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M2M Innovation: Communication is the Easy Part

By: Ivan Chochlekov

For service providers who want to make M2M a profitable reality, the devil is in the details. Connectivity is now only a component of the product, not the entire product, and that single distinction changes everything. 

M2M isn’t even really a product, it’s more of an organism--devices, connectivity, IT, applications, and data--all operating seamlessly in real time. Any business willing to bet their supply chain, product lifecycle, and customer experience on the ability of devices to communicate will insist that it all works all the time. For M2M offerings to succeed, the qualities built into the network--scalability, reliability, availability, performance, and quality--must be built into the M2M ecosystem. Network and IT infrastructure, management systems, applications, cloud services, customer portals, care centers, retail outlets, remote locations, and devices must seamlessly interact without fail or the organism dies.

M2M is a disruptive concept with the potential to impact every aspect of a business. That requires organizational change and responsibility, but it also represents an opportunity to redefine business processes and integrate diverse aspects of the operation as well as partners and suppliers. M2M presents a chance to reinvent processes and transform operations by becoming an intelligent user of technology rather than falling victim to it. Business reliance on IT and networks is becoming absolute--like power, water or transportation. The sustainability of the entire organization is just as dependent on software, computing, and network infrastructure as it is on people and product.

The revenue promise of M2M relies on the ability of service providers to automate everything and implement a simple, seamless, repeatable lifecycle. “One-touch” provisioning cannot rely on six people and four systems to activate a device. For service providers to profitably deliver reliable M2M services on-demand to its customers, all the back office triage that is used today for customer management, provisioning, monitoring, and billing must become genuinely seamless; not buried in a tangle of integration, APIs, and manual intervention.

Differentiation is in the Details

On the surface, applying the processes associated with fulfillment, assurance, and billing to M2M offerings wouldn’t seem to be much different than what service providers do today for any other communication service. But where today’s services are becoming customized to each user and every order is unique; M2M requires a single, customized lifecycle that can be repeatedly and consistently executed hundreds, thousands, or millions of times without error or change. When a tag is scanned or a device is turned on, the order automatically executes and updates a few key data points such as device ID, location, an assignment to a customer or account. The remainder of the lifecycle runs in the background but those background tasks must be fully automated and the systems carefully orchestrated.

Many M2M devices are turned on or off on-demand so a customized self-care portal that enables each customer to order, activate, and monitor their own devices is essential. First-use activation places the burden on the device. When a device is powered on, it finds the right network and activation is completed behind-the-scenes. M2M customers require visibility into their connectivity and notification of any faults that might affect their service. Given the volume of devices and the tight revenue margins that providers are committing to, anything but complete end-to-end automation jeopardizes profit. The sustainability of today’s business is just as dependent on software and infrastructure as it is on people and product. To that end, M2M lifecycle strategies must be inclusive of requirements for security, scalability, reliability, availability, interoperability, and cost that are designed in from the start.



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