April 8, 2013
2013 is the year when M2M aka Internet of Things entered the productivity phase which I have been writing about before. Focus moves from the actual connection to what value comes out. The value we look at in this phase is typically operational thus quantifiable and ROI-calculation friendly. In the next phase, probably as little as 1-2 years away, we will start harvest also the strategic value and that is when industries and society will change drastically.
Already a couple of month into “the year of M2M productivity” I can share a great Swedish example: STF Ingenjörsutbildning is a postgraduate education institute targeting engineers and technicians. They run some 2000 training activities per annum with 15000 attendees, mainly in Sweden but also abroad. STF just announced a one day training on “M2M – from products to services” aiming at providing practical guidance to the attendees. Where to start? Who to turn to? Legal implications? Purchasing considerations? Pitfalls? Hopefully the attendees will have information and confidence enough to start their first in-house project when they come home.
I have been quite involved in this training and believe this is a very important step forward for the industry. We simply need to make people understand the value of M2M for them and give them knowledge enough to start playing around with ideas, prototypes and trials. It is simply not possible to figure out before hand what will happen and which new opportunities we will have when we connect our products. This to me is a great way to drive technology driven innovation.
March 15, 2013
M2M is not a solution. It is a way to segment the market: are we connecting a business, person or a thing to the Internet? The actual connection is of less importance to users – it is what it enables that makes sense. And the data created makes even more sense. We have seen the movie before – when people and business were connected to the Internet we started focusing on the connection. Then we discovered enormous benefits when processes became much more efficient. And finally innovative solutions and business models started change industries upside down. We entered the “as-a-service” era.
Over the last 18 months we have seen a clear change from the 50 billion devices approach to M2M towards a more user oriented approach where a range of M2M solutions are part of the ICT toolbox. If we compare to when Internet arrived we are leaving the connectivity period and enter the enabling user value era. We solve customer problems, we save money, we increase efficiency, we bring cost down or save energy. We create operational value. Previously everyone talked about smart meters and connected vehicles due to the large numbers involved. Now the addressed markets discussed are increasingly granular. The further we go down this road the more critical specialist service enablers become.
Last year the Connected Home pavilion at MWC in Barcelona was an important frequently visited showcase for M2M solutions and M2M was mentioned in most key notes. This year, the Connected City pavilion at MWC was a quite boring and less crowded but in every corner of the show and at every party people discussed what could be done with M2M solutions.
Mobile operators all try to figure out which role to play. Subscriptions alone seem less interesting. Adding device connectivity on top of the network helps deliver a better service. Going after large applications like smart meters, ebooks and connected cars is a no brainer. But how to win and deliver the second and third-tier of opportunities is the thousand dollar question of today. Small business is big business. I am convinced that those who can find a way to collaborate with the specialist service enablers will win. And such collaboration is not a matter of technical integration – it’s all about trust, business models and how to go to market. Our Swedish M2M Service Enablers alliance is always interested in efforts to answer the thousand dollar question of today.
February 19, 2013
M2M Service Enablement is the “magic” turning generic communication services into specific applications in an affordable and scalable way. Users need applications addressing their needs and the role of M2M Service Enablers is to make it easier, faster and cheaper to develop, implement and maintain such applications. But M2M Service Enablement is complex and requires communication and IT skills together with serious understanding of the industry or function to serve. Service Enablers need to be specialized since only the companies understanding the context of the data can deliver to the customers according to their expectations. “Connecting things and gather data in the cloud” is already too generic.
The Service Enablement market will be specialized and industry focused. But still it has to become international for M2M to really take off. Today the M2M Device Connectivity part of it is quite international but most Specialist Service Enablers are domestic. And while Device Connectivity solutions enable operators to deliver better and more granular services, Specialist Service Enablers are needed to bring new customers.
In order to try push Service Enablement to become international I started a small alliance called Swedish M2M Service Enablers a year ago. Today two new members joined and we are now ten companies. But we also announced four new sponsors of our initiative, are mobile operators. This gives us more weight and power which is needed to move the internationalization forward.
The purpose of the alliance is to educate the market, promote Sweden as a great place to go to for Service Enablement solutions and to promote the individual members abroad. We welcome invites to collaborate, discuss, speak and most importantly make business together. A number of such relationships are already in place but we can manage many more. Just keep them coming! Next opportunity is to ask for me in the Swedish Pavilion at Mobile World Congress, hall 7 (stand 7E80).
December 27, 2012
The key to rapid progress and growth in the M2M market is Service Enablement. It is the middle-ware, the magic, between generic connectivity and the specific applications the customers are asking for. The Service Enablement has to be robust, secure and efficient in order to make the solutions affordable to develop and maintain. It is also important for the communication provider’s M2M business to scale nicely. Beyond technical matters Service Enablement also has to cover practical issues like deployment and support.
