SAP.info: Machine-to-machine (M2M) technologies are being heralded as a major opportunity for enterprises. But the idea of the Internet of Things has been around for some time. Why has it suddenly become such a hot topic?
Suhas Uliyar: Machine-to-machine technology has been around for years, but deployments have so far been targeted at high-value assets in industries such as oil and gas, transportation, and logistics management. Now, certain key trends are driving broad adoption of M2M. Following Moore’s law, the cost of sensors has fallen and low-cost wireless networks have made communication with the Internet of Things technically feasible. Analysts estimate that about 50 billion devices will be connected by 2020.
Forward-looking businesses are realizing the tremendous potential of connecting the physical world to the Internet. Enterprises are able to enhance and optimize today’s operations by increasing efficiency, reducing the cost of resources, and improving quality and safety. M2M is also opening up new ways of doing business, such as dynamic pricing, and allowing new customer interactions to engage end users.
Finally, technology innovations like SAP HANA are providing insights that were previously impossible to calculate given the huge amount of data coming from the Internet of Things.
Everybody in the industry is talking about the Internet of Things. Where does SAP stand compared with other companies?
Fundamentally, all the terms we’re hearing right now – networked society, Internet of Everything, smarter planet, connected world – refer to connecting the physical world to people and information to create new insights and interactions. What differentiates SAP’s approach is that we are bringing together mobility, Big Data, and cloud. Plus, we have expertise in industry-specific business processes.
There is a tremendous opportunity, beyond cell phones and tablets, to securely manage and monitor all these end points with SAP Afaria – our mobile security product. SAP HANA provides the Big Data infrastructure to handle large volumes of data coming from “intelligent things” and to make intelligent choices through the use of analytics. So, for example, smart vending machines can alert the supply chain when the machine needs restocking or call a service technician if the temperature rises and the products are no longer refrigerated. At the same time, SAP HANA provides the manufacturer with additional insight to determine the right product mix for each location, based on consumption patterns.
Next page: Connected homes and cities
What might our lives in a connected home or city look like in the future?
Let me give you an example from my personal experience. I live in Seattle, and often have conference calls with colleagues in Germany – sometimes as early as 5 a.m. It is very frustrating to be woken by my alarm clock at 4:30 a.m., only to discover that the 5 a.m. call was cancelled overnight. Wouldn’t it be great if my calendar could sync with my alarm clock across the Internet and “tell” it not to wake me until later?
Healthcare is another area where the Internet of Things will have a huge impact. Using home monitoring devices, patients can record important medical data and readings and transmit them wirelessly to a server that performs an analysis and forwards the result to the healthcare provider. If any of the data falls outside of the established range, an alert is triggered and a member of the healthcare team is notified. By collecting data from a network of such patients using various types of sensors, the industry can make long-term decisions about what treatment to give a patient, plan follow-up actions, and so on. What’s more, earlier interventions mean that health costs can be reduced.
Innovations in the automotive sector, such as connected cars, already have a tremendous impact on the way we use information to make navigation decisions based on real-time traffic information. There is a fascinating video on YouTube showing a blind man in the driver’s seat of a self-driven Google car. Imagine the implications! M2M communication has the power to revolutionize people’s lives and give them greater independence.
Next page: Opportunities for the business world
What opportunities does M2M offer the business world?
M2M offers immense potential for the business world in terms of improving productivity, safety, and cost optimization. Insights gained from the data collected also provide an opportunity for new business models, such as dynamic pricing. Parking garage providers, for example, can dynamically change their pricing based on the time of day, traffic volume, or for special events. Another example is car insurance. Today, we all pay flat-rate premiums, but insurance companies now have the ability to quote premiums based on individual driver behavior and mileage.
Utilities are a great example of where we are connecting the consumer world to the business world. With smart meter analytics and smart grids, suppliers can give consumers detailed visibility into usage patterns and offer them incentives to use electrical appliances at non-peak rates. Consumers save money, and the change has a positive impact on the environment.
What about the ecosystem? Which parties need to be involved to make M2M communication a reality?
A lot of pieces need to come together to make M2M solutions cost effective. The ecosystem involves mobile operators, device and sensor manufacturers, M2M application and platform providers, and system integrators. We are creating the right partnerships to make the solutions easy, simple, and fast for our customers. SAP is partnering with Ericsson, the leader in telecommunications infrastructure, to jointly market M2M solutions and to provide enterprise customers with a complete, end-to-end solution. Ericsson provides the device certification, remote connectivity management, and the operational support systems for M2M, while SAP provides the M2M platform and applications that link up the device and manage the data processing via SAP HANA, and the mobile applications.