Machine-2-Machine (M2M) opportunities in Indian telecom market

Telecom Lead India: Wireless networks (GSM/ CDMA) have become ubiquitous in nature and they are being increasingly used not just to connect people together but are also becoming all the more pervasive in connecting machines to each other. Even as operators across the world are struggling to enhance their non-voice based revenue streams, the emergence of Machine-2-Machine (M2M) communications is ushering a new world of services that they would be able to provide in the near future. M2M communications not only has the potential to expand the revenue horizons of the telecom operators across the world, but it also has the potential to make businesses much more efficient and effective. Other than that, M2M communications also has the potential to vastly improve the quality of life for the consumers.

M2M communications is based on the concept of connecting various kinds of machines together using available wireless networks so that they can talk to each other making life a lot more simpler for not only consumers but also for businesses. This concept relies on a network of sensors and modules embedded in machine that we normally use and these machines are programmed to communicate with other machines under pre-set conditions.

Imagine, if you could use your cell phone to check whether the garage doors are closed or for that matter if your car could talk to the adjoining parking lots to check out which lot has ample free parking slots available and be able to guide you there; refrigerators ordering coke cans; remote vending machines talking to the operations managers to provide a position of the stock that is available and when do they need replenishment. There are many such applications that are made possible due to the advent of M2M communications.

This indicates the convergence of smart devices which creates numerous opportunities for businesses and consumers alike. It is expected that within the next few years billions of devices will be connected with each other through a vast array of sensors and networks. Thereby, providing digital intelligence and connectivity to almost all commercial and industrial product and appliances extending the pervasiveness of the internet into most aspects of our lives. This certainly seems like the next inflection point, which has in store numerous possibilities for different strata’s of the society.

While consumers will benefit in the long run, the immediate benefits of M2M will be accrued by businesses that support consumers. For instance a consumer may not want to “talk to the washing machine”, but manufacturers can get key insight into consumer behavior patterns when it comes to washing machines. Washing machines that have integrated M2M devices will help manufacturers understand the usage patterns of consumers that will help them make their machines more reliable and user friendly. Manufacturers can also get a visibility into the performance of the washing machine and be able to notice potential wear and tear so that they could notify the consumers well in advance that the washing machine needs a service. This will help them retain customers and reduce the overall cost of ownership of the machines besides helping their businesses reduce costs.

Similarly, a fleet operator or a car leasing company can significantly benefit from M2M technologies. Today electronic equipment and gadgetry forms a major portion of costs for automobile companies. Depending upon the cost of the car and the features offered by the manufacturer almost every kind of information pertaining to the vehicle can be made available to the driver. This includes aspects such as tire pressure, engine oil change and replenishment, engine malfunction information, impending impact information, etc.

However, if such information and much  more complex data from various critical components of the vehicle are available to the lease rental company on an almost real time basis using M2M communications technology, it will be able to significantly minimize unforeseen risk factors associated with vehicle maintenance, which is normally a cost factored into their pricing. Leasing companies will be able to take corrective measures well in advance so that the damage to the vehicles due to driver ignorance is minimized.

Besides reducing maintenance costs for leasing companies significantly, M2M also has found some novel applications as far as the automotive sector is concerned. For instance, in Europe, M2M technology is prolifically used in enabling “eCall” services.  eCall is a European initiative intended to bring rapid assistance to motorists involved in a collision anywhere in the European Union. Under this project a M2M device is installed in all vehicles that will automatically dial 112 in the event of a serious road accident, and wirelessly send airbag deployment and impact sensor information, as well as GPS coordinates to local emergency agencies. According to certain estimates eCall speeds up emergency response times by 40 percent in urban areas and by 50 percent in rural areas.

Moreover, there are M2M applications whose benefits can be directly assessed by consumers alike, pertaining to the automobile sector. In the recent past, there were new products developed by the application providers based on M2M technologies, which provide visibility into more practical aspects that are socially aligned. In some countries vehicles are fitted with alcohol breath analyzers. When the driver submits a breath analyzer test, the device sends out wireless alerts to the emergency response teams and family members about the inability of the driver to drive the vehicle safely depending upon the alcohol content. Family members and emergency response teams are notified about the situation and the correct course of action is determined. In some cases, the vehicle is rendered powerless so that an intoxicated person is not allowed to drive the vehicle.

For OEMs M2M technologies open up significant opportunities and advantages. OEMs in the past resorted to end-user repair and maintenance service agreements which were often cumbersome, inefficient and cost intensive. However, with M2M technologies, it is now possible to gather information about one’s own equipment while it is in operation in the customers’ applications and environment. This opens up numerous doors for revenue generating services and possibilities. M2M enables networked machines to develop statistics on operating performance, predictive diagnostics, downtime analysis and a host of related monitoring and control information. Actionable decisions can be made quickly with clear cost-saving advantages.

Other applications include healthcare monitoring on a real time basis and senior citizen management. Patients who are not under continuous monitoring are at greater risk as far as cardio-vascular diseases and conditions are concerned as they normally do not receive immediate help. M2M technologies can help care givers and health practitioners a real time view of the patients’ condition at any given point in time. In case of an adverse event, monitors that are attached to the patients’ body can immediately send out SMS information that helps the teams to respond quickly to help the patients.

Clearly, while these examples are just demonstrations of the numerous possibilities that M2M devices present, one thing stands out very apparently. The day is not far when each equipment is connected to each other and are communicating with each other opening up new revenue and service offerings  for the enterprises.

Ashish Gulati, country manager, Telit Wireless Solutions

[email protected]