The world of machine-to-machine (M2M) is undergoing a change from highly fragmented state to one where end-to-end solutions are now available for businesses to take advantage of.
Not that there will be one giant platform, according to Jürgen Hase, Vice President, M2M Competence Center with Deutsche Telekom (DT). ‘There will not be one pure platform,’ he says firmly. ‘We must develop an open layer platform strategy and not develop silos for different verticals or we will die. It must be global, as we need mass volume.
‘The platform must be multi-layered,’ he continues, ‘and those layers need to be independent with open but secure interfaces between them. The middle layers know how to manage devices, security, quality and additional services beyond that. It is really important that there are clear standards between the layers, as then you can switch between suppliers.’
Up until the fairly recent arrival of large platforms, a customer wanting a one-stop M2M solution would have to interact with many partners to build up the whole chain: an M2M module device supplier, a connectivity supplier, an integrator, software and hardware suppliers to build up the root stack for M2M.
Hase argues that bigger players with the ability to unite the fragmented M2M stack need to invest in innovation by partnering with a range of different companies. Much of the innovation in M2M will come from small companies with a particular expertise or product, but without access to much funding. DT has some 550 different partners using its portal – an independent platform offered to the market.
‘Deutsche Telekom’s part, besides offering connectivity, is to develop the ecosystem with all these different partners. They are highly innovative but small, so want to combine our different strengths. Normally we talk about technology and the market, but we mustn’t forget the financial stream.
‘Small partners without cash, but who are innovative, need support. So, we need to switch from a Capex driven model to an Opex one and offer a more attractive model to them. Our part is to manage this process,’ says Hase.
‘Our job is to provide the ecosystem with all the different partners,’ he continues. ‘We will provide the full M2M stack to the customer and arrange the contract, probably on a monthly fee basis with agreed service levels. If you are a small company it requires a lot of investment to set up the M2M stack yourself. But if they use our pay-as-you-grow model, then it is much easier for them.’
The reason for all the partners is to provide customers with the right expertise in, say, vending machines or office coffee machines. ‘It is very important that the customer is in touch with the right partner to deliver the last mile of the vertical. They need the right integrators and partners – that’s why you need this wide ecosystem of players,’ explains Hase.
The partners bring two advantages. First, they are part of the supply chain providing the solutions for particular vertical markets – vending machine management, for example. Second, they are lead generators as they know their market segment intimately and can bring new customers to DT’s M2M platform.
‘You have to come back to the business case,’ says Hase. ‘Forget the technology – this is about how you can change and optimise your processes and develop new services. You have to start a journey with your customer. We have to discuss how we fulfil those process requirements on a technical basis – that’s our part. Once you’ve done it several times you can transfer the learning to most other verticals – the requirements are much the same for most businesses,’ he concludes.