M2M doping

May 27, 2013

freeimage-3771421-webMany of us are convinced that M2M, Internet of Things or whatever we want to call it, will happen big ways and will bring massive change to most industries. The part of it easiest to measure is things connected using a mobile subscription and it grows with some 30% per annum. Good growth but from small numbers. Since standard mobile subscriptions sometimes are used to connect things it’s hard to say exactly how many mobile M2M connections we have but it should be close to 150M. And an absolute majority of these are 2G – probably still around 90%.

150M subscriptions is a lot and annual growth 30% normally sends sales directors on President Club trips to Hawaii. But there are a two issues I would like bring attention to.

A big part of the subscriptions comes from connected meters. Connected meters are great and enables smart metering, smart grids, new services, etc. But most of the meters are connected due to political decisions and not business decisions. I called the combination of regulation and public stimulation packages for “M2M doping” at a speech at M2M+ in Milan earlier in May which triggered an interesting discussion. Personally I  believe the political push for smart meters around the world is very good for the society and obviously for the M2M industry too. My point is that people in the M2M industry must remember that a big chunk of M2M business so far comes from artificial promotion and not genuine market demand. I believe meters would have become smart also without the doping but it would have taken much longer time. Let’s not fool ourselves!

The next wave of doping is eCall and similar public initiatives. The idea to save lives and minimize injuries due to car accidents by sending an SMS with position when the airbag explodes is over ten years old. Me and my colleagues at BrainHeart Capital invested in Wireless Car at the time together with Volvo, Telia and others, and OnStar was developed in parallel by GM and others in the US. It looked very promising until the owners of the connected cars with the airbag service had to start pay for the service themselves. Very few did and Wireless Car and OnStar, both still live and kicking, had to go after adjacent business opportunities. I’m not saying it’s wrong now when politicians are pushing this to the market, I just want to remind everyone in our industry that this is “doping” and not the result of genuine market forces. Interestingly enough the car industry is very active in Telematics again, with visions and plans often quite similar to the first wave of plans ten-fifteen years ago. But due to the technical approach chosen for eCall these plans might be separated from implementation of eCall. Transport is supposed to be the biggest segment for M2M 2013 and it will be interesting to see if the “built-in approach” will beat the “BYOD-approach” that won last time.

Mobile operators have taken the lead in promoting M2M. All operators want to exploit the expected growth of subscriptions but most if not all of them are uncertain of exactly which role to play. The fact that the M2M business still is a tiny fraction of the operator’s business together with the widespread uncertainty of which role to play could make operators become less aggressive and take on a more cautious “wait-and-see” approach. I definitely don’t vote in favor for such approach and suggest more concrete collaboration with selected partners to conquer industry by industry. Specialist service enablers are key to such efforts and in a perfect world operator device connectivity platforms should be delivered with an á la carte menu of specialist service enablers for different industries. But until that happens I have to continue introducing the members of Swedish M2M Service Enablers to mobile operators one by one.


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!


EU moves forward towards EU-wide eCall solution

December 28, 2012

freeimage-5240129The European Union took yet another step towards an interoperable EU-wide eCall solution when the Commission just adopted a Regulation which establishes the specifications for the upgrading of the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) infrastructure required for the proper receipt and handling of eCalls. eCall is a key initiative to meet the target of halving the overall number of road deaths in the European Union by 2020 starting from 2010.

According to EU: Road safety is an issue of major concern across the entire European Union and for all of its inhabitants: 500 million citizens in the 27 Member States use more than 230 million vehicles on over 5 million km of roads. The purpose of the interoperable EU-wide eCall initiative is to introduce in all vehicles in Europe the minimum functionalities needed to ensure adequate handling of the emergency calls by the emergency response services. Currently, road journeys exceed 100 million annually across the various Member States and they are increasing due to further consolidation of the European Union (through the free movement of goods, people and services). Road safety is one of the major policy issues of Transport Policy in the European Union. In 2009 around 35,000 people were killed and more than 1.5 million injured in about 1.15 million traffic accidents on EU roads. In addition to the tragedy of loss of life and injury, this also carries an economic burden representing approximately EUR 130 billion of cost for society.

I believe this is a typical area where agreements on a standard infrastructure makes a lot of sense. We will save lives, pain, money, time and the environment while establishing an infrastructure which will support the development of the EU region for many years. A common PSAP could obviously be used for more than eCall and will set a standard for certain international services which will help us in the critical effort to make M2M an international business. 


eCall – life saver or business enabler?

July 3, 2012

The European Parliament just adopted a resolution where they call on the European Commission and Member States to make sure eCall is installed in every new vehicle by 2015. The Parliament consider this resolution a major step towards the roll-out of eCall in Europe that will have a significant impact on citizens’ safety.

