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New Strategies, Developments Could Help Propel M2M Forward

By: Paula Bernier

Berg Insight, an analyst firm based in Sweden, reports that globally, operator revenues for wireless machine-to-machine communications were $4.3 billion in 2008 and are forecast to rise to $12.9 billion in 2012.

Meanwhile, a study released by Juniper Research (News - Alert) in January indicates that revenues of the M2M and embedded devices industry will increase to almost $19 billion globally by 2014, driven most heavily by utility metering, mobile-connected buildings, consumer and commercial telematics, and retail and banking connections.

“The most widespread category will be connections related to smart metering, driven partly by government initiatives to reduce carbon emissions,” says Anthony Cox (News - Alert), senior analyst at Juniper Research.

But, as INTERNET TELEPHONY reported in its November 2009 issue, the M2M opportunity applies to everything from ATM machines to heart monitors. In fact, telephone companies have been talking about the promise of M2M for more than a decade. But early on the telcos used the word telemetry to describe this concept. However, this idea is making a big comeback due to the widespread availability of cellular networks, a move by some players in the communications industry to provide businesses with more customized solutions, and the growing availability of gear that is built for this kind of thing.

Verizon (News - Alert) Wireless, Vodafone and nPhase, a Verizon Wireless/Qualcomm joint venture, announced in February they aim to accelerate the adoption of M2M by simplifying the remote management and monitoring of devices in European and U.S. networks. That, they say, will make it easier for Verizon Wireless and Vodafone (News - Alert) customers to activate, monitor and pay for devices that are deployed across both European GSM and U.S. CDMA and GSM networks.

“M2M technology is playing an increasingly key role in helping firms to deliver more customized services to their customers, but the difficulties of managing devices on a global level was stopping the sector from realizing its true potential,” says Erik Brenneis, global head of M2M at Vodafone. “Through this alliance, we are making it even easier for firms to roll out M2M technology to their customers, wherever they may be.”

This seems to fit into the trend identified by Krzysztof Kwiatkowski, BSS product manager for the telecommunications business unit at Comarch (News - Alert).

“Currently operators are trying to do something more than only delivering M2M connectivity,” says Kwiatkowski. “But they don’t know how to do this. It seems that the market is more promising for M2M enablers who, in cooperation with many MNOs (and also ISPs), deliver services for various M2M operators.

“Will operators – especially those with international and multi-networks – enter this enablers area?” he posits. “We will see.”

Daphna Steinmetz, chief innovation officer at Comverse (News - Alert), which provides value-added services, billing and customer management solutions to large telcos, says a lot of M2M connected devices are SIM-enabled, so afford service providers the opportunity to offer services involving monitoring the devices for such parameters as signal strength, location, availability and battery power. Service providers, adds Steinmetz, will make their money by providing developers of M2M applications with open APIs to their networks.

“The field of M2M is expected to grow significantly with the increasing number of Internet-connected devices,” says Steinmetz of Comverse, which earlier this year at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, staged a fleet management M2M demonstration with Intel (News - Alert) that illustrated the value of reliable real-time data communication between a home base and vehicles, regarding location and alerts to operational problems.

“This demonstration using Intel technology shows how operators can empower the M2M application domain and build a significant offering in the M2M arena,” says Steinmetz. “As a major innovator of human communication experiences, Comverse is excited to offer new value in the expanding market of M2M applications.”

Jeffrey Smith, executive vice president and CTO of Numerex (News - Alert), a 12-year-old pure play M2M company, says M2M will be propelled forward in part by falling prices for radios. He says about five years ago radios used in M2M devices cost a couple hundred dollars. Within the next 10 months, however, M2M radios will come available that cost less than $10. He says now that the M2M market is getting much bigger, it doesn’t have to rely on the sophisticated radio modules used in mobile phones, which creates major savings for this sector.

Other promising technology-related trends on the M2M front, according to Smith, are the availability of MEMS-based sensors that eliminate the need for calibration, and the emergence of a greater amount of edge intelligence, which allows data to be assessed in real time. IT

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