Should the term ‘Machine-to-Machine’ be replaced with the ‘Internet of Things’?

Posted by CJ Boguszewski | on September 25, 2014 on the Silver Spring Networks corporate blog … reposted here.

This week I was in Marseille, France speaking at the M2M Innovation World Congress (for up-to-date insights from the conference, follow me on twitter @cjbogus and browse the #M2MIWC hashtag timeline for my microblog among the other participants’ posts). As I attended sessions and spoke with M2M, telco, and security experts from around the world over the three days, I felt that there were ten underlying insights and trends that kept resurfacing:

10. M2M is a term that has, in September 2014, been relegated to “brownfield” industrial communication systems, with the same “redevelopment potential” as brownfield environmental sites. Complicated to do, tangled with rules, messy with proprietary communications, protocols and applications — but all the same — an opportunity to bring data and devices into the Internet of Things (IoT).

9. The IoT is the result of evolution that is bringing us Big Data, IT & OT convergence, and a common “standard” framework to interact at each layer of the stack. But, IoT is ultimately driving business outcomes, with three in particular mentioned: 1/ cost reduction and a shifting of capex to opex; 2/ new revenue streams — either through reducing time to revenue or offering “something”-as-a-Service; and 3/ outpacing competition. In short, the IoT promise is enormous and it’s dwarfing other trends in technology.

8. The IoT, or an even more unhelpfully expansive term, an “Internet of Everything” or IoE, has a small hardware (estimate 5% of the total market value) and connectivity (say about 20%) component, and a large value-added service component. It’s mostly analytics. And while there are obstacles to be overcome, there is no doubt that there will be solutions to integration challenges, the storage of vast sensor data, a lack of “horizontal perspective” versus “vertical analysis” bias, a lack of visualization tools, and the skills shortage that currently plagues delivering this value-added service. I heard numbers of market size, including an estimate for $14 Billion by 2018, which seems an easy one to grok.

7. It is hard to build an IoT platform on a project budget. Both comms and apps must be purpose-built and developed with the requirements of the specific, horizontal platform problem-set in mind. But companies set project budgets and solve project-related task problems, so getting the platform right in the face of project governance and budget pressures can be challenging in the extreme.

6. Networking players seem to be either positioning, or even betting on, the idea that a variety of disparate network types and auto-provisioning / low-to-no-touch gateways or multi-protocol network access points will be able to soak up IoT (and even appropriately enabled legacy M2M) equipment, devices, and sensors. What to do with that data once it’s through the network and into the cloud is another question, but already there is talk of “fog” versus “cloud” architecture.

5. By the way, testing this stuff out is probably a good idea before you try to roll it out into the field at-scale. Testing budgets and timelines are among those that are under the most pressure — and that can come back to bite. Ideas around different models to reduce time, cost, and complexity to reduce potential goofs were shared.

4. The IoT is big. How big? Well, as a comparative, there are tens of billions of solar systems in the Milky Way galaxy, and estimates I heard at the conference approached that. It is fair to say that this scale of things will be connected by 2035. One was 28 Billion devices by the end of the decade, which would be on the small side of another “1 Trillion” estimate that was presented. Anyway — it’s big.

3. The fundamental standards we heard about haven’t changed all that much — cost-effectiveness, reliability, broad device coverage, security / identity schemes, extensibility, scalability into the tens of millions of devices and more, high-performance, and open standards along the lines of IPv6 to the endpoint on low-to-no opex comms network, leveraging CoAP over UDP and using DTLS as a kind of SSL were all in evidence. Protocols, tools, frameworks, and services with a wrapper at each layer of security (or identity management, if you prefer that term) will be the things that help the IoT grow. The first three are settled and available.

2. Platforms will likely define who wins in the IoT space. — I witnessed a lot of infomercials and ‘market-echture’ around platforms, but true platforms that have been adopted for massive-scale networks seemed pretty scarce. We at Silver Spring would love to talk to you more about ours.

1. The proven, scalable smart city fabric that provides a communication platform for M2M and IoT applications can come from several anchor client applications. In Europe, the street lighting asset is being most rapidly adopted in cities, while helping cut the cost of implementing subsequent smart city applications at a fraction of stand-alone project costs. This on-ramp to the IoT is fit for a generation of citizen-ready benefits.

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