Magazine Article | March 31, 2010

Learn Cellular M2M Basics

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

Knowing the basics of M2M technology will help you increase ROI.

Integrated Solutions, April 2009

Machine to machine (M2M) has gained attention and traction for its ability to help businesses increase efficiency and improve productivity while reducing operating costs. If your enterprise is one of the many interested in implementing M2M, there is an array of different technologies from which to choose such as cellular, Wi-Fi, RFID (radio frequency identification), ZigBee, and more.

Cellular M2M provides the ability to connect diverse devices and applications by enabling fixed assets, such as electric meters, or mobile assets, such as fleet vehicles. Using already established, robust, and proven networks, cellular M2M is the best option to connect assets over great distances. Also, cellular technology is effective across widely varied industries because it's easy to integrate and cost-effective to deploy. Harbor Research estimates that in a five-year span, wireless M2M connections will increase from 73 million units in 2008 to 430 million units in 2013. The M2M industry has emerged as a vital segment for the wireless industry and as a catalyst for growth for end users.

If you're unfamiliar with cellular M2M, the technology can seem confusing and complex. It need not be. Implementing cellular M2M technology involves equipping machines with cellular-embedded modules (i.e. the engine of a cell phone) and allowing those machines to securely communicate information vital to your business. It cuts the communication process to save time, money, and valuable resources.

In addition to cellular M2M's ability to improve the bottom line and keep businesses running smoothly, several important market trends are hastening M2M's growth. Even the most remote or mobile implementations can provide real-time, uninterrupted communication ability with 24/7 M2M benefits. As the handset market has become saturated, carriers are now more engaged with growing the M2M space by offering attractive pricing packages that increase ROI for adopters. New programs, such as Verizon's open development initiative (ODI), make it easier to develop and obtain approval for specialty wireless device use on these programs' networks. Aeris recently launched AerCommand, new patent-pending technology that's fueling growth in the utilities space. AerCommand enables smart metering solutions with broadcast paging features at a fraction of the cost of traditional solutions.

As you begin planning your solution and evaluating technologies and service providers, consider the six Cs for successful M2M adoptions. The six Cs will help you realize the best ROI.

Choose The Right Tech Team — Building a team of trusted, experienced technology partners that offers exceptional engineering and customer support is the most important step in achieving your M2M goals. Make certain your systems integrator has experience designing cellular solutions for your vertical industry. If you're pioneering new ground, look for related experience.

Consider All Possibilities  — Excitement about solving one particular business challenge turns a blind eye toward a solution's full potential. Once a solution plan is established, make sure to validate its value to all stakeholders. Before jumping into feature specifications and systems design with an integrator, consider the needs of the entire enterprise team — from management to field service technicians to repair and delivery professions.

Consider Coverage And Carriers — Ultimately, your unique application will dictate which technology, coverage footprint, and network speeds are optimal for the success of your project.

Choose A Module That Stands The Test Of Time — A wireless module is the engine of any cellular M2M solution, and it's crucial to select a high-quality, market-proven device with an anticipated long life. Our experience has shown that using unproven modules and components can lead to costly, potentially deal-killing delays. Systems integrators who bring market-leading, field-proven modules to market ultimately increase ROI.

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Control Costs — Cellular M2M modules are typically one of the costlier hardware components of wireless M2M solutions. They are generally priced by volume, meaning device costs on larger projects are lower than on smaller deployments. Yet, as the wireless M2M market has expanded, large module providers are able to leverage economies of scale to drive device costs down across the board from data-only devices to more sophisticated devices with multiple features. Carrier service costs over long deployment time can end up being the largest overall cost of the application, so it's important to understand the differences between the carriers. CDMA (code-division multiple access) operators offer higher data rates, and they offer lower monthly plan pricing for most applications.

Certifications Are Crucial — Testing and certification can be painful, costly, and time-consuming aspects of M2M deployment. It's crucial to choose a module from a reputable manufacturer with an established track record for achieving certifications as well as strong carrier relationships. To shorten the time to market and to accelerate ROI, insist on integrating a module that has achieved carrier preapproval for specialty M2M deployment.