When you think about enterprise mobility what comes to mind? BYOD. iPads. WiFi upgrade. These are all reasonable answers. How many people would add embedded wireless machines to that list. Of those, how many have added these to their enterprise mobility planning? Very, very few. That is because few people understand that the future of mobility includes a lot of mobile machine-to-machine (M2M) communicating and not just smartphones and iPads connecting to rich web content.
What is M/M2M
As Lou Frenzel puts it in his Electronic Design article:
In a pure M2M approach, one machine or thing talks to another machine or thing independently of human interaction. Other…scenarios, though, consist of M2M plus machine-to-person or person-to-machine connections.
There is a movement to connect all devices to the network. This enables remote human control of devices and the ability monitor status, generate alerts and even automate operating characteristics based on predetermined rules. Many of the devices will connect directly to the wireline network while others will connect through wireless giving us Mobile M2M (M/M2M). Real-time locations systems (RTLS) which leverage RFID fall into this category. Other solutions include smart meters, automotive telemetry, GM’s Onstar and even health monitoring solutions common in hospitals worldwide. These networked devices connect and then generate mobile data traffic.
Machines to Drive 500 TB in Data Traffic
In its annual Visual Networking Index, Cisco calculates that M2M already accounts for 23 Petabytes per month of data traffic over carrier cellular networks. That number is forecasted to grow by 22 times to 500 Terabytes per month in 2016. This does not include WiFi enabled devices that will drive traffic over corporate wireless networks. Another interesting note in the Cisco research: M2M devices generate on average 71 megabytes per month today, but that will grow nearly four fold to 266MB of data by 2016. The devices will not only be generating more data each month, they will also be proliferating rapidly.
1 Billion WiFi Devices even cellular
ABI reported in January that over 1 Billion WiFi devices were shipped in 2011. Many of those were machines that will connect with other machines through wireless connectivity. However, M/M2M isn’t limited to WiFi. ABI also estimates that over 110 million M2M devices will be connected by cellular in 2011. That is expected to grow to over 365 million connections by 2016. Yankee Group concurs with its own estimate of 313 million cellular connected devices by 2016.
This is an important new revenue source for mobile carriers. AT&T has been aggressive in this space and was the first to set up a dedicated M2M group. It has also partnered with Axeda to facilitate development of mobile cellular systems for devices. Meanwhile Verizon brought added focus to M2M and just this acquiring Hughes Telematics, Inc. (HTI) for $612 million. Among other things HTI can assist customers with deployment and configuration of cellular-based M2M device networks. All of this may add up to a nearly $9 billion in revenue within five years for the mobile carriers.
Impact for the Enterprise: plan for M/M2M
From an enterprise perspective the lesson is straightforward. M/M2M should be factored into your cellular planning for total devices and data fees and it should also be part of your WiFi planning. One recent example of M2M being overlooked started causing issues in Florida hospital system’s WiFi network.
The hospital was utilizing an RTLS solution and so many machines were connecting to the wireless access points (WAP) that many other employee devices couldn’t connect to the network. The access points were saturated causing further issues that resulted in the WAPs operate at less than 40% of maximum capacity. Initially the hospital thought it would have to add to its wireless network. However, wireless engineers were able to tune the system and begin operating again at a much higher performance level.
The key takeaway: there will be many mobile M2M devices connecting to corporate networks. People often don’t notice the M/M2M devices because they are in the background ignoring the humans. What isn’t noticed isn’t planned for and unintended consequences are sure to follow. CIOs can address this today by including machines into mobility planning.
What have you seen? Are enterprises proactively including M2M into their support and data traffic planning?