22-Fold Rise Predicted for M2M Devices by 2016

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.

Going global
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.

37 comments on “22-Fold Rise Predicted for M2M Devices by 2016

  1. prabhakar_deosthali
    May 24, 2013

    With machines doing most of the talking required to do the mundane work, what will be left for the people to babble on their smart phones?

    May I predict that with the average talk time will reduce as the M2M population increases?

    So the smart phones of the future would handle more data traffic and less voice traffic.


  2. Lavender
    May 24, 2013

    These devices really bring a lot of automated convenience to our lives, it seems the Internet of Things world integrates the benefits. 

  3. Eldredge
    May 24, 2013

    @prabhakar – I could be wrong, but somehow I don't think there will be a correlation between M2M communication and peoples babble! I would predict that people will be discussing the data that they have shared.

  4. itguyphil
    May 24, 2013

    I wouldn't mind that. I think as is, 50-60% of our current talk time is wasteful/unnecessary.

  5. dalexander
    May 24, 2013

    @All…I think the story behind this story is the mass proliferation of all manner of remote sensing devices across all industry sectors. With so much monitoring and data gathering, the alerts and marketing benefits or burdens will be prodigious. From medical to security devices, our entire environment will be wired in wirelessly. There will be devices talking behind our backs and sending information way beyond GPS coordinates and face recognition. With the advent of cameras the can read fingerprints from 5 feet away, we should be expecting some pretty high tech 24/7 surveillance and access technologies coming on the market fairly soon. Little brother meets big brother. This isn't paranoia. This is just casual observation.

  6. Tom Murphy
    May 24, 2013

    I love your question Prabhakar!   I'm reminded of the movie Wall-e which depicts a future where humans grow fat on lounge chairs and lose touch with the world around them.  That is not where we should be heading with technology!

  7. Tom Murphy
    May 24, 2013

    Douglas: I always like the way you're wary of what technology will do. I know that's on your mind. I also think that way. And we both have been around long enough to remember the hype in the mid 90s of what the Information Superhighway would bring us by the year 2000.    I love the example in this story because it's simple, it's here, and you explained it clearly. Whether it can extend to billions of devices in three years, well, I'll wait and see on that.  (I'm not even sure Facebook will still be around then.)

  8. dalexander
    May 24, 2013

    @ Tom…Yes. I agree. Three years is a lifetime for tech. On the flip side, a stationary store in Palo Alto just announced their closing. They have been satisfying customers for 104 years. Here is one person's response…NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Apparently, this person will miss their favorite office supply store.

  9. Tom Murphy
    May 24, 2013

    That was you says “Noooooo!,” wasn't it Douglas?  Don't blame you a bit.  Many retailers now are operating on less than a 1 percent margin. We'll miss them all when they're gone and EVERYTHING has to come from online.

  10. elctrnx_lyf
    May 25, 2013

    Wireless technologies are there in home security applications for a while already. But what is changing is the way the each different sensor communicate to each other and how all the data generated from different sensors is handled by a software application specifically for analytical analysis that could generate intelligent reports.

  11. mfbertozzi
    May 25, 2013

    @elctrnx_lyf : well, I agree with you, no doubts; I also wanted to spend just a little bit more on sensors and the new way for interconnections; as per mobile model that is moving towards “micro-cell”, personal sensors need a “micro-home” network, hence sooner or later PAN (personal area network) will come in a massive way.

  12. _hm
    May 25, 2013

    M2M devices have plethora of applications. Apart from industrial automation and control applications, I like their availability in helath and bio-mdecial applications. This will help resolve many difficult problems. IEEE/IEC should soon start drafting new standard for M2M device interoperability. If not, it consumer may have to spend mor emoney and it may not be as green as it can be.


  13. dalexander
    May 25, 2013

    @_hm…If you consider that M2M is more of a interconnectedness phenomena, than any thing that can talk to the Internet can co-communicate with the internet being the -go between. Since M2M has so many transmit protocols and RF radio types including Bluetooth and ZigBee and many others to cover a whole plethora of frequency bands and bit rates, standardization is not the issue.For example, Near Field Communications that allow a phone to transfer a file to another phone by being in close proximity is unique to the archetecture of the design of the device. But, those same phone can transfer files to DropBox or some other cloud storage and accomplish the same communication, albeit asynchronously. M2M includes standard mobile smartphones talking to other smartphones. The rise in autonomous communications will always be closed loop and protected with encryption and access keys and topographies. Check out the referenced link in the article and subscribe to the M2M feed and you will be completely kept up-to-date with all the upcoming growth in this marketplace. THe standards exist at the radio carrier and modulation and IP stack levels. What happens before and after that level of standardization is larger what make the device a unique product. The feature and function set including power source, sensing capability, memory, data logging etc. will determine where and when the product will earn its keep.

