Need to “Monitor” Anything?

When people often think about an M2M solution, they imagine massive "mission control" systems controlling tens of thousands (or more) device in the field.  These systems require massive investment, massive infrastructure and many skilled people to deliver.  To a certain extent, this has been an accurate way of thinking as many of the early adopters in the M2M space were very large corporations with very large remote deployments.  But, what about the little guy?  Does an M2M solution benefit companies that may only have 5 assets to monitor?  If it is the right solution, an M2M solution can have as much (or more) impact on the bottom line for a small business as it does for a Fortune 500 customer.  This posting offers ideas on how M2M can help your business, even if you think you are too small!  Finally - If you work for a carrier, please see the special note at the bottom of this posting.

Here are some key criteria to think about, regardless of the solution:

Hosted or not Hosted?  Many larger organizations have made a conscious decision to move a lot of their work into the "cloud".  For most, this wasn't a mandatory decision, as there were able to successfully handle the processes internally, but they have found more value in cloud-based services.  For smaller businesses, the cloud is the way to go, for a few reasons.  First, cloud services usually provide a level of redundancy and availability that is simply not reasonably available to most small businesses.  Next, many small businesses have a "mis-mash" of hardware technology (laptops, desktops, tablets), and cloud-based computing allows for a common platform easily across all devices.  Finally, for many businesses, the IT administrator is also the same person who makes coffee and does the payroll, so it makes sense not to overburden them with additional duties.  So, for most small enterprises, a hosted solution makes the most sense.

Simple and scalable  While many small businesses will choose to stay small, many wish to grow their businesses into much larger enterprises.  So, it is imperative that any solution allows a company to have the ease of use today, and the ability to rapidly grow its functionality / number of users as the business grows.

Integration with what you currently have   For some small businesses, inventory is done either in the brain of the owner or on a spiral notebook, so integrating a new system might not be too difficult.  For others, it is important that systems can integrate into their POS system, as well as their Accounting packages.

Use Remote Monitoring to help your business

 Many businesses (regardless of the size) have a significant number of assets deployed in places other than their own buildings.  They may be rented to someone else, they may be in use on a permanent basis by one of their customers (and serviced by the company) or they may be being used by one of their own staff at a remote location.  Regardless of how they are being used, monitoring applications provide real time information on a variety of things (ranging from storage tank levels, temperature of an object, levels of consummable supplies such as ink, paper or parts and the status of a devices).  In addition to being able to be alarmed of certain conditions, businesses are often able to perform simple functions (like resetting devices) that help eliminate unwanted downtime.  

Here are some specific examples:

Tank / Storage container monitoring   This would appeal to companies such as waste management, propane distributors, chemical distributors, meat/poultry processors, septic tank companies and much more. Using an M2M solution to tie into existing tanks, your company would be able to find out a ton of different information in real-time, including:  capacity of tank being used, amount of fluid/solids currently stored, the temperature/humidity of the contents and much more. 

Remote machinery deployed  This would appeal to a very large swath of companies.....here are just a few: Printing/copier machine distributors, heavy machine distribution companies, contract repair companies, beverage tank distribution companies, ATM repair/service companies, medical equipment distribution/service, contract laundry service providers and much more.  An M2M solution would provide complete visibility into the function of these machines (their accurate usage, performed maintenance, performance metrics and more).

Companies that are contracted to perform routine maintenance/deliveries  This would appeal to companies such as vending machine distributors, companies who service coffee machines in offices, ATM suppliers, medical equipment service houses, industrial machinery repair/maintenance and much more.  For these companies, an M2M solution would provide you with more accurate usage data, which would allow you to greatly optimize the number of visits (and possibly optimize how you charge customers to improve your competitiveness).

