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M2M: Rise of the machines

Tom Paye | Aug. 21, 2013
Machine-to-machine (M2M) communications could open up a new world of technological opportunity, both for consumers and for businesses. So why, despite the big buzz, hasn't M2M taken off, and what interest should the Middle East take?

So what's driving this enthusiasm for M2M technologies? Well, according to Fadi Abdulkhalek, Vice President of Technology and Gulf Cluster Leader, Oracle, it's all about delivering new services, thereby standing out in the market. Having gotten a taste of what's possible with M2M, C-level executives are experimenting with the technology to see how they gain an edge over the competition.

"In 2012, Oracle sponsored a survey by Beecham Research on M2M adoption, in which more than 70 percent of C-level respondents said current M2M implementations are driven by the need to deliver new services, compared with 45 percent who said M2M was being used to improve operational efficiencies and reducing costs. The purpose of M2M solutions within the enterprise has always been about creating new differentiation in the market for the company's products and services," he says.

This is at odds with a widely perceived view that M2M is all about driving operational efficiencies and ultimately cutting costs. Indeed, if companies want to use M2M to offer new services, Dabboussi's pie-in-the-sky future might not be so far off. What's more, as more and more organisations prove how useful M2M has been, more will follow suit. Girish Bhat, Vice President, Middle East and Africa, Tech Mahindra, believes that the M2M market is set to grow tremendously over the next 10 years.

"By 2022 there will be 18 billion M2M connections globally, up from approximately 2 billion today. Today M2M accounts for only around 2 percent of cellular connections. By 2022, it will account for 22 percent," he says.

Bhat adds that the technology will be spread around a number of different verticals — in other words, everyone will be in on the action.

"The biggest sector in 2022 will be intelligent buildings with 37 percent of all connections, dominated by heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) and security systems. Accounting for 32 percent of connections, the second biggest is consumer electronics, including games consoles, music players, cameras and white goods. These are followed by utilities (10 percent) and automotive (8 percent). Short-range technologies will dominate M2M, accounting for 73 percent of connections in 2022," he says.

There are, however, still obstacles to these predictions being realised. For one thing, the widespread adoption of M2M depends on telcos being able to accommodate the increased wireless traffic over their networks. After all, if these technologies are going to rely on 3G and 4G, operators need to be able to supply the bandwidth, according to Jean-Luc Scherer, Head of Service Line Revenue Growth, Communications Service Practice, Ericsson.

"For some industries, we have worked directly with service providers and delivered M2M solutions to them without much involvement of the operator.  In sectors where efficiency, reliability and security is key, the role of the operator is becoming increasingly important. Ability to scale, provision and re-provision or re-deploy devices smoothly is going to be important as well," he says.


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