AT&T's predictions for the enterprise in 2014

AT&T says that machine-to-machine technology will take center stage next year in the corporate world.

Will M2M technology be at the forefront of technological innovation in 2014?

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According to U.S. carrier AT&T, in 2014, it is likely that machine-to-machine (M2M) technology will expand rapidly over the year. M2M technology is a label that describes the connection of devices and machines through a networks to a control center which allows the exchange of information -- and then for actions to be performed without human intervention.

M2M systems -- based on the idea of the "Internet of Things" -- can include sensor relays, RFID and Wi-Fi connections. Machines developed with M2M are ideally able to interpret data transferred through a network and make decisions automatically in real time.

AT&T's tech predictions for 2014 are:

1. M2M developers kick it into high gear:

Mobeen Khan, Executive Director of Product Marketing, Advanced Mobility Solutions and Business Solutions at AT&T predicts that in the same way a huge mobile device ecosystem has been built thanks to the popularity of smartphones and tablets, M2M solutions will be the next big thing. Although M2M is currently the domain of niche developers, next year, the firm predicts that more developers will begin experimenting in markets away from its traditional use in fleet management, utilities and construction.

2. Big enterprises everywhere embrace M2M:

AT&T says that while some firms including GE are connecting machines in manufacturing, a number of companies in the United States, Japan and Europe are leading a push in M2M -- in both the enterprise and consumer space. It is expected that eventually growth will be seen in South East Asia and Latin America for both local M2M deployments and its use in supply chain tracking.

3. The need for speed and security top the list:

AT&T says that while companies currently deploying M2M are looking for a return on investment, they are also balancing profit against the need to protect data from hackers. As a result -- especially as more 4G and LTE devices are supporting M2M -- security and the ability to quickly stream data are likely to be important in future development efforts.

4. M2M apps on the rise:

As M2M use rises and more developers become involved, it is expected that the number of applications used in deployments will also rise. For example, a heavy equipment operator that tracks the location of machines may be able to also use apps to log equipment usage data or productivity through new applications.

5. Stats change the game for decision-makers:

Currently, most M2M-based apps on the market are designed for the enterprise to track and collect data for analysis, which then can be used to improve profit margins by optimizing and improving supply chains. However, AT&T believes that as solutions mature, "companies will start to examine data at multiple places along the way which can help managers make more informed decisions."

AT&T is not the only communications firm that believes M2M will expand its reach in the enterprise sphere next year. U.S. carrier Verizon believes that in 2014 , M2M 'as a service' will improve, which will in turn allow firms to tap in to new revenue streams and improve supply chains. In addition, the carrier predicts that third-party security solutions will become more advanced next year, lowering risk for companies against cyberthreats -- a factor which has prevented M2M from expanding previously.