M2M enabling efficient marketing

December 11, 2013

Evian DropCompanies are investing a lot of money year after year to communicate with their customers and influence their perception of their company and brands. The budgets are there basically to sow for future sales and they remain on the same level year after year measured as a percentage of sales. The ever-increasing challenge is the growing number of channels to be used, and the constantly changing relative importance of them. But the best channel by all means has always been the product itself. Customers who buy it has it and use it often for a long time. People around them might see them using it. Satisfied users as well as dissatisfied users are happy to tell others about their experience.

All of this is well-known facts. But what is less known is that it has become realistically possible to establish a continuous dialogue with the products and also the users of them depending of what product it is, by using modern M2M or Internet of Things technology. Examples of products that often are connected already are: trucks, electrical meters, cars, alarms, vending machines and coffee machines. They are typically connected for operational benefits like being able to tell the truck driver to go to a service facility and depending on where he is propose which one, for electricity companies to measure and report consumption almost in real-time, for vending machines to understand when it’s time to go there to fill it up and better schedule the service route, for coffee machine rental companies to change recipes over the air and for alarm companies to get the alarms automatically. This is all fine and the normal first phase of an M2M investment. Operational value is easy to realize and make ROI investments on thus easier to get project approval and budgets for.

As we all know by now: data is the gold of M2M. And with these things connected we can gather and interpret the data from the connected things and start use it to create strategic value. Examples could be that the owner of the truck could measure how drivers actually drive, provide training to them and become a more sustainable company, the electricity company could offer customers better price off-peak hours, vending machines would get decision support from real data to know what products to have on weekends and warm days in different parts of the country and to use dynamic pricing, coffee machine companies could tune the choice of coffee for different seasons and learn customer’s coffee drinking habits and the alarm companies could add new adjacent services to their alarm infrastructure to become more competitive. All these things are examples of how the collected data could be used to add brand value, competitiveness, customer loyalty, innovation and attractiveness for employees, etc.

We are in the teen-age of M2M aka Internet of Things and many companies have started to connect their things, mainly for operational reasons. But it is still very rare to see companies using the data to create strategic value. Most consumer goods is not connected and if it is, there is no organized use of the data collected. Most professional equipment isn’t connected either and if it is, the data is rarely used in an organized fashion to create strategic value.

But this is about to change and I think we will see a lot of new examples in 2014. A number of new relevant ways of connecting things are available including the power-efficient and very small Bluetooth 4.0 chips with innovative solutions like iBeacon, networks optimized for connecting millions of autonomous things like Sigfox and a host of different ways to associate real life things with an avatar on the Internet like QR-codes, smart cameras, RFID and innovative solutions from companies like Evrythng.

This isn’t about technology. It is only when clever strategists, progressive marketing directors, creative advertising agencies, determined product managers and innovative business developers really understand what is practically and financially possible today that true innovation beyond operational value creation starts to happen. Interesting examples of creative customer communication through products could be the Evian Smart Drop, Volvo’s On Call app enabling their B2B+B2C model and Apple’s recent launch of an iBeacon based service in all 254 Apple Stores in the US.


Inspiring examples: Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems – TPMS

September 23, 2013

TPMSVehicles with wrong tire pressure cause accidents and consume excess energy. Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS) were developed to prevent these issues. The first passenger vehicle to adopt tire-pressure monitoring was the Porsche 959 in 1986 and today it is becoming a legal requirement in more and more countries. Car manufacturers have been introducing different TPNS systems more or less voluntarily but in the United States, as of 2008 and the European Union, as of 2012, all new passenger car models released must be equipped with a TPMS. Similar laws are on their way in Asia-Pacific.

TPMS are definitely complex from an engineering, communication and product point of view and the combined investment, including equipment in garages and motor vehicle inspection sites, the sensors in the tires and the receiving part of the in-car system is very big. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the US estimates that 660 fatalities and 33,000 injuries each year are attributable to crashes caused by underinflated tires (Bob Ulrich, Editor, at Modern Tire Dealer) so it seems like well working TPMS can help save lives, money and the planet. But every system like this is always a potential hacker target and Rutgers University and the University of South Carolina released a joint study some years ago indicating that they had succeeded to hack a car through the TPMS.
In any case, this is a typical M2M application – it’s been around for years, many of us have them, they are not SIM-based and they deliver on the three M2M promises: safety, sustainability and efficiency.

