Health care driving mobile M2M traffic

10 February 2013 by Steve Blum
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Bits keep you fit.

Some time this year, we’ll hit the point where there are more connected devices on mobile networks than there are people on the planet. That doesn’t mean everyone everywhere will have a smartphone. A lot of people have more than one device, of course. And a growing share of those connections don’t involve human beings at all.

According to a report on worldwide mobile data traffic just released by Cisco, 369 million machine-to-machine (M2M) devices accounted for 3% of global traffic last year. By 2017, the total will climb to 1.7 billion and generate 5% of mobile data traffic around the world, an annual traffic growth rate of 89%.

Health care is the fastest growing segment of the M2M data market. Cisco’s prediction is that it’ll grow 74% per year for the next five years, driven by bandwidth intensive applications deployed to hospitals as well as directly with patients.

Equipment manufacturers are even more bullish in their predictions. Qualcomm, in particular, aims to drive growth in M2M chip sales by providing support to health care related ventures. Either way, though, it’s a huge new market for both hardware and services, with the number of devices in use growing 36% per year for the next five years, according to Cisco’s forecast.

Overall, M2M products are becoming more sophisticated, with the average device generating 64 Mbps per month in mobile traffic, a figured expected to grow to 330 Mbps in 2017. Asia will generate the highest volume of traffic by then, but Europe is predicted to have the fastest rate of growth.