It’s not about machines – it’s about the network!

Billions and billions of machines, chattering away to each other; playing a role in every facet of our lives, our business and our communications; further accelerating the consumption of network bandwidth. That’s the vision many companies, especially network element vendors, are banking on.

It is, of course, already happening: You lose control of your car on a slippery road, spin out of control, bump into the guardrail and your car’s airbag deploys. At that instant, the deployment triggers a machine-to-machine (M2M) communication to the safety service, alerting them to the fact that you may need help. And a person calls you to check what assistance you may require.

Or imagine that a network element senses it is missing its performance targets. First of all, it hands off its traffic to another element, initiates a trouble advice and waits for repair. Essentially, everywhere telemetry can be used to collect data, its findings can be turned into various triggers that initiate a communication from one machine to another. These are usually asking for action to be taken, and sometimes just for gathering information.

“When trillions or quadrillions of devices are all communicating, the network will have to keep up.”

A wave of M2M ideas
Hundreds of new machine-to-machine ideas are emerging – almost as fast and furious as new smart phone apps. What could possibly slow up this tidal wave of technology?

Well, it really all hinges on our telecommunications networks. Mostly these devices communicate wirelessly, and while individually they may consume only tiny amounts of bandwidth, when trillions (or quadrillions) of them are all communicating, the network will have to keep up. The network will have to be very, very fast, and very, very cheap to make this stage of the industrial revolution take off. Oh dear! This takes us squarely back to the raging argument about big fat pipes, intelligent edge devices and the merits of being a phenomenally efficient carrier of bits.

As readers familiar with my column in VanillaPlus magazine will already know, I think that carriers own one of the most important assets on our planet. The more things we think of using it for, the more indispensible the owner of the network becomes.

This is NOT marginalisation
I really do not understand all of the energy being put into fighting commoditisation, as if that were some sort of plague. It seems to work out quite well for the electricity companies, the coffee vendors, and even the petroleum industry. Perhaps some folks have commoditisation confused with marginalisation – which would be bad. But marginalisation is not the same as commoditisation, so let’s get on with driving more and more revenue- generating traffic onto the network please.

Imagine being the single most important enabler of this next generation of leading edge technology. Imagine making slivers of revenue from every single one of those quadrillions of M2M communications. Forget about the complexity and expense of sniffing out every movie download and every e-book to be able to attach a premium. Forget about the sophisticated and expensive policy management tools needed to throttle back all but the highest paying customers.

The machines are coming and what they really need to reach their full potential is an ecological niche in which they can flourish: a network that is ubiquitous, reliable, open, and cheap. Go for the bits; lots and lots of bits!

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