Inspiring example: Double – iPad on wheels

August 27, 2012

M2M For Real™ is my method to help people identify potential value from M2M in their organization. I have used it with different types of organizations and also with 150 people from different companies in a seminar. Short real-life examples are used to inspire and push creativity into the process. The examples are short since we don’t want to educate people about another industry, just create inspiration and ideas. Since they all come from the real world it helps give the feeling that M2M is here now. I have decided to start share examples like that in my blog thus hopefully help people find relevant examples for their own efforts. I will most often not mention the companies involved but sometimes I will. In order for the examples to be easy to search for I will title and tag them “Inspiring example”.

As the first inspiring example I wanted to share something really exciting: Double. It is an elegant minimalistic remotely controlled iPad holder on wheels. It combines elegance and great functionality with the power and ease-of-use of the iPad. You control the small silent robot remotely and can navigate it into any meeting or private discussion you want. Or take a close look at a painting in a gallery. Since the hight is adjustable Double can meet people face to face regardless if they sit or stand. The rechargeable batteries last all day and if you order today and pay US 2000$ you will have your Double early 2013. It is easy to fall in love with Double. Take a look and enjoy the movie.

So why do I mention Double here? It is a wonderfully designed M2M solution and there are serious efforts made to explain what we could use Double for: Video conferencing 2.0, tours without being present, promotion in public places like retail stores, etc. I am not convinced. But I believe a lot of people will buy Double simply because they can turn any home or office into a much cooler place. But the real reason why Double is important is that it creates inspiration and ideas. Just knowing that it is possible to get a nice, easy-to-use, remotely controlled communicating robot for 2.000 dollars (not 100.000 dollars) will make a lot of people come up with ideas where they can use Double to create value for them or their organization.


Road traffic 2.0

August 17, 2012

A lot of people and animals are killed and injured in road traffic, road vehicles impact our environment significantly and road traffic is an important part of efficient transportation of people and goods. With the key promises of M2M being safety, sustainability and efficiency there is a perfect match between road traffic and M2M. A lot of research projects are on-going and part of the overall efforts towards the ITS (Intelligent Transportation Systems) vision.

The air traffic system has for many years been developed aiming towards zero accidents. This process has made air traffic very safe and I am told that most of the remaining accidents are caused by human beings. The use of UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) and UCAV (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle) is increasing mainly to avoid dull, dirty or dangerous flying missions. We have for example all heard about drone attacks (military planes without pilots) in countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan.

If we can fly helicopters and aircrafts without pilots we must be able to modernize the road traffic to make it safer, more friendly to nature and more efficient. And even if humans cause many or maybe most of the problems on the road we still don’t feel comfortable putting ourselves in the hands of technology on the roads or in the air. But this will change. The technical solutions are ahead of what we are willing to accept but carefully managed real life trials together with clear and big benefits will slowly make us humans agree to start using new solutions.

There are many advanced research projects in road traffic continuously pushing the frontier forward. Earlier this summer Volvo successfully led a road train consisting of a Volvo XC60, a Volvo V60 and a Volvo S60 behind a truck on a 200 km journey through Spain as part of SARTRE (Safe Road Trains for Environment). The cars outfitted with cameras, radars and laser sensors were six meters apart and drove safely 85 km/h without any driver interference. The vehicles in the test have covered some 10.000 km on test circuits before the trial. Beyond improved safety and sustainability road trains would allow us drivers to put a professional driver in command for a while, take a bite, check our mail and take a nap before taking control of the car again. Sounds great!Another interesting project is Google Driverless Cars. In May 2012 the first license for a self-driven car was issued in Nevada: a Toyota Prius modified with Google’s experimental driver-less technology. The team just announced that they have completed over 300,000 autonomous-driving miles accident-free, typically have about a dozen cars on the road at any given time, and are starting to test them with single drivers instead of in pairs.

ITS World Congress 2012 in Vienna October 22-26 is an interesting event for anyone interested in where road traffic is going. I’ll be there!


What will be the impact on M2M of announcement to shut down 2G?

August 8, 2012

AT&T just announced that they will shut down their 2G network no later then January 1 2017. They want to free up spectrum for mobile Internet network capacity. “Well in advance of this change, we will reach out to our relatively small percentage of 2G customers and offer them options to meet their needs” says a spokesperson to Fierce MobileIT. According to Berg Insight AT&T had 13.1 million M2M subscribers by the end of 2011. It is often stated that the 2G share of the M2M subscriptions are bigger then 90%. I don’t know the AT&T mix but it is likely that at least half of their 13 million subscribers use 2G.

PricewaterhouseCoopers recently made a study and found that 60 percent of wireless operators plan on decommissioning their legacy networks over the next five years. Their study would suggest that more operators would like to make similar announcements as AT&T.

M2M terminals are often expected to be operational 5-10 years which makes the choice of network technology difficult. From a capacity point of view 2G is often enough and 2G modules are cheaper than modules supporting 3G and 4G/LTE. Coverage of the 3G networks are often not as good as the 2G networks. It is far too early for LTE networks to take over. Support for circuit switched connections which are required when moving terminals from the fixed phone networks (PSTN) to mobile networks is only available in 2G. It will be interesting to see what AT&T’s announcement will do to customers, regulators and other mobile operators. And what about countries were mobile networks are all 2G?

I believe this is a challenge for the development of the M2M market. As far as I understand it, AT&T will have to subsidize the remaining 2G M2M customers to replace terminals or loose the customers to other operators. This new situation for ongoing and planned M2M projects might delay or in worst case kill them if the up-front investment becomes substantially bigger. This news also explains why M2M customers need over-the-air provisioned SIMs.


Single purpose M2M solutions

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.


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