Talking Heads: M2M: Transforming the world we live in

If you want to get under the skin of M2M services a good place to start is with an organisation with global experience, working with multiple network operators, and combining the attributes of MVNO, MVNE and Managed Service Provider. Here, the editor, Jeremy Cowan quizzes Wyless’s CEO, Dan McDuffie about current trends in M2M and Wyless’s response to them.

Jeremy Cowan, M2M Now: What are the emerging trends that are most likely to affect the M2M industry during the next couple of years?

Dan McDuffie, Wyless: In M2M, the value chain is being compressed and as a result both MNOs and MVNOs are becoming more end-to-end in their service offerings. The MNOs themselves have woken up to the huge opportunities of M2M and are now making it much easier for partners to onboard onto their networks, but time-to-market can be high and supply chain complexities still exist.

Increasing globalisation is revealing significant levels of complexity for ASPs, large enterprises and OEMs seeking to take their products and services around the world. No matter what anyone says, there is no viable single-operator global SIM today. In fact, we are becoming increasingly multi-operator as time goes by, especially as more and more MNOs jump in with their own M2M service offerings.

The leaders in the space will be the ones who can successfully navigate this complexity and turn it into an asset for their partners.

M2M Now: So, what product and service developments can we expect to see from Wyless over the same period?

Wyless: This year, Wyless has really focused on continuing to broaden our range of managed services with the goal of becoming more open and flexible in our business model. The MVNO moniker in the M2M world is largely a misnomer; we are not ‘virtual’, although some MVNOs are. The same applies to the MVNE label, since we are more than just ‘enablers’. In reality, companies like Wyless are a blend of MVNO/MVNE and ‘Managed Services Operators’.

We have networks connected to MNOs, activation gateways and billing systems, some core network and some edge network, and we have professional services, engineers and technical support teams. All of these elements can be leveraged in many different ways, depending on the business case and the vertical.

Our plan has always been to open it all up and offer the entire company as a service, and that’s exactly what we’ve done. We like to colour outside of the lines. We are enlarging the scope of the traditional wireless package, and taking the onus away from the customer to implement the support structure. Instead, we are offering turnkey solutions built on years of experience implementing network and connectivity solutions with a number of MNOs across the world.

M2M Now: In terms of real solutions, what does ‘managed services’ mean?

Wyless: First off, it means that we are providing a secure, managed wireless data network with our own patented network technology, delivering global connectivity with private fixed IP addressing. We host private APNs and operate our own activations gateways. We have our own service delivery platform, called Porthos, that handles provisioning, activations, billing, network management, support, and advanced reporting. This gives our customers and partners complete control over their M2M solutions globally.

All of this is supported by APIs that enable our partners to bring management functionality directly into their applications for tightly integrated solutions. When you bring all this together and combine it with uplinks into multiple operators worldwide, you have a very powerful platform for growth.

The flexibility of our offering means that in some cases we are not even acting as a data reseller – we are helping other companies connect to MNOs without selling the data or the SIM card. These companies are leveraging our expertise in providing APNs and VPNs with private fixed IP services. We are at the stage where customers can even come to us and bring their own operator relationships, and we give them a platform to manage the everything, even to the point where ASPs are becoming resellers outright.

Dan McDuffie is CEO of Wyless Group.

That said, deploying a successful M2M solution is more than just providing a platform and leaving the customer to just get on with it. So Wyless provides one-stop support and consultancy from development through to deployment. We want to help ensure that projects are well designed, well executed and supported through their lifetime so that our partners continue to maximise their investments in the connected M2M space.

We understand that each application has its own unique requirements and that our partners and customers need a broad range of highly specialised services. To that end, Wyless can help with hardware procurement, application development, supply chain management, logistics / lifecycle management and asset management. In short, we can help vastly simplify the complexities and costs of developing, deploying and maintaining M2M solutions.

M2M Now: In a competitive and growing market like M2M, how is Wyless differentiating itself from its rivals?

Wyless: One of Wyless’s key differentiators has always been our wealth of experience in helping our partners and customers solve deployment and logistical challenges when bringing new M2M solutions to market. By building a key partner ecosystem across all of these areas and increasingly integrating the delivery of these services within our platform, we can greatly reduce the complexity and expense of developing, deploying and maintaining M2M solutions.

