Vodafone foresees ‘trillions’ of connected devices and has provided machine-to-machine connectivity for its customers around the worldin a wide range of industries and across a diverse set of applications, whether for fleet managment, security or point of sales (POS). I caught up with Erik Brenneis, Head of M2M at Vodafone Group, to get his views on some topical issues and assess the operator’s services in a few key areas.
Erik, how should network operators cost-effectively provision the vast quantity of SIMS that are forecast for M2M and connected devices over the next few years?
EB: Vodafone has innovated in the M2M space by creating a dedicated M2M mobile network, specifically designed and dimensioned for very high quantities of SIM cards and high simultaneous volumes of requests from M2M devices. This allows Vodafone to offer a consistent and cost-effective way of providing services to very large numbers of M2M devices.
Will IPv6 guarantee device addressability, or are there still challenges here?
EB: IPv6 will allow trillions of devices to have a unique address that is not currently possible with IPv4 commonly used on the internet today. It will allow an unlimited amount of public addresses for devices.
IPv6 will change the way devices are addressed, and applications are designed, and will become more common when LTE networks and LTE modules are deployed in the future.
When businesses look for embedded device solutions do they generally approach Vodafone directly, or is it more often through an MVNO or VNO?
EB: They are approaching us more and more directly, as it is known that we have a global M2M organisation and offering and can therefore serve their needs. MVNOs are used more and more for smaller customers only.
Vodafone also has an extensive network of M2M partners such as Value Added Resellers to complement its own direct sales force and efficiently serve all customer needs across the entire M2M market.
How does Vodafone guarantee SLAs for M2M communications with life-critical devices in healthcare areas such as cardiac and diabetic care?
EB:Vodafone has a well-established Customer Service support model for all its M2M customers, which include specific service level agreements around our core M2M solution. Once the SLAs are agreed with our customers, the elements that ensure the delivery of these guarantees are dedicated Service Delivery and Solution Architects in all our customer countries, Vodafone’s M2Mplatform, a 24/7 global M2M helpdesk, and regular customer service reviews.
Case Study 1: Ctrack/Digicore delivers multi-country fleet management
Worldwide, Ctrack/Digicore is one of the top five providers of ‘track and trace’ systems, helping businesses manage their vehicle fleets and improve productivity. It has operations in South America, Asia, Africa, Australia and more than 12 European countries.
Vodafone provides M2M connectivity over its GPRS network. Ctrack/Digicore can manage and activate its SIMs across many countries from its European headquarters, and remotely upgrade devices that are already in the field. The companies are working closely together to unify pricing for roaming across Europe, meeting customer expectations and simplifying contracts.
Case Study 2 – Technocon provides security services with M2M
Technocon is the largest supplier of professional theft detection systems in the Netherlands, and delivers its services across many European countries to customers including some of the world’s largest automotive manufacturers. These services include car security, fleet management, and alarms for residential and business properties. It has more than 23,000 customer nodes in service with connectivity provided by Vodafone.
Technocon uses a private Access Point Name (APN) supplied by Vodafone, and provides links for its customers with secure solutions running over Vodafone’s GSM and GPRS networks. Technocon required a portal for managing and activating SIMs across multiple countries, which Vodafone was able to provide, along with expert support and reliable SIM delivery. Vodafone provided a complete solution, including SIM ordering, marketing support and technical help.
Case Study 3: M2M for parking management
Managing where we park our cars is an essential part of everyday life to ensure our cities don’t grind to a halt. M2M connectivity is increasingly being applied in this sector, enabling more sophisticated management of public parking and off-street parking garages and areas. Terminals can provide access control to authorised vehicles for private or restricted facilities, and can take payment at public parking meters or car park pay-stations.
In the Netherlands, Taxameter Centrale provides solutions to manage parking, including hardware, software and maintenance contracts. It has an installed base of more than 3,000 SIM cards in M2M applications, a number that is steadily increasing as older parking systems without transaction and management functionality are replaced, and as new projects are rolled out. Taxameter Centrale has a dedicated link with Vodafone, which allows it to securely process transactions and provide an end-to- end solution for its customers.
Case Study 4: POS and transportation smart cards
CCV is the leading service provider of electronic transactions in Europe. Its core business centres on electronic payment traffic within Europe, with branches in Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland. CCV uses pin and ‘Chipknip’ (stored-value card) terminals, specialising in the processing and online authorisation of financial and loyalty card transactions, as well as the development and management of loyalty and customer card systems.
The company provides standard products as well as customised end-to-end solutions, and operates a 24- hour service organisation and a back-up computer centre that guarantees a seamless switchover in breakdowns or emergencies. As might be expected, reliability is key for CCV in its M2M links, so CCV is using several network service providers, as well as Vodafone to provide M2M connectivity. M2M is used for POS payments and for the public transportation, pick-up and loading device (OV-chip system).
CCV also receives support from Vodafone, in SIM ordering, activation support and a SIM management portal. The company was able to adopt a new go-to- market model to sell a complete packaged solution, including hardware, communications, services and support. CCV is aligning its international operations, and moving towards central buying, logistics and support for its communications services.