Archive for the 'M2M' Category

Where will the Internet go next?

I once read a book called Futurize your Enterprise back at the turn of the decade. At the time, it was seen as very ‘far out’ in it’s thinking, as it demonstrated the way the Internet may be used in future times. For example it displayed a future where everyone had their own domain and their own website. This site would not only display personal contact details for the user, but would also display their vital statistics, medical history, possessions and geneological history. The thinking behind this was that everyone was connected, and if for example, I had an accident when holidaying in Alaska, a local GP would be able to bring up my medical history at the touch of a button. Bearing in mind this was published just after the dot-com crisis, this seemed fanciful. However fast forward a number of years to a time where we are a lot more aware and protective of our privacy and you can see the issues that this concept had. Saying that, one of the other main concepts from the book was the fact that machines would use the internet more than humans, to commmunicate with each other. An example being that a fridge would order milk from the local supermarket when it sensed you were running out.

With the advent of mobile broadband and in particular LTE, this is not very far off. Machine to Machine (or M2M to add yet another acronym into the mix) communication is a technology that many see as the next logical step in the evolution of the Internet. And personally, I feel it offers many exciting prospects for entrepreneurs and integrators alike for the future. Carl-Henric Svanberg, the ex Ericsson Chief made the prediction that within the next 5-10 years, there could be as many as 50 billion sim cards embedded into ‘intelligent devices’. And where he says ‘intelligent devices’, he means items as mundane as doors and fridges. Others such as Juniper research predict that by 2014, there will be almost 412million M2M mobile subscriptions. Of course there are already a number of applications that connect to the internet. Fridges come with Ethernet ports allowing you to browse the Internet when choosing what flavour juice to have in the morning. However the main distinctive factor will be in the take-up of a universal language for machines to adopt when communicating with each other.

The fascination of this is the business model behind it, and the challenges it presents to network operators. Firstly for service providers, it offers a compelling way to cover the decreasing revnue from voice services, as these are increasinlgy delivered by IP. Secondly it means that service providers need not concentrate on selling services and bundles to ‘humans’ in a bid to increase ARPU. Whereas for many, there has come a natural saturation point as to the affiliated services you can bundle with connectivity, as to appeal to a mass market, you can only charge so much for a bundled package. Personally I don’t think M2M will change this markedly. Instead it will focus on areas within businesses that can be enhanced with remote support, as the potential number of devices that can be woven together is endless. This fits in nicely as companies look to cut costs by deploying a remote working environment as opposed to having physical branches.

Secondly the affect on network operators will be huge. One only needs to look at the issues O2 faced with the mass take-up of the IPhone. Personally although LTE will help the end user, it will not help the operators, as they will be tasked with delivering more bandwidth (and more expectation) to their subscriber base. One possible method to help this could be in mast sharing. Vodafone and O2 have done this in the past. Tom Alexander, CEO of Orange mentioned this was also a driver for the UK merger between Orange and T-Mobile. However a more compelling method would be the use of fixed line DSL, Ethernet and Fibre to backhaul mobile bandwidth as opposed to the legacy routes taken currently. In this respect, O2 owning thier own network (through BE) puts them in the enviable position of potentially being closest to delivering this ideal.

The future of the internet is a subject many more learned people than myself have spent time debating. A common theme is that we will move away from having a standard interface to the internet (being the browser) and instead will be able to interact through many different appliances. Also there will be a marked rise in traffic between machines. As always though, the main challenges to overcome will be how to facilitate this. Hopefully the launch of the Cisco’s CSR-3 will help to rectify that in the future.


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