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Fleet Management and Meter Monitoring Emerge as Key M2M Applications in Asia

Fleet Management

Dario Betti, Innovation Manager at Indonesian mobile operator XL, said M2M is already powering fleet management solutions in the country -- including navigation, ID management, geo-fencing, route tracking, alarms, and remote immobilisation.

Sunzay Passari, Executive Vice President, VAS & Devices at Essar Telecom Business Group, addressed some of his mobile operator’s M2M initiatives as well. “There is oil pilferage in tanker fleets in India. We use SIM-embedded sensors on tanker lids and taps to detect unusual usage patterns and trigger alarms,” he said.

Telematics is the most promising M2M segment for Essar (which operates in India and Africa). 16,000 vehicles of a radio taxi operator in Mumbai have also been fitted with M2M devices and services from Essar.

Fleet management applications are emerging in Bangladesh on the M2M front, said K. M. Tariquzzaman, Deputy Director for Technology at GrameenPhone. GrameenPhone (a joint venture of Telenor and Grameen Telecom) has 34 million subscribers and is the first GSM+EDGE network in Bangaldesh.

Vehicle monitoring applications of M2M are also promising. Abraham Joseph, founder of M2M Insights, shared a number of case studies, such as Nissan LEAF owners checking their car battery status via mobile phones thanks to a Telenor M2M service. Viper SmartStart (from DirectedElectronics) lets users track their car via smartphones.

Meter Monitoring

“We get the most M2M revenue from automated metering services. For instance, we offer M2M services to Coke for monitoring its vending machines,” said Betti of Indonesian’s operator XL. But standardisation challenges hold back full M2M device management, eg. digital meters for utilities and GPS receivers in vehicles.

“M2M can revolutionise enterprise productivity, reduce costs, and add new value to consumer apps. M2M can help Indonesia leapfrog its IT and infrastructure gap,” Betti predicted.

Anil Prakash, Secretary General of the ITU-APT Foundation of India, also urged that more attention be paid to energy monitoring and usage using mobile devices. The mobile operators themselves should be using M2M to keep energy costs down; countries like India are witnessing huge increases in diesel usage by mobile operators for powering their transmission towers.

M2M Success Factors

“Successful device management for enhanced customer experience is a science as well as an art for operators,” said GrameenPhone’s Tariquzzaman. Operators needs advanced strategies for mobile application management and remote device diagnostics.

A panel of M2M experts also concluded that a glossary is needed on the definition of devices, assets, modules and objects in the M2M world. Mobile operators will need to learn from the innovation, investment and alliance strategies of companies such as Apple and Google, who have entered the industry from the outside and set major trends.

Major M2M trends to watch include worldwide adoption of LTE. The LTE Working Groups Program includes a focus on M2M, but more work is needed on toolkits, standards and application developers, said Robert Waaler, Official Representative of the SIM Alliance and product marketing director at Giesecke and Devrient.

“Monitoring millions of machines is tough; monitoring millions of machines in motion is even tougher. It requires scale, security and trust. Furthermore, M2M cross-border transfer of data will raise regulatory challenges in future, especially in sectors like health and automotive,” predicted Waaler.

“India will become a key player in LTE adoption and a wave of M2M innovations and deployments will emerge, especially in urban centres,” Waller added.

Based on my research from my “Asia-Pacific Internet Handbook” series and the MobileMonday innovation projects, I explained the typical structure for M2M services launched by mobile operators. The services usually involve a partnership between the operator, a device specialist, domain experts, and enterprise CEOs/CIOs.

A successful M2M partnership will begin with research and sense-making, followed by scoping and rollouts. Knowledge management and analytics will be needed to extract value from the application experience, and clear attention will need to be paid to intellectual property ownership, business model innovation and government regulations.

I have developed a useful framework for analysing M2M ecosystems, called the “8 Cs” framework: connectivity (devices), content (sensor information), community (of M2M experts), culture (organisational attitude towards innovation), capacity (technical and design skills), cooperation (between industry players), commerce (payment features of M2M services) and capital (budgeting and RoI).

In sum, the conference revealed a wealth of facets of M2M and the major role of Asia, which will no doubt be further expanded upon at upcoming events such as SIMposium in Malaysia and M2M World Congress in China.