M2M, sensors and all that

Having spent a week at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Rodrigo Parreira looks beyond the plethora of new, elegant, cool and sleek tablets, smartphones and other devices on display, and the complaints of telecommunications operators, to ask “what is the killer trend that tech industry strategists should dwell on for the next couple of years?”

M2M - machine-to-machine M2M - machine-to-machine

My guess is M2M.  Machine-to-Machine will be the next big change, and it is very clearly advancing over the horizon. Essentially M2M allows a device such as a shelf sensor to capture an event, for example stock level, and send that information via a network, which could be wireless, mobile, wired or hybrid, to an application that will tell the end user something useful - the shelf needs refilling.

In the past the same information would have been sent, or polled, to a data warehouse where it would have been pulled out by a BI solution.  The point is that with the right app, my mobile device can talk directly with the shelf.

In my view, this exchange of data and information between what used to be passive devices and systems has the potential to revolutionise the IT landscape. Coupled with other trends like mobility and LTE (Long-Term Evolution relates to the eventual upgrade to 4G), along with increasing cloud computing uptake, the potential for technologists to create applications that automate processes and increase efficiency in the use of multiple resources is almost limitless.

This trend also has significant implications for the telecommunications sector.  This is an infrastructure-intensive sector that has been stressed by formidable capital demands associated with several waves of technology evolution/substitution (from 2G to 2.5G, then 3G and now LTE) – and a significant adoption of M2M and sensor networks has the potential to add even more pressure to invest.

Primarily this is because the volume of data to be transported would increase significantly, while real time connectivity and high performance would be essential. On top of that infrastructure management and the challenges associated with as yet unknown security threats will also require major investment.

First however, there is a real question mark over the role that the telecoms industry will play in this emerging scenario. Many analysts suggest telcos seeking to add value to their service portfolios need to move closer to applications, develop OTT strategies (over the top services like Skype, Gmail Chat and Hotmail) and incorporate IT Services offerings.  But this throws up even more questions.

Can telcos really afford to divert financial and human resources away from core connectivity and communication platform provision? Does it even make sense for a consolidating telecom sector to move away from its core business? Is connectivity a basic commodity or is it the backbone for an intelligent network integrating people, things and processes, which will be at the heart of private and public administration and the origin of all value creation in a world to come?

Of course all will become clear in the fullness of time, but CXOs need to ask themselves how M2M will benefit their businesses and start to address the infrastructure challenges that strike at the heart of M2M, and the competitive advantage it could deliver.

Coming soon -  we'll be looking at EU Cyber security proposals, what CXOs should be addressing when considering managed IT services. We'll also be touching on what links the Rolling Stones to private cloud design and implementation considerations!

Tags machine to machine, IT Trends, M2M, Business Strategy

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