Connected World 2011 Setting the Tone for M2M

A few weeks ago, I was in Chicago speaking at Connected World Conference 2011 on the topic of “Capitalizing on Connectivity”.  The focus of this talk was to discuss how business models, industries, and markets are changing as a result of connectivity.  Fundamentally, how you run your business and how you do business with your customers is transforming in ways that people have not thought of previously.  And this was echoed very clearly in the keynotes and sessions that were held during the conference.

To start, the folks at Connected World Magazine set the tone by giving their view or definition of what machine-to-machine (M2M) really means.  According to Connected World, M2M provides machines with the ability to communicate data, connecting people, networks, and everyday objects, while interpreting much-needed information that can be acted upon in a timely manner.

Their reason for doing this is that M2M means different things to different people, and comparing one report about the size and growth of the market with another was like comparing apples with oranges.  This makes it hard to assess how much of an impact M2M has had on businesses.  But what surprised most attendees was a comment from Peggy Smedley, Connected World Magazine’s Editorial Director, that the forecast of 50 billion connected devices by 2020 is too low! 

I actually agree with her and here’s why – throughout the conference there were sessions and talks on M2M in various segments such as healthcare, home automation, fleet management, energy and utilities, and transportation and automotive.  And although I didn’t attend all of these sessions, the focus of the ones that I did attend was about new economic models that are emerging as a result of M2M.  The impact that businesses have seen have been both increased revenue generation as well as cost reduction as a result of improved productivity and efficiency.  Consequently, the impact of M2M will be far reaching across industries and markets.  Ultimately, the use of connected and embedded devices for logistics, control, and communications will become an integrated part of how companies do business.  Add to this the number of consumer connected devices with a 2020 population of 7.6 billion, and it’s easy to see how 50 billion connected devices may be too small of a forecast.

Perhaps with Connected World Magazine setting the stage with a definition of M2M we’ll start seeing more consistent forecasts and estimates from analysts and media around the world that truly show how ubiquitous M2M will be. 

But even without the forecasts and estimates, and just as Rob Parkes said in the previous blog post here on, M2M is going to be big.  As consumers, we’re enjoying the benefits of connectivity through devices like iPhones.  But the opportunity for and benefits from M2M in business and enterprises will be even greater than that of consumers.  It’s clear from the conference sessions and the attendees that there continues to be strong interest in M2M based on its broad impact as a business enabler. Nine years from nowwe’ll be wondering who came up with that 50 billion forecast back in 2011.

Daniel Chui

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