M2M: The third industrial revolution
Robust M2M solutions
Take outdoor solutions, for example, where M2M solutions must be significantly more robust than in a climate-controlled warehouse. Unreliable solutions would lead to a breakdown in the Internet of Things. Conventional SIM cards and cellphones are not suitable for setting up an automated supply chain. Cards are only designed for temperatures of between -10 and +40° Celsius. Shocks and vibrations, humidity and corrosion can also interrupt the contact between SIM card and circuit board, so these cards are unsuitable for harsh environmental conditions.
Components of this kind have already proved their worth in logistics. They are fixed to the shell of overseas containers for purposes of tracking and tracing goods. A solar panel powers their battery and supplies the module with energy that lasts for up to two and a half years even if there is no sunshine.
The example from shipping is by no means exotic. Similar chips are used in the on-board units of thousands of Deutsche Bahn rental bikes that rail customers can usually book by cellphone for their onward journey from the railroad station. Chips used in cars can also withstand extreme fluctuations in temperature.
Technically, individual M2M solutions are fully mature. So what has yet to be done to make further innovations possible and head this booming industry in a sustainable direction?
From standalone solutions to uniform standards
We will only make full use of M2M’s potential if we no longer insist on using standalone solutions at companies and in industries or countries. That is why alliances will in future play a much larger role than hitherto. Operators are collaborating in international programs with hardware and, above all, software providers in numbers that increase by the day. Their aim is to provide users and market participants with uniform technologies and service level agreements that ensure constant availability of the devices and to offer additional service functions as a basis for further innovation.
Telecom providers can drive innovation and collaboration by enabling manufacturers and dealers from around the world to offer their hardware, software, apps and complete M2M solutions on a single platform. Many small innovators do not always have the financial clout to take their inventions to market maturity. They need somewhere centralized where they can look for partners.
Cooperation – a priority for the future
Strong growth in readiness for partnerships between MNOs must exist for M2M to flourish. The Machina Research analysts agree. In a study, they postulated six criteria by which MNOs must, in their view, be excellent if they are to succeed, and partnerships head the list.
We need clear roaming agreements and common standards and platforms. The MNOs’ task is to ensure that infrastructures are as uniform as possible. That can only be achieved internationally and by collaborating. The Global M2M Association (GMA) has already made a start. A cooperation arrangement between Deutsche Telekom, France Télécom and Sweden’s TeliaSonera, it aims to improve quality of service and standards for M2M communication – by means of network interoperability, joint certification of modules, and harmonization of software interfaces (APIs), for example.
The M2M Alliance, to which nearly all of Europe’s leading MNOs belong, takes a similar approach. Telekom is going with the flow because countless exciting M2M applications and development of the Internet of Things will revolutionize the way we live and work in the future. We are at the dawn of a third industrial revolution.
Jürgen Hase is vice president M2M Competence Center, Deutsche Telekom, which has an M2M SIM portfolio includes M2M SIM chips, or MFF-SIMs, in addition to plug-in SIM cards and the MicroSIMs used in smartphones.