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Machine-to-machine communication

Opportunities in new service paradigms

Jaime_Ferreira

Jaime Ferreira
Portugal Telecom Inova
ção
Jaime@ptinovacao.pt

Machine to machine communication (M2M) has received increasing attention in recent years. Progress in short range networking, growth of mobile networks, and advances in user devices have allowed strong progress in this area. While services as, for example, fleet management, supply chain management, and remote metering are becoming common, M2M is still in its starting phase. In Europe and elsewhere, industry, research and standards organisations join forces to realize “The Internet of things”. This concept seeks to combine applications and objects in our day-to-day environment to improve business processes and simplify our personal lives.

The Eurescom study P1653 “M2M – Opportunities in new service paradigms” looks into recent developments of M2M technology and services, assessing the impact of concepts like ubiquity and service pervasiveness. It investigates how operators can meet with these challenges in order to maintain a leading role in these new service paradigms. The study is carried out by experts from Bezeq (Israel), Portugal Telecom, and Telenor (Norway).

Services

The M2M communications market in 2006 is focused on vehicular, security and also telemetry applications. Figure 1 shows how data are gathered by a reading device in a local area (e.g. a car, house, neighbourhood). The data are conveyed through a wide area network, typically a mobile network, to a mediation or application platform where they are read, and from where a response may be sent. Typical applications include automatic meter reading (AMR), management of vending machines, fleet management, Pay As You Drive (PAYD) vehicle insurance, road toll, and health surveillance. Mobile payment and ticketing by means of barcodes is also becoming popular since mobile phones support such applications without much additional configuration, as figure 2 illustrates.


Figure 1: M2M network structure

Operator roles

Due to their commercial and technical positioning, operators have a natural role in M2M communication. This is, among others, due to operators’ proximity to end users and direct control and ownership of backbone infrastructures. The next five years will be crucial to the positioning of operators. Orange, BT, and Telenor are already competing on the M2M market. Orange is offering 3rd party service development using its M2M platform ‘Connect’. Orange also offers complete services, such as fleet management, which is priced at around 1 euro per day and vehicle in France. BT Redcare is structured in three units, offering services on Alarm and Telemetry, Supply Chain Management, and Vehicle Tracking. Finally, in the Nordic Region, where remote reading of power meters is becoming mandatory, Telenor’s Cinclus is dedicated to large scale AMR deployments (around 8 million by 2010), and simultaneously envisaging alarm and control applications that may complement the service.


Figure 2: Mobile cinema tickets using 2D barcodes (source: TMN)

The Internet of things

Large scale deployments in the metering and vehicular areas, sometimes as a result of regulations and initiatives such as the EU’s eCall, will foster the creation of a widespread M2M infrastructure that can accommodate additional applications. This will contribute to ubiquitous and context aware services and implementation of the “Internet of things”. The network will sense where you are and know what you need from your environment as long as you allow it to do so. This may include finding your way around the traffic, paying your bills or simply diverting a session to the device that happens to be closer to you.

Conclusion

The M2M market will continue to grow in the next years. Interworking of machines will have strong implications on the way we communicate and live. Service paradigms will shift towards computing ubiquity, service pervasiveness, and networking of sensors and objects. Business implications of this evolution are still to be fully understood and require close attention from operators.

You can find more information on study P1653 at: http://www.eurescom.de/Public/Projects/P1600-series/P1653/

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