This article originally appeared in the Sept. 2011 issue of Next Gen Mobility
Machine-to-machine communications is expected to be one of the largest growth opportunities for the industry in the next decade, and Sprint (News - Alert) says it’s ideally positioned to outfit partners and end users with solutions on this front.
The number of devices connected to IP networks will be twice as high as the global population in 2015, according to Cisco Systems (News - Alert) research. The company forecasts that while PC-originated traffic will experience a compound annual growth rate of 33 percent, and traffic from smartphones will see a CAGR of 144 percent going forward, M2M modules will overcome those and other connected devices with a 258 percent CAGR.
Meanwhile, Analysys Mason expects M2M device connections worldwide to grow from 62 million in 2010 to a whopping 2.1 billion in 2020.
“Smart electricity meters, ubiquitous surveillance cameras, connected Porsches – all are in our M2M future,” says Steve Hilton, principal analyst at Analysys Mason. “The fastest-growing sectors will be utilities, health care and security, although their relative size will vary dramatically.”
Tom Nelson, group manager of the Sprint Emerging Solutions Group’s partner programs, says Sprint is addressing all of the above M2M applications, and more, with its robust network; broad collection of partnerships; and open view of the machine-to-machine opportunity, which makes it easy for customers and partners to bring applications and ideas for M2M onto the network.
The company is ensuring a robust network through its Network Vision effort, explains Mike Fitz, Sprint’s vice president of solutions engineering. Network Vision describes how Sprint is transforming and combining its existing networks through the introduction and integration of new, disruptive technologies.
The resulting network, he says, will enable Sprint to deliver “coverage, capacity and longevity of services like nothing that’s available today.”
Getting there involves replacing Sprint’s existing network with brand new software-based equipment at the cell sites, installing some new gear for backhaul, and leveraging the company’s spectrum assets on a number of fronts, Fitz says. The spectrum to be leveraged by the new network includes the 1.9gHz block used today by Sprint’s existing CDMA network; spectrum, mostly at 800mHz, from the Nextel iDEN network; and the 2.5gHz spectrum used by Sprint partner Clearwire to deliver WiMAX services. Because the new gear doesn’t marry the cellular technology or protocol with specific spectrum, Fitz explains, Sprint will be able to combine all of the above to get the best of all worlds in terms of capacity and coverage.
This new network will support a variety of Sprint services, with M2M-related offerings just part of the mix. But it’ll be a key underlying tenet of the Sprint machine-to-machine portfolio going forward, Nelson explains.
To be clear, Sprint isn’t waiting to move on the M2M opportunity until this new network – on which the bulk of work will be done in 2012 and 2013 – is put in place. In fact, the company has been supporting such applications as fleet management and telematics for more than a decade, and it has continued to expand its offerings over time on a variety of M2M fronts.
While Sprint already has various M2M solutions that are ready to go (it also does custom engagements), most of the machine-to-machine solutions the company is enabling today are in partnership with others that act as the primary interface with end users. Some M2M partners keep Sprint under the hood and do their own branding and support, says Nelson, but others opt to leverage the Sprint brand and/or its other capabilities.
An example of one of those other capabilities is the Sprint Command Center, which was introduced this summer. It provides partners with a dashboard through which to do M2M billing, provisioning, change rate plans, and more. With the Sprint Command Center, users can easily implement automated or on-the-fly device management features for a single device or for thousands of devices. Activations can be preset based on set dates or by specific types of usage. The SCC also can be used to wake up powered-down devices.
Building awareness around M2M within the business space and in the developer community is also a key focus for Sprint. There’s a lot of interest out there in understanding how to get started with M2M – such as what components are needed to make it work, Nelson says.
To help interested parties get more information on that front, Sprint built an M2M microsite, which can be found at www.sprint.com\m2m. The site explains why customers and partners should consider Sprint for M2M, and it provides case studies, news releases, podcasts, videos, white papers, information on M2M webinars, and more.
Sprint also recently launched the Embedded M2M SolutionsGlobal Online Community on TMCnet. It’s an M2M Evolution Online Community program. This site, at http://embedded-m2m-solutions.tmcnet.com, also has a wealth of information for service providers, solution developers, enterprises and other entrepreneurs.
