At last week’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Machine-to-Machine (M2M) applications and the Internet of Things (IoT) were the topics of much discussion. As a result, I’ve pulled together some announcements from the show into an overview of the current landscape.
M2M is expanding from its behind-the-scenes origins into a consumer-facing present and future. When you read about M2M and today’s connected devices, think in the context of four important developments:
1. New industries are connecting
Industrial – Until now, the industrial applications of M2M — such as manufacturing, logistics, transportation, heavy equipment and agriculture — have generated most of the revenue. As Shiraz Hasan of the AT&T M2M Center of Excellence pointed out a few weeks ago, there is plenty of opportunity for unique offerings that go far beyond simple connectivity. There is vast potential for tracking assets and improving supply chains through remote management from anywhere in the world.
Medical – As fast as medical devices are evolving, the need to transmit the data they collect is growing as well. Emerson InterMetro is rolling out “smart” mobile workstations that allow caregivers to access treatment information and update patient medical records at patients’ bedsides. Wearables were all the rage at the Consumer Electronics show in January, including devices for fitness tracking, emergency response and vital information.
Automotive – “Connected car” is big. We announced that three new companies – Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., Red Bend, and QuickPlay Media – will start working with us in the AT&T Drive Studio, building out chipsets, infotainment, remote management of automotive software and video on demand for car manufacturers. The Jasper Connected Car Cloud will power our worldwide platform for developing services over LTE.
Internet of Things – This is where the pyramid gets wide, as opportunities grow to connect everyday objects like lights, refrigerators, toothbrushes and thermostats in the connected home.
Naturally, manufacturers and users want connected products, but the next obstacle is connecting globally without having to work out agreements with dozens of carriers. Our global SIM overcomes that obstacle and has helped us triple our global M2M customer base in just two years.
2. Everyone benefits from M2M connections
Connected devices benefit anybody who uses them for finding, tracking, monitoring and managing assets remotely, especially in applications like the connected home, where they are able to communicate with one another to accomplish tasks with little user intervention. There is real value to businesses, consumers, and government in connecting devices to save time, increase convenience, reduce costs, and increase accuracy.
3. Data analytics will reveal opportunities
The connections are valuable, and so is all of the data that connected devices send and receive. The companies that succeed in M2M are able to use that data effectively instead of being overwhelmed by it, but most organizations are going to need some help.
AT&T and IBM recently agreed to join forces in helping cities and utilities use big data analytics to better manage their infrastructure. The project will focus initially on helping city governments and midsize utilities analyze large quantities of data from assets like mass transit vehicles, utility meters and video cameras. As a result, cities may be able to better evaluate patterns and manage their equipment to reduce costs.
4. Security always on the forefront
I keep coming back to it, but just like humans, machines that pass messages back and forth need security too. The Federal Trade Commission notes that “more things than people are connected to the Internet,” and with that many more connections will come the need for more heightened security. The opportunities for M2M security are growing, whether its better managing the keys used by devices for authentication or decentralizing device connections.