By: Tim Young

Most people I know remember the day when the only phone in the house was the phone-company- owned beige or avocado beast in the kitchen or hallway.

Today, I feel naked without my Blackberry.

Tomorrow, if M2M projections come to fruition, my dishwasher will feel the same way.

The rise in machine-to-machine communications has been building steadily in both promise and reality over the last few years. The precise extent of the possibility is not yet known, but enthusiasm runs high.

"We've just started with M2M," Ben Kocken, Head of Innovation and BSS at Vodafone Netherlands told Amdocs at their 2011 InTouch Business Forum, "and we expect that within two years, M2M will provide 5% of the total revenue at Vodafone Netherlands. This is just the beginning."

5% of total revenue in two years is monumental, but is perfectly reasonable when you take a look at the sheer mass of the M2M opportunity.

The exact numbers vary slightly depending on who you ask, but this decade brings promises of a vast uptick in the number of devices present on the network. Ericsson, earlier this year, put forth the estimate that by 2020, there would be 50 billion networked devices, worldwide, and that the M2M market would grow from $16 billion in 2008, to $57 billion in 2014.

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Evolving Systems, meanwhile, estimates that those billions could actually become trillions, which is an opinion shared by Amdocs, which has popularized the idea of “tera-play”: a worldwide network of trillions of connected devices. Companies like Cycle30 are already marketing to enterprise players (with a recent customer win with Arrow Electronics) to provide billing platforms for M2M services, and many other OSS/BSS vendors, large and small, are pursuing the M2M market just as eagerly.

Likewise, service providers have begun positioning themselves to meet the coming demand of M2M. Verizon Wireless’s wholesale M2M solutions promise to, “offer M2M innovation on America’s Largest 3G Network.” AT&T has beefed up its M2M capabilities with application integration and global roaming capabilities. BT’s Redcare data management branch has made M2M a major tentpole along with more traditional business lines like alarm monitoring.

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