The lack of paths

In an article I’ve read, the author gives a very concise analysis of the present and future medical career of M2M. I liked the article, despite its lack of realism. Here we are  today and there  we would like to be tomorrow. It is visionary. Before having the product, one has to imagine it.

I have seen many articles very well written, structured the same way: small initiatives in the present, a lot of  possible and/or potential  solutions in the future, excessive usage of the modal verb will and its derivatives. It is sad that each time, the gap between present and future widens, without any foreseeable bridge to be constructed.

It is like the bridge over the Gibraltar. No one is able to suggest a viable/sound plan, yet, would (!) it already be in place, many problems could be solved. The real problem arises from a single fact: the research has moved from universities to private firms.  Even open initiatives are tributary to big companies. What is necessary to provide a fully functional prototype? Vision, enthusiasm, people and money. Spare, rare, dare, fare.

It is because of the bureaucratic way the companies function that the M2M is moving so slowly, when it should have twice the development speed that  internet had in its early years. What  made internet famous and widespread were a universal language (HTML), multi-platform browsers and websites. I do not mention the network itself, even if the analogy with the 2G/3G/4G is obvious.

Let’s discuss the three key elements.

The language. As far as I have seen, there is no initiative to develop a universal language. The few bits of information I managed to get from manufacturers indicate one thing: fear of failure, fear of losing a small market share.  The usual argument is that the M2M devices are communicating  automatically with the rest of the world. Just plug them and they will work. Amazing! The telecom companies are so jealous that no information about open initiatives transpire on the blogs. When Apple launched the iPhone, the touch screen was available for years. The product wasn’t something new, yet it made a revolution.

The multi-platform browser. In other words, a system (software/hardware) able to interact with the devices. There is even less information about this part. All the existing products are proprietary. The research community is a simple watcher. The browser part is what a geek would call a simulator. No way. A simulator when there is no standard language ? Well, someone needs to start with something.

Finally, the website. In M2M speaking, the portal. This part is the most secrete of all. You may read that Telefonica, DT or Vodafone launch an M2M portal. Without being customer, it is impossible to see what they offer, there is no way to compare the portals, zero competition at the application level and everybody is stuck.

I understand that they are afraid. A solid company, full of innovations, shouldn’t be afraid of the future. On the contrary, it should be open to any initiative. Unless there is no clear path, just a struggle near the walls of the global village. Which I am afraid is true.


Joint venture with potential impact in M2M

Today’s headlines are about the joint venture  between Walters & Shutwell Inc. and Hendrix Business Systems, Inc.

They don’t sell M2M devices and are small comparing with telecom giants. But one doesn’t need to be big in order to matter. The ultimate goal of a company is to make profit and the users need only one thing: customer service. Just that. While the big wolves are fighting for market shares, smaller companies are happy with less. Instead of investing hundreds of billions with ARPUs of $250/yr/user for 100 million user base  and a potential gain of $25 billion, the small sharks are winning more like 50 million. This suffices for their business.

It is now official: the new joint venture will benefit from past experience and excel in their area of expertise: data management. The small companies are starting to see the huge potential of M2M. The telecom masters may have the upper hand in gathering raw data. They are the exclusive link that allows to retrieve information. How to store it, how to use it, how to exploit  this new asset, that is a different story. The small companies have an important  word to say.

I picked up the two companies not because they are important, but because they aren’t.  However, they are a typical specimen of the IT services market. The fusion of services is a must for their survive when facing ever increasing challenges.   The M2M is not about big companies.  The list of hundred billion dollar  businesses  fits on one page, if one neglects  financial services. at a comfortable font size of 14, the list is easy to parse.  What matters is the 3 billion user base  of mobile phones customers and the projected equivalent of IoT devices. The most important aspect is not the bandwidth. M2M is designed to work at law speeds, infrequently, on a per-need basis. The single most important fact about M2M is how to store data and what to do with it.

To answer to the first question, one should consider the alternatives: data warehouses, cloud, bid data and the relational model. Additional solutions might arise need that be. The second question is more interesting, because it opens new markets, for the small companies. There will be an increasing need for data crunchers. This is where companies like  Hendrix Managed Services will play an important role. 

Finally, M2M is about ETL. The sensors will Extract raw data. The mobile networks will convey it. The service companies will help the players to Transform raw  data into relevant information. The cycle will end with the Loading of information in DSS systems. I leave this part to the salespeople. 





The age of IoT

Many new concepts are in fact quite old. Give it a shiny new armor and see the line of customers anxious to buy the latest greatest gadget from ACME. Every day, new inventions are made by simply re-engineering or re-marketing dusty concepts. When square is outdated, make it round. When round become outdated too, remake it square. This is called marketing and has worked well in the past 50 years, so why should we stop ? We shouldn’t.

