M2M for the rest of us?

May 18, 2012

M2M solutions using Mobile operator’s networks are growing quite aggressively. According to Berg Insight we have some 110 Million M2M SIM cards active today. But even if this impressive growth continues we will never reach the connected society within my life time unless generic, cost efficient, easy to install and use alternatives comes to market. It is not primarily a matter of communication technology – it is a matter of connectivity together with services enablement making it cost efficient to develop applications. Such solutions will use fixed or mobile wan connections to connect to the Internet.

At May 16 I stumbled over the first potential solution to the “M2M for the rest of us” solution – Electric Imp. They just left stealth mode introducing a line of Imp cards that can be installed on any electronic device to put it online and control it. The cards connect to the Internet and a cloud based service using Wi-Fi. In their own words: “take the best implementation of hardware, firmware and cloud service, build them into a single mass-produced product, and apply them to any device in the world”. The word Imp is borrowed from Arpanet’s Interface Message Processor. Developer preview Imp cards and developer kits will be available this summer and Imp cards will retail for $25 when available in the market. Electric Imp claim they have invented a solution for configuring Imp devices for Wi-Fi networks in seconds using iOS or Android smartphones.

I find this exciting since it sounds like Electric Imp has what it takes: a generic, cost efficient, easy to install and use solution for connecting things to the Internet. As an evangelist and investor in the early Wi-Fi days I am also exited to see bets on Wi-Fi in the M2M field.

Electric Imp has a great idea, strong founders, capable investors and address a massive market opportunity. Their success will be determined by how fast they will get hardware vendors to adopt their platform and put Imp-slots in their devices.

From consumers with love

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.

M2M For Real

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.

ETSI M2M standards and the oneM2M initiative

May 3, 2012

An absolute requirement for M2M to really take off is a common architecture and a set of global standards. A robust common service layer is needed. The standardization organization ETSI started en effort to create such architecture and standard in January 2009 and has started to deliver. ETSI has released a multi-service layer enabling an easier and efficient access to the telecommunications network functionalities, designed to support a wide range of services over different underlying networks. It has to be noted that the work is IP only why issues like moving fax machines and other analog devices from PSTN to mobile networks isn’t covered.

According to Mr Enrico Scarrone, Chairman ETSI TC M2M, they try to build the standard on existing and available bits and pieces and focus on identifying gaps and fill them. At M2M Forum in Milan he presented also the oneM2M initiative which is a global partnership project aiming at removing the barriers for the Internet of Things created by local and industry related differences and approaches. We all know the power of 3GPP which strongly supported the developments of the third and fourth generations of cellular networks. Hopefully oneM2M will pave the way for a rapidly growing Internet of Things where data from different industries can be combined to create new innovative solutions and business models.

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