The customers will be heard, and the herd will be customers

Connected cows

M2M SUMMIT 2014 REVIEW: Sometimes the subject that dominates an event isn’t top of the agenda. Speakers may concentrate on machine-to-machine (M2M) services, market development, technologies, developers, and best practice but, as Jeremy Cowan found at the excellent M2M Summit 2014 last week in Dusseldorf, none of us should forget that M2M’s driving force remains the Customer.

When you were little were you ever made to play this pre-digital party game? (I know, I really should get out more.) Twenty items on a tray were removed one at a time as you hid your eyes, and each time you had to say what was missing? I was rubbish at it, but there was always one kid who’d know instantly that the penknife or chocolate had vanished. He’d have been quick to spot what was not being said at times during the M2M Summit 2014.

At the opening of the M2M Alliance’s 8th annual conference there had been plenty of discussion about M2M services as an intelligent interface, enabling a transformation between the eras of traditional and digital industry, which was well described by Eric Schneider, 1st chairman of the M2M Alliance.

Eric Schneider, 1st chairman of the M2M Alliance opens the M2M Summit 2014
Eric Schneider, 1st chairman of the M2M Alliance opens the M2M Summit 2014 in Dusseldorf

The 600 delegates heard growing references to the Customer (or in B2B2C’s case, the Customer’s Customer) throughout the day. Dr Alexander Lautz, Deutsche Telekom (DT)’s senior vice-president of M2M Product & Innovation, touched on this when he described five key success factors influencing M2M.

  1. Simplicity in delivering services. This is one of DT’s main goals
  2. Security for users. It’s not just a ‘nice-to-have’ element, it is critical to user acceptance of M2M and IoT
  3. User Experience. Make it easier for customers to order, change and even cancel services
  4. Communication of the Benefits. Tell people how the service will help them, and
  5. Partnering to offer comprehensive solutions. Work on end-to-end solutions.
Canyon's MRSC bike
Canyon’s Project MRSC Smart-bike

Connected bicycle

Lautz invited his DT colleague, Dr Ing Lothar Muller, to speak with Dr Ing Michael Kaiser of Canyon Bicycles GmbH. As one of the German incumbent’s M2M customers, Canyon shows this shift from traditional to digital industry. Bicycle making, you might think, is a classic example of an old school business model, but not in Canyon’s hands. The company has transitioned to direct sales of it bikes to customers in 85 countries, and used this as an opportunity to start a new era of enhanced contact with its customers as well as transferring technology and applications from automotive to cycling.

Canyon has developed a bicycle with magnetorheological (MR) suspension. This is even a novelty in the car industry where premium auto makers like Audi and Cadillac are still experimenting with shock absorbers filled with MR fluid. This ‘smart fluid’ contains magnetic particles that alter the viscosity of the fluid instantly when subjected to a magnetic field. The damper’s elasticity can be accurately controlled to adapt to rapidly changing terrain.

It is indicative of the thinking within Canyon. The company has now taken the auto industry’s emergency call (eCall) feature and developed a bike that can connect with the emergency services if there’s an accident. The eCall-enabled bike will transmit the rider’s location, as well as pre-entered age and general health conditions to responders.

In addition, this connected bike can measure the wear rates of its brake pads and sprockets, sending the data to Canyon and to the owner’s PC, to guide servicing schedules. Another feature is GPS tracking that enables the bike’s location to be monitored – both for ride data and for security in the event of theft.

Matt Hatton of Machina Research
Matt Hatton of Machina Research: Regulation is a way of achieving M2M standardisation

Regulation is key

Matt Hatton, co-founder and director of Machina Research urged everyone to look at M2M Regulation not as a dry, dull area but as the source of a clear framework for everything the industry does in M2M. He pointed to the critical areas of numbering, roaming and data management. “Regulation,” he said, “is a way of achieving standardisation, but it’s always a little behind such fast moving technologies.”

Machina launched its M2M & IoT Regulation Database in August. Hatton said, “To date this (regulation) hasn’t caused a lot of problems, but it won’t be long until there is something of a crunch. Issues such as permanent roaming and data sovereignty have the potential to slow adoption. We anticipate an increased regulatory crack-down on permanent roaming in the coming years. Those mobile operators that currently support lots of connections that way had better do two things. Firstly, stop selling more, as that’s only exacerbating the problem. Secondly, build alliances with other operators to ensure local connectivity in every country.”