There are three ways to deploy service enablement: in-house, by mobile operator or by independent service enablers. The in-house option is most often used when the data from the connected devices are business-critical which is typically the case when companies provide their product as services. The independent Service Enablers typically place their services on top of the connectivity and provide the entire customized solution for the customer and the devices connected. And mobile operators are increasingly adding a quite generic piece of Service Enablement on top of their connectivity services, dealing with things like alarms, device management, self-service portals and more granular invoicing. This is often referred to as Device Connectivity services which is a natural way for mobile operators to make their M2M offering richer and more competitive.
The Service Enablement part of the market has developed rapidly over the last year with several operators announcing agreements with primarily Jasper Wireless and Ericsson. But we also have a lot of independent Service Enablers active in the M2M market. These independents are most often small national players with scarce resources and difficulties to reach out. We started Swedish M2M Service Enablers (swedishm2m.se) last spring to join forces educating the market and promoting the members. Today we are eight members in the alliance with more in line. But still the operator offerings are too generic for most customers and the indies don’t have muscles enough why customer uptake remain quite slow.
I believe we have to be more granular when talking about Service Enablement in order to get to a solution which is good enough to develop and maintain specific customer applications on. In Beecham’s most recent SES study they identified 22 different service groups and 112 individual service elements within those so M2M Service Enablement is clearly a complex issue. It is already clear that independent Service Enablers must be at least industry focused. It is simply too easy today to just connect terminals and gather the data in the cloud. A competitive service need to understand the data and what to do with it. In other words, Service Enablers have to become Specialist Service Enablers to survive and that is rapidly happening now. With generic Device Connectivity solutions providing standardized APIs for the Specialist Service Enablers to use, the indies can focus all their resources on their speciality. And the operators with such solution in place would be far more attractive to customers and their software developers and integrators to work with. Provided I am right and the market will develop in this direction it might be a dead-end for operators to develop Device Connectivity in-house.
November 9, 2012
Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) has been worked on for some twenty years. The idea to look at traffic and transportation using a holistic approach is great and rarely disputed. And the effects when ready would be fantastic! Efficiency, safety, sustainability and convenience, all the key promises of M2M, are there. But still the development is quite slow. Of course we need to remember that a lot of these issues are infrastructure related thus complex and time-consuming to develop. And a multimodal transportation approach require integrated organizations which is yet another complex thing to change. There are also many stakeholders and a lot of legislation involved.
But still I believe there are ways to drastically speed up the process: by leveraging the rapid development in technology in combination with innovation and pragmatism we could make things happen fast. Examples of key things to leverage are
- the open data movement to allow entrepreneurs to drive innovation
- the smartphones and pads to allow users of the transportation systems to access the information they need to make qualified decisions
- crowd sourcing and other innovative ways to collect data
- entrepreneurs to drive creativity, innovation and choice
A very good example of an ITS type application which is in place and leverage all of these is Waze.
It is the world’s fastest growing community-based traffic and navigation app
and it is free. They claim 30 million users already and they even get help to edit the maps from their users. It started as an open-source mapping project in 2006 and Waze was founded 2008. The company is backed by serious investors and the business model is based on location-based advertising. The level of innovation is high and you can for example connect your Facebook account to see where your friends are.
Think about this: First came GPS devices integrated into cars for maybe 3-5K$, then came mobile GPS devices, often with better maps and features, for about 1/10 of the price and now this, for free. The power of what today’s technology and modern ways of working can do is immense. The services are continuously improved and by using one device for many things we even help save the planet.
I am focusing a lot on ITS and together with our partners and entrepreneurs we have numerous concepts and ideas (including dynamIQ parking™ which we launched at ITS World Congress) leveraging modern technology and ways of working to make drastic ITS progress. Let’s get going!
October 8, 2012
We connected businesses and people to the Internet to get mail and web. That was an easy sell! We got it and we discovered a lot of more important things to use the Internet for, increasing productivity and efficiency in organizations across the globe tremendously. Then, clever people started to utilize the data created to invent new applications and business models. Google, Amazon, eBay and Facebook are just a couple of well-known examples. Since nobody had a clue about what the Internet would bring, ignorance was often an acceptable reason for failure at the time.
Now we are connecting also things to the Internet. Once again we focus on connectivity and operational values. Efficiency, Security, Sustainability and Convenience are the key values that M2M and the Internet of Things offer. Soon we will start to see clever people utilize the data created to invent new applications and business models. Well, some have already started. We have seen the movie before and the early warning systems works perfectly well this time why ignorance will not be an acceptable excuse.
It’s about time for decision makers to get on top of the M2M development and what it can do to their organization and industry. There are many ways to find information including articles, blogs, conferences and reports (I obviously recommend M2M Business Strategy & Planning which I am the proud author of) but the important thing is to get going, now.
