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.


M2M over fixed lines (PSTN)

November 22, 2011
Machine-to-Machine solutions have been around since analog modems came to market and millions of elevators, alarms, nurse phones, vending machines, franking machines, fax machines, recycling machines and level gauges utilize the fixed telephone networks (PSTN) to communicate. I have been trying for years to collect data on the number of machines connected to PSTN but it is information very hard to find. Operators typically don’t know what is behind the first socket of a PSTN installation and it is common that phones and machines share subscription.The two key limiting factors for M2M over PSTNare obviously that machines have to be connected by wire and the cost involved. The PSTN subscription alone is typically 100-300$/year which immediately prevents massive roll-out. The situation differs from country to country but it is often so that cost for new installations has to be carried by the subscriber and in some markets it takes forever to get a new subscription.Mobile networks rapidly grew to cover most of the geographies, modules were developed for none-phone usage and some operators started quite early on to build a new wireless generation of M2M solutions. This together with the massive Internet forces created a mobile M2M hype around year 2000 and our VC, BrainHeart Capital, invested in Wireless Maingate and Wireless Car at the time. I think most would agree that the ideas were great but it was far too early since technology, networks and services where not ready enough to fly.

GSM was developed to support packet switched data communications (GPRS) but a quite well hidden secret is that GSM also supports the circuit switched data communications (CSD) used in the traditional fixed phone networks (PSTN). CSD made it possible to move terminals from PSTN to GSM-networks which still is an attractive approach in networks where CSD is enabled. Typical usage has been encrypted phones and mobile fax. Still today this is an attractive way to move fixed terminals to a mobile network to save money, add flexibility, enable wireless offices or to enable fixed line operators to remove parts of PSTN that never can be upgraded to broadband and/or don’t have subscribers enough to carry the infrastructure cost. There is an important  difference between moving an existing PSTN terminal to a mobile network and to replace an existing PSTN terminal with an IP-enabled mobile terminal. Reasons for moving terminals include taking advantage of made investments in products and education, a desire to make changes step by step and last but not least that some applications like fax is technically very difficult if not impossible to do over a packet switched network (like GPRS). On top of technical arguments are things like the need to call a place and not an individual. Mobile phones are personal and fixed phones often shared.

The PSTN networks are on their way to be replaced by mobile networks but the situation differs a lot from country to country. In Sweden TeliaSonera has started to take down PSTN in rural parts of the country replacing the subscriptions with mobile alternatives. At the same time subscribers leave their fixed phone subscriptions behind and it was recently proposed that the concept of area codes are taken away to mirror the fact that the fixed phone is going away. The number of fixed line subscribers in Sweden are 2,5 million, almost half of ten years ago, compared to 13 million mobile subscribers. The concept of mobile one phone offices once invented by Spring Mobil in Sweden is now very popular in Northern Europe. By moving the switch to the network and removing the fixed phone infrastructure companies save a lot of cost and increase accessibility and flexibility. But the fixed infrastructure was often used also for other things that has to be taken care of including fax, door opening systems, conference phones, alarms and franking machines. I think the one phone offices will continue to spread and this will be the single biggest market for moving terminals from PSTN to mobile networks over the next couple of years. But it has to be underlined that it is not a simple thing to do since both fixed and mobile networks behave differently and many of the fixed network devices use odd protocols for communication. Most difficult of all is fax since it uses a very sensitive protocol.

In developing countries we often see fixed networks with limited coverage and mobile networks gaining momentum due to speed and cost of deployment. Most of these networks are still 2G and in combination with extensive use of paper mobile fax is a popular CSD application. But generally speaking I think GPRS will be the predominant connectivity method for M2M applications in developing countries many years ahead.

Moving devices from PSTN to mobile networks is an important part of the M2M industry. Since it seems like nobody has good enough data on the size of the M2M over PST market I would appreciate any data you could share with me on connected machines to PSTN and I hope one day to be able to share a decent overview helping us all to address this part of the M2M market which I often refer to as the narrow band data opportunity.

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