What I’ve learnt from 25 years in the Machine to Machine (M2M) Industry

23yearstestWell it only took 25 years but I thought with all the hype surrounding The Internet of Things it was time to share some of my insights from over 25 years in an industry that’s gone through a couple of name changes and facelifts.  You can call me a late adopter in a world of early adopters.

My staff roll their eyes, but being in the company of the crusty two way radio and satellite guys always gets a laugh when talking about the ‘new’ ideas and the good old days of ‘fast’ data. Much has changed in ‘telemetry’, ‘telematics’, M2M, ‘IoT, ‘IoE’ (Insert new marketing here), and the gadget developers over the years are always so optimistic! Does anyone actually have a pet tracker from any decade?

A lot has happened since Moving Data’s incorporation in 1990 when 600bit/sec to a device was an expensive breakthrough, so I’m starting with self indulgence.

The most important lessons I have learnt in M2M 

I don’t know your business! Little devices and ‘small’ data can only enable brains, not solve the big problems.  The subject matter experts within your organisation collaborate and provide actionable information, not the technology.

I rejected route optimisation solutions in 1995 at TNT Logistics, simply because routes are better calculated by the human brain – it gives the driver job satisfaction

What about tabular data output – If someone can’t get it to the accountant, shouldn’t you stick with paper based processes and MS-Excel?

My most satisfying M2M project

There’s nothing more satisfying than providing Radio and M2M solutions for community benefit. Telecommunications in Australia is all about social policy and subsidy:

As a young kid I was inspired by the 1977 Telecom Australia annual report (I still have it) where tenders were being let to give remote Australians basic access to a Telephone (DRCS) – Amazing. I later had the privilege to work with QNET to force data service competition on Telstra, and led the design and support of the current remote telephony solution (NextG Wireless Link).

I believe we should choose the culture of suppliers and customers carefully for job satisfaction.

For Discussion : ‘Does your IoT idea have a social impact or is it just a gadget?’

My biggest on-going challenge

Dealing with software coders who don’t understand that networks obey the laws of physics and are inherently unreliable most of the time.

Once as an expert witness, I had to explain to a court why a device in a metal box in an underground toilet had application reliability issues.

Now my 7 year old daughter throws a strop when the internet goes away, so on dad’s advice she is forced to choose applications that work asynchronously, change her entertainment requirements, or suffer the high cost of getting daddy to fix it now.

I have learnt that software coders are always more self-centred and self-righteous than my 7 year old, but the good ones are willing to learn that resiliency and redundancy come first, to avoid a tantrum from me. However, on balance, I’ve probably learnt more from the good coders than I could ever have imagined and even some very old telecommunications concepts are now popular in ‘new’ software.

For Discussion: ‘Old standards make new software great’

My thoughts on the future of M2M

After a big $ software project failure at TNT in 1996, I was sponsored by TNT and the Institution of Engineers to travel the world to study telematics innovation with privileged access to the leading developments. In my youthful naivety I recommended a strategy based on public GPRS and IBM’s MQ-Series (messaging and queuing from the banking industry). It took 5 years for GPRS to become available, and then 15 years later (for patents to expire?) we see MQTT as a robust emerging standard in M2M today.

I think that the hockey stick remains as long today as it was then, it’s probably just a bit fatter. Have a look at this blog post from Shane Murphy at KORE WirelessM2M & IoT statistics and predictions do the numbers add up?

Are you stalling? Do you call your thermostat the ‘internet of things’, or perhaps you claim to own ‘the internet of everything’ with the aid of a presentation backing track?

Are you innovative? Did the iPhone emerging as an M2M hub come as a surprise, or just disrupt the industry conversation? Can anyone remember ‘The Goodies’ portable computer from 1975?

I believe the M2M / IoT industry is dominated by licence holders; standards bodies that represent the interest of patent holders; hardware vendors seeking advantage outside of standardisation; and industries grasping for innovation.

For real advances in M2M and IoT I believe we should focus on the people processes, look at the technology deadlines, and call-out those trying to slow the business down.

I recommend the following articles from my friends at the innovation centre of M2M in Australia – Kensington, Melbourne

James Mack, General Manager at M2M One has some predictions for M2M in 2015 – http://www.m2mone.com.au/5-predictions-for-m2m-and-iot-in-2015/

And I especially like Gideon Borden from KORE Wireless’ critique of why projects stall  – http://www.korewireless.com.au/blog/your-m2m-project-is-going-to-fail.-the-top-5-reasons-why

This is an invite to open the conversation – what do you think? Am I on the right track? Does history offer any guidance to the future? I look forward to hearing your thoughts.