Machine-to-machine communication -- when sensors, cameras, and wireless technologies are used to monitor, analyze, and forward critical information to Internet-connected devices -- is the key to thousands of market opportunities.
There is an enormous opportunity for marketing to and through devices like smartphones and tablets. Add real-time sensing and data monitoring, and that mobile device becomes a machine that can exchange information with other Internet-connected products. Timely, critical information can be tailored to address an individual's personal and professional concerns.
With all the bits and bytes of data and voice traffic constantly whizzing around our heads and passing through our bodies via wireless transmissions, it is almost as if our world were becoming a huge microwave oven. Our brains are being cooked slowly with information -- both useful and useless. In addition to the billions of tweets, emails, uploads, and downloads we encounter, an ever-expanding source of e-traffic is saturating the airwaves. I am referring to machines talking to other machines without direct human intervention. Both wired and wireless networks are forwarding information to huge repositories to be analyzed, stored, and used for all manner of private, commercial, and military applications.
Extension Media's inaugural Engineers' Guide to M2M Communications contained some startling statistics:
According to data by Cisco, there will be over 10 billion mobile connected devices in 2016 and there will be a 46 percent CAGR in the number of M2M "users" (nodes) between 2011 and 2016, double the growth in smartphones and 2.5x the rate of laptops and netbooks. In short, that's a 22-fold increase in M2M traffic and it represents a huge market opportunity.
M2M communications for embedded wireless sensors are on the increase. Software and hardware applications are already turning mobile devices into medical monitors and supply chain terminals for tracking, tracing, accounting, and authenticating goods and information.
A few weeks ago, I visited a CVS pharmacy in Fort Bragg, Calif. As I brought my items to the checkout area, I discovered the cashier was nowhere in sight. I looked around and saw nobody in the aisle. When I got back to the front, there she was waiting for me. As I prepared to pay for my goods, I noticed a device that looked like an eyeball three inches in diameter propped up on a stand near the register. I picked it up for closer inspection and asked the cashier what it was. She said it buzzed her when someone was standing near her station.
I quickly wrote down the manufacturer's name and model number and returned to the hotel to Google it. Sure enough, it was a wireless device equipped with motion detection, and it had been on the market for more than two years. When I investigated it further, I found it housed a ZigBee radio transmitter, which meant it could be quickly configured into a mesh network with unique identification for location and assignment purposes.
I also learned it was powered with two AA batteries that would last for months. When I looked it up on Amazon, I saw people were purchasing it for around $65 and using it for home security and to monitor traffic on long driveways.
Because the wireless technology carried a legacy data protocol, it could be linked easily to the Internet to monitor and trigger other activities. Potential applications could include camera and archival storage mechanisms utilizing location, date, and time stamps to preserve device reporting history.
What goes on the Internet can go everywhere on every mobile device with Internet connectivity. I was tempted to order a few of these motion detectors and create my own closed circuit camera system, just because I could. I also live in a forest, so watching for mountain lions and alerting the neighbors comes with the territory. I could be downtown when the smartphone would alert me with a beep or a video stream of whatever the closed circuit system passed on to me.
M2M systems have so many personal market possibilities when coupled with sensors and cameras. Home burglary detection and prevention comes to mind. Include a speed dial or autodial application, and neighbors and authorities can check the property for you. You can probably think of a thousand other applications.
Take those applications to market, and you will become part of the market explosion that is inevitably coming for M2M.