API:s key to M2M

One way of describing M2M solutions is in the three steps: collect data, process data, use data. These three steps need to have standardized interfaces in order to avoid re-inventing the wheel every time we need something from the M2M solution in place. This is true when data is collected, processed and used internally but even more so when some or all data should be made available to someone else. M2M solutions are most often deployed internally with a business case developed to support the investment. They are typically there to respond to very specific internal challenges or opportunities why it’s not fully natural to think about sharing data externally when the systems are designed. However I believe we will see increasing business opportunities for owners of data collected in M2M (and other) solutions. I see at least three types of opportunities:

– making internal data available to selected or even all developers might boost perceived service levels for the company. A good example is tåg.info in Sweden where information about trains and stations are made easily available for developers who have developed popular apps like Train Info Sweden and Tågtavlan. I am convinced these apps have increased the overall perceived services by the train operators. Another great example is the “City of Stockholm Open API” where a lot of information is made available to developers and where I expect to see more and more information from M2M solutions in the city.

– making internal data available on commercial terms will probably be increasingly interesting. The more services made available, especially for smart phones and pads, the more important will quality of the service and differentiation become. And adding interesting data from a second and maybe innovative source might single out a specific service from the crowd. Let’s use weather forecasts as an example where the service with the best forecast quality can charge more or get most of the advertising money.

– making internal data available might impact the brand positively. An example could be creating indexes from the internal data which could be used by the public as comparisons and means of learning how to save energy at home, green driving, what to pay for things, etc.

Needless to say a very well thought through strategy has to be in place in order to avoid major mistakes like giving away the crown jewels or challenging peoples integrity.

In order for the big M2M boom to happen we need to make bits and pieces fit better together, end to end, in order to drive down cost for development and maintenance, to avoid duplication of efforts, to avoid fork lift upgrades of systems, simplify integration with partners and to improve time to market of services. Standardized and open API:s are important parts of that development and I think we will see an increasing amount of independent middle-men collecting data from different sources then cleaning and organizing the data in order to sell it. Such companies would help establishing standard API:s which is good for the M2M industry.

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