According to a recent survey by Frost & Sullivan of key players in the ICT industry, M2M communications is expected to have the biggest impact on driving new growth in ICT over the next twelve months. This growth is fuelled in part by the increasing discussion on the Internet of Things (IoT), which expands into multiple technologies and applications across sectors.
Cellular M2M will be an important growth area but there is a growing interest in alternative M2M technologies, both to replace existing networks (e.g. some operators are phasing out their 2G networks on which many low data-rate applications currently operate), and to open up new business models where cellular is not the answer.
Alternative technologies to cellular include satellite and a wide variety of short-range wireless options that are already starting to be used for M2M solutions. Interesting new network examples include companies like Sigfox and Sytheros that are trying to build out new mobile networks based on very law data throughputs, low power and very low costs. There are also a large number of new low power RF technologies being promoted.
In recent years, a main M2M focus has been on cellular connectivity with migration to higher speed technologies (first 3G and now LTE) opening up opportunities for new applications using higher data-rates. Other systems are pushing for lower throughputs at much lower prices.
Satellite M2M is also gaining momentum as understanding of its unique capabilities improves. Some of most attractive aspect of satellite M2M connectivity are:
- works almost anywhere in world
- developers can quickly roll out and manage a global solution without needing to source local connectivity (e.g. SIM cards/plans)
- highly scalable and can recover quickly from outages and natural disasters
- dual-mode products can offer the best of satellite and terrestrial networks
ABI research reports that the total global market for open short-range wireless (SRW) technology based Integrated Circuits, i.e. Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, ZigBee, NFC, and GPS, is expected to reach almost 5 billion units in 2013 and grow to nearly 8 billion by 2018. While consumer devices have been the major driver of SRW technology growth, newer applications in automotive, home automation, smart energy and retail will propel growth over the next 10 years. Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and ZigBee are just a few of many technologies that will enable growth in the IoT and M2M market, coupled with proprietary SRW.
The IoT requires low-cost, low-power, ubiquitous technologies to create the innumerable connections to meet future requirements. Cellular, M2M satellite, short-range wireless, RF and wired technologies are significant areas to focus on during the growth of both IoT and M2M.