One aspect of working for a global company that I don’t care for are 5am conference calls with Europe.  But what’s even more frustrating is waking up to my alarm clock at 4:30 am only to discover that the 5 am call was cancelled overnight. Well, what if my calendar could talk to my alarm clock across the Internet?  The cancelled meeting would trigger my alarm clock being set back an hour, allowing me to sleep a little longer.   Now imagine what my morning would be like if all of the devices in my life were synched together. The meeting cancellation resets not only my alarm clock but the coffee machine as well.  Additionally, my mobile device receives a notification from my car that I’m low on gasoline. I’m informed that the trains are running 15 minutes late, and there’s 10 minutes of crowded traffic on my route to the train station.  All that information is fed back to my alarm clock (and coffee machine for that matter) via the Internet.

At the end of the day, on my walk to the train station, my phone receives a notification from my refrigerator that I’m low on milk and a grocery store that I’m passing has a promotion for milk (and by the way, my favorite yogurt).  I’m directed via location awareness right to the aisle where the milk and yogurt are stocked, and through precision retailing, a personalized coupon for 50% discount on the yogurt is sent to my mobile device.

Here’s another scenario.  When my family goes on a ski trip to Tahoe, my wife and I disagree about whether to turn our home heating on or off.  She wants the house warm for our kids when we return; I want to save energy.  Well, what if we turned off the thermostat, but on our return drive an hour away from home, I use my phone to direct an Internet-enabled thermostat to turn the heat up in my home!

These might all seem like scenes from “Back to the Future”, but much of this is increasingly possible via what is known as the Internet of Things (IoTs) and the intelligent sharing of information between Machine-to-Machine (M2M).  Basically, four key elements are required for IoTs – a) Tagging Things b) Sensing Things c) Shrinking Things and d) Thinking Things. With advances in RFID, miniaturization and analytics, M2M makes the Internet of Things an increasingly tangible possibility. Think of such M2M communication as the “social collaboration” of machine-to-machine or machine-to-man.

Such technology is beginning to  mature, whether it’s smart thermostats from startups like Nest Labs or Honeywell, or what’s being called “precision retailing”, where innovations in Big Data Analytics, combined with Mobility and GPS, allow tailored promotions to be offered to consumers on their mobile devices.  One of our automotive customers once told me that there’s more software in the modern car than in the first space shuttle!  I learned from our manufacturing customers that if you thought today’s tractors are dumb, quite the contrary, they stream all kinds of information like an Airbus 380 might, so that farmers can optimize usage, schedule maintenance and focus their time on agricultural production.  Consumer companies are exploring smart vending machines that have tiny computers on a wireless network which leverage information like usage data and weather forecasts to determine replenishment schedules.  If you know it’s going to be a hot day, being able to get your trucks to the vending machine fast enough might be the difference in a breakout profitable quarter.

We look at all of these machines, whether wired or unwired, and see them as extensions of mobile devices; they all need to be secured, managed, and enabled to run applications in much the same way as a mobile phone.  Managing this smart machine to machine (M2M) evolution requires a comprehensive architecture and technology solutions that we’re working on with our partners. But at the core of M2M are three key elements: Mobility, Big Data and the Cloud.   These are precisely the focus areas that we’ve designated as innovation vectors at SAP.  And when these three elements come together in use cases like the “Internet of Things” or “Machine-2-Machine”, it’s like getting a “Triple Word Score” in the game of Scrabble!

So… how does SAP’s Mobile Management solution fit into this vision?  Stay tuned for my next blog to find out the answer!


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  1. Denis Konovalov

    shouldn’t we be afraid that if what you describe  becomes a reality, we’ll have population that is unable to make even simple decisions on their own?

    Even now proliferation of computing devices and electronic communications produced populace that can’t do simple math without a calculator or write a letter without making mistakes in almost every word.

    When is too much technology too much?


    1. Bernhard Escherich

      Hi Denis,

      we are evaluating many scenarios M2M with healthcare customers at the moment and the potential benefits for the patients are huge. Just think of medication where surveys demonstrate that only 30% of the patients took their medication as prescribed. If just the whole medication process (e.g. ordering new pills if supply is needed, send alarms to the TV of the patient and his phone that he should take the pills) can be supported by M2M communications we will positive effects.

