion devices already communicate via the internet – and that number is expected to double in the next two years. This growth is one of the reasons behind the rapid emergence of KPN IoT as a cornerstone of KPN’s services. KPN IoT’s DevOps team specializes in building infrastructure that supports these IoT projects. Product owner Robin Bode is familiar with the technology involved, from connected cocktail machines and bicycle locks to cameras in the construction industry.

Robin: “We work on IoT projects all over the world, utilizing the latest technologies.” A case in point is a project that the team carried out for a car manufacturer. Robin: “Not every country uses the same policies for mobile networks, so we offered this particular international customer Remote SIM provisioning (RSP). This allows the customer to switch providers remotely. In the past, you bought a SIM card for your phone, and when you switched to a new provider, you received a new SIM card in the mail. If you were to replicate that process with cars, you would have to recall each and every single car to the dealer to change the SIM card. Obviously, that’s far too complicated and time-consuming. Now, this customer can equip any car with the same SIM card and change it remotely. It’s really exciting to be involved in this from a technology perspective.”

Testing solutions in the real world
The DevOps team also tests their solutions in real-world situations. Recently, for example, Robin and his colleagues headed out to simulate a bicycle theft. ANWB Unigarant guarantees its customers that stolen bicycles will be returned within 48 hours. If they aren’t, the policyholder receives a new bicycle – provided the bike is fitted with a tracker. Robin: “When a policyholder reports their bike stolen through the app, the tracker on the bike starts to transmit its location. Investigative teams can then use this data to find the bicycle quickly. Every time the device transmits a signal, KPN’s LoRa network triangulates the location accurately (i.e., it determines the location using three points, ed.) and runs a calculation. So, the device itself doesn’t specify its own location; it saves an incredible amount of power and bandwidth if we let the network do the work. The data from the trackers is then translated onto a map so the investigator can see the bicycle's route.” The investigators therefore use KPN’s LoRa network, a long-range, low-power network specially developed for IoT. If necessary, this is also combined with Bluetooth, in which case, the officer then receives LoRa location data combined with Bluetooth data. “The network talks to our platform. This platform can process the data effectively and adds location solving into the mix so that addresses become visible.”

“I and my colleagues tested the location-detection ability of this tool ourselves by simulating a bicycle being stolen. It’s fun to see your own solution being implemented in practice, even if it is just a simulation.” Thanks to Robin's team's solution, many bicycles have since been returned to their rightful owners. Robin: “The great thing about IoT projects is that you see first-hand the impact they have. ANWB Unigarant is one of the coolest and most challenging projects I’ve worked on at KPN, partly because of its social objective.”

Technical expertise meets out-of-the-box ideas
IoT projects require the DevOps team’s technical expertise plus a healthy dose of creativity. Fortunately, the team is given plenty of freedom in their search for the right solution and can choose which software to deploy. Robin explains: “Solutions aren’t always right in front of you. For example, we wanted to improve the rollout of our infrastructure. We were still doing that largely by hand or using scripts we created ourselves. We wanted to find a way to automate and document that process better. In the end, we landed on Terraform, which allows us to roll out and modify our entire infrastructure easily. It also enables us to record things on the fly, and we no longer have to do things by hand. Which is great, because it saves us from having to do a ton of boring work – so we can focus on the fun stuff!”

Opportunities for growth and a great atmosphere
Robin has become a vital link in the KPN IoT chain. “I joined KPN ten years ago. I started out as a member of the support staff and then became a system administrator. This experience also taught me how things shouldn’t be done in IT environments and motivated me to pursue IT further. I wanted to create complete environments and implementations, and I got the chance to do that.”

As Robin had previously enjoyed tinkering with Linux, he was later able to join those projects. These projects also entailed a great deal of customization, in the form of self-built applications and scripts. “That’s how I ended up at KPN IoT. Here I started working on the IoT platform, as a DevOps engineer, and it wasn’t long before I moved up to product owner. This is an incredibly challenging role; I and the team often have to solve complex issues, and we get to choose our tools and software ourselves. It’s that responsibility and freedom that makes the work fun.”

“Thanks to the opportunities that KPN offers, I’m able to work on my development, and I am constantly challenged. And the working atmosphere at KPN is also a reason why I love working here,” emphasizes Robin. “I feel at home here. To make sure that my colleagues at the department also feel comfortable and enjoy working here, I’m also a member of the culture squad: it’s our job to make sure everyone has fun both at work and after hours. For example, we organize weekly drinks – with karaoke – as well as fun events. And, of course, we have our own IoT band.”

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