Machine to machine communication: beyond the fridge that e-mails you [research]



Machine to machine communication (also known as ‘the internet of things’) is one of those technologies that everyone says is very promising. How could it not be – when dumb objects become smart objects, that must be useful.

But still, we’re not seeing huge numbers of ‘smart machines’ on the markets. It’s striking that a lot of talk about M2M has trouble getting beyond the idea of smart meter and fridges that let you know when you run out of milk.

In the Belgian ICT magazine DataNews, a few industry watchers were quite disappointed after the recent edition of LeWeb 2012 – they pointed specifically to a dearth of mature (consumer) applications. “It’s just not here yet,” was their conclusion.

This sentiment is echoed in the B2B market. See this blog post by  Eric Goodness of Gartner wrote in January about 2012 and 2013 becoming a crucial time for M2M tech:

we found [...] that the biggest objection to machine to machine investment, across all geographies, is a lingering doubt that connecting OT and IT, or simply applying machine to machine connectivity to IT, will provide measurable business value.

This feedback is likely based on a lack of knowledge and ineffective solution positioning by providers.  In my inquiries I  hear user’s frustration with how their provider’s enable inflated expectations in the pre-sales phase only to back off claims  when confronted with the user’s real world requirement to establish an ROI expectation in a contract.  The gap is sometimes massive…and off-putting.

We wrote about some interesting m2m startups recently, including French Sigfox and Belgian Viloc (RFID solution for small business tools). Sigfox, it should be noted, developed not an application but rather a technology to serve as a backbone of machine to machine.

machine to machine mindmap

In a new report, Berg Insight highlighted a few markets where it thinks M2M will actually deliver tangible value over the next years:

Alarm systems. Today, only about 25 percent of European homes and small business alarms are connected to an alarm receiving centre. Most alarms today are the kind that just make a lot of noise to scare off intruders. But the appeal of connected alarms will increase with their ability to also warn for fire, water and gas leaks, and other problems.

Because reliable communication is so important for these alarms, Berg thinks they will increasingly rely on wireless communication instead of just connection through the copper wire.

Vehicle tracking and recovery. By 2015, all cars in Europe will have to be fitted with eCall, an automatic alarm calling service. Recently, car makers have promised that they would roll out car to car communication by 2015. Of course, a lot of cars in the higher segment will also feature GPS/GPRS tracking as a service, Berg thinks. All these applications require mobile connectivity.

Finally, Berg sees growth in niche applications such as monitoring lone workers (a niche that Viloc is already eying, CEO Tim Gestels told Whiteboard) and electronic bracelets to supervise criminal offenders remotely.

Read more here: Berg Insight

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About the author

Raf Weverbergh

Editor of whiteboard. Raf Weverbergh was a magazine journalist whose work appeared in magazines like Rolling Stone, Playboy, Mail on Sunday, Publico and South China Morning Post. He is the co-founder of FINN, a corporate communications agency where he advises startups and multinationals on their PR and Mustr, the easiest media database for PR professionals. You can contact him on Twitter, Linkedin or Skype (rafweverbergh).

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