M2M sees second revival in Philippines

After an aborted start, machine-to-machine communication takes another crack in the market with local telcos leading the campaign. But its wider deployment remains inhibited by cost.

MANILA--A decade after making its initial foray in the Philippine technology scene, M2M (machine-to-machine) has failed to capture the interest of local businesses due to its prohibitive deployment cost when compared to cheap manual labor.

But it is seeing a second revival, this time, securing the backing of the country's top telcos which are attempting to give the technology a shot in the arm by preaching its benefits.

In an M2M setup , wireless and wired systems communicate directly with other devices without the intervention of a human being, a remote network or central hub. For instance, M2M can be used as a tool to monitor in-store inventory in real-time, keeping track of what is fast-moving, replenishing stocks when it runs out, or being pro-active in sending out stocks before these are consumed.

Nathaniel Marquez, president and CEO of M2M service provider, eBiZolution, said a number of local organizations had already deployed M2M technology, particularly those from manufacturing, retail, distribution, banking, utilities, and government.

However, he noted the majority of businesses are still shying away from the technology because of an old issue--cost.

Local telcos Globe Telecom and PLDT agreed, adding that the huge investment for automation often was an impediment for implementation.

Jesus Romero, head of Globe Business, said there is still a vital need to increase awareness about the benefits of M2M adoption in the Philippines. "We need to convey that M2M will increase cost savings and improve efficiencies for a company. The benefits inherent to M2M far outweigh the cost of getting the service," Romero said.

PLDT's wireless subsidiary, Smart Communications, pointed out that installing M2M will be beneficial in the long term compared to the manual method which is slow or inaccurate. "Implementing M2M solutions will allow for proper monitoring, while a faster response time will translate to more business opportunities," said Jaybee Angeles, business product manager at Smart Enterprise.

He admitted a lot of work still needs to be done to get M2M to the mainstream. Angeles cited three factors crucial in making this a reality: education or awareness; ease of implementation; and a cost-efficient pricing model.

Romero said service providers such as Globe should market M2M more effectively to the proper channels. "More information can help key decision-makers implement M2M in their respective organizations," he said.

As for cost issues, the telcos said their entry to the M2M space means connectivity fees can now be lowered by bundling this component into their offerings.

This is the case in PLDT's newly launched Smart M2M Pharma, an enterprise-grade mobile application which allows medical representatives to check their supplies on wireless devices such as smartphones or tablets.

Marquez said eBiZolution is trying to address the cost issue by providing different kind of service schemes, such as performance-based billing or managed and outsource service models. 

To recoup their investments immediately, companies should work with M2M suppliers which offer their services either as solution providers or consultants, Marquez said. "Try to shy away from technology product resellers because they don't bring the industry knowledge and experience to help customers succeed in their M2M initiatives," he said.

Melvin G. Calimag is a freelance IT writer based in the Philippines.