Specialist M2M Service Enablers make it happen!

June 15, 2013

SMSE-logoAn M2M Industry in its teens is a reality. Decision makers are beginning to looking into threats and opportunities with M2M / IoT, and especially product owners are moving to real-life trials and action. I have still to come across a trial which didn’t bring unexpected results and insight! Therefore I keep on arguing that people should leave Excel and Powerpoint behind for a while, and make a trial. Just connect five-ten devices and see what comes out. My favorite example is Springworks who always work very thoroughly and connected their boss’ car and made it tweet to the employees.

If trials and action is the right approach at this stage of M2M, then the value of Service Enablement is even more obvious. If you can find yourself a company who already have built the basics of what you need (i.e. the connectivity part, a cloud based context-aware data service and distribution capabilities through apps, web and maybe other interfaces), who understand your application and are willing to help you getting going fast – just do it! For little money and effort you will get fantastic data in almost no time.

This is why I established Swedish M2M Service Enablers (SMSE) in March 2012. Our objectives are educating the market, promote Sweden as a good place to look for M2M Service Enablement and to promote the alliance members. As of yesterday we added two new members – Fridat and Vinnter – and now we are 12 members and 5 sponsors including TeliaSonera, Telenor Connexion, Tele2 and Net1.

Now when decision makers and product owners want to start doing things the M2M industry runs the risk of loosing them since it is very hard to know where to go to get help. Their existing IT and technology partners will not be able to help and quick small trials are not really what the operators and the consulting firms are keen on. This is where the specialized M2M Service Enablers come in. They will help the industry picking up the interest and turn it into small affordable good enough quality trials. We have presented this pitch at events, meetings and in articles internationally over the last 15 months and we sense momentum building up. Service Enablers from other countries want to join us (and we work with some informally) and we are increasingly asked to come for events and customer meetings, even bilateral efforts.

Swedish M2M Service Enablers (SMSE) is an informal small alliance of companies sharing the desire to be part of building the connected society, Internet of Things, Internet of Everything or whatever we want to call it.  They all work really hard in a tough immature market and their creativity and determination to make it happen is fantastic. And there are similar fighters around the world of equal importance to the success of the industry. In my mind they are the key to a successful Internet of Things and I would welcome any initiative that would make life easier for them. Our next big effort is on Tuesday when we run M2M For Real™  2013 in Stockholm, sharing eleven inspiring real-life M2M-cases with a large number of decision makers. Please keep your ideas, proposals and invitations coming!


Inspiring example: Mobile Scan to Email – A generic M2M application

May 13, 2013

greta_20090121_1319002211Digital documents are cheaper, faster and environmentally better to deal with than paper documents and they can be automatically dealt with in applications of all sorts. The Internet enabled swift distribution of digital documents and PC’s with scanners became a normal way to digitalize paper documents in offices and homes. Scanning companies introduced large scale scanning services and the smartphones enabled mobile scanning by use of the embedded camera and distribution over the mobile network or Wi-Fi. But one important need has not yet been fulfilled: secure mobile digitalization.

Many business documents are critical for completion of processes – a signed delivery note is needed for invoicing, a signed bank note for completion of a transaction, a signed agreement for completion of a deal and a signed prescription to acquire serious medicine in a drug store. Such documents need to be taken care of with relevant security.

Possio’s new Mobile Scan to Email Service addresses the need to digitalize a paper document on the go and send it securely to pre-defined receivers. These documents are typically sent via traditional mail, courier or fax today but in many cases collected and brought manually to the office. Regardless of method it often adds many days or even weeks to processes. In some cases the documents can’t be read or never even arrives. If and when the paper document arrives it often has to be scanned into a digital document for further processing. Imagine scanning the document when it is signed, sending it safely over the mobile network to a pre-defined receiver with acknowledgement that delivery went fine and in a minute have it delivered to the right person anywhere in the world. The receiver doesn’t have to digitalize the document before next action and due to rich metadata attached to each document they become traceable. One can even use the keyboard for authentication of the person sending the document.

