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M2M Is All About the Ecosystem, Operators Say

Carol Wilson

ORLANDO -- Management World Americas -- Wireless service providers are pursuing machine-to-machine as their next big growth area, but for now are mostly focused on building an ecosystem that is easy for applications developers to build to and for consumers to use, according to a keynote panel here this morning.

Speakers for three of the four wireless operators represented, namely AT&T Mobility LLC , Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) and Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), said they are working with developers, enterprise customers and other industries to enable connected cars, smart homes and M2M apps in transportation, manufacturing and other industries globally. In their sights is an industry expected to hit 50 billion connected devices by 2020 and to generate $51 billion worldwide in connectivity revenue.

“We tend not to provide the applications,” said Eric Krauss, director of M2M product management, AT&T Mobility. “Our enterprise customers are looking for help with hardware, networks, and end-to-end service platforms -- they want us to provide flow-through diagnostics down to network and device layer, and they want connectivity layer between our data centers and their data centers.”

Jurgen Hase, VP of the M2M competence center for DT, said his company views the M2M ecosystem as very similar, whether it is developed for a smart home, for a connected car or for other environments.

“Our job is to connect ecosystem -- our part of the connected home or connected car, in the same way, is to create an ecosystem where all the different partners can add their solution and use our platform to connect whatever they want,” Hase said.

The one exception was Verizon Wireless -- according to Glenn Eggert, director of M2M product marketing at Verizon enterprise solutions, who said his company is placing “pretty big bets on a few verticals,” namely telematics or connected cars, health care and energy management. Verizon is developing a horizontal approach to M2M designed to scale, but is going to market it as developed solutions for these industry segments, he said.

Sprint is also focused on telematics, and has already partnered with Chrysler to offer connected vehicles -- Dodge Ram trucks and Dodge Vipers. The carrier’s role is as an “end-to-end systems integrator,” said Tom Nelson, director of marketing, wholesale and emerging solutions, Sprint. The goal is to create an in-car connectivity system that can provide a Wi-Fi hot spot, deliver information or entertainment services, and convey location, emergency and vehicle information in a manner that is intuitive, safe and not distracting to the driver, he said.

“We look at what we can do to simplify M2M, to make it easier to deploy. That is our role,” Nelson said.

Contrasting with the two carriers’ approach to connected cars was the Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) answer: a Windows-based approach embedded in Ford vehicles that interacts with multiple M2M networks, without human intervention.

“The network of networks is where the power is,” said Eric Troup, CTO, worldwide communications and media industries, Microsoft. But he admitted that there is also power in the data that uses those networks and connections, saying that most of that data is controlled within the industry verticals. As a result, Microsoft plans to partner to tailor its Azure platform for vertical M2M solutions.

Christian Solomine, director of M2M for Rogers Communications Inc. (Toronto: RCI), explained how his company has teamed up with seven other global operators to develop a seamless global M2M service. The other operators are NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM) in Japan, KPN Mobile and Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF) in Europe, Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. (SingTel) (OTC: SGTJY) in Singapore, VimpelCom Ltd. (NYSE: VIP) in Russia and Telstra Corp. Ltd. (ASX: TLS; NZK: TLS) in Australia. (See M2M's Magnificent Seven.)

All seven companies happen to be on a single backend system from Jasper Wireless, but Solomine said that is not a requirement for joining the alliance, which intends to expand. One key element is using SIM-card management from established software providers to enable a single SIM for a global company’s M2M solution. The group also provides single points of contact/support for each customer, and standardized pricing.

Where the alliance doesn’t have a wireless footprint, it can use the most favorable roaming plan among the seven companies to save its clients further on their global deployments, he said. — Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

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