With over five billion phones in mobile networks the mobile industry is looking for next growth area
. It seems easier to fuel growth from a lot of new subscribers than developing the current customers and once again the good old idea of connecting machines is brushed off. The idea is as good as last time M2M was hyped, but now relevant technology, networks, services and systems are in place. And on top we have a reference: the governments push for connected electricity meters. The mobile industry players powerful marketing machines are pushing the news. Industry collaboration and M&A efforts are used by the players to position them nicely. Journalists, analysts and conference organizers are already up and running and everyone is repeating Ericsson’s mantra: 50 billion connected devices by 2020.
The power of connecting things and adding intelligence on top is immense and well proven. The telephones, the fax machines, the local area networks, Internet and the mobile phones are all great examples and the inventor of Ethernet, Robert Metcalfe, expressed this in Metcalfe’s law around 1980: the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected compatible devices. M2M is just another name for the same thing provided computers, not people, add the intelligence on top. To connect and compute is a generic approach to solve problems in almost any market or situation. Adding wireless connectivity to the equation obviously enriches the toolbox and addressable market a lot.
But this is not new! Already when the analog modems were invented to establish circuit switched data connections over the traditional telephone network, people started to connect things like vending machines, alarms, elevators and recycling machines to save money, speed up processes and increase competitiveness. I have been looking for years to find an estimate of how many M2M devices there are in the fixed line telephone network (PSTN) but never succeeded finding any. But having a company specialized in moving fax and other terminals from PSTN to mobile networks around the globe I am finding new types of devices in PSTN over and over again. And operators selling mobile office solutions or removing parts of PSTN all know what I am talking about from their own experience.
Last time M2M was hot in the middle of the Internet bubble some ten years ago, I was among the investors and could just conclude as so often – timing is all. In retrospect it was quite naive to believe in major M2M roll-outs when individual SIM cards still were sent out by the operators in envelopes.
So what makes me think timing is right now? The short answer is that I believe everything needed is in place with good enough functionality and pricing and some of the absolutely biggest and universal problems of today – security, safety, sustainability and lack of efficiency – all require machine-to-machine solutions to be resolved. The solutions will come from connecting things primarily to wireless networks and adding computing power on top. The M2M industry is already aggressive and media amplifies. But new technology never takes off before customers can identify the value of the technology in their own business. This is why I just started B3 Connect Compute (B3CC) – a network and technology independent consulting company specializing in helping potential users of M2M to identify key challenges to their business which M2M solutions can help take care of. Since most of M2M solutions has to do with systems and integration I started B3CC together with the Swedish IT consulting company B3IT Management. That gives us the ability to also design and implement the complete solution. We simply hope to show the way towards the huge potential M2M market by successful deployments of M2M solutions. Since the M2M industry is pre-mature B3CC also provides a full portfolio of services to the industry players as well as actively contributes to the creation and promotion of a well working M2M ecosystem.
The Connect Compute Blog is my contribution to keeping the rapidly developing M2M community together and up to date. It’s an informal personal ad hoc summary of my most recent findings, views and thoughts. I do my best to make reasonably frequent updates and try my best to answer to comments and keep it alive. It’s based on what to the best of my knowledge are facts and my intent is only to contribute not damage.