Submitted by Larry Bellehumeur on 

Is it just me or does it seem that every headline in the news talks about austerity and how governments around the world need to cut costs?  It puts governments in a difficult do you continue to offer critical services (many of which the need is growing with an aging population) while reducing the overall cost of delivery? One way that can help is through the use of M2M technology, as it makes workers more productive, allows end users to find out more information themselves and provides more information to reduce unwanted downtime.

Here are some examples:

Traffic congestion  For anyone that lives in a large urban center, traffic is often one of the major complaints.  It costs everyone, as we spend more in fuel and we have less time to work.  Cities are getting more "intelligent" when it comes to traffic, but could still do more.  The use of sensors (whether mobile or fixed) is starting to pick up in many parts of the world, to allow for more real-time data to be sent to drivers.  This allows to make better informed decisions as to the choice of route that they are taking.  This is especially vital for many key services that municipalities offer (transit, emergency response, road repair) where the service can be disrupted by traffic flow.  For these vehicles specifically, special sensors/triggers are being used to allow for a change in traffic light patterns to allow the better flow of these vehicles.

Health care  For some jurisdictions, this may not be fully a governmental responsibility, but we will list it here anyways.  The first thing that M2M can do is to improve the experience in the hospital.  M2M technology is becoming rapidly deployed in much of the key machinery used in the hospitals (such as MRI machines, key surgical equipment and x-ray tools).  Live, real-time data is sent from the devices to a hosted facility where real-time decisions can be made (such as required maintenance, possible issues with the machine and resets of the device can be done).  This greatly improves the uptime of these machines, as well as to lengthen the deployment life, saving money and imrpoving service.  

For the mobile/home health care market, M2M is being used to provide better service in the field, while reducing the need for visits to the ER.  One example is the use of bar-code scanners (equipped with cellular data capability) by remote home health care workers to enter in performed tasks in patient's homes (such as bathing, changing of bandages).  By using quick bar code scans (as opposed to handwriting which has to be manually re-entered), workers are able to greatly reduce the amount of clerical work required.  As well, the information is posted directly onto a secure web page, where concerned family members can confirm what care has been offered to their loved one.  Another emerging technology is Mobile video / mobile examinations, where doctors are able to perform routine check-ups for remote patients, reducing long-trips to the hospital and allowing people to stay in their homes longer.  Finally, M2M solutions are being rapidly deployed by concerned children to better monitor the activity/health of their older loved one by being able to view items such as prescription medication usage, blood pressure readings and panic alarms.  By keeping people in their homes (safer) for a longer period, governments are able to greatly reduce overall health care costs.

Remote monitoring of key equipment  Governments own billions of assets in the field, ranging from hydro poles to parking meters to pH sensors monitoring rivers.  Most of these devices are not currently communicating with any governmental system on a real-time basis, so it is often only when a visit by a worker happens that issues are noticed (or a complaint from a taxpayer).  M2M solutions allow for a real-time, 2-way communication with all devices, allowing for better decisions to be made, reduction in unwanted downtime and a better use of workers (as they may not have to go out to a site to "hit the reset button" when it can be done over the air).  While most people think of M2M as being related to the cellular industry, these devices can be commnunicated to using a variety of technologies (ranging from cellular to WiFi to ZigBee to landline to satellite)

Using wireless to improve/back-up key Internet connection  How many of us have spent hours in line at a government office, only to get to the front and find out that the "system is not working"?  While M2M cannot help with old government databases, it can help to provide assurances that key IP-based connections are backed up, ensuring a continuation of service.  As well, cellular data networks have now reached throughput speeds to allow them to replace legacy landlines (often at a small fraction of the costs).  They further offer the advantage of quick setup and flexibility of placement.  This is ideal for temporary offices, such as elections, security posts and disaster communications.

Need to see something remote?  Use Mobile Video  Mobile video is not that different from using traditional landlines to send/receive video feeds.....and that is the point!  By having real-time access to a high-speed network in the vast majority of the country, governments are able to better use video surveillance to reduce costs, prevent unnecessary visits, reduce theft, improve traffic flow and much more.

Use M2M to reduce energy costs and greenhouse gases at the same time  Energy control systems are starting to show that they can drastically help to reduce HVAC/Electricity costs by 10-15%, while not affecting the quality of service or occupant comfort of buildings.  They do this by optimizing the control of each of the units, meaning that they are able to do more with less.  Along the same lines, Fleet Management solutions are able to improve productivity of workers (more accurate dispatching = less driving and time in traffic) while reducing fuel/vehicle costs (reduced engine idling, better speed limit adherence and reduced unauthorized usage)

Reducing contractor bills  M2M solutions are being used today to better manage on-site contractors (such as repair/service teams).  By keeping a more accurate log of contractors, governments are better able to ensure that key work is being done (work that is being paid for) while reducing legal liabilities (proof that work such as clearing of snow from a walkway was done) and overall contractor bills.

As always, let me know if there is a certain topic that you wanted me to write about by emailing me: larry[@]  Novotech is your one-stop shop for M2M, so let us know how we can help!