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AT&T, IBM Adopt an Analytical Approach to M2M

Sarah Thomas
2/18/2014
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Even as operators work out their own internal big data strategies, they are making use of the data they have to help third parties -- and turn a profit. A good example of this comes from AT&T and IBM today.

The tech giants are combining AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s network connectivity in much of the world via its global SIM with IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)'s software, security, and analytics to add insights to machine-to-machine (M2M)-powered devices with the goal of giving cities, utilities, and other businesses new ways to collect and use their data. (See AT&T, IBM Form M2M Alliance.)

The team, which have been working together on cloud services for awhile now, says they will initially focus city governments and midsize utilities, which both ingest hoards of data around mass transit vehicles, utility meters, and video cameras. The hope is using AT&T's network and IBM's software, they'll be able to better evaluate traffic patterns and improve urban planning or, in the case of utilities, better manage their equipment to reduce costs. (See 2013 Leading Lights Finalists: Most Innovative Carrier Cloud Service.)

Rick Qualman, IBM's VP of strategy and business development for the telecom industry, said in a release that collaborating with AT&T will offer cities "insights from crowdsourcing, mobile applications, sensors and analytics on the cloud, enabling all organizations to better listen, respond and predict."

It's easy to see why operators are excited (and building huge demo houses) to show off the potential for M2M, or the Internet of Things. It represents incremental revenue with little impact to the network. But, the opportunity becomes a lot more exciting when predictive big-data analytics are in the mix. (See GSMA Predicts 250 Million M2M Connections in 2014 and Big-Data Is Key to Consumerization of M2M.)

AT&T is an early leader in the M2M movement, and IBM certainly has the software chops to make the partnership payoff for their city partners, which will make this an notable venture to watch once trials start this year. Both companies will also be showing off at Mobile World Congress next week, so we'll report back on what this ambitious combination of big-data analytics and M2M looks like in action. (See AT&T Clinches M2M Market Lead With GE Deal.)

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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Sarah Thomas
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Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
2/19/2014 | 10:58:15 AM
Re: Security and Privacy
Haha, good one! I would be okay with a little contact from my fridge if it helped change my eating habits, but no one wants to worry about malicious content and spam from their fridge...I don't even want actual SPAM in my fridge.
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/19/2014 | 10:53:36 AM
Re: Security and Privacy
@Sarah exactly! Now there have been a number of discussions about how to combat this problem. And I just have to share this comic I found on Google+. 
Sarah Thomas
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Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
2/19/2014 | 10:50:04 AM
Re: Security and Privacy
Ah yes, the spamming fridge. Here is that story: http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2014/01/16/263111193/refrigerator-hacked-reveals-internet-of-things-security-gaps
Sarah Thomas
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Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
2/19/2014 | 10:48:15 AM
Re: Security and Privacy
AT&T gave a nod to the privacy safeguards of the collaboration in the first line of its press release, because -- as you say -- the security and privacy issues are so important where connectivity and the cloud is involved. It'll be telling to see how they handle the first breach or DOS attack on a commercial deployment like this.
Sarah Thomas
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Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
2/19/2014 | 10:43:02 AM
Re: analytics collaboration
True, kq4ym. I wonder to what degree some of these municipalities and businesses are already connected. If they have M2M connectivity already in their devices, then a platform to better analyze and monetize it would be appealing. But, if they're starting from scratch, opex savings will definitely have to be demonstrated to justify the up-front and, in a lot of cases, recurring expense.
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/19/2014 | 8:19:37 AM
Re: Security and Privacy
@Phil_Britt you're absolutely right about that. A few weeks ago, the news hit that even a smart fridge can pose a security threat, as many of the appliances connected in the internet of things have little or even no protection against hackers.
Phil_Britt
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Phil_Britt,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/19/2014 | 7:45:46 AM
Security and Privacy
The more M2M data is out there, the more potential for it being breeched. While much of it will be meaningless or useless for hackers, having everything connected poses many potential issues, as you point out. I like to keep some of my info off the grid for some (albeit little any more) semblence of privacy.

Retailers have learned the good and bad of collecting and storing too much data the hard way. While maintaining some information is necessary for a retailer's sales, often they collect too much personal identifiable information.
kq4ym
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kq4ym,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/19/2014 | 7:37:59 AM
Re: analytics collaboration
AT&T with IBM can certainly create a great dog and pony show to present to those mid-size cities and utilities to attempt selling the services. But, whether those mostly municipal leaders will find a place in tight budgets is probably what's going to move the pitch for analytics forward or not. The analytical approach is going to have to demonstrate some pretty good saving in operational costs, or the percieved ability to predict future scenarios. 
Sarah Thomas
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Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
2/18/2014 | 5:29:49 PM
Use cases
The release really emphasized security and customer data privacy, which makes sense given the heightened scrutiny around exposing your data. The idea in a smart city is to collect data from traffic lights to better manage traffic jams or parking meters to optimize parking lot layouts. It'll be interesting to see what commercial opportunities spring from it. You know there has to be some marketing-related activities in there too.
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/18/2014 | 3:03:56 PM
analytics collaboration
It sounds like a very ambitious projects. It'll be something to see the results of such a collaboration.
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