M2M: the mobile saviour?

This week on Twisted Wire, we look at M2M (machine-to-machine) communication, and ask whether it’s the next big opportunity for mobile network operators.

Back in 2010 on Twisted Wire, we heard Ericsson claim that there would be five billion mobile subscribers on the planet by 2011. We might not have made it, but it still claims that it will happen soon, with much of the growth coming from M2M communication.

Dale Calder, founder of Axeda, says that the cloud and pervasiveness of mobility are the two big factors that will enable M2M to grow. The size of the opportunity, he reckons, is huge. It is not limited to the commonly quoted scenarios of smart metering, e-health, asset tracking and vehicle telematics — he says that M2M is a fundamental capability that all products could have. There will be tens of thousands of solutions that will enhance product functionality across a whole myriad of industry verticals.

To see rapid growth, M2M needs low-cost devices that are easy to provision. As Kursten Leins, GM for Strategic Marketing for Ericsson Australia and New Zealand, says, we don’t want to take calls to provision each smart metering device. We also need open standards so that operators can recognise devices that don’t contain SIM cards that they have configured and dispatched themselves. You’d assume, to reach economies of scale, device manufacturers will want to mass produce equipment that can be recognised by multiple networks and activated through an online interface or automated process.

This all provides an opportunity for mobile service providers. Evan Kirchheimer, practice leader at Ovum’s Enterprise Services team, says that the carriers need to invest in service delivery and management platforms. That could mean partnering or buying existing platforms or (perish the thought) building their own proprietary systems. If they get it right, this could be a sizeable new revenue stream for operators.

There is, of course, a privacy question around all this. In the US, some insurance companies offer lower premiums if you allow them to track your driving behaviour. Is this the start of a slippery slope that will see more of what we do monitored? At what point do we say enough is enough?

First published on ZDNet

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