The Next Stop, M2M: Biggest Trend of Our Time?

Posted: November 29th, 2011 | Author: Steve Hateley | Filed under: Events, Telecom Trends | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments »

During my recent attendance at Management World Americas, it became clear that the subject of machine-to-machine communications (M2M) had progressed from the innovative discussion stage into concepts and uses within real industry verticals.

I listened to an interesting session in which the presenters noted that M2M may well, in fact, be the biggest trend of our time; however, as it currently provides only one percent of mobile revenue, communications service provider (CSP) investment is being held back.

What the market seeks is a one-stop approach, or umbrella solution for connectivity and M2M applications—similar to the Ethernet-exchange or Cloud-broker principles currently being seen across the industry. Through this approach, there’s great potential for growth, particularly for value-added services, if CSPs can prioritize and exert discipline in M2M investments and resources.

Vendors focusing on specific vertical markets will be ideally placed to gain a seat at the table, as many verticals, such as utility, healthcare, manufacturing and retail, use some form of M2M. But as sure as death, tax and CAPEX reduction, CSPs are looking for a quick return on investment (ROI), and in order to improve time-to-market, they must first invest in the right enabling technology.

To truly succeed, they will need to build an enablement framework that includes a connectivity model, device templates, collection and data analysis—assuming that the 3G/4G network is either in place or under construction. Within this framework, a defined catalog of specific service descriptions, superior scalability and automation are all necessities, as is using collected data to make analytical assessments and provide proactive resolutions to problems. Some good examples include using smart-grid meter data for innovative pricing, or using automotive data to aid in preventative maintenance and warranty cost reduction—these, of course, are not even one percent of the potential uses of M2M technology.

A key concern related to the implementation of M2M is the massive IP scalability required for end-devices, and industry forums are already investigating how IPv6 will have a leading role to play. Another way to help address these concerns is through just-in-time device activation or dynamic SIM management, where retailers or equipment wholesalers can enable devices at the point-of-sale—bringing significant cost-efficiency. This approach could typically be welcomed in the impending introduction of new, SIM-enabled vehicles rolling off the production line.

Ultimately, initial reluctance of CSPs to make investments in M2M needs to be offset with assurances around operational efficiency and acceptable ROI dependent upon time-to-market. This coupled with an ability to automate, maintain cost control, billing models and OSS are key considerations CSPs must make in order to play in this opportunity-rich space.