Does M2M Need An Identity?

M2M isn’t a term that is well known outside the industry; moreover it’s confusing. The first “M” used to be a machine on a factory floor, but nowadays it’s a device or a moving part, and the second “M” is a computer system. However, that hasn’t hindered the development of countless, diverse M2M applications that allow key information to be exchanged without human intervention.

Solutions have been deployed in order to reduce costs, save time and improve operational efficiency, a combination that has boosted the bottom line of companies in numerous business sectors, for example: automotive; buildings; smart energy; homes; healthcare; industry; transportation; retail; networks and security. Moreover, the ability to deliver these benefits is evidenced by M2M’s robust growth during a time when the economy was weak and investments were on hold.

So what’s the problem? If the industry is doing so well — it should reach $60 B in 2011 —why should it be concerned about identity? I don’t have a neat answer, but the majority (over 60%) of M2M vendors don’t use the term, which seems to indicate the need for something that encapsulates the concept and thereby facilitates communication with the market.

A popular alternative is “The Internet of Things”. It has a nice marketing ring but what are those “Things”. PCs connect to the Net but they are not part of a M2M value chain. Moreover, in most cases traffic flows over a secure virtual private network, not the insecure public Net. However, the only thing that really matters to the market is the applications and they can all be positioned under this umbrella term because devices and moving parts are “things”. We’re simply talking about the ability to monitor and manage billions of devices. That’s the technology: the foundation on which a plethora of business and consumer applications are being created.

A smart energy meter is a thing that allows consumers to better monitor and control usage. Various healthcare products are things that monitor patients in their home and inform doctors and clinicians when there is a problem. The Internet Protocol (IP) is used to communicate the device data that M2M applications convert into information. That isn’t a difficult concept to establish but it’s not an identity.

I can talk myself into using “The Internet of Things”, particularly when it comes to business –to-consumer devices, but it doesn’t apply to factory floors, which is where M2M started. So then I come back to the original term.

The problem (my problem) is compounded by the fact that there are different players in the value chain. Telit, for example, handles data acquisition; mobile network operators handle data transmission; software developers create the applications. Systems integrators may also be involved. There are market leaders in different parts of the chain, but there is no overall leader, no Cisco or Microsoft: nobody who personifies the industry.
Conclusion: it has to be M2M: we’re stuck with this term, but I’m quietly confident that an identity will emerge as more and more applications become a seamless component of ICT environments and infrastructures. Then it will be something we take for granted.

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