Erik Brenneis is the Head of Machine to Machine (M2M) Smart Services at Vodafone Global Enterprise; he has overall responsibility for driving Vodafone’s growth in the Machine-to-Machine (M2M) market. Mr Brenneis previously served at Cinterion Wireless where he was Chief Sales Officer and a member of the Executive Management Board. Prior to Cinterion, Mr Brenneis was Vice President of Sales at Landis+Gyr Switzerland. Before that he worked in various functions with Siemens in Germany and the US. Erik Brenneis holds a Masters in Electrical Engineering and a Bachelor in Business Studies.
Two M2M applications are starting to dominate in the region - automotive telematics and smart metering. In the automotive sector, regulations require all cars to incorporate connections that send emergency messages in the event of a crash; the same systems will let service providers incorporate a variety of other value-added, revenue generating, services. Smart metering, again driven in part by regulation, will have a huge impact upon utilities markets and is essential to the emergence of the ‘smart home’.
Machine-to-machine communications, or M2M, has been around for more than 20 years. It is a well established connectivity practice in a number of different sectors, including utilities, security, fleet management and automotive. Yet it now looks set to grow dramatically, both across the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region and globally, as individual industries identify the benefits that this quantum leap in performance can deliver, to providers and end-users alike. Expectations are high, but will this turn out to be just another technology high on expectation, but disappointing in delivery? The evidence to-date, shows that the M2M ‘promise’ already looks to have greater substance than most in matching advanced technology to real-life need. Regional variations In the Asia Pacific (APAC) region, there are a number of direct parallels with the emergence of M2M solutions worldwide. Indeed, as with many other technology developments, the sheer diversity of markets across APAC makes it easier to make such comparisons on a country-by-country basis than across the region as a whole. For example, the less advanced economies in the region are similar to parts of Africa. Here, M2M development is typically local, to directly meet the specific needs of each country in such areas as stolen vehicle recovery or connected ATMs for effective banking. Similarly, from a trading perspective, markets such as China, India, New Zealand and Australia are like Spain, Italy and France due to a focus on their respective domestic markets. This contrasts sharply with Japan and Korea, for example, whose export-based economies - and use of enabling technologies such as M2M - have more in common with Germany or the Nordic countries. Overall, the APAC region is seeing the emergence of a large number of opportunities for M2M in enabling connectivity for industry applications, as mature manufacturers continue to transform their businesses from a pure product to a product plus service offering. However, across APAC as a whole, as elsewhere, most activity centres on two key areas of development. In what has become an essentially global automotive industry, the growth of telematics services has already shown huge growth potential. Similarly, the more developed countries and fast-growing economies such as China and India are matching their Western counterparts in developing exciting smart metering initiatives, which will deliver powerful benefits for providers and end-users alike. Key drivers M2M technology is set to move up a gear in the automotive sector as a result of regulatory demands in many regions that require all cars to incorporate a connection which will send an emergency message to a service centre in the event of a crash. Initially, this is likely to become a standard requirement on all new models sold in most markets. Longer-term, however, a substantial and valuable after-market opportunity will emerge as pressure increases for such emergency ‘eCall’ or equivalent messaging to be incorporated on older cars. When an accident occurs, as soon as an airbag is deployed a hardware black box will automatically send impact sensor information and GPS co-ordinates to the nearest emergency service agencies. This includes the precise location and nature of the incident, making sure help is on hand as quickly as possible. In Europe alone, experts estimate this will save around 2,500 lives a year, by cutting response times - especially where accidents occur in remote areas or at night and when urgent medical support is critical. In less pressing cases, this same connection can immediately can inform roadside assistance of a breakdown and provide details of the problem, so assistance arrives with the right tools and spare parts. Critically, such developments are part of a broader in-car communications system; this offers service providers the opportunity for a range of added-value functions that can deliver real revenue growth, by creating a significantly-enhanced user experience. In the event of theft, M2M provides the primary link between the location of the vehicle and the owner, making accurate vehicle tracking and recovery a realistic prospect. Another service will likely be the provision of enhanced automatic navigation and ‘infotainment’ aids. These can dynamically show - and update in real time - information of interest such as weather forecasts, hotels with rooms available and offer the ability to research and make restaurant reservations. The potential for creative M2M development appears almost unlimited, though one area, which is likely to prove especially attractive, is that of in-car Internet services. Here, M2M-based services could connect to other IT platforms, providing car owners with an integrated range of personalised business and entertainment applications. Smarter metering Another area where M2M is having huge impact is that of smart metering in utilities markets. Again driven in part by regulation, this is a key element in the emergence of the ‘smart home’. A smart meter offers two critical advantages over conventional metering. First, it identifies consumption far more accurately and then communicates that information back to the relevant utility for monitoring and billing purposes. As a consequence, M2M technology is a core component in the development of smart meters, as it provides the essential connectivity between the meter and the energy supplier. Although smart metering technology is still in its infancy, network providers are forming strategic international partnerships with meter manufacturers, meter systems providers and systems integrators. The goal is to integrate the M2M connectivity platform seamlessly with the metering software, in order to provide robust and comprehensive real-time data and analysis regarding energy usage. In addition, M2M solutions can improve efficiency by replacing regular servicing with on-demand servicing. Rather than removing equipment from service for scheduled maintenance, built-in diagnostics can schedule minor servicing on an ad hoc basis and major servicing only when it is necessary. It can also record a full audit trail of defects, usage, maintenance activities and any external inputs. Global network In the automotive sector, a ruggedized SIM is essential to ensure seamless, cost-effective coverage across all networks. The inherent mobility of the installation requires truly global network availability that can accommodate the anticipated increase in data volumes associated with such in-car applications. In the area of smart metering, it is essential to have well-coordinated delivery between multiple partners, together with bespoke solutions to address the challenges of coverage and extreme service quality. Vendors and service providers can act as information hubs for smaller hardware or software-focused M2M application partners by helping them grow vertical market solutions. More broadly, they can simplify the process of adding connectivity as a key differentiator. In APAC, in common with other geographies, there seems little doubt that M2M technologies will have almost universal application in commercial and consumer environments, locally, regionally and globally. Recently, Berg Insight forecast that by 2015 M2M will double its share of mobile connections globally. On current evidence, this seemingly optimistic prediction could end up being a serious understatement.