Over a decade from its conception and it would seem that the M2M industry is set to fulfil its early promise, as the hype transitions to greater commercial deployment with tangible potential.
Underpinning this development is a significant step change on the horizon, principally a growing consumerisation of an industry which is transitioning from being one that had a solely corporate and business focus, to one that could be the driving force behind the Internet of Things (IoT) for consumers.
Driven by the pre-eminence of the cloud, the greater availability of data analytics, the ubiquity of powerful mobile devices and compounded by the lower costs and greater availability of bandwidth, the M2M industry is readying itself to deliver the IoT across an increasingly multi-device and multi-connectivity landscape.
Deepening their offering is therefore a logical progression for astute M2M operators who recognise there is broader scope to harness with the IoT, beyond offering basic connectivity which currently only accounts for a modest 10-20% of the overall revenue potential. This opportunity is in line with the growing trend of consumers demanding packaged solutions, rather than having to assemble an IoT application – such as remotely controlled heating and lighting - themselves.
Furthermore, by embracing value-added approaches, today’s M2M wireless operators can inspire greater customer loyalty by putting visibility and control mechanisms in the hands of their enterprise users.
Those enterprise users can then leverage those mechanisms to create a personalised experience for their end-customers, in turn building long term relationships with customers and helping them reduce end user churn.
The challenges of managing multiple mobile phones has seen the rapid proliferation of Mobile Device Management solutions but with M2M and IoT added to the mix, device and SIM management becomes even more important to solution providers who play a key role in the market’s enablement.
Arguably, the overall success of the IoT depends on the B2B2C segment which drives a requirement for data-driven application enablement platforms that are flexible and can adapt easily to market needs and, importantly, engage the consumer with interesting and valuable data/knowledge.
A good example is how heating and electricity systems and billing now makes sense to the consumer with Climote and Nest being a couple of examples. At Wireless Logic, we are seeing these new challenges all the time across a vast range of sectors which dictate quick and agile solutions. If we take the example of vehicle tracking for example - an early adopter of M2M – it is now being increasingly diversified through added features such as vehicle CCTV.
In this case, we have to respond accordingly to the higher bandwidth requirement which is boosting data consumption considerably from the days of tracking Bob in his truck up the M6.
To address this, we are working closely with the partner to manage it, by building greater intelligence into the network and device for example so that it does not need to transmit such high levels of data; and, when it does, the partner has real-time visibility of what it is doing and how much it is costing. This is something not even a mobile network operator can offer.
Indeed, this ability to adapt and be flexible, increasingly permeates the entire M2M offering. It will necessitate a shift in mind set for operators who have traditionally viewed IoT as a solution for providers to monitor their products for their own benefits, rather than something that can translate into a high value proposition or product for a consumer with a valuable application – or, better still, a killer one.
Therefore, there is still work to be done in convincing the target audience of the potential that exists with the IoT. Here, the onus falls on the operators to play their part in extolling the virtues of the technology and the added value it offers, showing the demonstrable benefits as opposed to being an expensive ‘nice to have’.
Areas that are particularly ripe for engagement include healthcare, automotive and the consumer electronics space. Indeed, with Smart Home technology, consumers are already starting to see the opportunities in action with applications that are signalling a new era of efficiency and convenience in their homes, from securing and monitoring their properties remotely to programming the lighting and temperature.
All of which will pose questions about choice of connectivity and how consumers will acquire theses service. While the industry has its work cut out, there are a plethora of encouraging opportunities to exploit. Some 14 years into our mission, we remain focused and confident that the number of connections for IoT and M2M will one day far outweigh the number of humans on the planet, just by how much is a number we continually debate.
About the author: Phil Cole is co-founder and sales director at Wireless Logic, which provides a dedicated M2M/IoT managed services platform situated between mobile networks and organisations requiring M2M solutions. Wireless Logic provides a wide range of value-added services beyond connectivity, including one-window visibility, management, tailored billing and reporting functions across multiple network SIM estates.