Talking up a storm about M2M
Over the past few years, we’ve heard a lot of talk about machine to machine, or M2M. This growing sector is exactly what it sounds like: machines are communicating with each other.
It’s no freak accident. At the root of this phenomenon are two main goals:
- surveillance; this is the Big Brother side of M2M
- the development of new services; this is the recreational side of M2M.
1st use: M2M, the telecoms super cop
The policing aspect can be found in every M2M sector.
For example, vending machine operators want to make sure their machines are in good working order. They need to be able to check each machine’s stock in near real time. This is especially true for fresh products like yogurt, which can spoil if the right temperature is not maintained. When refrigeration systems break down, operators must send someone right away, or they’ll end up with just lost income and phone calls from angry customers complaining about their rotten sandwiches.
The same thing goes for industrial equipment and video surveillance cameras, where users need to be alerted to malfunctions right away.
In the healthcare sector, for example, it’s important that the battery life of pacemakers be monitored daily. Sleep apnea is another pertinent example. Many patients find their masks too restricting and simply leave them in the closet, despite the fact that healthcare plans often shell out a lot of money for this kind of treatment. However, in France, for example, this is nearly a thing of the past. In a few months, French health insurance will only cover masks that can send daily information proving that patients use them.
2nd use: developing new services for users
Undoubtedly, M2M wouldn’t have good press if it could only offer surveillance. It also has a more engaging side, as shown by the recent explosion of new services intended both for companies and regular users like you and me.
To go back to the example of vending machines, M2M can help optimize delivery schedules and thus provide better service to customers.
We should also remember that the transition to M2M will significantly impact how companies work, both on an organizational and a social level. Some workstations will have to be entirely overhauled. Communication between machines can also be used to provide real-time geolocation for transport fleets.
And, to touch on the healthcare sector again, M2M can help:
- track the shipment of medicine from the storehouse to the pharmacy, giving pharmacies complete traceability on the cold chain.
- put minds at ease: for example, my mother can continue to live independently in her own home despite her age, and I will receive text message updates that let me know a nurse stopped by to check on her this morning.
- transmit heart rate information for pacemaker patients on a regular basis.
all in all, humans remain the real decision-makers
In case of emergency, alerts are automatically sent to indicate any malfunction. For example, vending machine operators can use a dedicated interface to view alerts for all vending machines that are low on stock. Cardiologists can use an online interface to check the status of their patients and detect any potential problems. Alerts can be sent by text message, e-mail or even voice mail.
At the end of the long M2M tunnel, it’s up to humans to analyze the data and make the right decisions. In a future post, I’ll talk about how M2M technology can be used to achieve commercial success.
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