Last week I spent some time with SAP’s Sanjay Poonen discussing M2M (machine-to-machine) communications. I came away from that discussion excited that SAP was focusing on this emerging market that I have found so fascinating. Most IT departments have been so focused on figuring out how to implement enterprise mobility and support communicating with people using smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices, that they have not yet thought about communicating with mobile and/or remote machines.
Here is an excerpt from the article I wrote last week about my discussions with SAP’s Sanjay Poonen on the topic of M2M. “Sanjay and I spent quite a bit of time talking about where mobile security is going, beyond MDM. From MDM to Mobile App Management, to Secure Content Management, to eventually M2M (machine-to-machine) communications. He talked about how this field will have a big impact in SAP’s plans. In fact, Sanjay had just chaired a conference call with about 50 SAP internal people to brainstorm about M2M, and there is a great deal of excitement around SAP’s plans in this area.”
Perhaps it is early, but not too early to begin pondering the strategic value of M2M and how it will work along side enterprise mobility in your company. What machines, remote sensors, facilities, security systems, fleets, plant equipment, supplies and materials would it be valuable for your ERP and other systems to automatically communicate with? What remote data would be useful to have automatically collected and wirelessly sent to you? What business processes would benefit from this? Here are just some simple examples of how different industries use M2M solutions:
- Canal and irrigation management systems are regularly using M2M technology today in remote sensors to record and wirelessly transmit water levels, the statuses of gates and to adjust water levels.
- Utility companies are one of the biggest users of M2M technologies. Their assets (lines, substations, transformers, pipelines, storage tanks etc) are in remote locations and remote M2M sensors and wireless chips can monitor their statuses and report to a central location.
- Fleet management systems also take advantage of M2M. Vehicles report their location, speed, fuel usage, hours of operation, repair and maintenance needs all automatically using M2M. This is machine’s sending data automatically to other machines.
- Vending machine companies today are widely using M2M technologies that enable their vending machines to automatically report inventory levels and other information from the kiosk or vending machine. You can imagine the savings in efficiencies if the route driver knows in advance exactly what each vending machine needs, and when it needs it to maximize sales and productivity.
- Manufacturing plants can be revolutionized by the use of M2M technologies. Can you imagine having a central team managing plants around the world from one location that is receiving and processing M2M communications from all of the equipment in all the plants? Wow!
- Agricultural companies that operate green houses can monitor and adjust the temperatures remotely from a central dashboard. Chicken farms can also monitor temperatures and conditions of many different buildings remotely.
- Security firms can operate and direct video cameras wirelessly from remote locations.
Large companies can end up having massive amounts of M2M data flowing into their systems. The next challenge of course is what to do with all the data. M2M data looks just like data coming in from a smartphone. The data from a Yes or No answer on a smartphone app, looks just like M2M data reporting a buildings temperature. IT departments need to ensure the data is secure and accurate. They need to monitor and track all of their M2M technologies and wireless embedded chips/assets to ensure they are working properly and the data is good. This data needs to be integrated with the right systems. The systems need to understand what to do with it.
M2M communications can be the front-end data collection mechanisms for many systems. The automated inputs for all kinds of business processes. Big Data technologies and business analytics are important to quickly interpret the meaning of all the data and to translate it into a form that can help managers make good real-time data driven decisions in the field. These alerts and notifications can be sent to the mobile devices of managers no matter their locations for quick and immediate responses.
M2M systems can reuse many of the same mobile middleware, mobile device management, integration, provisioning and security components that are used for supporting enterprise mobility today. The main challenge will be developing an enterprise-wide M2M strategy, and since this is also the big challenge with enterprise mobility, we may have to wait in line.
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