Managing the machines: How operators can get ahead in M2M

The deployment of Machine to Machine (M2M) initiatives is generating new revenue opportunities for operators and communication service providers (CSPs). Pravin Mirchandani, CMO, OneAccess Networks, explains how innovative traffic management services, delivered via customer premises-based equipment, or CPE, can help them capitalize on these opportunities.

Vodafone’s third annual M2M Barometer survey has confirmed that businesses are embracing M2M technologies faster than ever before. Over a quarter (27 per cent) of all companies worldwide are now using connected technology to develop and grow their businesses. In particular, the retail sector, together with the healthcare, utilities and automotive industries are all moving to maximize M2M’s potential. The returns are substantial: 59 percent of early adopters reported a significant ROI on their M2M investment.

Despite the market buzz, many operators and CSPs are yet to zero in on the most profitable and operationally efficient way to support this new wave of industrialized connectivity. Not least because the range of possible M2M use cases is vast. The diversity of devices being connected, their whereabouts, the conditions in which they operate and the amount of data they produce all impact on the CSP’s choice of supporting network equipment. One key commonality, however, is that all deployments require a connectivity infrastructure capable of aggregating, securing and backhauling M2M data in a cost-effective, fast and reliable manner.

As the number of connected devices skyrockets, the ability to offer a range of traffic management services will be a clincher for operators and CSPs looking to gain a foothold in this market and differentiate their offerings. The good news is that many of these can now be delivered via the CPE, without the need for additional devices. Establishing always-on connectivity is of course vital, but the ability to provide a robust business continuity failover to LTE could also prove attractive to customers for whom any amount of network downtime is harmful, no matter how small. Network monitoring and dynamic traffic routing software managed via the CPE can also be used to support traffic throughput at peak load times.

Before the M2M market can reach true maturity, however, fears relating to data protection and security must be assuaged. Given the limited processing power of M2M’s connecting sensors – which are incapable of performing heavy duty computational functions such as encryption – the opportunity here is in the hands of CSPs and, again, the CPE can help.

By using it as a managed service delivery platform, CSPs can aggregate all of a customer’s M2M data from across their site and provide encryption for the backhaul as part of their service offer. OneAccess has already supported a variety of operators with a diverse range of deployments, including:

Connected speed cameras: field data transmission from fixed and mobile speed cameras to the Traffic Offence Processing Centre in France.

OneAccess was tasked with creating a network capable of transmitting data collected by speed cameras across France to a central processing centre. The key objectives were to minimize the costs of both access provision and maintenance, and to ensure the security of the data transmissions.

Water towers: telemetry data on water volumes and flow.

Technically an industrial internet deployment, OneAccess designed and implemented a real time data transmission to monitor the volume and flow of water, as well as valve positions, through a series of water towers and underground distribution units in Belgium, which transmit this telemetry data using a network served by ruggedized CPE routers.

Smart bins: Intelligent monitoring of trashcans in Ghent, Belgium.

OneAccess was tasked as part of a European program, whose goal is to optimize waste collection, with creating a wireless network to transmit the data from sensors installed inside trash cans to alert the administrating organisation when the trash cans required emptying.

Many of these ‘hidden’ M2M revenue opportunities are already out there. As is so often the case, it is the enabling qualities of multi-service CPEs that can help operators to capitalize on them.