Hatton told delegates in Dusseldorf that the regulatory position over permanent roaming is unclear, with over 80% of regulators having no explicit rules. The likelihood is that regulation will get tougher, particularly in Europe. This has significant implications for mobile connections reliant on roaming either through necessity (because the carrier has limited geographical footprint) or choice (because roaming SIMs can take advantage of national roaming).

One-third of regulators have implemented a dedicated numbering scheme for M2M devices, and most are in Europe. Machina Research does not see the value in implementing such schemes. Meanwhile, data sovereignty issues may place onerous obligations on where data can be managed, and currently the distinction between payload and communications is not well defined by most regulators.

The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation will affect the provision of IoT around the world, says the research company. Anyone involved in the IoT must be aware of the new rules about user privacy and how data can be stored and distributed. It’s not just about Google and the “right to be forgotten”.

Barriers are being removed

Many of the explicit legal and administrative barriers are being removed, for instance with countries such as Brazil and Turkey reducing taxes on M2M SIM cards. A few remain, however, such as certain countries’ requirements for SIMs to be registered to a particular person or legal entity at the point of activation. This removes some flexibility in selling pre-activated off-the-shelf M2M devices. (See: Mobile industry embraces new GSMA Embedded SIM specification to speed Internet of Things growth.)

Professor Dr Nico Grove of the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar said there are four challenges remaining for the industry. The first is industrial policy; we need funding to support innovation. The second is technology, where we lack secure and reliable standards for interoperability. Third is data security; this is not just about user protection but usage rights too. Finally Grove pointed to competency, “interconnecting hardware and software with Intelligent Networks is the next step,” he maintained.

No, it’s all about M2H

One company that has recently begun to make a mark in M2M and IoT is Salesforce. Senior director, Jon Upton spoke enthusiastically saying, “It’s not about M2M now, it’s M2H – machine-to-humans. You’ve heard about the Internet of Things, the Internet of Software, or of Everything. For us it’s about the Internet of Customers. Can you have happier customers? The answer is Yes if issues are resolved faster by customer service agents (CSAs).” (See: Digi International, Etherios and Kerensen Consulting announce strategic alliance agreement.)

This is a shift, said Upton, from the old reactive service model, through the current era of the scheduled service model, to a preventative service model. Upton pointed to one Salesforce customer, ATEK who provide access technologies to a customer Tankscan who gather data from liquid storage tanks. ATEK have worked with Digi’s Etherios to extract this data from a range of devices and store it in the device cloud. Alerts and alarms can be passed to management, but the data is also held in ATEK’s Salesforce platform.

This reportedly enables better inventory management and a better customer experience for the tank operators. Tankscan monitors are now talking to Salesforce, giving ATEK a competitive edge. ATEK has even been able to add new revenue streams. The next stage is to work with smart information management system provider Empolis to add an artificial intelligence (AI) layer on top. Empolis learns how to service customers better and is already doing so at pharmaceutical company, Roche and car maker, Porsche. Another data optimisation example is at CAT where Salesforce is working in mining environments to monitor load capacities, fuel levels, battery charge and engine wear.

What is the IoT?

Professor Uwe Kubach of SAP was brave enough to define the Internet of Things. “The physical world,” he said, “is becoming a type of information system through sensors and actuators embedded in physical objects and linked through wired and wireless networks via the Internet Protocol.”

Prof Kubach then went on to lay out some of the critical challenges hindering IoT adoption. Under three headings these include:

Business                                          Technology                            Operation
Inadequate business models           Scale                                             End-to-end support
Legal framework                                Heterogeneity                            Security mechanisms
Data ownership                                  Variety of data volumes           Costs of security
Data privacy regulations

Industry 4.0 – the 4th Industrial Revolution

Joint speakers from agricultural machinery provider, CLAAS were not alone during the 2-day event in saying that the world is now undergoing the 4th Industrial Revolution. The first came with the introduction of mechanical production through the use of water and steam power. The second saw the introduction of mass production powered by electricity. The third was driven by automated production through electronics and IT. Now we’re engaged in the fourth, said Christian Schaeperkoetter and Dr Christian Rusch of CLAAS, based on cyber physical systems.

