|The globalization of the M2M network
|President & COO
Alex Brisbourne is the President and Chief Operating Officer for KORE Telematics. Mr. Brisbourne’s previous positions include General Manager for Microcell, and Senior Vice President of Wavetek Wandel Goltermann.
Alex Brisbourne attended the Chartered Institute of Marketing.
Business-driven M2M services carry a requirement to cross national boundaries in a seamless, cost-conscious manner. Going global with M2M therefore means meeting and managing wireless connectivity needs across multiple international networks and tariff jurisdictions. But connectivity in itself is not enough: factors such as roaming agreements, tariffs and other regulatory-related requirements can impact the performance, management and costs related to a connected device.
The globalization trend is driving today’s businesses forward. Companies that don’t have an international presence won’t be able to stand up to their competitors that are rapidly expanding their global footprint. From supply chain to technology to business services, it is necessary for companies to have a comprehensive global strategy for all aspects of their business in order to harness efficiencies, reduce costs and grow revenue.
In a world where remote connectivity is key, the emergence and globalization of the machine-to-machine (M2M) network is no longer an option; it is a requirement. Business-driven M2M services carry a requirement to cross national boundaries in a seamless, cost-conscious manner. The demand is particularly strong for any business that is built upon ensuring continuous tracking and management of an asset, anywhere on the globe – from microchip manufacturers to commodities specialty companies.
Through innovative technology developments, including satellite network services, M2M wireless connectivity is served up across international borders, over land and sea. These networks, consisting of cellular, GPS, Wi-Fi and RFID technologies, enable organizations to track products and even the status of their transport mode (truck, boat, plane, etc.) as they travel across the globe.
However, as the need for more detailed insight into the status of these global devices increases, the connectivity required to deliver this knowledge must also evolve. Organizations must not only know the exact location and current status of a connected device or asset (in a warehouse, on a truck or crossing the ocean), but they must also ensure that the device or asset that it’s monitoring has not been tampered with and environmental controls, if necessary, remain intact. The M2M applications and connected devices used to track these devices require a unique network of services and expertise.
And the globalization of M2M is not just applicable to the supply chain and logistics market. Medical devices for telehealth applications require constant communication with patients, regardless of the patient’s location. Equipment manufacturers that sell products worldwide want to offer value-added wireless connectivity to help differentiate their offerings and improve customer service. Any M2M application provider who wants to ensure seamless global connectivity must evaluate a myriad of factors, from cost to technology challenges to wireless network choices.
Going global with M2M means meeting and managing wireless connectivity needs across multiple international networks and tariff jurisdictions. It requires the effective management of a range of wireless technologies to gain real-time visibility into global supply chains, telehealth delivery and value-added customer services, all while becoming more efficient and driving additional revenues.
Global connectivity options
From near-field connectivity to cellular to satellite, the global M2M network can look different from one organization to the next. When investigating global M2M connectivity options, organizations must determine their needs in relation to the application’s requirements and cost. For instance, if an application only requires satellite connectivity when cellular is not available, and cellular connectivity when Wi-Fi is not available, then some built-in application intelligence and network preference rules need to be designed into the application. More, the amount of data generated and passed by the application needs to be throttled up and down depending on the ‘flavor’ of connectivity available. It’s simply not cost-effective to mandate satellite connectivity and pass large data payloads when cellular or other more inexpensive methods are available.
When looking at global connectivity options, organizations and application providers must look at where the device will be located throughout its lifecycle, the frequency in which it will need to communicate and the amount of data it is expected to transmit. If a device, such as those on an airplane for instance, will be located 30K-plus thousand feet above sea level, or on an ocean freighter, then an investment in satellite connectivity is likely required, along with cellular technologies for when the device is on the ground.
However, for most devices, some combination of cellular network connectivity and near-field communications (Wi-Fi, RFID, etc.) is both operationally efficient and cost effective. For instance, a wireless heart monitor that transmits patient data directly to a physician can connect to a home Wi-Fi network and then seamlessly transition to cellular networks (both GSM and CDMA) when the patient leaves her home. And yet for some M2M devices, such as sensors in your refrigerator that tell you when you’re out of milk, for example, a dedicated Wi-Fi connection may be all you’ll ever need.