IoT is not a new player in the field of technology. It is quite old. In fact, it was born the same time internet was. The 60’s and 70’s. It is the moment people tried to build robots (i.e. intelligent machines) for the first time. It is the idea of making a hybrid device, with sensors, brain and mouth. Well, not a mouth, but having a  communication system. It didn’t work  well, due to many factors, especially the processing power, the data bandwidth and the friendliness of the interface.

They were ugly. They were clumsy. Stupid machines. Time passed, no one  remembering them in the 80’s and 90’s. The new millennium came and like magic, some marketing guy sold the idea: a device with sensors, brain and communication interfaces. Wow! Does it ring any bells ?  Is it new ? Of course not. The great thing about marketing is the ability to juggle with the fundamental ratios: value/cost , availability/know-how.

Today we see many fights for patents. Especially for past inventions. Companies are bought not for their present value to the customer, but for the hundreds of patents they represent.  IoT is not a new concept. It is a new label of an old, forsaken, dusty thing. A new shiny armor for the old knight of the past ages. And it works.

As for the age of IoT, it is just math. I would like to consider Voyager 2 the first device connected to the IoT. A great device that has  the same age as the IoT.

M2M and the predictive maintenance

I have read recently about the potential use of m2m in the predictive maintenance (PM) of a car.
blog bosch Great ideas about potentiality. Still, that there is no realism at all. I ain’t critic, but I would like to see more articles about real world cases. Common people are interested in personal gain.

I noticed in the aforementioned article what’s the use of IoT/M2M. Great idea. Probably it will be implemented as standard by 2020. I hope the car makers will include the predictive maintenance before 2015 in some cars.

The article mentioned a 3-step process: data capture, data integration (in some storage system) and data-based prediction making. Everything is connected with everything else. No matter how interesting the idea might be, there is one thing that decides the go/no go decision: how close is the theoretical idea to the mass market production. The tens of billions of M2M devices  take into account the massive flood of the market. The single most important aspect of a product is the cost-profit relation. Given the fact that the M2M devices are supposedly  low ARPU-oriented, there comes the need to have many of them.  Thus, the idea must be marketable before its incipient phase.

Next comes the feasibility study. Is it realistic ? Which is cheaper to the final user : to buy a new predictive-enabled car or to add the sensor/M2M subsystem ? And here comes the $64000 question: what if the insurance companies will use the data to monitor the drive style of the guy who simply wants to lower his bills ?

Again, what must be implemented first is legislation. M2M will generate a lot of data traffic, some part being sensitive. Only with a safe M2M technology will the predictive maintenance be efficient and effective.

Is eCall really safe ? If yes, to which degree ?

The M2M has big plans for the automotive sector: smart car, safe drive, and so on. Among these plans, one of the most debated is the eCall, the life saver. Yes, I know the car makers will hate me, but I think the current approach isn’t safe. Let me explain why.

First of all, in order for eCall to work flawlessly, it needs to be deployed with a 100% coverage. I mean by that that all the land must be covered.  The problem ? The tunnels, for instance. Are they covered 100% ? I don’t think so. The car accidents happen everywhere. Mostly where the sufficiency factors are gathered. The tunnels have been, from a historic point of view, a place where accidents not only happen , but when they do, more than one car is involved. Thus, the eCall must work. This can only happen when enough  coverage is provided. Today, that is not the case.

Another factor to be taken into consideration is the compliancy.  Will all the cars have the  eCall devices by 2015? 250 million cars is a big number and not all are equally suited for the standard eCall modules. The recent developments in the car industry have proven how difficult is to apply a same change to tens of millions of cars in a short period of time. Some  of the changes need time to be accepted by the drivers. The mandatory seatbelt has taken  many years to be implemented and still, today, many forget  to or do not use the belt. This leads to grave injuries in case of an accident.

Let’s not forget the cars not registered in EU-countries which may or may not have eCall devices. And what about other vehicles, like motorbikes, bicycles and so on. What about motorboats. What about mountain climbers who fall ?

The idea is excellent, but it is still an early initiative and the frame is not yet ready. Before implementing such an ambitious plan, one should consider the coverage of all of the bases. One must plan carefully each stage of the project. The deadlines must be realistic. The public must be educated about the change. Also, the price of the equipment should not be a factor of denial. With 250 million eCall devices in place, there should be possible to cut the price  down to an acceptable value.

One should begin looking for  small  achievements before seeking big results. A small countryside, with all the possible landscapes. Little by little, the successes will  gather and the public will notice that the eCall saves lives.

Vertical limit

Each time I read M2M-related articles, there is a word jumping in front of everything else: vertical. The M2M market has been divided in vertical. A buzzword for market segment. Unfortunately, the universal adoption of the notion of vertical has been accompanied by a semi-standardization of market segments. Today, there are about seven verticals (read market segments). E.g. automotive, energy, health, and so on. Top 20 players in M2M field have adopted without much thought these segments. This is what i call “vertical limit”. Everybody copies everybody. This is bad for the future of the M2M market in general and for the market segments (verticals) yet to be discovered or identified.

