M2M Communication on the Rise

Uta Aufmacher
At the Mobile World Congress 2013 in Barcelona (Photo: SAP)

“Explore the New Mobile Horizon” is the slogan this year for the world’s largest mobile trade show. More than 1,500 exhibitors and 67,000 visitors from 205 countries – including 14,000 app developers – will come together in Barcelona to discuss the latest innovations in mobile technology.

Smart glasses for the smartphone, “phablets” (a combination of phone and tablet), gesture-controlled keyboards, apps that even non-experts can develop – there’s certainly no shortage of exciting innovations vying for the attention of visitors to MWC this year. But they all have one thing in common: They can make our lives easier and keep us in permanent connection – if we so wish – with the world around us.

The Internet of Things is becoming reality

Imagine a world in which vehicles, freight containers, alarm systems, vending machines, TVs, and refrigerators all communicate with each other. What will it be like? Visitors to the trade show are invited to gain insight into this future scenario and into the Internet of Things, which is set to be a prevalent topic in the years to come. Experts predict that by 2020, 50 billion technical devices of all kinds will be communicating worldwide through the cloud and automatically exchanging data. What’s new about this form of machine-to-machine (M2M) communication is that it eliminates the need for human interaction. Thanks to mobile technology, devices can control each other remotely and transmit data back and forth wherever they happen to be located.

Partnership with Ericsson

The “Networked Society” is a major topic for both SAP and its partners: connected cars, connected machines, connected cities. Everything is connected: companies with their machines, car owners with their vehicles, consumers with their refrigerators.

According to Hans Vestberg, CEO of Ericsson, the “Networked Society” will be one of the dominant trends in the years ahead. “Everything will be connected: not just smartphones, but cars, cities, and power grids too,” he said at the joint press conference staged with SAP to announce their partnership M2M solutions.

Next page: Sanjay Poonen talks about M2M

Sanjay Poonen, president of technology solutions at SAP, joined the press conference via a live video link from Hawaii, where the Winners’ Circle is currently taking place. He shared a personal example of how intelligent “things” will make our lives easier in the future. If, for example, a telephone conference with Europe were to be canceled at short notice during the night – while colleagues in California were asleep – their Microsoft Outlook calendars could contact their alarm clocks and set them to go off later.

“I’m not describing a movie scene from ‘Back to the Future’ here,” said Poonen. “Machine-to-machine communication is already a reality in many areas.”

Machine to machine

Vestberg sees enormous potential in global M2M services: In fact, consulting companies like Machina Research are forecasting revenues of US$200 billion in this area in the years to come (see Machina Research’s M2M Global Forecast 2012). And the network operators are spearheading this development by providing ever faster networks. By the end of this year, it is estimated that 50% of all mobile devices purchased will be smartphones, which means that both private and work-related usage patterns are set to change. Signs of this change were already visible at the recent 2013 American football championship final at the Super Bowl, during which fans and spectators exchanged enormous volumes of data about their impressions and experiences of the game.

This is where SAP comes into play. Because it can act as a partner to the network operators, offering a platform that links up devices, networks, and applications and providing manufacturers and dealers with analysis options via SAP HANA. Network operators can leverage these all-in-one offerings to make contact with their consumers, offer more services, and optimize their processes.

Hip with consumer apps

Today, when you buy a pair of jeans, bite into a bar of chocolate, or drink a glass of beer, the chances are that they’ve all been manufactured and supplied with the help of SAP software.  Until now, SAP software usually ran in the background and was only familiar to insiders.

At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, SAP is stepping out of the shadows with a range of consumer apps that are featured at various demo stations around the SAP stand. (Follow SAP’s involvement at MWC here on sap.com, or for additional information about SAP mobile solutions, watch the videos available on the SAP Mobile Channel).

Next page: “My Runway” – the SAP app for fashion fans

In the future, if you go to a vending machine to buy a drink and you have the corresponding app on your smartphone, you’ll be able to receive personalized offerings via NFC (Near Field Communication). For example, there might be an offer for 20% off a soda, or you might receive a free bottle of water if you buy both a sandwich and a soda. Naturally, you can pay for your purchases on your cell phone and save yourself the hassle of searching for the right change.

What’s more, the manufacturer has a better chance of getting perishable products to consumers before they pass their sell-by date. But the intelligent vending machine can do a whole lot more: including sounding an alarm if the temperature rises and the products are no longer refrigerated, calling a service technician, and giving an early warning when the machine needs restocking. At the same time, the SAP HANA database provides the manufacturer with vital additional insight relating to the vending machine, such as the choice of location. While it’s fairly obvious that sugary, high-calorie sodas will not sell well at a gym, SAP HANA can provide insight into much more complex patterns.

Runway project

SAP also offers an iPhone app for fashion fans. “MyRunway” lets you select your favorite labels and get all the latest information on hot trends from social communities: How much are the new Ferragamo shoes, where can I buy them and in which size? Just like on Pinterest, the fashion conscious can use the app to share their own style and provide inspiration for other users. “The MyRunway app bridges the “shopping gap” for consumers,” explains Elena Hartlieb from AppHaus in Los Altos. Although most people browse the Internet and social networks for the latest must-have items, they still want to visit a store to touch the products and try them on. This is no problem if they take their wish-list to the store with them.

However, if – understandably – you’re itching to grab your smart phone and download MyRunway, you’ll have to be patient for a little longer. It was launched initially in the strategic Chinese market in 2012 with more than 70.000 users and will be released in other markets soon.