All IoT solutions span at least three industries – collection of data (sensors, gateways, datacom, telecom, etc), managing data (cleaning, matching, analysing, combining, etc), distributing information (IoT value is created when a piece of wanted data is delivered to the right place at the right time, i.e. apps, signs, ERP systems, warning lamps, etc). In the early days of IoT clever people were able to put together all these things to solve a specific problem for a customer or even a number of customers in similar situation. The problem is that any single piece in an IoT solution is quite complicated, so in order to make a really good solution all bits and pieces need to be top-notch. If you need a CO2 sensor you will have to turn to someone who offers the right functionality, quality and price for you solution, at any given time. If you need to have the wanted information from your solution delivered in an app, you need to provide your customer with a top notch app with great UX at any given time. If not your entire solution will look bad in the eyes of the users, even if it’s actually the best one in the market.
Today’s initiatives are signs of a developing industry. Building blocks are put together into candidate platforms and architectures. As always most of them will fail over time but still it is an important part of growing up. Let’s look at a couple of recent M2M “teenager activities”:
- Telefónica and Telit cooperate in M2M Air, providing managed M2M services globally
- Etisalat group just joined KPN, NTT DOCOMO, Rogers Communications, SingTel, Telefonica, Telstra and VimpelCom in the M2M Multi-Operator Alliance
- Ericsson and SAP announced a partnership at MWC and talk about the M2M Eco-system
- Satellite operator Orbcomm acquired MobileNet who provides custom mobile data solutions for the heavy equipment and railroad industries
- Wipro and Axeda announced a strategic alliance to provide services and end-to-end solutions to help organizations connect with any asset, leverage machine data to enhance business processes and develop new innovative enterprise applications.
- TeliaSonera, France Telecom-Orange and Deutsche Telekom collaborate to increase the quality of service and interoperability for machine-to-machine (M2M) communications
- Claro Brazil joins a growing list of Jasper Wireless operator partners including AT&T, América Móvil, NTT DOCOMO, Telefónica, VimpelCom, KPN, SingTel, Etisalat, Telstra, Rogers, CSL and more
- Several operators including TeliaSonera, Swisscom, XL and have signed up with Ericsson to use DCP for improved M2M service delivery
- AT&T has several M2M initiatives including AT&T Control Center together with partners like Jasper Wireless, Axeda, Sierra Wireless and SensorLogic.
- Airbiquity and China Unicom are teaming up to provide telematics services for the Chinese automotive market
- Vodafone Vehicle Connect and Towers Watson’s ‘DriveAbility’ programme will accelerate the pace at which insurers can get new services to market, and at a competitive cost
So operator’s M2M business is growing quite rapidly but from small numbers. In a fairly well-developed M2M market like Sweden, M2M subscriptions are roughly 20% of all mobile subscriptions today. But still most of the market potential is untouched. Policy-driven markets like smart meters, big global markets like connected cars and consumer oriented stand-alone solutions are all fairly well addressed. But small business is big business also when it comes to M2M, and these companies are only addressed by independent Service Enablers, developers, integrators and turn-key solution providers. The alliances, partnerships and M&A activities aren’t reaching that far. A company connecting 100 of their “things” per year in maybe 25 countries across the globe is simply of no interest to any of the large players. The same goes for ,a company who want to develop a specific application to connect 25 of their “things” in a country, unless they are filthy rich.
Success in SME will come from successful platform support for specialist service enablers, developers, integrators and turn-key solution providers. That has little to do with technical issues and a lot to do with trust and business models. This has to be resolved before M2M will grow up.