A well-known speaker has once asked if there could exist a product halfway between a smartphone and a laptop. Not only he identified the corresponding market segment, but so big it went that today it threatens the supremacy of mass-market PCs and laptops. Unfortunately, I see the same pattern around the M2M verticals. Could there be other unidentified market segments ? In general it is wise to avoid betting against uncertainty. 

The main problem arrises from the bad market segmentation and from the confusion between IoT and M2M(sim2sim if you want). As I have stated in a previous article, M2M is considered a synonym with SIM. On the other hand, IoT is just a way to connect any device to the global system and/or another device.  The global IoT market is much bigger than the sum of the seven M2M verticals. 

The IoT is not driven by the mobile communications only. The IoT is fueled by the desire to give autonomy to devices. It is more close to the field of artificial intelligence, swarm behavior and so on. More than that, IoT is much older than the  mobile networks. There have been many prototypes of IoT in the 70’s and 80’s. Most of them have been failures due to the lack of enough  resources  They have been forgotten and buried in the junkyard of their creators. 

I think there ought to be a clear separation between IoT and the seven verticals known as M2M. The R&D labs around the world should ask on a daily basis the fundamental question: is there another market segment that has been forgotten ? And if it is, how can my company position itself as market leader directly from start. 

The new, broader and more flexible  perspective gives a deeper understanding of Iot. And one thing is sure: IoT will play a major role in the next 50 years to come.





What is IoT? And M2M ? Can we swap them?

The IoT is a great acronym. It doesn’t mean anything as a word. Eye Ow Tee. Still, telecom companies are fighting new wars on this new ground. They are invisible wars, because the common guy still has no idea what is at stake. Come on guys, it is about the future of the world, the super, mega, automated and interactive world of science-fiction movies. R2D2 meets Robocop.

The “I” comes from internet. Really ? Internet is about web browsers and PCs. No way, this is wrong. So wrong that only 10 percent of the data traffic is web data. Only 10 percent ? How could that be ? First, most of the traffic is binary: movies, music, pictures, business data. We are far from the beginning back in the early 90’s.

The “o” stands for of. Made of. Connection. Communicate. Transfer. Data. Still, the letter cannot do justice to a notion so profound that we talk about it without giving much thought. Let’s just stop here for the moment. More to come in a jiffy.

As for the “T”, well, it is for things. Bad name. Bad name. John McClane meets Simon Gruber. In fact we are talking about intelligent things. Software. Hardware. Machines.

So what is this IoT thing about ? It is a metaphor about machines communicating with other machines. In a word, just like Matrix. Wait, in that movie it was about intelligent software. Well, the “T” refers not only to a piece of hardware, but also to some software running inside it. Could this be possible ? Why not? As a matter of fact, such things have existed for the past fifty years. Fifty years ? No way. Yes way! Just think about the railroad crossing signs that magically start blinking when a train nears by.

Old stuff. Classic stuff. Buzzword. Does it sound familiar ? It surely does. The telecom giants will not reinvent the wheel. Why bother to do it when they can simply resell it? Now IoT seems less of a magic word an more like a marketing propaganda.

What about M2M ? “Em”, “Too”, “Em”. Well, in order to close a sale one must repeat the word till the customer takes the wallet out of his pocket.

The first “M” stands for machine. It is a misconception. In reality it stands for “mobile”. To be more precise, it stands for “SIM chip inside a moving device”. Is it difficult to read that phrase? Yeah, so I thought. Much easier with the letter. The figure “2” is a classic abbreviation meaning “to” or “from … to”. Like so many buzzwords like B2B, P2P, C2C, B2B2C and so on. It is sexy. The customers like it. As for the second “M”, it has the same meaning like the first one.

Basically, M2M is a way to make one SIM card communicate with another. of course, the salesman will come and say that it is not true, that you have many benefits, gains, profits, and so on. But still, M2M is just two phones in the middle of call, except that there are no people.

What about comparing IoT with M2M. Well, here comes the misconception. The IoT is as abstract as the Matrix was pervasive. The M2M, on the other side, is valid only under coverage by the telecom company. So, technically speaking, IoT is not M2M. What about putting SIMs into a satellite telephone ? Now we are talking business. The IoT includes M2M and this is where the companies make mistakes. Some guy has estimated the number of IoT devices to be 50 billion by 2020. He was very conservative. Between 2013 and 2020, the creative people called inventors will put on market so much new things that 50 will be replaced by 500.

We live in an ever evolving world. One thing is sure: there will be much talk about IoT, much more about M2M and this will make bloggers happy.