From Cars to Cows: M2M’s Limitless Possibilities

Gareth Thorne
On: 18 Aug 2015
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Machine to Machine (M2M) technology conjures up images of Terminators and Skynet taking over the world; where the role of the human is to facilitate the exchange of data rather than control it. This scenario could not be further from the truth. M2M is being used by organisations to save lives, ensure the continuation of the humble bumble bee and to simply turn your lights on and off.

The diverse nature of M2M and the depth and breadth of its application means it’s featuring more and more in IT and business strategies. According to the GSM Association, the second half of 2014 saw a further 243 million machine connections created and the market shows no sign of slowing. According to M2M strategic advisory company Machina Research, the total number of connections will grow to 27 billion in 2024. While increasing M2M adoption rates has in some part been driven by technological advancements, its growth is the result of organisations recognising its ability to improve business efficiency, drive new business products and services and generate new revenue streams through the automation and sharing of data.

Driving business efficiency

At the heart of M2M is the ability of machine connections to generate data that can be used to make better business decisions. Organisations are using this data to improve business process efficiency. Real time data from product sales can be used, for instance, to automatically reorder low stock, reduce supply chain complexity by eliminating or combining unnecessary processes, or simply to fix faults faster by building scenarios based on historical insights. Take the car rental industry for example. Today, sensors on cars can track journeys, report on how the car is being driven, and monitor driving conditions. This data can be used to determine the optimum time to service the vehicle, keeping repair costs to a minimum, and even to negotiate lower insurance premiums.

Driving new products and services

Facilitating more than just improvements to processes, M2M provides information in real-time on how a remote asset is being used, how it responds in certain situations and how it is interacting with other systems. Companies and individuals can utilise this data to improve current services or even introduce new ones. A unique example of how M2M is being utilised today is a new Irish company called Moocall. They have developed a product for farmers that enables them to remotely monitor the calving process by means of a mobile calving alert sensor. Through a sensor clip placed on the tail of a cow, data generated sends an alert to the farmer when a cow is about to give birth, ensuring that the farmer or vet is present at the birth leading higher survival rates.

Top 5 tips for rolling out M2M

It’s clear that M2M has created a host of new opportunities. However, the risk for many organisations is getting caught up in `blue-sky’ thinking and ignoring the practicalities of rolling out tangible process improvements or new products. Here are my top five tips when rolling out an M2M project:

  1. Clearly define the project. Identify the objectives, the roll out process and the intended outcomes. This will keep you on track when the temptation is to keep extending the outcomes into new scenarios.
  2. Once you have defined the project, you can see what skills and resources you are going to need and whether you can support it internally or if you need to partner with a specialist to achieve your goal.
  3. Identify your integration costs upfront and within the project definition. Often integration can take a lot of resource and budget on the project, so don’t be penny wise and pound foolish – invest wisely in this step.
  4. Know your implementation cost model. This is important – so much so that it is worthy of a separate point. While M2M and IoT offer Opex models, you may need to bring in new technology to support it, thus creating a CAPEX element to your M2M project.
  5. Be entrepreneurial! While I’ve warned against losing yourself in the opportunities that M2M can provide, applying some entrepreneurial thinking can bring a host of new benefits, just remember to turn those aspirations into tangible results. The application of M2M is only limited by our imaginations.