Of course, virtually all telecommunications connections can fit a generic definition of machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. But the generally used definitions focus on connections in which humans play no or a minimal role, such as vehicle tracking or smart grids.
M2M, as I said in a feature last year, has the potential to be the dark matter of the telecommunications universe: unseen, but mammoth in proportion and extremely influential. This week, Infonetics released a report that claims the expansion of M2M is here. The firm laid out the reasons-the mass proliferation of devices and applications- and gauged the expected progress. The firm says that there were 87 million embedded mobile M2M connections last year. The number will reach 428 million by 2014, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 66 percent.
RCR posted a guest commentary on M2M by Perry LaForge, the executive director of the CDMA Development Group. He pointed to the growth of M2M, while focusing on what separate M2M from traditional wireless communications. The first point, though, is that there is a significant range in what constitutes M2M. He writes:
Some of these devices emit short data transmissions, some download larger files and others remain "always on," constantly communicating with the network. From that perspective, the average utility meter, e-reader or garbage truck could be categorized as an M2M device. These machines are constantly signaling the cellular network, checking for updates to download or upload files, books and location information, for example.
The differences between how M2M and a consumer wireless network works also are significant. Devices can last more than a decade, but in most cases demand very little bandwidth. Ubiquity is necessary: A trucking company relying on M2M to monitor the temperature of a refrigerator compartment can't abide spotty coverage.
The piece weighs in with numbers as well. It says that Harbor Research says that cellular M2M connections will reach 161 million by the end of this year and 390 million during 2014. LaForge says that Ericsson predicts that there will be 50 billion connections by 2020 and that Strategy Analytics says the market will be worth $57 billion in 2014.
Telstra last month announced a deal with Jasper Wireless for inclusion of subscriber information management (SIM) cards into M2M devices and their management through a Web portal. The iTWire story says that Telstra expects its M2M market to grow from $300 million to $1 billion over the next four years, but cautions that it is a very fragmented business in terms of the size of customers and that there is very low average revenue per user (ARPU).
Such aggressive numbers almost always are accompanied by copious product announcements, since vendors read analysts reports as well. This week, for instance, KORE Telematics introduced KORE LOCATE, which the company describers as "the first location-based service offer from a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO). While it isn't new, Wyless Group is demonstrating how it, T-Mobile USA, Telit Wireless Solutions and Arrow Electronics are working with IPS Group on parking meter solutions. If nothing else, the nature of the implementation suggests how granular M2M can be-and how it is predicated on the rapid uptake of IPv6.