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Monday, October 6, 2014

We are not doing real M2M, YET!

We all know that Machine-to-Machine or M2M is hot in today's business landscape. It is one of the core concepts that will enable anything to connect to the Internet. However, is connecting to Internet and being able to transmit data all that M2M is supposed to do? If you think a bit more closely, the M2M era that we are living in today has a very specific definition. We put it under the telematics umbrella almost everywhere. Today, any device that offers no or very limited interaction with a user and can connect to the Internet (preferably using a SIM card) for transmitting sensor or self-generated non-rich data to some server is considered part of the M2M telematics ecosystem. Such devices largely drive today's M2M industry by offering the capabilities of generating a lot variety & volume of data at high velocity, the so-called "Big Data". The services that are developed on top of this data require usual software development, which was existent even before M2M became a big-shot in the industry. As a result, today the real value of M2M sits in the creativity that combines the potential of these devices with the software living somewhere in the backend - or cloud if you want some hype! Really! How else M2M operates today? Anyone who can come up with a creative way of using the devices' data and offer it through the software layer gets all the attention. Look around at the M2M products, say in, connected cars, smart homes, asset trackers or similar industries. Most of the companies use similar devices that generate similar data, but they couple these devices with different use case offerings on the software layer to differentiate from one-another. That's it! That's M2M today. I am not saying this is wrong or this is too easy to achieve or something that is not the right way of implementing M2M. All I want to say is that this is not real M2M, and that has yet to come. We are just scratching the surface and the rich M2M era has yet to come.

Real M2M - The times yet to come
So, having said all that, the natural questions that comes to mind are, how do we define real M2M? How would it differ from what we have today? And tons other. To answer all those questions, we first need to tell ourselves that every technological revolution has a strong element of impossibility that drives us to think that something is not going to happen, ever. What this means is that in every era, the future of technology is predicted, and many times things are considered impossible to happen, just because they seem too unusual. As an example, think of those times when there were no airplanes. It would have been miraculous for people in those times to believe that hundreds of tons of steel can fly in the sky with nothing to support underneath, and on top of that, it can carry passengers and heavy luggage across continents. In those times, you would not even bother to explain or even able to imagine the luxury, comfort, speed and entertainment aspects of airlines. I am sure that 3 decades ago, no one would have believed that there would be autonomous self-driving cars today. But now, this is a reality and we may be able to use such cars in our life times. It does not look impossible anymore. In the same way, defining what real M2M could hold for us require us to kill for a while this element of impossibility from our minds. We have to believe that what we think is impossible today, will become a norm tomorrow.

Now, back to real M2M. According to how industry is shaping today, I believe that the M2M ecosystem will evolve itself into a data-rich, rich-data ecosystem that will no more be limited to the raw sensor data from devices, only. It will expand beyond the telematics industry into consumer electronics and products, where it will target industries in every sphere of life, such as, clothing, food, entertainment, care, socializing etc. The devices in M2M arena will become more powerful to take the role of service providers and consumers at the same time, while being agnostic towards the underlying network infrastructure. Rich consumer devices, such as smartphones, tablets and the likes, if still exist, will become M2M terminals, where everyone will be able to offer their own personalized services based on their own content. These device will be able to share each other's resources to optimize computing performance seamlessly. The M2M devices will come equipped with virtualized environments allowing them to host multiple operating systems for various use cases. Everyone will carry their own personal cloud with (integrated) web servers hosting mobile services in their bags & pockets, and will even obliviously spend time in or wear everyday in different form factors. These will be the times when the data from M2M devices will be shared directly, without having to upload it to any 3rd party server in the cloud. The permissions & data control will return to consumers, whereas, the connectivity to the Internet will become a daily life commodity and basic human right. These devices will be able to negotiate service level agreements (SLA) seamlessly & intelligently with one another to provide & consume services, depending upon the control profiles, context & usage behavior of consumers. New server & computing platforms, similar to the one I have hinted in my book, will emerge more widely & evolve rapidly. Business industry will completely revolutionize itself, as the focus will shift more and more on mobility, seamlessness, (autonomous) personal service offerings and access & generation of (context-aware) content from anywhere, anytime and from any form factor. Today, we cannot define and even firmly envisage the business models that could be possible in such technologically rich era. However, our children or their children will live in times that we may not be able to even think of today. In these times, we will find answers to many questions on the privacy and security front, as everyone will literally keep & own ones own data. As a result, everyone will be able to define and own their services, such as, the Facebooks, Googles & Amazons of today, as they walk through the streets carefree, while their devices do the talking! 

This will be the era of real M2M!

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