Cows can generate 200Mb of data per year
Cows can generate 200Mb of data per year

“There is standardised communication through ISOBUS. Everything is linked to everything,” they said, and this even extends to networked herd management in farming. For example, a Dutch start-up company is equipping cows with sensors. These inform the farmer by SMS when the animals are sick or pregnant. “In this way a total of 200Mb of data are generated per cow per year,” said Rusch.

Arable farmers are also beneficiaries of new connected farming techniques. Information on wind direction affects spraying, thermometers assess the ground’s readiness for crop harvesting, GPS locates machinery and enables farmers to optimise deployments, and telematics advise on the machinery’s condition.

Thiel (left) and Kreisher. "Nest is predictive, cognitive, and adaptive – the system learns,” said Thiel
Thiel (left) and Kreisher. Nest is “predictive, cognitive, and adaptive – the system learns,” said Thiel

Autonomous systems

The next stage will be autonomous machines. Fred Thiel, CEO of B&B Electronics, echoed Jon Upton of Salesforce when he described the way that Google-owned Nest’s Learning Thermostats have moved the game on from passive heating controls to become “a human behavioural monitoring device”. It monitors what you do and when you do it then reprogrammes itself. “It’s predictive, cognitive, and adaptive – the system learns,” said Thiel. “Collaborative Autonomous Smart Systems (CASS) communicate with each other, sharing telemetry data, and controlling each other’s ‘Things’.” (See: Google, Apple, Samsung…who among today’s front-runners is most likely to dominate the IoT ecosystem?)

So how much and how fast do we give up control. Thiel gave the example of the self-driving car. Although we have taken significant steps towards it in recent years he did not foresee this in general deployment until 2030. Adaptive cruise control will give way to limited self-driving, then a hybrid of self- and human-driving, followed by vehicle autonomy. Accident liability will, he feels, remain a stumbling block for a while. (See : Volvo and partners test driverless ‘road train’ on a Spanish motorway.)

Self-driving cars are still some way off
SARTRE showed self-driving cars are getting closer

Are you an ‘M2M adopter’?

Have you ever stopped to wonder who are the adopters of M2M today? The International M2M Council (IMC) have, and they’ve completed a survey of their 3,000 Adopter Members. Four in 10 are at VP or C-Level, the majority being managers. There are fairly even splits between the IMC’s three industry verticals, with Energy (37%) just eclipsing Logistics (34%) and Telehealth (29%). Europe is home to 42% of IMC Adopter Members with North America next at 23% and the Middle East/Africa (14%).

Software applications, platforms and consulting services are what they purchase most, according to IMC executive director, Keith Kreisher. But the point that surprised your correspondent — and, it appears, the IMC as well – was how many work in Operations. This is the primary job function of 58% of members, with marketing & sales occupying 16%, and 14% engaged in product development or design.

Prof. Dr. Jens Böcker
Prof. Dr. Jens Böcker

Professor Dr Jens Böcker of the M2M Alliance’s Management Board summarised the event as it ended, paying particular attention to Fred Thiel’s talk on how autonomous smart systems are now a reality. “The target (self-driving) is clear in the automotive sector,” he said, “and cloud solutions are a prerequisite. Systems will watch systems, watching systems.”

Drawing on the expertise of a panel that included Thiel, Kreisher, Ericsson’s Miguel Blockstrand, Joachim Dressler of Sierra Wireless, and Helmut Schnierle of Telefónica, he said his first conclusion was that: “There need be no fear of separation between the SIM card and the operator. The operator still has roles to play beside owning the customer. Customer ownership belongs more and more to others, such as original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) like BMW or Apple.

“What matters now,”  Prof Böcker concluded, “are data processing capabilities which are essential, as are Trust and Reliability based on a secure cloud.”


“The physical world is becoming a type of information system through sensors and actuators embedded in physical objects and linked through wired and wireless networks via the Internet Protocol.”

Professor Uwe Kubach, SAP





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