Possio Mobile Scan to Email Service is an easy to use cloud based service with scanners attached via mobile networks. A customer is defined in the cloud based server and can add or remove scanners as desired. Each customer decide the functionality of their own private service, i.e. which email addresses should receive documents, if keypads should be used to send documents to different receivers and if authentication should be used. Customers buy the terminals and pay a fixed monthly fee for the service. Possio currently offers two terminals: Possio GRETA Mobile Scanner and Printer which is a mobile all-in-one A4-scanner terminal and Possio SVEA GSM Connector which deliver the Mobile Scan to Email Service using any standard G3 fax.

Secure Mobile Digitalization can speed up and increase quality of business processes across most industries. Typical applications are “internal mail substitution” and management of delivery documentation. It is generically true that the earlier in the business process a paper document can be digitalized and securely transferred the better.

I am personally involved in Possio and believe this is a good example of a generic M2M application meeting real operational needs of businesses around the world. The patent pending technology also enables mobile operators to transition from mobile fax problems to secure mobile digitalization opportunities. It will be interesting to see how the new service is received at M2M+ and M2M Forum in Milan today and tomorrow. I’m here with a delegation from Swedish M2M Service Enablers: Springworks, Maingate, Possio and B3IT.


Mobile World Congress 2013

March 3, 2013


MWC2013Mobile World Congress 2013 is over and some 72.000 visitors and 1.700 exhibiting companies have gone home. The new location – Fira Gran Via – was more “professional” and space, logistics, food, etc was better. But on the other hand, it is far away from down town Barcelona which made people spend much more time in the traffic. And at a couple of occasions the traffic turned really bad.

I have obviously not seen everything and met everyone so my conclusions have no trace of science:

The over-all impression was quite boring rather then exciting. Devices, boxes, antennas and software architectures all over the place and the devices really look the same. Is this a sign of commoditization? The very serious fact that Europe is seriously behind in LTE usage (4% of subscribers world-wide acc. to GSA) should make a lot of Europeans nervous. Our entrepreneurs in the European mobile industry might start move to the US like IT entrepreneurs have done for many years.

The value of MWC continues to be the interaction between people from the same industry across the world why parties and sub-events continue to be important. The 5:th Swedish Mobile Association-party on Monday was spectacular again and my job as bouncer was as easy as all previous years.

There is a growing number of visitors and exhibitors from other industries mainly due to M2M. I guess there were 20 more or less connected cars to look at but I also found exhibitors like Assa Abloy with their connected locks in a small both. I believe this increased focus on what to use the mobile network for is a good development – maybe the event should be divided in two: building and operating networks – using networks.

M2M was everywhere but the heavily promoted GSMA Connected City part of the event I unfortunately found quite dull. In the far end of Hall 3, few visitors, a lot of screens with presentations and no real energy or “heat” (if we exclude the Gangnam Style dancers from KT). And I couldn’t find anything about OTA provisioning of SIMs which was demonstrated by GSMA last year. Connected cars was clearly the most discussed topic in M2M followed by mHealth. I believe it is a sound development that focus on M2M itself disappears (no customer has ever asked me for M2M) and that we start discuss real problems with real customers. The industry needs to be able to create value for the huge SMB market and not only the multi-nationals, consumers and governments. That is the key challenge for M2M today.

Ericsson’s Key Note event Tuesday night was a highlight: well structured and executed with M2M and Networked Society as a leading theme. And finally Vestberg invited Avicii on stage and then they launched a new song right there, XYOU based on a crowd-sourcing process. The thing I really liked was that they showed the Twitter feed from when Avicii entered the stage and when they played the new song we could see it spreading over the Internet on another huge screen. Well thought through and executed! I’m not sure everyone in the audience understood what was going on but my 17 years old daughter was really impressed already by the SMS I sent her.

My choice of coolest product at the show was also in the Ericsson hall. Under the banner “Windows of Opportunities” they demonstrated four connected windows solving real problems. My favorite was the one for skyscrapers which generates electricity from light coming in. I hope they have solid patents in place!

