The Internet of Things is expanding dramatically, and yet we are only at the very start of the machine-to-machine (M2M) communications revolution. What will it take to realize its potential?

The key to unlocking the value of the Internet of Things for more companies and sectors is the emergence of solution providers capable of putting together all of the many components of M2M: devices, networks, platforms and software. These providers are characterized by their global reach and their ability to mobilize an ecosystem of M2M innovators. They are now moving M2M beyond its initial drive to connect endpoints to focus on how organizations can use their M2M data and generate positive return on investment.

In several industries, early M2M adopters are demonstrating how M2M technologies can improve efficiency and enable new business models. For example, M2M devices are already being used to monitor expensive cargo in transit, to track high-value machinery in the field, to allow remote diagnostics and system upgrades of wirelessly connected vehicles, and to improve urban planning. From 195 million global M2M connections in 2013, there could have as many as 250 million by the end of this year, according to GSM Association.

Holistic Strategies

The lesson for any organization contemplating M2M is that a holistic strategy is required from the very beginning. M2M experts can help businesses see the big picture and focus on current and future business goals. These M2M professionals will be able to identify a complete solution that spans services, platforms and applications. They will also have the skills and experience to select, build, integrate, deploy and manage specific M2M technologies.

This is no easy feat, since M2M deployments often need to overcome multiple challenges. A new deployment may demand innovations in platform, software, devices, batteries, data storage, analytics and business intelligence, as well as changes in business processes. A competent solutions provider will be at the center of an ecosystem of innovators, all working together to develop and certify M2M devices, platforms and applications and ensure global connectivity.

One innovation that has significantly accelerated M2M adoption is AT&T’s global SIM card, launched two years ago. A single card with global coverage, it provides a simple, single-carrier solution that lets global manufacturers build M2M connectivity into products that may end up nearly anywhere in the world.

AT&T is also among the tech sector leaders working on standardization as a founding member of the recently formed Industrial Internet Consortium. Developing and approving the standards to enable highly integrated M2M communications and the Internet of Things could take some years, but it is vital if we are to deliver the promise of M2M for society as a whole.