I read a great article in the Financial Post that quoted a GE survey showing that 73% of business leaders listed being able to achieve successful business partnerships as an important skill for executive management.  The main factors behind wanting to partner more efficiently were to help companies enter new markets (85%), to improve on existing products/services (83%) and to access new technologies (81%). 

When asked what was stopping them from collaborating more with other companies, there were a few common answers – 68% said that they perceived a lack of protection of confidentiality; 64% were outright distrustful of their potential partners; and there were also fears about losing key talent and unequal revenue splits.  Remember....this survey was widespread, and included many industries that were much more mature.  I would think if you were to focus on technology companies only, the need for partnerships may be higher, while the concerns might even be greater.

This got me to thinking… how important is it for us to see more collaboration/partnerships in the world of M2M?  In a word...”very”, and here is why:

M2M companies are too small, when compared to big players in IT

Since most people reading this will be heavily involved in the M2M space (or want to be), we often like to think of ourselves as being “big fish” in our industry, and we pretty much are.  We have been doing this M2M stuff for over a decade and we are “dominant players” in this space, right?  Sorry to burst your bubble....we aren’t going to be the big players for long.  Large IT players like IBM, Cisco and Intel have just scratched the surface of the M2M space and they are throwing a lot of resources at it.  By one estimate, Cisco’s R&D budget for IoE may be bigger than the annual revenue of any single M2M company!  For smaller, niche M2M businesses to flourish (or, even stay afloat), they will need to partner/merge with other companies to get products to market faster and at better prices...or risk being crushed by the big boys.  Don’t believe me?  Look what happened to every other technology....why would M2M be different?

Lack of a common standard is hindering growth

The idea of using a common standard is one that I have written about in the past, and it is definitely a bit of a controversial topic.  In fact, we aren’t even in total agreement here at Novotech (Read this “rant” from Richard Hobbs).  However, at some point, we will need to have a common language in our space, much as the world of PC was united by universally-accepted standards such as IP.  The most likely candidate to provide this standard is IBM’s MQTT protocol.

However, it goes beyond devices using a common language...we will need to have interoperability between common hardware and software platforms.  Many customers (such as large corporations or government entities) have a large selection of cellular modems deployed, as there is no single vendor that can provide every feature / price point to meet all of their M2M needs (please don’t send me notes telling me how your company can do it all ... No one company sells both a great low-end GPRS modem and a rugged router for Police cars!).  Right now, this means that IT departments need to use several tools to manage their devices, or if they try to use one common tool for all vendors, they risk not having full support or even, *gasp*, voiding the product’s warranty.  IT departments will soon start demanding common tools to manage remote devices, just like they have now with their PC/Tablet/Smartphone assets.  If we can’t give it to them, we will all suffer.

M2M needs to get simpler to flourish

Ok, you’ve decided to deploy M2M for your business, it will be a great move.  You have two choices now:

  1. You can use a closed proprietary solution that encompasses all aspects (sensors, modem, airtime, device management, hosted software), although you are pretty much locked into that provider’s offerings going forward without a wholesales change to.....you guessed it, another provider.
  2. You can put together your own solution, which means that you will likely struggle to make everything work, often without full support from the individual vendors.

This needs to change.  We need to have common standards to let someone use the components that they like.  You have that luxury now with the world of PC.....you choose which mouse, printer, monitor, etc that you want, and they are able to work together.  Now, the trick is that devices from different manufacturers simply need to “work” together. It doesn’t mean that they need to work as well as offerings that are all-encompassing.  An example of this is Apple and how they work with various input devices.  You can use virtually any keyboard/mouse with a Mac, but only their devices are optimized within their OS (offering certain features and compatibility).  This would be what we would be looking for.  So, a Sierra device would be able to have basic control functions (and be supported) while on the iDigi platform, but it would be reasonable to expect that Digi devices would have more enhanced functionality while on the native iDigi platform, and vice-versa.

Bottom line

Let’s face it, M2M is growing in spite of the challenges listed above and likely will continue to do so.  However, if the smaller M2M players don’t find ways to work better together now, then it will only be a matter of time before they are swallowed up by larger players who will force them to do so.

As always, Novotech is ready to assist with your M2M needs. Whether you’re looking to control, track, monitor or back-up, Novotech has the solutions and products you need. View our Line Cards and let us know how we can be of assistance.

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