I dealt with all the news at Mobile World Congress 2011 in the last MWC post but didn't really refer to all the lovely M2M discussions I've had during the week. Lots of really interesting stuff. One thing that came up is whether the consumer rather than the enterprise will in fact be the main driver of M2M. I'm not yet convinced but there is certainly an argument there.
There is a big assumption about M2M that it will be driven by big deals between MNOs and blue chip firms such as EDF, Glaxo SmithKline and BMW. Clearly deals for tens of millions of SIMs will make the market take off. However, to date, we've only really seen these kinds of deals where there has been some legal requirement such as eCall or automated meter reading in Sweden.
Glancing for a moment at AT&T figures for M2M units it's evident that there is a massive spike associated with the launch of the 3G Kindle. Slow and steady growth from traditional M2M applications gives way to rapid take off, courtesy of consumer adoption.
It's debatable whether a consumer electronics device such as the kindle should really count as M2M. However, even in the much safer territory of smart metering, consumers are in a position to drive this. UK Smart Metering Group offers a product that users can install themselves to allow them to track electricity usage. The benefits to utility companies of installing smart meters is evident (not least that there is no need to send someone to read the meter). However, they still delay on roll out. But it's not just individuals. Companies can elect to install smart meters at their own premises in order to monitor their energy usage and reduce their bills. Better than waiting for their utility to do it.
So, if you want rapid growth in M2M, the general rule is to find something that the end users will buy themselves. There are also, of course, some cases where enterprises have been in the forefront of pushing M2M. This is usually where it gives such an obvious and demonstrable benefit that companies would be idiotic to ignore it. Security is one application. The other is transport and logistics.
So that leaves us with three main drivers for M2M growth:
- ludicrously obvious business benefit
- consumer push
When thinking about which M2M applications will dominate you could do far worse than to just take those three characteristics.