It just had to happen. With the mobile phone customer base growing rapidly, it was a matter of time before M2M or machine to machine communication started taking giant strides to become an integral part of the digital world. M2M, in simple words, means combining technologies that allow both wireless and wired systems to communicate with other devices of the same ability. M2M depends heavily on cellular technology and Indian companies are primed to cash in on its popularity.
According to a research report released by Economist Intelligence Unit, about 50 billion devices worldwide would be connected by 2020. M2M is beginning to fulfil its promise, with several successful applications already in the field,” says Jason Sumner, senior editor at the Economist Intelligence Unit and editor of the report. “The next step is to create a platform for innovation by standardising technologies, forming partnerships within the industry and demonstrating the benefits to consumers.” The report adds that growth and innovation will come from experimentation within individual sectors, but many firms either do not understand M2M technologies or have doubts about their true business benefits. A recent poll of businesses by Gartner, a technology analyst firm, found many with no plans to adopt M2M, largely owing to lingering doubt over its ability to provide measurable business value.
In India, however things are looking better for M2M. Telit Wireless Solutions, a UK-based technology firm is upbeat about the scope of growth in M2M. “People are keen to implement M2M technology into their existing deployments and applications to enhance their performance using wireless technologies as it makes them more viable and efficient,” says Ashish Gulati, country head for Telit’s India operations. The Draft Telecom Policy released by the Ministry of Information and Technology in 2011, too, had stressed on the opportunities that M2M offers.
Reliance Communication was one of the big companies to latch on the M2M. The M2M applications were developed for the rural markets that enable water level monitoring, and data gathering for milk and agri-cooperatives, fisheries, poultry, and soil analysis. In the urban market, thrust is on mobile ticketing, vending machines and buying goods at kiosks. “M2M applications give alternative revenue streams as well as develop strategic partnerships,” says an analyst from Gartner India.
Gulati is of the opinion that M2M solutions can be effectively used in areas like healthcare, security, tracking, emergency telephone systems, information displays and others. Telit, which acquired Motorola’s M2M division last year, is now looking to get M2M into micro finance as well. “We are already into AMR (automated meter reading) applications for power utilities in India, which enable utilities to monitor how much power is consumed by industrial consumers and how much is billed back, and whether there was any theft on the way between on transformer and the other,” says Gulati.
According to research firm 6Wresearch, Indian M2M modules market is expected to generate $98.38 million by 2016, with an estimated compound annual growth rate of 33.81 per cent from 2011 to 2016. Cellular M2M modules generated $9.15 million in 2011 and are expected to reach $41.54 million by 2016. Figures like these are encouraging players like Gulati and Bangalore-based Avians Innovations. According to a company spokesperson, the market is still at a nascent stage but they are expecting it to grow faster than expected. The emergence of 3G in India has also been a driving factor in the growth of M2M communications. Projects like UID-Aadhaar too will fuel the growth, feel experts.
Automotive, healthcare, surveillance and equipment monitoring are four verticals where experts see a lot of growth potential for M2M. Security and surveillance is an area which is growing rapidly in the country – both commercially and residentially. While telecom service providers like Reliance and Airtel have been working on their M2M applications primarily for the rural markets, the urban market has a lot of potential. “More and more people are indulging in e-commerce and m-commerce and that is a great indicator that they will embrace M2M communications as well,” concludes Gulati.