A world were everything can and will be connected is getting closer. Lower sensor and wifi cost as well as easier and higher speed network connections all speed up the everything and everywhere connected world. The focus has been on consumer applications but business has been using and benefiting for quite some time. Hertz is tracking their cars using M2M technology. Container shipments all over the world are tracked this way as well. Smart meters are providing information remotely in many neighborhoods. What should small business look at before they take the leap?
In M2M Communications, Technology to Transform Business, Nancee Ruzicka of OSS/BSS Global Competitive Strategies Stratecast, a Division of Frost & Sullivan writes the following.
Five Things to Consider When Considering M2M. By taking a business view before getting to the “how” of M2M, organizations in every industry can realize much more than the benefits of automation:
1. What? What business are we in? What do we want to deliver to our customers? These are fundamental questions to consider before implementing the technology. Involving representatives from every part of the business reveals amazing insights and results in better alignment of technology goals with business strategies.
2. Why? M2M can make existing processes more efficient, as in the vending machine example. However, approaching M2M as a new growth area offers a clean slate on which you can define the next generation of the business. Not only can the vending route driver be informed, but inventory can be updated both on the truck and in the warehouse while suppliers are notified to restock. M2M does not have to be an evolution of existing processes and systems, although it may ultimately include those, but many organizations have tried unsuccessfully to extend existing infrastructure.
3. When? Not all M2M is ready today. It’s important to consider the maturity of the technology, stability of the provider, interoperability, coverage and IT requirements. Costs will continue to decline for components and devices, so if the return isn’t there now, it may be in the future. However, where the business case is obvious, there’s no reason to wait. Eliminating truck dispatches, reducing time spent by technicians or support personnel, or providing better data for customer self-service are all quantifiable savings that businesses can realize now.
4. Where? Most communication service providers will agree that wireless coverage is nearly ubiquitous nationally and even globally. CTIA reports that 74% of Americans have a choice of five or more providers. However, even in the most densely covered areas, service gaps exist. Although M2M devices will typically use the mobile network, the devices themselves may not move. A sensor on a levee pump in New Orleans can’t go around the corner to get a better signal during a storm. It is important to recognize where you’ll be deploying the M2M network, field-test the devices, and negotiate a service level agreement that ensures connectivity for critical devices.
5. Who? The beneficiary of M2M will ultimately be the business, but everyone is affected. You must carefully consider your customers. What changes are you asking them to make and how will it affect their lifestyles or business operations? Users across the business require process simplification and better access to correlated, accurate data. What are the training requirements? Whose job is it to keep all this working?
These new developments offer many opportunities for small businesses. It is not easy to take the first step and it requires many new skills that businesses often do no have. New knowledge in IT and customer understanding will need to be developed, possibly with outside help. Careful planning and focus on the customer experience are important. In the end, standing still is not an option either. Better customer service resulting in revenue growth and hopefully a lower cost structure will be the results to focus on.