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Mobile World Congress Feature Articles

February 26, 2010

M2M Session at the Mobile World Congress


This is a quick recap of the M2M sessions at the Mobile World Congress (News - Alert).

 
The first speaker was Glenn Lurie, president of AT&T’s (News - Alert) Emerging Devices group. He mentioned that his company is no longer just focusing on 3G services but taking WiFi and other local area network technologies more seriously.
 
Lurie’s team plans on taking advantage of all the AT&T hotspots that are around the world as well. His talk was focused more on the consumer gadget (e-readers, netbooks, camera and so on) opportunity than for smart grid and industrial applications. It was interesting to learn that there are 370 consumer devices certified on AT&T’s mobile network and in the first quarter of this program one million new devices have been connected to the network. Nothing was mentioned about Smart Grids other than a brief mention that it’s a big opportunity for them.
 
Per Simonsen, CEO of Telenor Connexion, the next speaker, mentioned that Telenor was one of the first mobile companies doing M2M and that they are focusing on smart grids, connected cars and mhealth right now.
 
However, nothing else was mentioned with respect to the Smart Grid opportunity and the focus seemed to be on telematics, fleet management and the connected car opportunities. Per mentioned the two biggest issues with M2M right now are lack of standardization and figuring out a new business model, for example, charging by the Kilobyte is not that profitable when a device uses only a few Bytes for most of its communications.
 
The next speaker was Jahangir Mohammed, CEO of Jasper Wireless (News - Alert). Jasper Wireless has built a service delivery platform for M2M which is gaining traction. For example, ATT announced recently an exclusive partnership with Jasper for their service delivery platform; other partners include Rogers Wireless, KPN and Telcel (News - Alert). Some interesting facts Jahangir shared were that in the world of WiFi, the cost of chipsets went from forty dollars to 10 dollars in three and a half years; the same thing must happen and will happen in the GSM world for mobile M2M to continue its growth. Jahangir also mentioned, like all the other panelists that the main hurdle to overcome for M2M to reach its potential, which some have put at fifty billion devices by 2020, is to figure out a business model that works for everyone.
 
Overall, there was very little mention of Smart Grid applications by any M2M providers, the ones that I spoke to at their booths would say it’s very important to them but none of them would mention any real customers. My take is that there is really no smart meter opportunity for M2M service providers. In fact, M2M for any aspect of the connected home will be a very niche market, useful only for areas where it is the only option, for example, certain rural settings. But this does not mean that there is no Smart Grid opportunity for M2M providers.
 
In fact, I think that mobile networks will be real contenders as the preferred communications infrastructure for the majority of what we call the Smart Grid. Beyond the obvious use for backhaul from the collectors, as we see more of the intelligence locked in the substation network expand to cover the rest of the distribution and transmission system, M2M will look more and more attractive. I’m sure that at next year’s MWC, we will start seeing some real examples of M2M activity in the utility space. The recent news with SmartSynch is a good example of this. Beyond this, I’m pretty confident that by 2012 we will be hearing much more talk about M2M applications on the grid.

Shidan Gouran is co-founder of Intelligent Communications Partners (News - Alert) (ICP), a strategic advisory consultancy focused on the emerging Smart Grid opportunity. To read more of his Smart Grid articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Michael Dinan










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