COMMENT: Future of transport rides on M2M adoption

Guest columnist Hatem Bamatraf of du talks about M2M.
Logistics, COMMENT, Business Trends


Transport sectors are early adopters of machine-to-machine communications for a very good reason.

Fleet management, and the tracking and tracing of vehicles or high value assets have been a major application area of M2M in the past years. The monitoring of entire supply chains, for example with the help of shock or temperature sensors, is also quite common already. Most large enterprises have discovered the added value that M2M solutions bring to their processes, and how much it complements customer service.

Recently, integrated solutions have become more and more available and affordable to SMEs. A wide range of applications convinced them that they should go for an M2M-enabled proposition. Navigation and entertainment services, especially, are experiencing a sharp increase of usage.

In so-called M2M comms, a device such as a sensor or meter is used to capture an event, which is relayed through the network to an application or software programme. This translates the captured event into meaningful and actionable information - for example, revision of a weather warning. This is accomplished through the use of telemetry, the language machines use when in communication with each other. The application possibilities with M2M technologies are virtually limitless, and the transportation sector has become an eager early adopter. M2M is particularly useful for this sector, because it provides valuable data in real time that helps ensure the smooth transit of goods and passengers and also helps maximise asset utilisation.

M2M and the Internet of Things

A strict definition of M2M communications is “communication where a remote machine is monitored and/or controlled by a central server”. This definition explicitly excludes machines which are directly monitored or controlled, via a user interface by a user, who is physically co-located with the machine, therefore excluding personal devices such as smartphones or laptops.

The business-to-business market is ready to take advantage of M2M, and one supplier, Jasper Wireless, estimates that there are over a billion machines worldwide used by businesses, all of which could eventually be connected through M2M.

The transport and logistics sectors are particularly drawn to M2M fleet management applications to optimise use of their assets. Emerging regulatory pressure for carbon-friendly transportation could provide additional stimulus in the automotive sector for the rollout of M2M in smart cars and trucks.

With adoption rates rising quickly, and the potential of M2M still largely untapped, the market is about to increase in both size and in value. Estimates of the M2M market vary considerably, and depend on how the marketplace is sliced:

• According to market research firm iSuppli, global revenue from sales of wireless telecommunications modules for M2M systems are set to rise nearly seven-fold between 2010 and 2014.
• Based on various IDC figures, Nokia Siemens Networks has estimated that worldwide revenue from the total M2M market is expected to be in excess of $45 billion by 2013.

For transportation applications, the most important aspect of M2M is connectivity and reliable telco communications. Regional telco suppliers believe they now have the required infrastructure in place.

In fact, the connectivity or communications part of M2M solutions is not particularly problematic. Most M2M applications are low bandwidth and not particularly demanding in terms of latency. M2M traffic can be transmitted over a variety of communications mediums including cellular networks and across combinations of telco carrier networks. Typically, M2M devices communicate with each other using mobile technologies like GPRS, EDGE or CDMA.

Industry analysts confirm that 2G mobile technology predominates for M2M connectivity at the moment. However, it is reported that 3G M2M modules are growing at three times the rate of 2G alternatives as prices drop and the link speeds required by M2M applications increase.

As telco operators begin their rollouts of next generation 4G networks, the region’s airwaves will be busy with M2M conversations between millions of connected devices.

About the Author: Hatem Bamatraf is the executive VP, enterprise for du.

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