Overall general benefits for small businesses using an M2M solution:

Improved visibility to remote devices (reduction in unnecessary site visits as some work can be done over the air, reduction in downtime to improve Customer Service and maximize revenues, better usage data to provide the correct products/services that customers need)

Reduced downtime (better scheduled maintenance adherence ... no more running out of a key consummable such as fountain pop at a busy restaurant / ink cartridge in an ATM / diesel fuel for a generator being used more than expected....increased usage information = alerts you of a problem before it happens ...remote access to devices allow for device resets to bring devices back on-line faster, often before the customer knows it went down)

Increased productivity for remote workers (Performing simple resets over the air = avoiding expensive "truck rolls" to fix simple issues, increased margins on service contracts / ability to be more competitive to win the contract and avoiding going to a site to perform maintenance / empty a container that isn't required)

Thanks for reading, and as always, let Novotech know how we can help!

Special note for carrier salespeople:  For many carriers, the size of a customer is determined by how many traditional cell phones / smartphones that they have deployed.  It is important to keep in mind that many potential customers who have a very low amount of handsets/smartphones may have hundreds (if not thousands) of remote assets that they potentially need to monitor.  In an environment where handset growth has slowed (if not levelled out), M2M in SMB customers is a huge potentially untapped market for new activations/revenue.

Deploying an M2M Solution, Part 2

Submitted by Larry Bellehumeur on 

One of the interesting development in the world of M2M solutions is the focus on verticalized solutions.  There are solutions that will fit any one of dozens different vertical markets perfectly.  This brings up a problem.....how do you remember what solution to sell to your customers when you cover many different vertical markets?   This fragmented approach has often intimidated many salespeople/customers, likely hurting the growth of M2M in the process.  What is needed is to find an approach that is more universal, one that would apply whether the customer is in the Oil patch, finance space, agriculture or a retail store.  Once the customer has interest in the "concept" of an M2M solution, this allows for more customized approaches to be used.

Here is a good analogy to explain what I am talking about.  Millions of people in the world use smartphones, most of which are based on one of three platforms (IOS, Android or Blackberry).  The same smartphone can be sold to many different users in different vertical markets, as it offers functionality that most people can use (voice services, messaging, email, etc).  What allows the phone to be differentiated across the different markets are some specialized applications that are sold.  So, while using the same smartphone, a stock trader will use an app to analyze stocks for a possible trade, a farmer will look at charts showing rain projections to know what seed to plant and a doctor will look up a patient's medical history to best know how to treat an illness.  The overall platform did not change, but the end-user application did.  The cellular salesperson is able to position common features of the solution (in this case, common uses of a smartphone), as well as mention to the customer how it may be used for other things specific to them (even though they don't need to know the specifics).  Consumer platforms such as the Apple Appstore and the Android market have made this simple to find the specific app to meet your needs.

This "General first, specific later" approach is one of the cornerstones to Novotech's success, and helps differentiate us in the industry.  One example of this is the monitoring side of M2M.  For many people, this can be very daunting to sell, as there are many variables (different connectors, different protocols, different devices, etc).  If you looked at it that way, sure, it is very complicated.  But, how about if you stripped out the specifics?

People understand what it means to monitor....things like a thermometer by the window of their home to tell them what to wear, the tank level on their barbeque to know if you have enough fuel for your mean and the gas gauge on your vehicle to know that you have enough fuel to get home are all ways for you to monitor the level of something and make an informed decision.   Whether you are monitoring something commonly used in every day life (a tank, thermometer, etc) or a very complex system (like many systems used in the business world), the concept is still the same.....providing you information when you need it to make informed decisions.  How complex the solution may be (variables such as different ports, technologies, etc) really don't change the fact that monitoring something happens all day in our everyday lives and most of us understand it.

At Novotech, our philosophy is to make the complex simple.  Whether you are a salesperson looking to sell a solution to a customer or you are a business looking to find ways to "monitor" something, let us know how we can help.  We have complete turn-key solutions (or just parts of it to complete your solution) to make this all work.  We can do the "specific" part to find a solution to a "general" need that you have.