M2M standards will unleash innovation

14 June 2013 by Steve Blum
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Bringing down the vertical market.

Machine-to-machine communication protocols are propriety, frequently established by low volume vertical applications that are bolted onto existing mobile networks. There’s no established way to make M2M equipment that can roam across a large ecosystem of different networks. But similar to the GSM and CDMA standards that were originally developed for voice, carriers are starting to group together, with four European carriers – Telecom Italia, Deutsche Telekom, Orange and TeliaSonera – forming the Global M2M Association (GMA) and a larger group – which includes NTT Docomo, SingTel, Telefonica, O2 and Optus – coalescing around a proprietary platform developed by Jasper Wireless.

A unified standard doesn’t need to emerge from the rival groups. Mobile equipment manufacturers can support two standards. In fact, they seem to like it that way. Having two viable alternatives can lead to healthy competition that keeps costs down and pressure on to continue to innovate.

Samsung, for example, isn’t happy with relying on Google’s Android operating system. Although Apple’s iOS gives consumers a choice, it doesn’t license it to other manufacturers. So Samsung is partnering with Intel and others to develop phones based on the Tizen OS.

In order for Ericsson’s expectation of 50 billion connected devices (or any of the other “billions and billions” predictions) to come true, manufacturers have to start knocking out M2M modules like popcorn. And they can’t do that in today’s fragmented, proprietary market.

Once operators start deploying infrastructure that supports either or both standards and seamless roaming becomes possible, expect to see a burst of new M2M products, applications and networks.