Battling factions of M2M market emerge at industry meet
This years M2M Summit, which took place earlier this month, demonstrates the problems within the developing IoT sector.
We’re currently on the threshold of an exciting
machine-to-machine technological leap forward, and the buzz is
increasing. As the noise around this growing sector grows, industry
event sign ups continue to boom.
The seventh M2M Summit, held in Düsseldorf
Congress Center earlier this month, was the biggest to date, and
included some of the major players in this area, including Deutsche
Telekom, IBM, Ericsson and Vodafone. But what the event really
served to highlight was a coming clash between telecom
companies and developers.
Given the optimistic growth forecasts for the
M2M sector, it is difficult to avoid adopting a gold
rush mentality. Even research institutes and industry
analysts try to outdo each other with their predictions for this
developing market. A new
study by IData estimates that there will be
80 billion connected devices by 2020, dwarfing Ericsson’s mere 50
billion prediction. Another recent study, conducted by the M2M
Alliance survey, reveals that 95% of the companies in
question expect a growth for their M2M area. 73% even
assume that this growth will be in double digits.
Along with the diverse forecasts and analysis,
the postmodern variety of terms and definitions reflect the
fragmentation of this young, dynamic, but already very confusing
market. Be it M2M, Internet of Things, Industrial Internet,
Internet of Everything, or Internet of Objects – almost everyone
who wants to secure a slice of the M2M cake invents their own
Professor Jens Böcker, board member of the M2M
Alliance and host of the summit, launched the event with a
refreshingly simple M2M definition. He simply
understands the phrase M2M to mean
“industry-independent, automated exchange of information
between machines”. But even the term “M2M” triggered a discussion.
To Martin Gutberlet, who represented Fujitsu Technology Solutions
GmbH, the abbreviation is too technical. For the general public, he
argued – and in the end it’s all about reaching the mass market –
“Internet of Things” is easier to grasp.
Is the hype already over?
When it came to M2M’s current state, there were
also differing views. Jens Böcker shared his personal assessment:
According to Gartner hype-cycle theory, Böcker said, the M2M hype
had reached its peak in 2010. After a period of disillusionment, we
have now reached a “Plateau of Productivity”. Since 2013, there has
been a continuous increase in productivity.
This was contradicted by a participant from the
audience identifying himself as a Microsoft employee, who, during
the panel discussion “M2M Becomes Reality” spoke up and argued that
the big hype was yet to come, and that the public had only just
started to develop interest in these technologies. Marc Sauter
(Vodafone Ltd.) mediated between these positions, pointing out that
this very much depends on the vertical markets.
In line with this, Jürgen Hase, head of the M2M
Competence Center at Deutsche Telekom, pointed out that the
automotive and the health care markets are ahead of other sectors.
As for geographical distribution, he reported that acceptance is
highest in Asian markets, and that small and medium-sized
enterprises are particularly fast in implementing M2M solutions.
The reasons for this, and whether it might be worth following their
example, were not further discussed at the Summit. The bottom line
is, the M2M market seems to be a market
of different speeds.
“Like power from the socket”
Despite different perspectives and assessments,
one thing that became repeatedly clear at this M2M B2B conference
was that everyone was on the same mission and thus had common
goals: firstly, to communicate the benefits of M2M technology
effectively, and secondly, to make businesses more
Jan Geldmacher (Vodafone), who gave the second
keynote in the morning, described the development and potential of
M2M using a four step model:
Visualize – the connection of devices to a
backend (track and trace, remote controlling, etc.)
Integrate – merging collected data
Analyze– gaining knowledge about customers
through data analysis
Transform – increasing the efficiency of the
company and developing new business models and services based on
the knowledge gained during analysis
The creation of actual value only begins in the
last step, as Geldmacher pointed out.
This is the most challenging phase for many
companies due to the complex interplay of the components involved.
