I clearly remember when I first started in what is now called the M2M space, back in the 1990s. You can imagine how difficult it was to explain to people exactly what I did. Keep in mind, the idea of using cellular networks for anything other than voice calls was quite unique and very much ahead of its time back in these days. Text messaging had not yet been deployed (meaning that teenagers actually had to talk to each other), and it was several years before the introduction of the Blackberry; a decade before the iPhone. I used to explain to people how we used control channels to send notifications for alarms and deployments, how we used to tether a big brick phone to a PC Card inside of your laptop. After explaining it, the look on their face pretty much said, "why would anyone bother?"
Luckily, many early adopters did put up with the quirks of this technology that has truly changed (and continues to change) how we live. So, now it is easier than ever to explain what I actually do for a living now? Very much so......here are some of the examples I use to explain what M2M is and what types of customers we sell to.
Your Intelligent Power Meter
For many parts of North America, this one tends to be a very easy example to use. Over the past few years, utility companies have been steadily replacing traditional meters with smart meters, as part of their Smart Grid initiatives. The idea is that by allowing more information to be read from the meter (as opposed to just an overall usage reading), the Utility companies can get a much better understanding the usage patterns by individual customers. They can use this information to provide incentives to use power in non-peak hours, and in some cases, have the ability to reduce power usage during times of high usage. Many Utility companies also offer customers the ability to view their usage online through an easy-to-see portal.
Many people have seen the inside of police cars (hopefully, voluntarily), but either way, you've likely seen one. One thing that you may instantly notice is how high-tech the world of policing has become. Officers are using full-fledged computers to look up valuable information, which keeps them in the field much more often than ever before. In the past (and in some cases still), the officer used to look up data across a legacy Private Radio Data Network (PDRN). While there are a couple of valuable reasons why some agencies still use PDRNs for their lookup (namely because they have the network all to themselves), most police forces have moved towards the use of high-speed cellular networks to provide real-time data access. This has resulted in improved officer safety, better transmission of information to the officers and an increase in police presence in the community.
Oil Well Monitoring
In some parts of the country, it is quite common to see oil pumpers all over the countryside. For the most part, most of these wells have some sort of monitoring system on them (to alert in the event of an issue and to provide flow information). Increasingly, companies are using cellular technology to transmit all of the valuable data from the field. Oil companies have always been early adopters of wireless technology, namely because of a combination of the lack of available landlines in the areas they work, as well as the high value of the assets they have in the field.
Eliminating the "Sorry, no Debit or Credit" Signs
This one is my favorites, as most people have horror stories about how they got to the front of the line at a store (for some reason, Home Depot seems to be mentioned a lot!) and when they went to pay, the credit card terminals were down. Since almost none of us ever carry enough cash to fund the average Home Depot sale, it usually results in a bad customer experience. Wireless modems are being used in a big way to help prevent unwanted Internet outages from ruining your retail shopping experience.
Thanks to the efforts of companies like GE, Cisco and IBM, the world of M2M that we all know and love is moving into the mainstream of everyday life. One day, we will all agree on a single name to describe our industry....but, regardless of the name you use, more people FINALLY understand what I do for a living!
As always, let Novotech know how we can help with your M2M needs, such as antenna selection. You can visit our web page @ www.novotech.com. As well, feel free to reach out to me directly ....larry(@)novotech.com. You can also follow us on Twitter (@NovotechM2M) and you can follow me personally as well (@LBNovotechM2M).