More than 14 million machines will be hooked up to mobile networks in Europe by the end of the year, according to a Swedish analyst firm.
Berg Insight estimates 14.1 million machines, such as smart electricity meters and vehicle-tracking systems, will be using active SIM cards by the end of 2008, with 58.6 million such devices using cellular connectivity by 2013. These figures do not include the types of device that have traditionally had such connectivity, such as mobile phones and laptops, and relate more to the field of machine-to-machine (M2M) connections.
"The total number of mobile network connections used by machines now equals that of a medium-sized European country," said Berg Insight senior analyst Tobias Ryberg, in a statement on Monday. "While the market for personal communication has reached saturation point, the machine-communication market will continue to grow for many years."
Ryberg added that mobile operators are strongly advised to "become more actively involved in this market to position themselves for the future".
According to Ryberg's The European Wireless M2M Market report, the mass-market opportunities for M2M cellular connectivity "only exist in segments where valuable information can be generated by a large population of devices". Such segments include the utility, transportation, security and retail industries.
Energy meters account for the largest installed base of cellular M2M connections in Berg Insight's figures, immediately followed by private and commercial vehicles. Ryberg suggested that the automotive sector will be responsible for 63 percent of such connections by 2013.
The report estimates that Europe has 360 million energy meters, 255 million motor vehicles, eight million security alarms and six million point-of-sale terminals. Together with other, less prominent users of M2M cellular connectivity, these figures suggest a potential market of over 600 million such connections, Ryberg said.
Berg Insight's figures suggest that Italy has the most such connections, at 1.9 million, with Germany and the United Kingdom at 1.8 million and 1.7 million connections respectively.