Maturing M2M market still facing tech, standardisation challenges

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The increasing maturity of the M2M market can sometimes have unexpected consequences. One delegate at Thursday’s M2M World Congress in London, joked that the standard of the slides and presentations have certainly improved in the years he has been working in the sector.

But while operators and vendors were excitedly talking about the real-world application of M2M technology, whether it’s connected cars, smart cities, smart metering or connected advertising, Jeff Smith, CTO of M2M solutions provider Numerex, warned current problems with networks will need to be solved and future-proofed.

The common consensus is there will be 50 billion connected devices by 2020 but a lot of them will interact with networks in new or more demanding ways.

Smith said: “The signalling network that we currently use has some serious issues and those issues when we move into the Internet of Things are only going to be exacerbated.”

According to the Numerex CTO, diameter signalling faces potential problems because it will have to deal with a large number of small devices moving on and off networks.

“This will cause lot of large signalling traffic that we don’t know how we are going to deal with yet,” said Smith.

This was one of the unknowns about the market that speakers argued need to be dealt with quickly, so all parts of the M2M chain can benefit from the explosion in connected devices.

Speakers from Orange and Deutsche Telekom all agreed that the rate of developing standards was not moving quickly enough.

Emmanuel Routier, Vice-President for M2M at Orange, described the issue of standards as “a bit scary”.

While both the GSMA and ETSI are working to produce a common set of standards, Deutsche Telekom’s Jurgen Hase, Chairman of the M2M Alliance, said things were not moving quickly enough: “Standardisation has to speed up because things are moving so fast on the technology side. It is absolutely necessary for telecoms groups to build common platforms for connected devices. If 50 billion connected devices send out a signal… we need to think hard about how we manage them. We have to do it all together. It’s a partnership story.”

According to Geoffrey Morton, Group Vice President, Worldwide Java Sale at Oracle, collaboration is “the only way to go”.

However, he argued: “We will compete on implementation but competition should not be based on standards.”

But the fact these discussions were taking place now was cause for enthusiasm, he added: “This market is so constrained by the challenges but the horizon is really forming. We all understand the possibilities. Now it’s about putting the tools and systems in place. Our customers are talking about IoT in terms of benefits, rather than the challenges that it presents.”

Deutsche Telekom’s Hase also suggested both operators and their customers were able to have greater ambitions, thanks to recent innovations.

He said: “We need to think more globally than expected. [M2M] is a totally global business. All of the companies we work with are thinking, at a minimum, continent wide.”

He said this had changed how operators worked, with previously siloed divisions now having to cooperate on shared projects.

But the growing excitement and confidence among operators and vendors mean there is one final unexpected consequence: “To be honest nobody in this room knows where this technology will take us,” said Oracle’s Morton.