When I started writing about M2M a few years ago I liked the fact that there were no Goliaths — no 800 lb. gorillas — nobody dominated the market and determined its future. Instead it was populated by relatively small vendors that were generating a plethora of innovative applications. After a while I could see that multi-vendor value chains might inhibit progress and that many more open-standards were needed, but growth is very healthy and solutions are becoming pervasive.
Acquisitions have effectively merged the links in the regular value chain and this has allowed various vendors to market end-to-end solutions. Moreover the end includes the enterprise environment and integration with mainstream applications like ERP and CRM. Some of the Davids have therefore grown in stature, but nobody is dominating the market, which if anything is even more competitive.
The three biggest sectors are automotive, energy/utilities and consumer electronics and Vodafone has done SIM card deals with Audi and Volkswagen. However, in June the company announced its intention to purchase Cobra Automotive Technologies. This could make the operator a de facto Goliath in the marked for connected cars. Cobra will allow Vodafone to provide vehicle producers, dealerships, and post-retail clients with a wide range and a variety of products and services that includes telematics, use-based insurance, and vehicle tracking. Moreover global connectivity can be bundled with this offer.
We are going to witness many more acquisitions, both large and small, but what really counts in the M2M space are the applications and the services. Mainstream communications hardware is being commoditised and virtualised; network functionality and performance will be determined in software. Is something similar coming to M2M? The more that M2M merges with the enterprise space the more likely that scenario becomes, but if it comes it will start in a small “Maker Movement” way. This is a contemporary DIY-type culture that “stresses new and unique applications of technologies, and encourages invention and prototyping.” The quote comes from Wikipedia.
I have no guru-type pretensions, and while I knew about the maker movement I did not see how it might be applied to the development of M2M apps and IoT “things” until I read a short article from James Mack, KORE’s Marketing & Channel Development Manager. Here are two highlights:
“Makers aren’t concerned with waiting around for approvals, or for the tools to come along to let them build things. They have an idea or a problem that needs solving and they just go out and get it done.” (Take a look at Arduino’s open-source prototyping platform and SolidRun’s new HummingBoard family).
“The benefits of spending millions of dollars on infrastructure have been replaced by people evangelizing using cloud storage and event driven analytics. We’re poised to see a similar thing in the IoT space where companies are now talking about a giant all encompassing solution to be replaced by lots of smaller nimble organisations doing one part of the eco-system extremely well.”
In other words, expect to see lots of innovating Davids coming our way.