What will the next 12 months hold for the Internet of things and machine-to-machine (M2M) communication? Is wider adoption in the automotive industry, wearable computing and healthcare about to drive M2M into the mainstream? And have questions around the business model been resolved?
The 8th Annual M2M and Connected Devices event in September 2013 in Brussels aimed to answer these questions and Real Times was on hand to report back. Held in the stunning surroundings of Val-Duchesse to the southeast of the city center, the event welcomed 500 delegates, including Orange customers, staff and partners, along with industry analysts and journalists.
Ready for take off
M2M has been a technology that has been tipped for the big time for nearly a decade, but while it has found its way into a growing number of applications, it has still not quite reached the expected stratospheric heights.
However, according to Stephane Beauduin, chief B2B Officer at Mobistar, the Orange operator in Belgium, all the signs point to the technology taking a significant step forward in next 12 months. He is not alone, consultancy McKinsey has identified the internet of things as one of its 12 disruptive technologies that will “transform life, business, and the global economy”.
Beauduin says that the government has played an important role in building the foundation of the M2M market in Europe. “The EU is very important because they regulate the market,” he says. “It is also a key customer of certain industries, such as eCall, where the EU is essentially the first customer.” The EU-mandated eCall technology alerts the emergency services if drivers have an accident. Other areas where governments are driving M2M include smart metering for utilities and smart road charging for reducing congestion.
These government initiatives are vital in helping M2M technology reach critical mass. For example, eCall has been instrumental in establishing the connected car. “There will be a ripple effect around the connected car as more applications appear,” says Beauduin. “Connectivity has already become a market differentiator for the automotive industry. Look at the Tesla – it is a luxury electric car, with excellent connectivity, in fact it is almost an iPad on wheels.”
And now connected cars are converging with wearable computing to create more ripples. Examples includeMercedes using Google Glass to deliver a connected experience to drivers, such as door-to-door navigation. Another is the Nismo from Nissan that beams driving data to a watch on the driver’s wrist, and links to other data such as heart rate to improve driver safety. Orange is involved in a number of connected car projects,such as Renault’s R-Link, which provides a tablet-like experience to drivers.
More efficient processes
At the event, a number of Orange customers talked about their experiences with M2M and how it had helped them improve their business processes and launch new services. These included Jean-Francois Leloup, EU Vending Optimization Manager for Coca Cola, who told delegates how his company used M2M to optimize vending machines in the Benelux.
Logistics was one of the biggest costs of servicing and stocking the machines and M2M allowed Coca Cola to cut this massively. In fact by analyzing real-time customer demand it was able to move from using a 12-ton truck to resupply the vending machines to a 7.5-ton one, which also reduced carbon emissions. With the M2M technology now deployed throughout its estate, Coca Cola is planning on using it to deliver new services, such as adapting prices remotely to provide a happy hour.
Others customers talking at the event included Nespresso, which is using M2M to optimize the servicing and operation of its B2B coffee machines and Eiffage which spoke about its smart city projects with Orange, such as Grenoble.
Away from the main plenary session there were four breakout sessions that covered specific M2M topics and Real Times managed to attend two of these. The first session covered healthcare, which is an area that has seen major advances with M2M in helping cut the number of beds in hospitals, improve compliance for prescription drugs and treat chronic medical conditions effectively.
Orange has been involved in M2M for healthcare for a number of years, with high-profile projects such as Sorin. This work has been recognized by analyst Frost & Sullivan in a recent report, which says: “Orange‘s story clearly proves that designing M2M health solutions based on strong industry expertise and technical capabilities can pave the way to disruptive digital healthcare delivery and enhanced value for customers.”
The breakout at the event focused on putting the patient at the center of solution, looking at how M2M was helping save lives by alerting for complications in chronic conditions, for example. It also looked at building a sustainable business model in the complex value chain of the healthcare industry and asked whether users would pay for M2M-enabled devices themselves?
Building smarter cities
The other session focused on smart cities – specifically on reducing congestion in cities with smarter parking and public transport. We heard about a sensor-based parking system that allows drivers to see where parking is available in a city. Orange is working to deploy this US-originated system in France. Making finding parking spaces more easily can have a significant impact on congestion when you consider that on average 30% of traffic in cities is caused by just driving around looking for a parking space.
The other main strand of discussion was around getting people onto public transport by making it more attractive. Providing Internet connectivity on buses and trains is already proving very popular with consumers. The investment for the installation could be made by the city authorities if their purpose was to reduce congestion – or by the operator if they are trying to differentiate their services.
This article appeared first in the Real Times magazine from Orange Business Services.