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.