By combining the power of cellular, satellite, RFID, Wi-Fi sensors and even barcode systems, organizations can achieve global M2M visibility to reduce costs, improve productivity and run a more intelligent business. Once the device’s connectivity requirements based on its expected location have been determined, the choice of wireless options becomes a game of matching desired coverage and performance with price. But this is just the beginning of going global with M2M communications.
Carrier relationships and billing
One of the largest enablers of global M2M applications is the ubiquity and reliability of today’s cost-effective cellular networks. Both major cellular technologies, GSM and CDMA, provide reliable coverage at most points across the globe. M2M application providers and their customers can pick from a plethora of connectivity options, from 2G to 3G to LTE connectivity (although this will change a bit starting in 2017 with AT&T’s recent announcement that it will sunset its 2G network).
Carriers also offer different billing rates for M2M applications, helping applications providers and end-users select the option that is most ideal for their business needs. However, before jumping into a billing plan, it is important to ensure that you are getting the most network connectivity for your dollar, as a number of carriers still offer very consumer-focused data plans that are not as cost-effective as pay-per-use or pooled plans offered by pure-play M2M network service providers.
While the emergence of these cellular networks has created a super-highway of M2M connectivity, that super-highway can come to a sudden halt when connected devices cross borders or network coverage areas. Factors such as roaming agreements, tariffs and other regulatory-related requirements can impact the performance, management and costs related to a connected device. For instance, no M2M application provider or end-user wants to manage multiple carrier relationships or pay exorbitant roaming penalties each time their device crosses a line on a map.
Before going global with M2M, organizations should determine how much time and resources they are willing to invest in managing multiple carrier relationships, multi-national tariffs and device troubleshooting. Partnering with a single, global M2M network provider can often alleviate a number of these tasks, freeing an organization’s staff to focus on growing the business and not on calling a carrier in France about a billing discrepancy.
Looking at market applications
Consistent and reliable M2M services are critical in the global supply chain, where a company needs to track a cargo shipment, or an item in a cargo bay, as it makes its way across continents and oceans, from the factory floor to the ultimate destination. This type of visibility into the global supply chain was not possible before M2M, as disparate systems tried to communicate with one another as products left one warehouse or port and entered another. It was often what happened between those supply chain stops that was the most critical to asset and goods tracking.
By relying on a global M2M network to track the progress and status of goods in transit, regardless of if they are located in a port in California or the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, organizations now have unprecedented control and security of the supply chain. For instance, pharmaceutical companies can ensure that expensive medical drug shipments are stored at the proper temperature and not tampered with, even if they are removed from a trailer or cargo hold outside of the traditional stops on the supply chain.
In places like the U.S. and continental Europe, telemedicine is largely about controlling costs, improving patient quality-of-life and, as a natural corollary, improving treatment outcomes.
In developing regions, where cellular connectivity has become largely ubiquitous, telemedicine shines as a potent means simply to expand the reach of top flight healthcare, bringing skilled medical diagnosis, treatment and prevention capabilities to remote locations. Examples range from AIDS or hepatitis testing, to water management and direct physician interactions. These connections can often even provide a bridge across communication barriers such as language and cultural differences.
Perhaps the most intriguing opportunity for global telemedicine is in supporting the growing trend towards ‘Medical Tourism.’ Many first-world patients are finding success going abroad for surgical procedures, whether elective or critical in nature. While counterintuitive, certain pockets of the Third World offer extremely high-quality, low-cost surgical specialties. Telemedicine can help make this process more of a managed experience for patients and provide them with a psychological comfort level by connecting with these doctors both pre- and post-procedure.
Leveraging global connection through M2M networks
Global connectivity with M2M needs to be simple, seamless and easily consumable for fiscally minded organizations that are looking to improve operational efficiencies, drive incremental revenue streams and improve customer services. When companies strategically consider connectivity requirements for their global M2M needs, organizations and application providers can ensure that their M2M solutions will function as required anywhere in the world, delivering the desired bottom-line business results.