  14. dalexander
    May 25, 2013

    @elctrnx_lyf… I just read today about a breathalyzer that plugs into an iPhone via the 3.5mm jack. Imagine if the iPhone says in response to a breath test, “I'm shutting down all tweets and email access until you sober up.” But seriously, if the phone is linked to an internet service or application that tracks your blood alcohol level and sends the results to your AA sponsor or Mother or Father, then you have an M2M device that really has some far reaching implications. Now, you could have a friend blow into your breathalyzer, but at least someone will know you have a drinking issue that is out of control. They already have a breath analyzer that won't let you start your car if your blood alcohol is too high. What's to stop someone from using the iPhone version from becoming hackable to the extent that your results are not automatically posted on the internet through some backdoor access hack that autolinks to the internet. The problem with “intelligent” reports is that they can become “Intelligence” reports. Be careful about those iPhone hardware and software accessories that can sense your vital signs and transmit them to medical authorities. Those vital sign transfer applications may end up invading into other hardware and software using the same connection protocols and pass on information that you may want to keep private. 

  15. dalexander
    May 25, 2013

    @_hm… GS1 and Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) are collaborating to enable bar code scanning features built directly into mobile devices. This will make it easier for application developers to allow their apps to scan and link to trusted content. This is an example of interoperability based upon bar code scanning for the supply chain. Check out the link. 

  16. mfbertozzi
    May 25, 2013

    @D.A.: well, I think it is the time to share some thoughts about security concerns; as more PANs, M2M and sensors in general are deployed, as more technology around us will be, potentially, impacted by software bugs, malware and in perspective, hacking actions; a blast of M2M devices by 2016, needs (imo) to consider security guideline for protection.

  17. ITempire
    May 26, 2013

    Douglas, I agree that there is a lot of scope of M2M devices in every industry. The purpose is to eliminate human involvement from operational tasks that may cause error in data input and output. From eliminating workforce's cost and increasing efficiency point of view this technology is great but it would mean further job losses due to technology.

  18. ITempire
    May 26, 2013

    With the rapid introduction of technology in the industry, the developers must now be proactive in implementing security measures in the device and I am sure this must have been thought out for M2M devices as well.

  19. dalexander
    May 26, 2013

    WaqasAltaf…excellent point. Data entry errors are eliminated by automated M2M links. That's huge value in and of itself.

  20. dalexander
    May 26, 2013

    @mfbertozzi…I think encryption is key as well. I believe it is largely addressed in the wireless protocols like ZigBee or XBee for PAN and LAN, and for WAN, I would suspect company added encryption layers would be incorporated to protect proprietary data. If the data would be stored or forwarded via the Internet, then firewalls and standard encryption like WEP and RSA management would come into play. For really secure communications, Trusted Platform, TPM hardware and software implementations could be incorporated into the actual sensing devices on both the front and back ends.

  21. mfbertozzi
    May 26, 2013

    It really makes sense, even some doubts still remain, for instance, on performance. If producers have to introduce an encryption layer for enforcing M2M, we need to consider an additional overhead on communications. On the other hand, I agree with you: sooner or later, it is a step needed.

  22. Houngbo_Hospice
    May 27, 2013

    “Potential applications could include camera and archival storage mechanisms utilizing location, date, and time stamps to preserve device reporting history.”

    That sounds all good, I guess it is all about collecting the right data and find the best way to store it to the right place depending on the circumstances and also be able to present data to individual users depending on their specific function in the business process. 

  23. dalexander
    May 27, 2013

    @Hospice…point well taken. The target application will define the hardware performance and data content requirements. The more specific and unique the design by application, the more predefined the market for the product and service. The more agile and open featured the utility of the product, the more diverse the applications and potential market growth based upon after market development efforts. A device powered by an Arduino with flexible open programmability will be incorporated into all kinds of hardware intended for different applications. In the same manner, M2M will find many new and convergent applications because of its accessibility for after market mods incorporating different data content specific targets.

  24. t.alex
    May 27, 2013

    Douglas, the breath analyzer is an interesting concept. I can imagine the iPhone will detect a high level of alcohol and then alert all the friends via Facebook post 🙂

  25. Mr. Roques
    May 28, 2013

    When you mentioned our world becoming a big microwave oven, I thought of the medical aspects of having wireless signals continously passing through our bodies… we won't know what hit us, until it's too late.

    Regarding the cashier in CVS, it reminded me of one of the local malls, when you enter, it tells you how many parking spaces there are, per floor. The technology behind it is pretty simple. But what if they took it a step further and they assigned each people a parking space. Instead of slowly looking for parking, you would go directly to your assigned parking. 

