Just back after about 10 days off between posts and it was nice to get some feedback asking about the delay!

Whether you decide build your own device, to use a product to simplify the deployment (such as the socketmodem from MultiTech) or use a 3rd party modem, you are going to come across four common issues that need to be addressed:

  1. How do I manage the devices in the field?
  2. How do I retrieve only the information from these devices that I need, and not the stuff that I don’t?
  3. How do I integrate it into my current platforms?
  4. How do I take all of this data and make sense of it?

For this post, we are going to look at the first 3 items as a whole (for the 4th point, see my previous articles on using M2M to enhance your ERP system).  There are many platforms that offer cloud based services that allow for improved device management, better information “filtering” and somewhat seamless integration into your current systems.  We are going to look at the 5 reasons why you want to look at a Cloud-based solution to suit these 3 needs.
Quicker time to market  For the most part, we are talking about how this would compare against doing the integration in-house.  For a solution provider (such as a company offering fleet management solutions), the main differentiator between your offering and the other ones on the market tends to be the part that the customer sees (the maps, the analytics, using the data to make business decisions, etc).  The part that your customers don’t see is equally important, and can make or break the way your solution works.  However, most underestimate how much work the part that is “under the hood” actually takes, such as:  working with the devices to retrieve the required data, dealing with issues with devices such as leaving cellular coverage and the integration of different protocols.  By using a cloud based service to retrieve the data, solution providers can focus on the part of the business where they can truly stand out.  For end customers who are creating their own solution, the expertise gained by using a cloud-based service is huge.....you didn’t start your business to be an expert in wireless devices, so why would you want to take your valuable resources away from where you make money!  These solutions get your the data when you want it, and in the format that you need it.....quicker to market, with less development time and with less of your valuable resources.
Better integration with hardware  When you are first starting out, it can be daunting to choose the best piece of M2M hardware for your needs, as there are a lot of variable factors (cost, size, network technology, future compatibility, etc).  Once you have chosen your hardware, the real fun begins....how do you get it to talk to your existing/proposed solution?  And....once you have finally done the work, are you really looking forward to keeping up with all of the new firmware/hardware changes?  It is a daunting task, to say the least.  Cloud based solutions spend a lot of their time working closely with many of the different hardware manufacturers, so they are well aware of changes (such as how to capitalize on new features, when to upgrade firmware versions and what hardware performs best for certain applications).  You continue to get the data as you need and only make changes when necessary.
Access to shared expertise  At Novotech, we only “do M2M”, so we think we are quite good at it (that 10 second commercial was brought to you by your friends @ Novotech).  The same holds true for cloud-based M2M software companies.  Need to talk to an odd flavor of ATM?  They have already done it.  Need to read information from a legacy sensor?  They have done that too.  Chances are that there aren’t many situations where they haven’t got the best experience to help streamline/improve your project.
Pooled upgrades  I hadn’t updated my smartphone’s applications in a few weeks, and when I went to look, I had about 6 updates.  When I looked at the updates, it showed that many of the patches/updates were fixing some known issues, ironically, a couple of which I had experienced.  I never had to complain to anyone for a fix, it was updated because it was likely reported by enough users.  As well, a couple of the applications had some significant usability upgrades to them, which were likely thought of based on customer feedback and also the company wishing to increase the value delivered by their products.  Updating one device took a few minutes......updating thousands takes more time and planning (worse if you are the ones creating the updates yourself!)  When you use a Cloud-based M2M service, you benefit (just like the smartphone) from both the fixes that are provided by complaints from users, as well as added functionality that is added by the service provider.  This reduces the amount of work that it takes to maintain your services (otherwise, you get to employ resources to fix/update issues on your dime) and the ease that upgrades get deployed out in the field.
Reduced Capital Expenditures (CAPEX)  Let’s face it.....Cash is king.  Why not keep some of it for yourself and better link your costs to your on-going revenue?  For the same reason that companies have moved to the OPEX (operating expenditures) for other areas, smart companies are looking to better utilize the cash that they currently have.  Hosted models take away much of the upfront cost, so you can better gauge the costs to your revenue.
As always, let Novotech know how to help.  You can visit us @ www.novotech.com.  You can also follow us on Twitter @NovotechM2M, and you can follow me on Twitter @LBNovotechM2M