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EMEA: Is M2M finally ready for prime time?

Last week London was host to M2M World Congress. The presenters were an interesting mix of network operators, hardware and software vendors and industry analysts approaching this space from many different angles. There was smart home, smart city, connected car and retail applications in the mix – to name just a few.

Retail and the use of geolocation was a hot topic with many presenters. One example: You think about ordering something online and then you’re not sure and abandon your shopping cart. The next morning you wake up to a reminder that you abandoned your order and did you really want to do so? Later in the day you’re off to the mall and pass the shop associated with this abandoned order. As you near the shop you are again reminded about your abandoned order but offered a discount if you come into the store and purchase now. How would you react to this? Some may find this intrusive and a bit scary, but others will go into the store and not only buy the items identified online but purchase even more due to the discount offer. Of course the retailers are hoping you have the latter view of this experience.

Are telecom network operators the only choice for “Internet of Things” networks? No they aren’t, and two alternatives were presented at the event. SigFox and Telensa. SigFox is headquartered in France – its network covers France, Spain, the Netherlands and 10 cities in the U.K. , with announced plans to roll out in Latin America, Japan, South Korea and the U.S. What SigFox has been getting the most press for is its substantial fundraising. As of the first quarter of this year, it had raised $115 million in funding with contributors including operators such as Telefonica and SK Telecom. Makes you wonder if SigFox is really competitive or complimentary to their own networks. Telensa also has an alternative network focused on smart city, smart parking, smart lighting and IoT. Telensa also utilizes Ultra Narrowband technology and is deployed in 30 countries. While not receiving as much media attention as SigFox, its solution is widely deployed and has been in the marketplace longer.

Let’s not forgot what the European network operators had to share. Deutsche Telekom talked about its smart home initiative Qivicon. Based on a study conducted in Germany about smart homes, DT found that 72% of consumers had never heard of this technology and once educated on the benefits, 98% said they were interested. The concerns raised in this study about adopting such a service were security, cost and the lack of standards across the industry. What happens when they buy new technology they want to connect? DT advised starting with a single problem to solve, such as energy savings, and once consumers are comfortable with that, there is a willingness to add more. A single interface for all functions in the house that is required is available in Germany currently, but planned to expand within the EU this year. Another interesting note is this is a consumer and a wholesale white-label offer that will be sold to even competitive network operators if they are interested.

TELE2 started its discussion with a very entertaining video. It’s definitely worth watching. Have to give high kudos to the marketing team – entertaining, easy to understand what M2M is and keeps you engaged. I really want to know if Rami answers if you call him. OK – now you have to watch the video to understand this comment. TELE2 created a centralized M2M group with all functions related to this topic on the same team – product management, support and sales, with the goals of their products being simple, secure, quality and end-to-end. One of the interesting customer examples shared was that of a company called ESAB that makes welding products. Through M2M they were able to create a “welding as a service” offer where welding machines are remotely controlled and companies pay by the meter welded. The service is network-enabled and created an ongoing revenue stream for a company looking for new ways to enhance revenue in a market where new equipment purchases don’t happen that often.

Vodafone talked about its M2M Barometer study. They found that today 22% of companies use some form of M2M. Although this figure sounds small, to put this in context this is an 80% increase from one year ago and 55% of companies say they will implement M2M by one year from now. The key areas in which Vodafone sees usage is automotive, energy, utilities and with consumer electronics. Although the presentation talked about the rebranded Vodafone Automotive (ex-Cobra business), there were also a couple of unexpected examples, starting with a partnership with Keenan Systems – think “Cows in the Cloud.”

And following the cows, came bikes. VANMOOF worked with Vodafone to develop a M2M-based app for bike tracking and sharing with hopes to increase city bike usage.

So what’s the take-away from all of this? We’ve talked about M2M and now IoT for many years and it seems to be finally happening. Although still a ways to go in the general consumer market, businesses seem to be jumping on the bandwagon with innovative solutions to enable new experiences for customers at a continually growing pace. But we still need to figure out the business model for general consumption of M2M solutions.

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Claudia Bacco, Managing Director – EMEA for RCR Wireless News, has spent her entire career in telecom, IT and security. Having experience as an operator, software and hardware vendor and as a well-known industry analyst, she has many opinions on the market. She’ll be sharing those opinions along with ongoing trend analysis for RCR Wireless News.

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