M2M can radically transform your business or bury it in additional costs and complexity. Aligning this powerful technology with your business goals from the very beginning can make all the difference.
M2M might just be the most important development in business technology since the Internet. That’s a bold statement to be sure, but when you consider the sheer potential of harnessing the information that every device in your organization is capable of generating, it’s easy to get a little giddy contemplating the opportunities.
Beyond the immediate benefits such as cost savings and increased efficiency, M2M holds the promise of completely new business insights based on a massive data set that was previously inaccessible to decision makers.
What is M2M?
M2M is a catch-all term that simply means Machine-to-Machine communication. Tons of machines have been doing M2M for decades. The Internet itself is one big M2M instance. So why the sudden excitement over it? Two reasons: 1) While machines communicating with each other is not new, the kinds of machines that are capable of this communication has recently exploded and now includes everything from your home thermostat to a tiny but critical pressure sensor buried deep in your car’s engine. 2) Enabling all of these devices to capture and communicate information comes with the assumption that enterprises, both large and small, can learn meaningful facts from this data and use it to improve their operations in very specific ways, e.g. cost-savings, efficiency improvement, deeper customer behavioural understanding, etc.
To get a sense of how fundamentally M2M changes the landscape, consider how the technology has changed the way we think about electricity. When local utilities started installing Smart Meters to measure residential electrical consumption, it marked the first time that the utility and the homeowner could see how much electricity was being used in real time. This had several immediate and profound effects. Utilities could create a new Time-of-Use billing model that more accurately tied usage to the cost of generation. At the same time, it empowered homeowners to save money by shifting their consumption to less costly times of day. Finally, it ended the need for meter reading, a time-consuming, manual and sometimes inaccurate way of acquiring data. M2M gives the utility and the homeowner the information they need to make meaningful changes.
The promise and the peril
There’s a reason why M2M and Big Data are so often mentioned in the same conversations. M2M, due to its sheer size (keep in mind, machines out-number humans 28 to 1) is the “Big” in Big Data. Depending on the size of the enterprise and the number of M2M-enabled devices, the amount of data available for capture and analysis can range from a few hundred MB per week to hundreds of TB per day. Before you turn on that fire hose, you had better be wearing your rain suit.
Christian Magsisi, Sales Lead at Architech, sums up the risks concisely: “The potential of M2M to transform business can’t be overstated. But if you don’t plan and execute with vision, you may simply end up empowering your machines, not your people.”
Understanding the playing field
There are four distinct pillars in any M2M implementation:
- Connectivity: This is how your individual devices “talk” to each other and to your M2M platform. Connections can be both wired and wireless. Wireless connections can be free, in the form of Wi-Fi, or paid in the form of carrier-provided 3G cellular data.
- Platform: M2M requires specialized software that enables an enterprise to gather data, perform analysis, integrate existing business systems and build specific apps (both mobile and desktop) so that end-users can get to the information they need quickly and efficiently.
- Distribution/maintenance: You might already own the devices you want to connect via M2M, but odds are you’re going to need more. The right choice of distributor not only helps you source and acquire these devices, they’ll also create maintenance schedules and services to keep your network of machines working ‘round the clock.
- Software developer: The first three pillars are essential, but they can’t deliver any results for the business without the right apps to bring them all together. It would be great if every M2M platform came bundled with all of the apps you’ll ever need. The reality is, however, that your business is unique and you’re going to need unique solutions. The right developer combines their knowledge of your M2M platform with your business goals. This ensures the development of apps that fill many needs, not just one.
As you might expect, there are potential pitfalls that can crop up in any of the four pillars:
- Your connectivity might not be optimized for something as simple as roaming fees, leading massive and unnecessary mobile data charges.
- Your M2M platform might not be as versatile as you were led to believe creating problems when it comes to connecting your legacy systems.
- Failing to find the right distributor can mean inferior devices that deliver no data, or worse, deliver the wrong data.
- You could spend a lot of money on developing apps that might achieve one or two tasks but which ignore a series of opportunities that could have enhanced both their lifespan and efficiency.
Partnering with a creative, innovation-driven software company that has deep experience with all four M2M pillars at the very beginning of your M2M journey is one way to mitigate the risks and reap the enormous benefits M2M offers.
Contact us to see what’s possible for your organization today.