This is certainly a good intention and with 35-40.000 Europeans killed and over a million injured in road accidents per year something needs to be done. But it is not obvious that eCall will make a big difference in that regard. Some countries don’t have national response centers which will make implementation more difficult and similar services from car manufacturers haven’t really become commercially popular. I guess the road towards less road traffic accidents starts with better drivers, better cars and better roads but I obviously hope eCall will save a lot of lives.

But connecting all new cars in a similar fashion could potentially make a difference in other ways. If some data would be made more openly available we could see a lot of new innovative services made available to drivers, owners, insurance companies and government agencies. Imagine apps like the Volvo App managing the parking heater etc becoming available for all cars, maintenance data becoming available to third party service companies, real time position data available to ITS systems, etc. And if some of these services really would take off the vehicle M2M retrofit market would be huge. We all know it by now: data is the gold of M2M.


M2M in cars

January 23, 2012

The car industry was early adopter of M2M solutions. Wireless systems where the car called for assistance in case of an accident was introduced early on. Two major early initiatives where OnStar formed by GM together with EDS and Hughes already 1995 and Wireless Car started 1999 by Volvo, Telia and Ericsson. GM started to use an analog OnStar solution in Cadillac DeVille, Seville and Eldorado models from fall 1996 which created a lot of discussions and interest in both the car and telecom industries. The idea of connected cars was and still is a great idea and the connections would be used for a lot of great things. Initial reports talked about the rapidly increasing number of cars equipped with the service and entrepreneurs, car manufacturers and investors (including me) invested in this promising idea. But after a while, when car owners were supposed to pay for the service which typically was delivered for free at purchase, usage dropped significantly. Exciting visions surfaced and most was based on a 3G broadband connection to the car to download music and movies to the in-car entertainment systems, maps to the in-car navigation systems, etc. We do actually enjoy music, video and navigation in cars today but most often with our own devices brought to the car and the car manufacturers more focused on connectivity for these devices than in-car systems. It’s actually quite similar to the BYOD (bring your own device) development we see in enterprises today.

It has taken the industry 10-15 years to come up with cost efficient and attractive solutions for connected cars and today OnStar is a subsidiary of GM and Wireless Car is owned by the Volvo Group reporting into Volvo IT. OnStar claims more than 6M subscribers now and their primary network partners are Verizon (US), Bell Mobility (Canada) and China Telecom. They offer a range of services including emergency, vehicle diagnostics, directions and stolen vehicle tracking. Their plans are typically between 20 and 30 US$/m. Wireless Car of today describes themselves as an automotive telematics service provider (TSP) providing manufacturers of cars and commercial vehicles with customized telematics services to end customers world-wide. Among their reference customers are Volvo Cars, Volvo Trucks, Volvo Construction Equipment and BMW.

Looking at these two M2M-in-cars pioneers is interesting: they are both in business, they are integrated in GM and Volvo Group presumably for strategic reasons and they have both tried different technical solutions, business models and focus areas. But even though they started at more or less the same place, they ended up as quite different businesses. While Wireless Car is more of a generic telematics provider world-wide, OnStar remain focused on the cars with a quite rich and innovative portfolio (I love the stolen vehicle slow down feature) in targeted geographies.

Connecting vehicles to the Internet is required to address a whole range of issues including community wide ones like sustainability, safety and security as well as issues for owners and drivers of vehicles like cost of ownership, efficiency and convenience. The commercial vehicles are in most cases ahead of cars when it comes to being connected because of a combination of legislation and business benefits. The consumer fleet is not really connected yet due to a combination of difficulties to see good affordable deals and availability of good alternatives for some of the needs like music and navigation. But I think this is changing now since the solutions are becoming affordable, innovative use of the connectivity together with apps on smartphones and pads gives users very concrete advantages (i.e. turn on my heater) and last but not least government policymakers push for connected cars. The eCall project in EU for example aims at having a fully functional road assistance service in place across all EU countries by 2015 and connecting the cars is of course a requirement. The emergency data is automatically sent from the vehicle to a local emergency center and the aim is faster response to minimize death and injuries of people involved. And this is serious: according to CARE (EU road accidents database) some 35.000 people die and 1,5 million are injured in road accidents per annum in Europe (the leading cause of death in EU for people under 50 years old) to be compared with some 1.500 deaths in rail accidents and some 50 on an average in air accidents.

The transport industry is my personal favorite M2M market since it is huge and complex, the three M2M promises (efficiency, sustainability, safety/security) are all very relevant, the challenges are humongous and we have a common vision and framework in place with ITS.


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