Personally my highlight of the week was outside of MWC. I was invited by Prof. Aninyda Ghosh, assistant professor of entrepreneurship at the great IESE Business School, to give a speech on Parallel Entrepreneurship. I enjoyed every minute!


Inspiring example: The thermostat Jobs would have loved

February 13, 2013

nest tstatThe power of M2M is the ability to enable drastic changes in an industry. To do things differently. To change the game. Like in the early days of Internet we still focus on connecting things. That is good and makes us faster, cheaper, greener, etc. But it doesn’t change the game. It is when the technology is used to completely re-think and re-design something the power is released.

A wonderful example is thermostats. The “father of the iPod”, Tony Fadell, created the “learning thermostat” after having stumbled over expensive, dumb and ugly thermostats for the green house he was building. He created the gorgeously designed Nest which has been shipping for more than a year now. It is said to be compatible with 95% of the American and Canadian low voltage residential heating and cooling market by now. This little sexy device can remove some 20% of the heating and cooling energy bill and cost $250 US. Nest is now shipping 40-50K units per months and investors continue betting on Nest which now is said to be valued to $800 million US.

People normally don’t bother about thermostats but this easy to install and use, wonderfully designed and intelligent darling that saves people money has become a best-seller at Amazon, at Lowe’s and on Apple’s online store. It uses a number of sensors to understand the life-style of the household and adjusts heating and cooling in an optimal way. Beyond the information on the device itself it communicates with people’s smartphones and pads.

Innovative new approaches in established industries are always challenged by established players and Nest is already involved in legal battles. But I think we only have seen the beginning of Nest. Now they address consumers right away, seducing them with design and a good cause. But the device is Wi-Fi and ZigBee enabled thus ready for the Utilities and the Smart Grids. Is there a reason for a Utility to install another device in a home where a Nest already is in place?


Inspiring example: Tethercell lets you master things on AA-batteries

January 15, 2013
tethercellPeople are working hard to find clever ways to embed connectivity into things in a cheap, scalable and non-complicated fashion. Tethercell is an excellent example of that! By re-designing the content of the most used standard battery – AA – they make you able to master and control a whole lot of things from your iPhone. Parents with kids using noisy toys can secretly turn them off when they had too much for example. The product which looks like an AA battery includes advanced technology and an AAA-battery for power. It is remotely managed via Bluetooth 4.0 and a free IOS-app. Bluetooth 4.0 is the latest revision of the wireless protocol and it brings primarily much better power efficiency through Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), also referred to as Bluetooth Smart.
The product allows you to turn AA-powered devices on and off remotely, give alerts when power is low and it allows you to set simple timers and device schedules to save battery power.
Tethercell is yet another crowdfunded product using indiegogo.com and with about a month ago they have raised about 25% of the $59 000 US they aim for. $35 US gives you one battery and the app to control it and estimated landing is June 2013. 

Inspiring example: find what you are looking for

January 7, 2013
sticknfindSolving real problems is a good foundation for entrepreneurs. And finally finding what we are looking for is something we all like. StickNFind is a promising solution built on Bluetooth technology together with IOS and Android. You simply put your very small Bluetooth stickers on your keys, pets, children backpacks or whatever you want to keep an eye on. The receivers are similar in size as a quarter-dollar coin and quite thin. The replaceable battery lasts for about a year. When you use the StickNFind mobile app to find things you can even light the label up and make it vibrate to help localize the item. But you can only locate things about 30 meters away. One can also use StickNFind to tell when tagged things are coming within range like the bag at the airport convey belt or getting out of range like your turtle trying to escape. Two labels are sold for $35 US but you can have many more managed from one phone.
StickNFind Technologies use Indiegogo to crowd finance their product and with just a couple of days left they have raised almost ten times the $70.000 US they aimed at.

