I've overused calling machine-to-machine (M2M) the dark matter of the telecommunications world. Dark matter is the mysterious substance that really smart people tell us constitutes much of what is out there.
M2M is pervasive. It includes everything from sensors that ensure refrigerator compartments in trucks are cold enough to smart meters that report on how much energy a home is using. It offers carriers steady and predictable revenue streams and, in many cases, a way to squeeze a bit of life out of older networks, since M2M messages usually are short.
It's a fragmented world, however. Distributing data to GPS end points is a lot different than hearing from a sensor in a refrigerator truck that, well, everything is cool. That's why it is significant that standards-setting groups from the U.S., Europe, Japan, China and Korea have agreed to work together. It's good news, according to Connected World:
The collaboration could be beneficial for a number of reasons. For instance, TIA says a common M2M service layer could lead to more cost-efficient, widely available access to connected products and systems as the number of applications continues to skyrocket.
The standards will encourage what already is a growing industry. Sprint put out a press release this week about its work with the utilities industries that actually announced nothing. But its very existence suggests that the carrier is behind the concept. It named its partners, which are Itron, Lanner Electronics, Power Insight and The Silver Sprint Smart Energy Platform.
Utilities need to decide whether they feel confident enough to trust carriers or want to build their own networks. Utilities simply don't fool around with reliability, as Pike Research Senior Analyst Bob Lockhart told me in an interview posted earlier this week:
They don't talk about "five nines." They don't negotiate stuff like that. You just better do it right all the time.
Clearly, Sprint and other carriers want the business. The question will be whether the utilities want them.
A couple of recent studies suggest just how much interest there is in the world of M2M, utilities notwithstanding. Beecham Research released research this week that said the service enablement services (SES) - which the organization says "map to a layer above network airtime connectivity and below end-user value added services" - will be worth $2.2 billion in 2014. The task of SES is a bit obtuse, but its growth isn't. That figure can be compared to a mere $350 million last year.
ABI Research, meanwhile, said that cellular M2M rose by 26.2 percent last year, from 87.7 million connections in 2010 to 110.6 million globally. The category showed strength in a number of different areas, including new launches as service providers' core voice/data services mature and it showed growth in smart grid and automotive telematics, the firm said.