August 4, 2012
Single purpose M2M solutions have started to appear in the market. They are typically addressing one specific problem with a combination of hardware, software and communication. If the problem addressed is clear and considered big enough by many people and the solution works well then the willingness to pay should be possible to build a business around. Provided the solution uses the cloud to deliver the service from, then expanding the solution to include generic devices like smartphones, pads and PCs is an interesting next step at least to access the data but maybe to run the entire application on as well.
A good example is Coyote from France who claims over 1.7 million users of their speed camera alert system in Europe. The service is also available as an app for iPhone/iPad, Android, Blackberry and for Parrot. A Coyote device cost about 250€ including one year of service. A solution like this is also interesting for mobile operators since one agreement can sell hundreds of thousands subscriptions of the same type and each deal like this provides opportunities to add service enablement services on top of the connectivity.
The two key success factors of products like these are a high quality solution to a reasonable big problem and ease-of-use out of the box. Then people are willing to pay reasonably well for the service and word of mouth will work for marketing. Easy to buy and use solutions are also interesting in sales channels. It is quite likely that we will see many more single purpose M2M solutions onwards.
May 15, 2012
Security, efficiency and sustainability are the three key promises of M2M to businesses. And most applications of M2M address one or several of these straight forward issues in an organization: minimize use of service cars, avoid production stops, save valuable time with accidents, make processes more efficient, automate to avoid expensive labour work, etc. These are straight forward in the sense that we address concrete problems quite easy to put numbers on and investments can be verified using business cases and ROI. But the ultimate value of M2M comes from innovative business models, increased brand value and other less tangible things. And these are much more complicated to identify and dress in numbers. Innovation and creativity is clearly an important part of such efforts and I would suggest companies to look at the M2M consumer market to get ideas and cases to bring home.
There is actually a fourth promise of M2M which I normally don’t talk about to businesses – convenience. But in the consumer market this is a key driver and differentiator. Other reasons to look carefully at the consumer market are the typically limited budgets forcing innovative and cost efficient solutions and the absolute requirement for easy to install and use solutions. In addition consumers are generally more open to cloud services and many of them are early adopters with smartphones, pads and other gadgets. Examples of things and tricks to bring from the consumer space to business could be the use of smartphones to connect devices cheaply to the Internet and the host of innovative cloud services using sensors and gadgets in the growing personal health and fitness market. Imagine how much the home care providers can steal with pride from here! Take also a closer look at how well many consumer services enable their users to use any and all of their devices for the service. A lot to learn there.
And by the way, isn’t the Internet-of-Things a misleading name? There is only one Internet of People and Things.
May 8, 2012
Connecting things to the Internet opens up for a new wave of innovation to society, companies and consumers. That fact has been talked about and dressed in numbers for the last couple of years. Still we see quite little action beyond connecting “big phones” and electricity meters. Something is obviously missing and I think I know the answer.
We have good enough technology available and we have been blessed with a new category of smart mobile devices with apps perfect to visualize functionality and value for people. And we are in the beginning of the cloud and Big Data era which constitutes a perfect environment for M2M-applications and the data created. Still little action.
As often when powerful technology comes to market it is too abstract for most people to see how they and their organizations will benefit from it. What it will do to their life, business and society. Our industry needs to educate people and help them see the value and opportunities of M2M solutions. It is definitely not about technology – it is about business and should be discussed with business developers, product owners and management teams.
I believe a combination of meetings and a lot of relevant examples is what it takes to create understanding and feed a creative and rewarding thought process. The examples are most often not that your competitor did this, but rather someone in an adjacent industry did something and that was the result. Meetings with theoretical examples don’t work. We have seen some of that already and it sometimes feels like people from the M2M industry tell other people from the same industry how it works. And it is still too early to provide relevant ideas “stand alone”, without face to face meetings, since the context and overall education often is missing.
The method I am using with clients starts with an overview of the market (education) and continues with discussions about problems and challenges in their business relevant for M2M solutions. This normally becomes discussions about cost savings and efficiency which is great. Further down the road we look at business cases and ROI calculations. But the true power of the M2M concept comes to play when we start discuss potential new innovative ways of doing business enabled by M2M solutions. Collecting, cultivating and leveraging the data generated. Selling services or functions instead of products. Going from product life cycles to continuous R&D. Offering customers an unexpected service or feature. Effects to the brand and new weapons in recruiting employees or customers. This is what I believe is the real power of M2M solutions and the Internet of people and things.
This is what I call “M2M for real” and I will do my best to promote this approach beyond our company. A good acid test will be an “M2M For Real” event in Stockholm which the media company Mobil Business is organizing June 20, TeliaSonera is main sponsor and where we will provide a solid introduction and status update on M2M solutions followed by a “smörgåsbord” of examples from all kinds of industries and opportunities to discuss.