Alternative WAN solutions for Internet of Things

December 7, 2012

SIGFOX LogoAt the local area network (LAN) level we have a lot of different wired and wireless alternatives for M2M connectivity. But at the wide area network (WAN) level we have few options. There are a lot of legacy solutions using the fixed switched phone network (PSTN and fixed broadband Internet access is the dominating way to connect LANs to the Internet. The mobile industry is positioning themselves as the obvious solution for wireless WAN connectivity. The mobile operator alternative includes the cheaper and low capacity 2G option, 3G and the emerging high-capacity and low latency LTE option. 2G is still by far the most utilized option with more than 90% of all M2M subscriptions. Satellite communication provides an almost complete outdoor coverage and is a frequently used alternative especially for tracking.

But there are potentially other alternatives for M2M WAN connectivity. Entrepreneurs are working on the idea to build a dedicated M2M network designed to connect billions of devices in a cost efficient and high quality fashion. One of the most interesting today is Sigfox in France who has designed and built a wireless network optimized for M2M using ultra narrow-band modulation techniques. They started roll out earlier this year and plan to have France covered by the end of this year which is amazing. Sigfox uses unlicensed spectrum (868 MHz in Europe and 915 MHz in the US) normally used by cordless phones. With open sight distances up to 40 km covered and when compared with GSM, for the same level of coverage, Sigfox’s solution requires around 1,000 times less antennas and base stations. The impact on cost is massive – it is 100 times less expensive to build, install and operate. They claim they will have France covered with some 1000 transmission sites. The radio modules embedded in the connected things are tiny and consume 1/50 of the power typically consumed by a cellular M2M module. With such low power consumption batteries could last up to 20 years before recharging or replacement is needed.

The Sigfox network is designed to connect millions of devices that only send messages occasionally – maybe once a week or once a year. The position of the object is included and data is encrypted. The bandwidth is only 100 bps which allows transfer of only small messages. And this will likely be the most common type of connected object why volumes could be very large and economies of scale could help Sigfox bring down cost to a couple of dollars per module. They predict that their efficiencies in running the network will enable them to connect devices for a couple of dollars a year.

Now you might wonder what type of mushrooms they have down in Toulouse. But already now they have announced that Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings is a customer using Sigfox to connect their billboards and MAAF Assurances just announced an agreement for their innovative connected objects’ household protection service, they have suggested to ETSI to make their proprietary UNB technology a standard and in September Intel Capital led their €10 million B round.

Friends, this is for real and companies like Sigfox have the potential to change many games onwards. Connected objects without hassle for a couple of dollars a year sounds attractive, doesn’t it? Bonne chance!


ITS 2.0

November 9, 2012

Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) has been worked on for some twenty years. The idea to look at traffic and transportation using a holistic approach is great and rarely disputed. And the effects when ready would be fantastic! Efficiency, safety, sustainability and convenience, all the key promises of M2M, are there. But still the development is quite slow. Of course we need to remember that a lot of these issues are infrastructure related thus complex and time-consuming to develop. And a multimodal transportation approach require integrated organizations which is yet another complex thing to change. There are also many stakeholders and a lot of legislation involved.

But still I believe there are ways to drastically speed up the process: by leveraging the rapid development in technology in combination with innovation and pragmatism we could make things happen fast. Examples of key things to leverage are

  • the open data movement to allow entrepreneurs to drive innovation
  • the smartphones and pads to allow users of the transportation systems to access the information they need to make qualified decisions
  • crowd sourcing and other innovative ways to collect data
  • entrepreneurs to drive creativity, innovation and choice
A very good example of an ITS type application which is in place and leverage all of these is Waze. It is the world’s  fastest growing community-based traffic and navigation app and it is free. They claim 30 million users already and they even get help to edit the maps from their users. It started as an open-source mapping project in 2006 and Waze was founded 2008. The company is backed by serious investors and the business model is based on location-based advertising. The level of innovation is high and you can for example connect your Facebook account to see where your friends are.

Think about this: First came GPS devices integrated into cars for maybe 3-5K$, then came mobile GPS devices, often with better maps and features, for about 1/10 of the price and now this, for free. The power of what today’s technology and modern ways of working can do is immense. The services are continuously improved and by using one device for many things we even help save the planet.

I am focusing a lot on ITS and together with our partners and entrepreneurs we have numerous concepts and ideas (including dynamIQ parking™ which we launched at ITS World Congress) leveraging modern technology and ways of working to make drastic ITS progress. Let’s get going!


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