Being involved in the world of M2M for well over a decade, this stuff comes way too easy to Novotech, and sometimes we forget how confusing it can be for many organizations. According to a recent study by VDC Research, the majority of customers do not have an M2M strategy.  What was more stunning to me was that the survey was done to OEM (original equipment manufacturers), which are companies that may have the highest return on investment for M2M solutions.

The article offered the following highlights:

  • Many company’s engineering departments have issues in actually defining an ROI for using M2M, and how it actually would benefit their business.
  • Some companies have concerns about how M2M strategies will need to change as networks move more information into the cloud.
  • As M2M solutions become more complex, the processing power of the device that the solutions are connecting to must increase.  This may be a design concern, as it may affect power usage, memory requirements, etc.
  • Many IT departments are concerned about the extra amount of network traffic that will be created from these remote devices, especially if deployments get into the thousands (or millions) of units.

How do we address these very real and valid concerns/challenges?

More intelligent end-point devices 
In the past, most devices that were connected by cellular modems were either very smart, or very dumb.  On the smart side, it was devices that either had full-fledged PC-like capability or actual computers themselves.  The modem was used exclusively to provide a wireless IP experience, and had very little to do with the actual data being transferred.  On the dumb side, there were devices such as basic meters and pumps, where the modem acted as a very-long serial cable transmitting all data from the device (whether the information was originated from the device or polled by the server).  There was little, if any, filtering of data.  Today, companies are looking for more intelligence from their modems, such as the ability to run applications and perform “then-what” tasks (meaning that the device has embedded intelligence/logic to be able to sense that something has happened and initiate a response).  This will allow companies to have less overall traffic sent across the network and less downtime on remote devices.

Better data filtering on devices 
I met with one customer a long time ago that wanted to monitor just a few elements from their J-Bus port (this is a port on many rugged engines to transmit data, similar to the ODBII port on most passenger vehicles).  At the time, there wasn’t a lot of options to only send what he needed (there is now, but not then), so he either got a ton of data, or none at all.  While this problem has been solved for this market, companies are looking for ways to get the vital data now, and everything else later.  This allows them to get the maximum value from a remote solution (less downtime, better worker safety, better customer service, etc) while pushing the transfer of non-vital data into off-hours.  A number of hosted cloud-based solutions can do this for the customer, but the traffic still needs to be sent from the remote location first (often causing higher than necessary data bills for the airtime).  It would be great to see end devices do more of this filtering/storage, and ultimately, do it in better conjunction with many of these cloud programs to optimize data traffic.

Better integration into existing platforms (and tools for DIY)  
Again, before you yell at me, great strides have been made here, as many platforms offer easy ways for customers to transmit remote data into key ERP/CRM systems today.....although, there is still improvement to be done. The real need is for better platforms/tools to enable customers to fit remote data into their unique systems.  Many customers use industry-specific tools (or their own internally designed software, which best meets their needs). We need to do a better job of simplifying the process of drawing information into these systems if we want to see improved M2M numbers.

Better understanding of customer’s unique businesses   
This one may be last on the list, but it likely is the most important point.  As an industry, we have done a horrendous job in learning about our customer’s unique businesses, and an even worse job in taking what we have learned about their businesses to customize an ROI approach to M2M for them.  We need to stop using generalized tools, and start learning how it may truly help a customer. We need to focus on what their unique industry needs are, how a solution may help (or hurt) their business, and what this company needs to differentiate itself from its competitors.  This will be a big change for the wireless industry, which has gotten kind of used to asking “Android, iPhone or Blackberry?”

At Novotech, we live and breathe M2M. In fact, we like to think of ourselves as being your M2M consultant.  So as always, let Novotech know how we can help with your M2M needs.  You can visit our web page @ www.novotech.com or reach out to me directly by emailing larry(@)novotech.com.  You can also follow us on Twitter (@NovotechM2M) or follow me personally (@LBNovotechM2M).