At the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) M2M Tech Partnership Device and Solutions conference held this week in Basking Ridge, N.J. tech companies met with Korean device and module makers with one mutual goal: to tackle the multibillion dollar machine-to-machine (M2M) communications market. Many N.J. companies, both large and small, showed up to do business. However, NJTechWeekly.com was interested to see that a number of medical device and a few tech startups were also looking at this market.
The conference featured breakout sessions on healthcare, retail and mobile transactions and telematics, along with a luncheon keynote by Verizon Telematics Business Solutions Group (Basking Ridge) director Amit Jain. After the sessions, N.J. and area companies were able to meet one-on-one with Korean firms with whom they hoped to do business. Many Korean device and M2M companies have N.J. presences, with large firms like LG in Englewood Cliffs and Samsung SDS America in Moonachie and smaller ones like E-Pia Tech, a surveillance system maker; Bluebird USA Inc., a rugged mobile computer manufacturer; and D-Max USA, a security CCTV maker, all with offices in Englewood Cliffs.
We attended the “Retail and Mobile Transactions” presentation by Nokia Siemens Networks (Bedminster) vice president Alan Gibbemeyer and the end of a presentation by Cato Research Ltd.’s (Durham, N.C.) Jack Snyder on FDA regulation of mHealth devices. Both were well received. Gibbemeyer discussed the overall M2M market, which, using figures from Harbor Research, he indicated will be worth about $375 billion by 2014. Broken down, the market for applications and services will be about $275 billion, services enablement $15 billion, network access and managed connectivity $54 billion and devices and device application $31 billion.
Gibbemeyer also spoke about the Nokia M2M cloud product Cumulocity, aimed at telecom operators like Verizon. The software, which fits into the services enablement category, lets telecom operators develop apps in a standard way and roll them out easily, he said. Nokia, he added, “is limited in what we can do in this market. We are not set up as a channel. The operators are a good channel to enable” these operations.
Indeed, Verizon’s Jain made his company’s interest in M2M clear during his luncheon address. He said Verizon believes M2M is here to stay because, for many applications, it has an impact on both the top and bottom line for businesses. For example, smart meters allow companies to reduce their energy usage. Other firms are employing M2M to enhance user experience and service records. One commercial printer manufacturer uses information from its smart printers to ship supplies proactively to the user company before toner runs out, preventing customers from going elsewhere to buy them.
Verizon provides both horizontal and vertical solutions in the M2M space, Jain said. The verticals “we are focusing on are transportation, utilities , retail, healthcare, distribution, manufacturing, financial services and government,” he explained. He noted Verizon works closely with its component suppliers to bring down module costs. Currently the company offers more than 300 certified devices in the M2M space, he said.
In the past, Jain acknowledged, it had been very cumbersome to go through the Verizon certification process but, “I’m here to share with you that we have streamlined that process, boiling it down to less than six weeks.” In-house experts work “hand in glove” with the company’s partners, he said, to help take them through certification. The Verizon innovation centers, one in Waltham, Mass., and another in San Francisco, are geared to push innovation in the marketplace, especially as it pertains to 4G LTE, he added.
To help with partners’ needs, whether for low or high bandwidth, “we are currently supporting three network technologies,” Jain said. The firm’s 4G LTE is currently in 190 markets nationwide and will have the same coverage as 3G by 2013. This is important, he noted, because M2M media-rich applications, such as digital signage and real-time video, require 4G speeds.
Verizon is committed to supporting 2G for applications with very low bandwidth needs. “Unlike our competitors, we have committed to offering 2G reliability and upkeep until at least 2020,” he said, so partners building new applications on 2G networks will be supported in the future. In his presentation, Gibbemeyer also addressed issues surrounding networks, noting M2M applications have a long life and do not need high data rates, so developers have to ask their operators to commit to supporting the older technology.
When it comes to products and pricing, Verizon says it is flexible, offering the industry special pricing when there are very low bandwidth needs, such as with a machine that reports back to a central server once a day. When developing apps for this market, Jain says Verizon has made them “carrier-agnostic, device-agnostic and operating system-agnostic.” In that way, vendors can opt for a suite of applications they can resell their customers without worrying about whether they run on their systems.