  26. dalexander
    May 28, 2013

    @t.alex…You say that tongue in cheek and I agree that there is a bit of humor to this concept of automatic data relays to places where you would rather have things NOT go. But here is the reality. YOu know how people are concerned that genetic information garnered from mouth swabs might detect potential onsets of diseases based upon genome information. That in itself might be a good thing, but if the insurance companies get that information and base your rates upon risks, then it is not a good thing. Now imagine your mobile device being a medical monitoring device for temperature, heart rate, glucose levels, thyroid status etc, and now you see that some o this data may be indicative of a prediabetic or other potential medical risk factor. If the insurance companies got ahold of this information, then you might see a sudden increase in your insirance renewal based upon your own iPhone's monitoring system that somehow went public. Already insurance companies have acess to mental health records for treatments that they partially subsidize. That is not common knowledge, but I have a friend who does private therapy work and her records are accessible to the insurance companies. So what starts out like a lamb can quickly transition to a wolf in the wrong hands.

  27. dalexander
    May 28, 2013
  28. dalexander
    May 28, 2013

    @Mr. Roques…In fact our town has an experiment in process where they are embedding sensors into parking spaces on the street that connect to a mobile app to let people know where on the street is an open space. It is tied to a geo map of the downtown area so looking for parking spaces becomes less of a hassle.

  29. hash.era
    May 31, 2013

    @Douglas: That indeed is a good concept. Anyway it will involve a huge amount of money so its not possible to cover the whole country with it.        

  30. dalexander
    May 31, 2013

    @hash…probably just for crowded downtown areas at first. The device is stamped into the pavement and affixed with a super glue. It configures itself into a mesh network and when it changes state, it alerts the coordinator node and updates the traffic status application central. In that way, when a car pulls in, the state changes and the space is no longer available.

  31. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    May 31, 2013

    It's interesting to me that the growth of M2M has done little in terms of driving concern around security. More endpoints mean less security, more ways for cybercriminals to hit a network. It's got to be something we talk about.

    I read with intersest some commentaroy from Kathryn Weldon, Principal Analyst for Enterprise Mobility. In part:

    “If M2M grows the way the ecosystem hopes it will, there will be millions and even billions of end points sending continuous (as well as more sporadic) data across wired and wireless networks, including proprietary and mission-critical pieces of information about customers and businesses,” commented Ms. Weldon. “What are operators, systems integrators, and security software and services specialists doing about this? Why doesn't security seem to be discussed as openly as other M2M requirements?”

    Key questions answered include:

    • What protection do APNs provide?
    • Where are the holes and what security fixes are currently in place?
    • What are the revenue opportunities for operators, SIs, device OEMs, application platform providers and security specialists?

    So has anyone heard much in terms of concerns around security? Am i just being paranoid?

  32. hash.era
    June 30, 2013

    @Douglas: Yes starting with a selected area is better. Then you can address the mass market. 

  33. dalexander
    June 30, 2013

    @Rich…I think the “fold” increase is aggressive growth. For instance, For example, an initial value of 30 and a final value of 60 corresponds to a fold change of 2, or in common terms, a two-fold increase. So 30 goes to 60, 60 to 120, 120 to 240 etc. do that 22 times, and the resultant growth is tremendous. That's how I interpret the 22 fold increase.

  34. dalexander
    June 30, 2013

    @Hailey…with the recent NSA spying revelation on mobile devices and email, your point is well established. I think the best way forward is to just beware that as soon as someone designs a secure system, someone else, government or rogue hacker types are immediately set to work on cracking the wall. The Trusted Platform using embedded hardware chips on motherboards is the best way to secure local content, but once the data is in the wind, encrypted or not, it becomes vulnerable to hackers long before we know it has been hacked. In WWII, we had the Enigma code breaking machine, breaking codes before the enemy knew it was missing. Let a crypto equipped sub sink in international waters, and you will have an international race to recover the crypto gear. Once a foreign power gets the gear, world-wide use of existing similar systems require updating and modification prior to further use. We have technologied ourselves into a frenzied corner. You can't react slowly and you better react with superior technology.

  35. dalexander
    June 30, 2013

    @Rich…nice point on cameras. I have two cell phone cameras, one IPad camera, two web cameras, two microscope cameras, one digital SLR, one point and shoot, and two defunct flip videos. What do I win? ….I really need another camera. With wireless insert cards in some cameras that use real time transfer of stored images to PC repositories, that would classify as M2M. But if you start with even 100 million cameras and do a 22 fold number on just this sector, I think we're getting close to the number of grains of sand on the beach. Anyway, we don't start with 30, we start with some gargantuan number with a bunch of zeros after it. Is a Googleplex another name for Google's campus of buildings?

  36. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    July 3, 2013

    I just listened to a podcast on cryptography that made many similar points. Every code can be broken so this type of security tends to be a giant game of leap frog.

  37. errricwillson
    August 4, 2013

    I am completely agree with you on the point brains are like Microwave oven wevery thing came to it baked like  the stream of thoughts. 

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