The Tip of the M2M Applications Iceberg

During the EMEA Innovation Centre opening event, I was fortunate enough to lead a roundtable session on how to monetize innovative M2M industry-specific applications. Around the table we had Communication Service Providers, member companies of ng Connect, and various other industry professionals with an interest in M2M.

One topic took a substantial part of the hour and it was triggered by a gentleman who was formerly with one of the big UK operators. He pointed out that one of the biggest M2M applications, Smart Metering, had an unclear business case, and because of this he felt network operators would be unlikely to move forward.

We debated this a little, and my view was that this could be missing the point. Once you have developed a robust M2M capability with a High Leverage Network and device management, application lifecycle management and API management, what could you do with it? Smart Metering is just the visible part of an as yet unimagined applications “iceberg” that could bring many new revenue streams to the operator.

Take the example of one Alcatel-Lucent customer, EPB Chattanooga. This is a utility player who decided that in order to bolster the business case for Smart Metering they would take a different approach. They decided to deploy a fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) network upon which they would provide not only Smart Metering but other higher value broadband services such as triple play into the household. The city of Chattanooga now boasts one of the fastest broadband networks in the US. Households now have access to many new services via the city’s power provider, which means more revenue to support the original business case and take maximum advantage of the capability being developed.

This may not be a pure M2M example but I think it illustrates the thinking. Don’t focus on developing an M2M capability for one or a few applications; instead imagine what could happen if you expose this capability to a collaborative innovation ecosystem such as ng Connect.  What new applications can you imagine?

In the same way that nobody could predict the wave of smartphone apps we have seen over the last few years, I believe with the basic ingredients of a network capability, a plethora of connected device endpoints and the ability to expose all of this via APIs to a vibrant ecosystem of developers, the same thing can happen in M2M. And by doing this we will be taking a big step towards the Smart City dream of safer, greener, healthier and more productive lives, helping us to realize the potential of a connected society.

Rob Parkes

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