March 2004

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What is M2M?

EMAIL INTERVIEW  Glen Allmendinger & Ken Sinclair

Glen Allmendinger, is President of Harbor Research, Inc.

Sinclair:  What is M2M?

Allmendinger:  M2M represents a third wave of innovation in computing and communications. In the first two waves computing devices typically delivered their value by having the full attention of human beings. To be sure, there have long existed automated, computer-controlled processes-from manufacturing to avionics to the stock exchanges-that are exceptions to this sweeping statement. But for the most part, computers were built to be stared at by people. In M2M computing and communications, individuals pay "glancing" attention to devices at best, the way a motorist glances at a speedometer from time to time - often networked devices will never get any direct human attention at all because there will be nothing to pay attention to.

It's important to understand what we are talking about when we use acronym's such a M2M. I think a definition helps to build understanding:

Machine-to Machine (M2M), n. 1. A set of technologies and applications that permits devices, people and applications to engage in a continuous dialogue. 2. A set of applications that permits the automation of updating, repairing, replenishing and monitoring remote devices and assets. 3. An approach that complements and enhances service and support operations.

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Sinclair:  What is driving M2M adoption?

Allmendinger:  M2M is allowing companies to wake up to the concept of "smart services." They must be a wholly different animal than service offerings of the past, and the customer must perceive them as having entirely new value. The new services will be fundamentally preemptive rather than reactive-not to be confused with "proactive" services such as preventive maintenance arrangements. "Proactive" is a much weaker concept than "preemptive." It implies action based upon assumptions-reasonable assumptions, perhaps, but assumptions nonetheless. "Preemptive," by contrast, implies action based upon hard field intelligence. You launch a "preemptive strike" to head off an undesirable event when you have real-world evidence that the event is in the offing. Smart services driven by M2M technologies are thus based upon actual evidence that a machine is about to fail, or that a customer's supply of consumables is about to be depleted, or that a shipment of materials has been delayed, and so on. To put it as simply as possible, smart services create value by removing unpleasant surprises from the customer's life. By creating true visibility into business realities, smart services prevent the customers from being blindsided by happenstance.

The only way to deploy smart services is to possess ongoing intelligence about the customer's real world. Thus, M2M. In most cases, this intelligence does not need to be strictly "real-time," but it does need to be steady and reliable. To achieve this, you need to eliminate the human factor. The only sane way to achieve competitive advantage in smart services is to leverage "machine intelligence" built into the manufactured world itself. In other words, products in the field continually "talk back" to their creators, usually with no human intervention whatsoever. Doing this requires two simple things:

Giving products something worthwhile to say. This is done by means of rudimentary sensors and microprocessors.

Giving them a means by which to say it. This is done by means of a global data network. The man in the street calls this network "the Internet."

contemporary Sinclair:  How does this all fit into smart, networked buildings?

Allmendinger:  Networked devices will enable a more informed and precise approach to customer service in areas such as HVAC and power distribution systems that will ultimately enhance all of a company's interactions. Instead of using expensive field assets (people, trucks, equipment, gas, time) to fix a broken sub-system or sensor, product OEMs will be able to remotely diagnose and order parts for repair, and-in some cases-provide fixes without visiting a customer site. With the advent of information standards and wide area communications the entire networked building systems sector will continue to experience a renaissance of change.

Sinclair:  What is the upcoming M2M Conference about? 

Allmendinger:  The upcoming M2M Expo is really the first large scale conference and exhibition for the M2M space. It will provide a forum for understanding the opportunities in the growing Machine-to-Machine marketplace. There will be significant networking opportunities in addition to providing a structured interchange to help foster a better understanding of the issues and emerging technologies that will drive the future progress of M2M. I believe it will be a great time to discover the virtually infinite application possibilities and how M2M will redefine current business models.

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