Caught in the Crossfire

February 01, 2012

At Home with M2M

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 2012 issue of Next Gen Mobility

A friend recently reported on a lost soul from a major carrier (names projected to keep the guilty employed) who answered the question: What does the carrier need from a startup?  

The answer: A platform for them to acquire.

Now, to be fair, this person was a new hire, and I am sure he was speaking from his perception of reality. However, as someone familiar with this carrier, the thing I can safely say is that the platform is not the problem. Carriers have had more problems than they can shake a stick at. AIN, CORBA, Java, SMS gateways, SS7, etc. – all of these have had their day come and go. 

So what went wrong? The first answer is: Nothing. They provided an interface to carriers for a variety of solutions. From a network point of view, the security was flawless. The problem has been that from the perspective of the end user it was POTS and not much more.

So a platform on top of the carrier is not a panacea, and the way the market is currently focused on M2M platforms, the value is probably not in the differentiation of these platforms but in the carrier’s ability to enable underneath these platforms. While companies like Axeda, Ericsson (News - Alert) (partly from acquisition) and Numerex have become horizontal in their solutions, most platforms are vertically challenged.

Then there’s the question of benefits from the carrier. For the app developers billing and location have been touted by the carriers, but is the access to their bill any cheaper or better than a credit card?

Most people like the thought that the phone company manages the POTS part, while Apple (News - Alert) or Google handle their other social needs. Will that change? Probably not for social networking unless a major company really messes up. But when it comes to M2M, the opportunity swings in the utilities’ direction.

Particularly at the home location, I can make a case for the carrier providing a platform for service, security and safety. This is the company that I think could be acquired, but it probably goes to a Belkin, Cisco (News - Alert), NETGEAR, or VTech vs. the carrier.

Here are my requirements for platform maker for the Home M2M Suite.


I would love to say that the system should be built exclusively for one technology, but the reality is that wireless is bulging with solutions not converging on one. Therefore, the first thing I would want is a signal repeater, to enable better carrier connections without being stuck with one technology. Yes, LTE (News - Alert) wins, but the problem with long-term evolution is that we are not the ones setting the terms, so don’t commit to a signal repeat one.

Of course on the end user’s side, I would want to commit to Wi-Fi and support as many modules as I could for specific solutions like media with Bluetooth 2.0 and ZigBee for power-based devices and perhaps medical. Making them modular strikes me as the right strategy since the standards are completely out of sync, which makes the case for a CradlePoint and/or a Bug Labs to enable a good consumer product.


I would suggest that the home has four aspects of management that makes for a common platform and a good base.

The least is security. The systems we are sold on TV are all about sensors on windows and doors, and maybe with some video surveillance. For me, personally, I often find the systems to be so annoying that disabling is easier. The ability to threshold a system would be good. Flows that state “If window open and motion detected” are much better than false alarms due to sensor batteries.

The second is energy. The smart grid is pretty unfriendly right now because it is built without a concept of the buy side motivation. Not everyone wants to see what monies are involved. They want to make decisions based on savings, plus intangibles. If I can save the planet and my wallet, this interests me, which is much better than being told that during a heat wave I can sacrifice for a neighbor to have air. Obviously your car’s energy should be considered in this, particularly if the battery can be accessed by the house.

The third is medical. Like most health issues, this comes and goes, but health compliance and remote monitoring can be incented for the patient to interact with the M2M platform. Did you take your pills together does not work as well as I sensed you took your pills. The platform can track your heart rate from a device. These things are never popular until needed, but always desired when in need.

The fourth is repository. The tendency to put things in the cloud has some real issues for consumers, and for the most part the home media server has only been developed for games, music and entertainment. Obviously if the user could manage the mix a little better, we could see the millennials version of the Kodak (News - Alert) Carousel, with the ability to post and store not only entertainment but personal data. 

There are ways that all these services should be thought of, but the bottom line is simple: Enable the home, and users will have the platform they want. It has worked for the smartphone; it can be the same for M2M.   

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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Rich Tehrani,
Since 1982 Rich has led TMC© in many capacities. Rich Tehrani is an IP Communications industry expert, visionary, author and columnist. He founded INTERNET TELEPHONY® magazine...Read More >>>
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Today as a partner at Crossfire Media, Carl is developing programs that bring to light an understanding of the issues required for delivering broadband wireless Internet...Read More >>>
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