The Open Outlook
But sometimes developers, partners, and current or potential customers need more than education to get new M2M initiatives rolling. That’s why Sprint launched the M2M Collaboration Center.
Opened in October of last year, the Burlingame, Calif.-based center welcomes those with M2M ideas to test them for free in this working lab. It’s an environment in which partners can work together to identify complementary technologies, drive M2M innovation, and accelerate M2M development cycles. Partners of the M2M Collaboration Center include Axeda, BL Healthcare, Bug Labs, CalAmp, Digi, DriveCam, Ericsson, Feeney Wireless, Franklin Wireless, Fusion Wireless, Grid Net, I.C.G., Intel, Janus Remote Communications, MediaTile, Multi-Tech (News - Alert) Systems, Nimble Wireless, Omnilink, OnAsset Intelligence, Panasonic, Popstar Networks, Pacific Controls, Reflection Solutions, Sendum, Sierra Wireless, SmartSynch, STS, Top Global, Trimble, Walsh Wireless, and Winncom.
"The Sprint M2M Collaboration Center brings together a remarkable roster of M2M talent and resources, including some of the world's foremost innovators in mobile networks, devices, telematics, embedded computing, cloud computing, vertical industry solutions and wireless prototyping and testing," says Danny Bowman (News - Alert), president of the Sprint integrated solutions group. "The center gives our partners and customers a unique opportunity to match these resources with Sprint's potent combination of 4G, 3G and IP capabilities."
Nelson adds that the Collaboration Center also serves as a forum for educational events. In late summer, he says, Sprint did M2M-focused programs there on green initiatives and health care, and was looking forward to an event addressing fleet applications.
How M2M Enables Security and Surveillance Applications
Opportunities for M2M are everywhere.
There’s connected transportation, which includes not just fleet management, but also smart vehicle applications that can leverage M2M technology to increase driver safety and lead to more efficient fuel use. You also have your connected machines, which encompass ATM and point-of- sale applications, digital signage, and the like. Connected personal devices, meanwhile, can use M2M to support gaming, tracking, and other applications. Smart grid and other applications that address the management of gas, oil and water are also well-understood opportunities for M2M.
Another, perhaps less talked about, M2M application with a lot of potential is security and surveillance, notes Mike Hughes (News - Alert), group manager and SME for the security segment at Sprint.
“We are very excited about the opportunity we’re seeing in the security ecosystem, which is broken into the alarm panel business, access control and video surveillance space,” he says.
ABI Research estimates that by the end 2015 the alarm panel business alone will account for 4.5 million cellular connections in North America.
Hughes says the trend of cord cutting, which is happening at a rate of more than 23,000 lines a day, has some applications that in the past were strictly wireline moving to wireless. For example, he says, some local and state governments are opening the door to the possibility of supporting fire protection systems with wireless connections.
When wireless technology is used to support such important applications as security and surveillance, he adds, the need for network availability and survivability are heightened. That said, Hughes continues, it’s important to note that Sprint’s roaming partnerships allow its security services to failover to a partner’s network should Sprint ever have an outage.
“That’s critical in the fire protection space as well as the alarm partner space,” he says, adding that Sprint also operates a highly secure network that prevents eavesdropping.
Sprint recently joined forces with video surveillance company Cernium. The companies in June introduced CheckVideo|Sprint 3G, which combines Sprint’s nationwide wireless network with CheckVideo’s edge-based advanced video analytics technology and software as a service. The solution provides critical, real-time video alerts to the cell phones or other connected devices of business owners and managers, and security personnel, who may be on or off the premises. Rather than streaming the video at all times, which can take up a lot of processing power and network resources, the solution captures video if motion is detected and sends that video event to the user, Hughes explains.
“CheckVideo’s advanced technology, together with Sprint’s expansive wireless mobile broadband network, means cameras can now be placed virtually anywhere at a fraction of the cost of conventional surveillance systems,” says Philip Robertson, vice president of the security and alarm division at Cernium. “CheckVideo|Sprint 3G also easily adds on to existing security systems, and Sprint’s proven anti-jamming and eavesdropping technology provides the added benefit of highly secure wireless transport.”
Edited by Stefania Viscusi