Machine-to-machine (M2M) technology is a rapidly growing part of the global economy, especially in automotive, transportation, logistics, energy, and healthcare. To better understand how businesses are approaching M2M, we invited TechRepublic and ZDNet members to take our M2M: Hype or Transformative Tech survey. Over 220 people responded, sharing their company's view of the technology, current implementation, and future plans.
The results reveal a significant amount of interest in M2M, but relatively few actual implementations. Those companies that have implemented M2M or have projects underway are looking for both new business opportunities and ways to improve their existing processes and products. Many, however, are waiting for the market to mature and a clear business need to appear.
Businesses split on M2M importance
The proliferation of Internet-connected devices that interact without human intervention is creating new possibilities in data gathering, predictive analytics, and IT automation.
Companies such as Ford and GE are bullish on the technology. And in November 2012, GE announced a host of new "Industrial Internet" technologies. Writing about GE's announcement for ZDNet, Andrew Nusca quoted CEO Jeff Immelt as saying:
"The Internet has changed the way we consume information and talk with each other, but now it can do more. By connecting intelligent machines to each other and ultimately to people, and by combining software and big data analytics, we can push the boundaries of physical and material sciences to change the way the world works."
Respondents to our survey, however, were split on the importance of M2M technology. 32 percent of respondents say that M2M is integral to their business performance. A further 10 percent report that M2M is important (although not transformational). Therefore, over 40 percent of respondents see M2M as important.
Even among those who don't see M2M as critical or important, there is interest in the technology. 23 percent say that M2M has possibilities, but that it isn't a priority for their organization. And 12 percent of respondents feel that M2M technology offers nothing new.
European businesses consider M2M most important
42 percent of respondents in Europe say that M2M technology is critical to their business, compared to 31 percent in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region and 24 percent in North America.
Minority currently use M2M
Given that 32 percent of respondents believe that M2M is integral to their business, it's not surprising that nearly the same number (29 percent) are already using M2M technology or have an M2M project underway
But as with Big Data, we're clearly in the early stages of M2M adoption. Over half (56 percent) of respondents say their companies have no current plans to implement M2M technology.
Michael Cavaretta, Technical Leader, Predictive Analytics and Data Mining at Ford, echoed this sentiment in a 2012 interview with ZDNet. At the ZDNet's Techlines event "Big Data Debunked – Finding the Data Signals," Cavaretta said that he is particularly interested in the idea of "The Internet of Things", but that technologies like M2M and the Semantic Web are still "maybe 10 years out."
APAC and Europe lead M2M implementation
As with the level of importance they place on M2M, US companies lag behind European and APAC organizations in M2M implementations. Nearly one quarter of respondents in Europe (23.2 percent) and APAC countries (24.5 percent) currently use M2M technology, and almost a quarter more (25.6 and 22.6 percent, respectively) have an M2M implementation project underway or plan to start one in the next 12 months.
Energy, IT, and transportation lead M2M implementations
Of the respondents who currently use M2M technology or plan to do so in the next 12 months, energy, IT, and transportation top the list of M2M uses. 48 percent say they're using (or planning to use) an energy-related M2M technology, such as smart metering or wirelessly connected grid assets. IT and network monitoring applications are second on the list with 46.9 percent. Automotive, transportation, and logistics are third with 43.9 percent.
Cellular and WLAN are most-used communication method
When it comes to connecting M2M devices, over three quarters (76.5 percent) of respondents say their M2M system uses some form of cellular communication. Wireless LAN technology is second on the list with 59.2 percent. And wired LAN is third with 44.9 percent.
New business opportunities and service/product improvement top M2M priority list
So what are companies hoping to get from their M2M investments? According to our survey, most are looking for new business opportunities and ways to improve their existing processes and products.
We asked respondents to rate the importance of several factors in their organization's decision to implement M2M technology, with a score of 1 being not at all important and 5 being very important.
Topping the list is new business opportunities, with 71.5 percent rating it a 4 or 5 in importance. 69 percent say enhancing existing products/services is a major or top priority. And faster response times rounds out the top three with 67.1 percent. Cost savings comes in a distant fourth, with less than half (48.3 percent) rating it a 4 or 5.
Why businesses aren't using M2M tech yet
Of the companies that aren't using M2M technology, over one third rated an immature M2M market (34.6 percent) and lack of a clear business need (34.5 percent) as very important in their decision not to use M2M. Data security concerns were a close third with 29.2 percent.
Additional M2M resources
TechRepublic Pro original research
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