      For the area of healthcare I just can say: There is not enough technology involved at the moment in order to provide the patients with the care they deserve.

      Best regards,


      1. Denis Konovalov

        I think that is a great example where M2M scenarios and technology can do more good, than harm.

        I just wanted to raise awareness that not all that we get with evolving technology is actually good for us as species or societies. And as leaders in technology we should think “are we doing this because we can or are we doing this to solve an actual problem” …

        that’s all.

        I do want my fridge to tell me when it out of milk 😛

  2. Steve Schaefer

    Great ideas – I had a similar one. I’m at the grocery store and I see a recipe I’d love to try. Do I have all of the ingredients at home? What if I could take a picture of the recipe with my cell phone, have the image run through OCR software, contact the pantry to see if I have that bag of noodles which hopefully is RFID tagged.

  3. Scott Mackenzie

    Love the vision, but wondering why Analytics is not included as one of the enabling market categories on the vision slide. Not only are there opportunities to make the lives of individuals more connected, but the analysis of this data, and layering of predictive capabilities to that analysis, enable marketing directly to the “Segment of 1”.

    – “Sanjay, Dairyland Skim Milk is currently in stock at Safeway in two blocks. You currently have 20,000 club points, this purchase will give you enough for a trip back to French Polynesia!”

    $$ from Dairyland, $$ from Safeway, $$ the French Polynesian Tourism department and $$ from Sanjay’s favorite Airline!

  4. Ludek Uher

    The vision is great. What I find frustrating is the dichotomy of all the devices. Device A will work with Apple products (say an iPhone) but not an Android based product. Device B will work with Android, but not with a Windows phone. So I have to create an ecosystem tied to one entity. Oh, and wait. Then Apple / Google / MS decide to change the interface so that my present ecosystem is useless with their “new” product. I think as long as ecosystems must be tied to one entity (e.g.; Apple) that decides my fate, the vision as descirbed in this blog will be limited. I realize this is not under SAP’s control, but it is a limiting factor(?)

  5. Stephanie Redivo

    Interesting article and I enjoy how you made it personal.  I think we have great technology to help improve individuals and that we are focusing on selling to the individual.  Big companies do not buy our software but individual people do.

  6. Lee Clemmer

    Great blog post!  For those interested in a vision a bit further down the road, I would suggest reading “How low (power) can you go?” by Charlie Stross, in which he posits: 

    So for the cost of removing chewing gum, a city in 2030 will be able to give every square metre of its streets the processing power of a 2012 tablet computer (or a 2002 workstation, or a 1982 supercomputer).

    Now. What can we do with a city that has 1.5 billion networked ambient-light-powered processors, or roughly 200 cpus per resident?

    It’s a bit long, but a great read and certainly fascinating stuff to consider.

  7. Andreas Doms

    Our vision of a Smart House is one that helps appliances like heat pumps, fridges, airconditions or battery chargers to consume energy when there is plenty of renewable supply from wind or solar energy.

    The challenge is to orchestrate demand and supply.

  8. Tobias Keller

    IOTs – certainly a big next big thing. Maybe the biggest ever.

    And SAP is in a unique position to make much of it, with mobile and database technologies, and, most of all, comprehensive process knowledge.

    But it will take time…

    Keeping it with Roy Amara (“We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.”), I hope SAP will have not only the brains but also the organisational stamina to develop and shape this area.
    If so, SAP will benefit in ways that can hardly be overestimated in the long run.

    I wonder, Sanjay, what would be your outlook on timelines here?

  9. Martin English

    For me, the key is informed decisions about who else knows…

    * About your meeting with other corporate heads, and the agenda

    * About your choice of milk (low fat v ‘real’ milk) and it’s effect on your health

    * When you’re home and when your house is empty

    In principle, I don’t mind sharing my interests and demographics with advertisers (i’d rather get adverts about Motorcycles than Cialis), but I’m still concerned about who the advertisers and apps share my information with …

    * Will a business competitor get hold of my agenda ?

    * What will my health insurance company think about my cholesterol ?

    * Who else knows whether I’m home or not ?

    We already know (Target POS security breach) that for many organisations, data security is not a priority. For other organisations, we know (governments), we know that electronic snooping for trade advantages is a priority. At the best, what protection do I have ? At worst, why should I help these people ?



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