We also strive to make sure that we’re the easiest company to work with and we have built our business on our relationships with our partners across the eco-system, the cornerstone of which is the MNOs and our joint customers.

M2M Now: Could you tell us about some of your customers’ applications and how they are benefiting from the Wyless offering?

Wyless: We work across all the verticals including healthcare, metering, asset management, payments, location-based services, security, industrial automation, and more.

A growing trend is our partners’ use of our managed services platform to automate and manage their distribution. For example, one of our partners is a security panel manufacturer using our Porthos to deliver SIMs and data plans to their dealers (including activations, billing and network management) under their own branded version of our platform. Wyless enables them to rapidly build their channel and we provide capabilities for their dealers to offer a variety of value-add services to their onward customers.

Another example is a global industrial services company. We provide them with a fully managed private wireless network that enables them to communicate with their devices anywhere in the world (currently in over 50 countries). They have integrated our APIs into their remote service, providing their customers with enhanced, proactive asset monitoring, reducing maintenance costs and downtime. Then they use our billing management and reporting to invoice their subsidiaries under different cost centres. This solution gained industry recognition through a Value Chain Award from Connected World and a Global Telecoms Business Award for machine-to-machine services innovation.

For these partners and many more, Wyless is managing the entire end-to-end solution of the supply chain around the cellular connectivity, letting the OEM / ASP focus on their product and application.

M2M Now: Do you rely on multiple carriers to support your global coverage strategy?

Wyless: We take pride in our claim of continually expanding our global reach, and we currently have coverage in more than 120 countries. But you cannot address the global markets solely through roaming. In fact, more and more applications demand local connectivity and even diversity within a local market. Wyless has 10 MNO connections and in some cases multiple uplinks into the same MNO. So today, we host something like 15 or 16 APNs on those 10 MNOs and this is growing literally monthly. We expect to have uplinks into 12-14 MNOs by the end of 2011 and we will continue to follow this strategy aggressively in order to meet our partners’ demands.

The MNOs have made this possible by opening their networks to onboarding partners, resellers and wholesalers, by pursuing partnerships with systems integrators, engineering firms and software providers, and by making large, complex solutions easier to onboard through service management platforms and APIs.

Yet in large-scale, global deployments, the complexity remains for the simple reason that several network operators are needed to deliver cost-effective, scalable solutions across several markets. With multiple network operators comes the complexity of dealing with different service management platforms, different APIs, different billing and rating policies and different supply chain rules, not to mention networking, onboarding and support organisations.

A global enterprise that is deploying scaled, fixed wireless devices across, say, a dozen countries on three or four continents cannot be expected to manage the four or five wireless conglomerates required to cover this business effectively.

M2M Now: Given that M2M services have been around for over 20 years, why is there finally acceleration in the market?

Wyless: We are in a ‘perfect storm’ of market conditions that is causing innovation across industries, away from landline-based technologies and towards wireless. The evolving eco-system is offering new tools to solve the challenges and complexities of developing and deploying M2M solutions, resulting in faster time-to-market. All this is helping companies around the world to find new ways to bridge information into the enterprise in order to offer new services.

Over the past year, we’ve seen the market explode in nearly every direction and we expect to see continued aggressive growth across most of the verticals that operate on our network. As the benefits of implementing M2M solutions become clearer, more enterprises will be taking on that challenge and finding new ways to use the cellular networks to deliver innovative services.

M2M Now: What new and innovative applications or verticals do you see emerging?

Wyless: One of the great things about being so horizontal is that we see tons of new and exciting products coming onto the network. For instance, we recently deployed single purpose iPads, which are being used worldwide as data collection devices in clinical trials for the pharmaceutical industry. They’re taking an embedded cellular consumer device and using it for an enterprise application in the medical space, and have deployed to doctors in dozens of countries. All of the elements of the M2M network that we’ve built are at work in this application: the private IP network for privacy and security, the global capabilities, the supply chain services and billing.

I think we’re going to see a growing trend of blurring lines between embedded mobile devices, consumer and enterprise applications and M2M. The greatest thing is that we are transforming the world in which we live. It’s rewarding to be part of an industry that is creating innovation and making the world a better place. How cool is that?


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