M2M: the Internet of 50 billion devices
Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communications is a healthy sector that’s expanding rapidly and generating significant revenues for mobile network operators (MNOs). Devices outnumber subscribers by an order of magnitude, but the term doesn’t do justice to the concept and the market it represents.
By BobEmmerson, European Editor of M2M Magazine
rose by any other name would smell as sweet (Shakespeare), but we really need a definition in order to convey the breadth and depth of the M2M concept. This one (edited slightly) comes from Numerex: “M2M uses a device (sensor, meter, etc.) to capture an ‘event’ (temperature, inventory level, etc.), which is relayed through a network (wireless, wired orhybrid) to an application (software program), that translates the captured event into meaningful information (e.g., items need to be restocked).” There are many more devices than people so we are talking about an enormous market in which numerous opportunities are opening up for vendors, solution providers, systems integrators and MNOs. It’s opening up because M2M technology will increasingly underpinkey areas of the economy, for example, the smart (green) grid, networked homes, healthcare in the home and transportation (usage-based auto insurance and the emergency eCall system for cars).
a middleware platform, hence the recent partnership announcements between AT&T and Jasper Wireless, KPN and Jasper Wireless, and T-Mobile and Sierra Wireless. Vodafone has developed a platform, whichit launched in July 2009, and both Orange and Telenor have their own platforms. Migrating from being an indirect player to a direct player like Orange and Telenor will take time, so we can expect to see the process speeding up via acquisitions, e.g. platform vendors will be bought. MNOs also need systems integration resources to become a direct player in the enterprise space.
The value chainThe M2M value chain is somewhat complex and a typical solution can involve five or more vendors. Sensors are used to measure a particular parameter and they can operate independently, e.g. switch lights on and off and they can communicate directly with other sensors over short distances. However, an embedded module is normally used to transmit the measured data and in a wide-area wireless scenariothe communications medium will be a cellular network. Application software running on an M2M platform is then used to convert raw data into useful information. For example, the application might display the location of vehicles on a map or it could aggregate the input of tens of thousands of smart meters and transfer the result to a back office billing system. There are numerous verticalapplications and they broadly divide into six categories: Telematics/Fleet
MNOs play a pivotal role
Until recently most MNOs have taken an indirect, albeit pivotal role in the value chain. Their networks transport the data traffic from the sensors to the back-office systems, i.e. they carry the bits. But M2M technology is moving into consumer sectors such as smart meters in the home, so the numbersshoot up and there is an emerging business case for a direct role and thereby a more profitable position in the value chain. However, in order to be a direct player, MNOs need
Win-Win / JAN 2010
Management; Consumer; Healthcare; Energy/Utilities; Security and Industrial/Building Control.
Sensors need to be powered and batteries are often employed, but atechnology known as energy harvesting takes the necessary power from its surroundings: for example, from linear motion, light, or differences in temperature. The amount of energy obtained in this way is enough to send a wireless signal a short distance (10 to 30 meters inside buildings) and perform a task, e.g. turn on a light. Efficient energy converters, ultra-lowpower electronic circuitry and a...