Machine-to-machine (M2M) communications is taking off in the enterprise world -- especially in retail and healthcare -- as companies are beginning to realize a return on their investment through internal cost savings, a new Vodafone study has found.
This is Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD)'s third year commissioning Circle Research to compile an "M2M Barometer" survey of businesses across the globe on their use of the connected devices. Vodafone Americas today released the results of the study for the US, Canada and Brazil, making up 207 of the 659 respondents, and found that 93% of companies using M2M products and services in the Americas have experienced tangible return on investment (ROI). (See Vodafone Expands Its Americas Network.)
More than a quarter of companies in its global study were using M2M, but Andrew Morawski, head of M2M for the Americas, said the Americas are leading the charge. Connections here have increased nearly 30% since 2011, according to Analysys Mason , which expects that number to double between now and 2020. (See Thread Group Launches IoT Spec.)
But, it's still early days for M2M, the sensors that make up the much-hyped Internet of Things. While 41% of the companies surveyed in the Americas say they've achieved ROI within six months from M2M, Morawski says it's mainly coming from internal cost savings rather than new revenue streams.
"ROI is coming from internal cost savings; from a process and efficiency and labor perspective, not from devices or connectivity," he explains.
However, for those companies that do more with M2M devices, including linking them to cloud platforms and analyzing the data they produce to enhance the service, the results have been promising. Vodafone said that of its survey respondents who are tapping into analytics and the cloud, 69% say M2M has "fundamentally transformed their business." Morawski says these users see a much quicker ROI. (See Smart Cities Need Long-Term Goals to Thrive.)
"It's all about the data," he says. "It’s the use of the data and analytics of the data. Once you really get your arms around using the data, that's where the more transformative nature of M2M comes in."
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Vodafone found that the retail industry has seen the fastest growth at 88% over last year for applications like digital signage and smart payment systems, while healthcare is also up 47% for remote patient monitoring, patient record systems and related apps. That's good news for Vodafone, which is making a big bet on healthcare M2M through a partnership with Lively. (See Vodafone Teams on Telehealth for Seniors.)
Outside of just healthcare, Vodafone has been an early mover in M2M with a global SIM that lets device users roam on to any GSM operator across the globe, including T-Mobile US Inc. and AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) in the US. (See Vodafone: NYC, Are You Experienced? and Vodafone to Ride T-Mobile Back Into US.)
For wireless operators looking to cash in on the M2M opportunity, Morawski says the survey findings should be encouraging as they indicate that M2M is getting real traction in the enterprise. Vodafone, for its part, had 25% growth in M2M revenues in its last quarter, even if the sector doesn't yet represent a large chunk of the giant company's earnings. Going forward, he anticipates that M2M will reach the top end of the projections being lobbied about. Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), for example, has put the economic value created by IoT at $19 trillion by 2020. (See Cisco Preps IoT Platform of Pillars & Products.)
"Carriers are starting to realize that it is more than hype and the segment is really starting to grow," Morawski says. "These results show there is depth in deployments and in this segment that may not have been there a year or two ago."
— Sarah Thomas, , Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading