Some businesses may never deploy M2M. Others have already made their move and are achieving a clear competitive advantage. Then there are those that can see the potential but are sitting on the fence. Why? Because they can't see where the value is going to come from.
Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communications enables the Internet of Things (IoT) which will be worth USD 4.3 trillion in 2024, according to Machina Research. But many businesses are struggling to create a business case around M2M. “For a lot of companies there is inertia. You need first-movers to showcase the real value of initiatives,” said Ken Sheridan, chief financial officer at NetComm Wireless.
Examples can be found everywhere. Right at this moment smart meters, intelligent ticketing machines, internet-connected car parks, digital signs, ATMs and countless other machines are communicating over wireless networks to improve efficiencies and save time, money and energy.
There is plenty of evidence across multiple industries to support the business case for M2M, but a number of slow adopters – primarily small businesses, rural and start-up companies – are held back by a lack of understanding. Most of the executives interviewed for the Economist Intelligence Group report say they have improved their understanding of M2M over the last three years, but almost half said they could not see a clear way to get a return on investment. "But I would not confuse awareness with detailed understanding," said Mr Sheridan.
Confusion abounds. And this is partly due to a shift of focus from products to outcomes and the limitless potential of big data. Tangible outcomes are needed to warrant an investment of any size, but to get a real return on your M2M investment deployment outcomes must be achieved cost-effectively over the long term. And this takes us back to the M2M products used to create the critical connection and communication component of M2M deployments.
Here are the top 7 ways to get value from M2M:
1. Be clear about your business objectives
There is no formula for measuring the value of M2M. Every vertical will calculate the return differently because business objectives vary. Whatever your goal – the technology should match your M2M deployment environment, timeframe, location and objectives.
If streaming live content to remote digital screens, consider 4G LTE. To manage on-road applications economically, choose a device that features vehicle voltage support, GPS and Ignition input. Think about the inputs you need for high-speed networking; and for a simple way to improve response times, select a device that will let you communicate, get status reports, change settings or even execute commands via SMS.
2. Make it your own
There’s no point in setting objectives if you don’t have the flexibility to make things happen. You can create your own applications, and adapt to varied M2M implementations, using an intelligent M2M router that’s software expandable, offering an open embedded Linux Operating System and SDK.
3. Don't get locked in
An agnostic approach to remote device management will lower your total cost of ownership and give you the highest possible rate of return. To cost-effectively manage remote assets such as vending machines, traffic lights or kiosks, look for a device that allows you to connect to any device management platform with support for a wide range of telecommunication standards based remote management protocols such as LWM2M, TR-069 and SNMP.
4. Deploy a scalable solution
Inexperience, perceived cost and a fear of change are said to the biggest barriers to adoption, particularly among smaller companies. Using a scalable solution, it's possible to start small with simple applications and gradually accommodate more complex applications and newer technologies as the business evolves. And a device that’s certified for use on global networks gives you the freedom to expand into new regions.
5. Think long term
The long term viability of industrial and commercial M2M applications will increase in line with the number of years in operation. For the total cost of ownership to stay low, your M2M applications should operate for 10 to 15 years, or more. 2G networks are gradually being phased out to make way for the added speed and capacity of 3G and 4G, so it's worth investing in a 4G LTE M2M device that features failover connectivity to 3G, or even 2G, so you can stay connected into the future without incurring the cost of an upgrade.
6. Ensure extreme endurance
M2M devices deployed in remote and industrial environments should feature a tough polycarbonate and rubber enclosure to endure demanding deployments and extreme temperatures. The M2M devices best suited to operate in harsh industrial and automotive environments should be made from a composite of hard wearing, shock absorbing and environmentally stable industrial materials. Look for a device specially engineered to ensure that the electrical components operate at extreme temperatures, and be sure that the device has undergone extensive environmental testing under extreme conditions of temperature, shock and vibration.
7. Choose the right M2M device
The journey might not be as exciting as the destination, but you need to get there somehow. Your investment will quickly pay for itself if you choose an industrial-strength M2M device that supports your unique and ever changing deployment requirements for a long time into the future.
 Economist Intelligence Group. Land of Sweeping Change: Powering Australian business towards a connected future, commissioned by Telstra. Authored by Kim Andreasson and edited by Charles Ross.