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2012: The Year of Machine-to-Mobile

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January 13, 2012

2012: The Year of Machine-to-Mobile

Machine-to-Machine (M2M) has been a hot topic in IT for several years, primarily in sectors where technologies like RFID and GPS can significantly reduce costs in industrial monitoring, inventory management, fleet tracking, and the like. Case studies from companies like Volkswagen and Jaris Transportation demonstrate the real-world promise of cost reduction through M2M, but missing from these examples is the category of opportunities enabled by the rising ubiquity of smartphones which, when paired with these same low-energy technologies, can turn almost any machine into a cloud-enabled “smart device.”

In the first quarter of 2012, our Machine-to-Mobile (M2Mo) team will analyze the opportunities made possible when companies pair smartphones with previously non-connected machines – from medical equipment to household appliances, construction tools, and even football helmets.

How is M2Mo Different from M2M?

M2M refers to any exchange of data between multiple physical machines that allows for a more efficient or effective workflow. Forrester’s Michele Pelino identifies three common elements across all M2M solutions – hardware, software, and network connectivity.

She goes on to define M2M as:

Technologies that collect and transfer information on the condition of physical assets or people.

Though this broad definition covers a wide array of technology pairings, including GPS, RFID, and NFC, there has been a distinct explosion of innovative solutions in which a consumer mobile device is the key enabling factor. We identify this specific subset of M2M as Machine-to-Mobile, or M2Mo.

Why Does M2Mo Matter Now?

M2Mo has reached a tipping point through a confluence of factors that make these solutions not just possible, but also realistic:

  • Stable Platforms –  iOS and Android have matured to the point that many organizations now rely on these platforms for mission-critical tasks. A clear example of such faith in mobile devices is the FAA’s recent approval of iPads as replacements for paper charts in commercial cockpits.
  • Cheap, Ubiquitous Technology – For the first time ever, companies have access to an array of cheap sensors that can be integrated into almost any hardware or physical asset. Data from those sensors can be securely transferred to low-cost mobile computers that most of your employees already carry with them at all times.
  • Widespread Access to the Cloud – Internet-connected smartphones can sync all activity to a secure cloud, which executives and employees can use to visualize and crunch data in real-time. Near-global access to Wi-Fi and 3G network speeds have made possible an always-connected M2Mo cloud.
  • Qualified Talent – Debates about a mobile developer shortage aside, there is now an army of qualified mobile engineers whose resumes include not just a few but dozens of enterprise or large-scale consumer mobile deployments.
  • Market Demand – “Mobile Maturity Models” from Forrester, IDC, show that, for many companies, the early exploration phase in mobility is nearing its end. Most large companies have already deployed more than a few mobile applications, and in many cases these early-adopter projects achieved lackluster results. Today, the onus is on the Chief Mobile Officer (or equivalent) to identify initiatives with a near-term, measurable ROI. From what we can see, M2Mo deployments generally have a much larger impact on the bottom line than the more common marketing, customer self-service, or employee services mobile application.

Time to Get Educated About M2Mo

In no other mobile solution type are cross-functional capabilities as critical as when hardware companies are asked to function as software companies (and vice versa). In this blog series, running throughout the first quarter of 2012, we’ll explore opportunities and case studies in M2Mo from a number of different perspectives. Sign up below to receive this series by email, and send your feedback to