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By 8 December 2014 | Categories: Communications

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A perfect storm of the right technology and an environment ripe for change has converged to push machine-to-machine (M2M) and the Internet of Things (IoT) to the forefront. Tony Smallwood of Vodacom explains.

Chances are you have already heard a great deal of talk about the potentials of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the machine–to-machine (M2M) communication it draws upon, with the industry abuzz over what each will mean across the board for a variety of business sectors. In a nutshell, the use of both of these are largely expected to usher in a fully connected world in which information is used from any device that can accommodate a processor and/or sensor. Data collected from people and machines would then spawn new business models, ideally aimed at enhancing people’s lives and the liveability of cities.

Real potentials

Tony Smallwood, Vodacom Business Executive Head of Machine-to-Machine (M2M) and Industry Vertical Solutions in South Africa, explained that all the fuss over these technologies is far from hype, but rather heralds very real potential. To start with, he explained that M2M in its current format, in which devices are connected to each other over a GSM network, is already a mature technology. However, he pointed out that over the past few years, the cost of the communication modules used in M2M devices and the price of data have simultaneously decreased. This in turn has given rise to more attention being paid to user scenarios and the advantages that M2M can afford. Furthermore, IoT and the seemingly inexhaustible uses this could usher in, takes this vision of a vastly connected world to another level.

Looking locally

Smallwood pointed out that on the M2M side, South Africa has at times taken the lead on innovating, citing the strides made in stolen vehicle tracking and recovery as one example. Indeed, he pointed out this was just one case in which M2M has actually spawned a new industry in its own right.

As for IoT itself, Smallwood anticipates usage models for M2M and IoT differing between developed and developing nations. While a developed market may find itself using IoT to measure the level of municipal bins and schedule disposal accordingly, an emerging market like South Africa would likely find more benefit, for example, in connected sensors being placed on pylons, cables or manhole covers. These could then detect when theft was underway by measuring vibration, and alert the requisite authorities. Nor does it have to be limited to cities either; M2M and IoT could reach and find multiple use case scenarios in agriculture, transport and the medical sectors, to name a few.

Get ready for the future

However, a prime candidate for the technology moving forward, according to Smallwood, is in monitoring and saving water. “Ultimately, the use of M2M communication and IoT will substantially change business and could spawn entirely new industries. Already, we are starting to see vehicle OEM (original equipment manufacturers) imbedding their products with M2M capabilities,” he enthused.

As for Vodacom Business’s role in this upcoming change, Smallwood reassured that the company that made significant investments in creating an M2M dedicated department, and ensuring it has the right network capability in place. “Our vision is to connect every machine and person in order to transform lives and business, and we will continue working with our enterprise and business contacts to that end,” he concluded. 

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