M2M: It’s decision time says Comms365 chief

Decisive and dynamic action should be the channel's only response to the fizzing M2M market, according to Comms365 Managing Director Mike Van Bunnens.

In this time of M2M and IoT expansion it would be foolish for the channel not to play to its traditional strengths of agility and adaptability; and the biggest threat to a reseller's business is to ignore what could be their greatest opportunity for years, believes Van Bunnens. It is clear to him where the future lies. "There is a chance for resellers to grab a share of this market, add value to the existing customer base, increase differentiation while gaining a foothold in a fast moving dynamic sector," he stated. "It's time for resellers to get serious about M2M."

This is no time to be impartial, according to Van Bunnens, who two months ago instilled a bias towards M2M in the Comms365 business following the appointment of two IoT heavyweights, Nick Sacke as Head of IoT and Products and Situl Shah as Head of Business Development, all part of a push to drive IoT solutions via partners.

They bring 45-plus years joint experience including expertise in developing and implementing IoT, M2M, wireless, IT security and managed ICT solutions. The move is a clear sign of the future direction of the business, focused on enhanced connectivity, M2M and cloud solutions.

Decision time is here and there's no place for half-hearted gestures. "What is holding the reseller community back?," asked Van Bunnens. "Why are resellers not leveraging their experience in both mobile telephony and corporate communications to deliver high value M2M deployments? Even those that have dabbled in mobile data, including broadband and Internet services, are typically opting for a turnkey solution and reselling a carrier's bundle with no added value or differentiation. They should step back and consider the opportunities that exist even within their current client base. It will soon become clear that most resellers could rapidly identify mobile data opportunities, from remote monitoring and management to backup."

From smartphone enabled bike locks and talking vending machines, to remote management of water treatment works and CCTV, M2M comms is transforming life for businesses and consumers. Yet to date, few traditional telecoms resellers have addressed this market. Van Bunnens insists that M2M offers a ‘fantastic opportunity' to add significant revenue and create a ‘compelling and differentiated offer'. "Whether you call it M2M, the Internet of Things, telematics or pervasive Internet, the truth is that the ease, speed and security of the latest generation of mobile data technology is opening up great opportunities for innovative businesses," he said.

M2M now underpins a raft of business applications - from EPOS and ticket machines to CCTV, digital signage and parcel tracking - but the majority of such implementations have been carried out by the main service providers. Few resellers have gained traction in this market despite the opportunity. Perhaps their slow reaction is due to the practical challenges associated with entering this market.

"While M2M offers opportunities not only to add revenue but also to create clear market differentiation, it is not a straightforward transition from mobile voice to mobile data," stated Van Bunnens. "And the lack of reseller friendly education and support has without doubt constrained M2M market development.

"This is an area that has been dominated by a small numbers of players, primarily the service providers. To gain a share resellers will need to consider an evolution of the business model and some investment in additional resources. Data is certainly more complex than voice. Applications, security, hardware, configuration, support, monitoring and management are all essential components of a successful M2M deployment, and resellers can also benefit from reusing existing skills and capabilities to add value into the marketplace."

Van Bunnens emphasised that it is important for resellers to understand where value can be added and the types of applications or connectivity that can be successfully introduced to a portfolio. "M2M has been based traditionally around small packets of data and therefore relatively low cost but high volume connectivity," he explained. "How easy would it be to gear up to manage thousands of connections transmitting 1MB or 2MB of data a month and the associated support that follows a large deployment? Or, is the existing model perhaps more suited to providing larger data requirements where the end application includes Internet access, video and other more bandwidth hungry services?"

Resellers can continue to ignore M2M or simply opt for the basic reselling of a carrier's turnkey solution. But for those that want to actively embrace this rapidly developing market and gain some clear differentiation, there are a few key steps to take. Firstly, understand the opportunities. "This requires a partner with a demonstrable track record across the board in M2M/IoT deployments, from fixed IP SIMs to wind turbines, and one that can highlight potential pitfalls and wider opportunities within a deployment," stated Van Bunnens. "Also, remember that M2M requires a multi-year commitment from both sides including daily support. After all, this type of service is long-term, not just a quick fad that can be started and stopped at will.

"M2M will continue to evolve at pace and the next wave will see applications and security become prominent factors for differentiation. Right now, the market is dominated by a few companies, many of which are not always providing the depth of service required."