Vending machines are a good example of this. For optimal delivery,
not only the levels of machines, but also transport vehicles and
routes, need to be taken into consideration. Therefore, apart from
sophisticated Big Data and Business Intelligence solutions,
strategic partnerships are the alpha and omega of the M2M
On this all the speakers of the summit agreed.
Only alliances allow for complete end-to-end solutions. After all,
and this was also a point of consent, the complex web of
technologies, services and suppliers should be hidden from the
customer. “M2M solutions should be available just like power from
the socket,” said Eric Schneider, first chairman of the M2M
Alliance, during a press conference at the Summit. He added, “Let’s
not talk about technology.”
Telekom also maintains its end-to-end or
one-stop-shop model which Jürgen Hase had presented last year in an
jaxenter.de. After all, Telekom has its own
IT provider, T-Systems. In his keynote, Hase’s colleague, Dr.
Thomas Kiesling, highlighted the fact that partnerships with other
companies such as Oracle and IBM were “CEO-driven” or made
“top-down”, in other words, without the participation of those who
create the enabling technologies.
Developer slogans such as “Software is eating
the world” or “Developers are the new king makers”, which have
become ubiquitous at conferences such as JAX or EclipseCon, were
not heard at the M2M summit. This is surprising, given that
Telekom, with its innovative developer platform “Developer Garden”
follows precisely the aim to link the developer community better,
to strengthen it, and ultimately to promote innovation. Although
Hase pointed out that such co-operations are “extremely important”,
as is an “open architecture” of the technology solution, our
question whether the developer communities of Alliance members will
join forces on a broader scale remained unanswered at the press
However, it was pointed out by
Hase that the summit will
continue to open up “for the user”. It will become more and more
internationalized – this year’s summit
was first held entirely in English – and also include colleges, so
as “not to remain a class meeting of the industry”.
Open means ‘Open’
Speaking of ‘open’, this was a popular word at
the M2M Summit. Apart from the “open architecture” that Telekom
envisages, “open” was part of the name of a platform that was
presented in the Innovation Forum after the lunch break: the
OpenMTC middleware platform by Fraunhofer Fokus, also a member of
the M2M Alliance. OpenMTC, however, is not really open as in “open
source”. The latter are still a niche technology in the M2M world.
This was probably disappointing to realize for anyone following the
buzz of the M2M Working Group Eclipse Foundation, the
OASIS standardization process of MQTT, or the new
Embedded Java projects.
Thomas Eichstädt-Engelen, who presented the open
source home automation platform openHAB in the Developer Forum,
criticized that the “openness” advocated in the keynotes was more
about opening up to customers willing to pay and less about the
accessibility of the technologies used. Ian Skerrett, who presented
the Eclipse Foundation’s M2M strategy at the Innovation Forum,
called for more participation of developers and recommended to
follow the example of the open hardware movement (Raspberry Pi,
Arduino & Co.), which, according to him, is an enormous
incentive for M2M development as a whole.
“M2M is a very silent industry. There is little
communication between the providers”, Skerrett stated in his
presentation. And by the end of the Summit day, he was proved to be
more or less correct. The panel discussion, which was heavily
weighted towards individual presentations over debates, showed how
little the industry is really shaped by points of contact, and just
how much it is influenced by individual solutions – in other words,
silos. The partnerships often referred to at the Summit are mostly
established bilaterally, and pragmatically geared to specific
A question about common standards, asked by a
participant in the audience, was dodged by the debaters. Magnus
Melander from the Swedish IT service provider B3IT AB even said: “I
think M2M has to be fragmented”, arguing that the specialization in
various vertical markets is a necessity. This was, in other words,
a plea for silos and a call to continue business as usual for the
companies present at the Summit, demonstrating that, although
everyone is ready to make a foray into the M2M world, no one is
ready for change. To date, possible consequences of market
fragmentation are a blind spot – and those who demand more
developer participation, cooperation and common standards, remain a
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