Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Machine to Machine to lead smart life

When people say telecommunication, it has meant communication between humans and other humans. The development of technology, however, has been broadening the scope of telecommunication. Machine to machine (M2M), or the technology allowing communication between devices or machines, is getting the spotlight as the next booster of smart life.

“People started using telecommunication to verify the condition of machines. Then they determined that machines communicating between themselves will be more effective,” said Jang Won-gyu, a manager at Korea Communications Agency, at a seminar on M2M organized by KT Research Institute.

Applications of M2M infinite

Monitoring a device or machine with a sensor is the simplest form of M2M. Automatic metering, for instance, measures electricity, water or gas consumption of each household, and sends the numbers to the central computer system. Surveillance cameras recognizing human movement and smart homes where home appliances automatically turn on and off are also among products in the early stage of M2M.

The machines not only receive or collect information but they also analyze information and make decisions and act on their own in M2M. A smart vacuum cleaner, for instance, automatically gets information on weather and turns on when there is yellow dust outside.

The technology is also widely applied in cars. The industry has realized “telematics,” integrating infrastructure of media, communication and the Internet, instead of depending wholly on humans to control machines. Car companies are working on the development of smart cars, where M2M technology is used so that the cars collect information on road conditions or the flow of traffic for selecting the optimized route.

Mobile offices, healthcare, electronic payments and security are some of the sectors where M2M technology is also used. In healthcare services, for instance, which require systematic collection of data, M2M technology could be used to monitor physical conditions, measuring pulse and blood pressure and enabling medical service providers to quickly detect and respond to irregularities.

The introduction of smart devices is accelerating M2M application in these sectors. Industry analysts expect smartphones to quickly become the hub of the M2M technology. For instance, smartphones can work as a remote control for home appliances or to start a car.

Market growing

Governments around the world expect M2M to solve environmental, energy and social problems. Europe has made the adoption of smart meters an obligation before 2020 to cut carbon emission. The United States is planning to invest $4.5 billion in smart grids, and Japan is approaching the technology from a social perspective, applying it in medical services and earthquake monitoring.

The Korea Communications Commission also noted its growth potential, and is moving toward the standardization of related technology and platforms.

M2M is thus regarded as the next blue ocean for the telecommunication businesses. “In the past, telcoms rarely engaged in direct business in the sector due the small size of the market and pricy devices. As M2M is applied more extensively, however, they are eyeing the technology as a means of income diversification, expanding network connectivity to devices other than cell phones,” KT Research Institute said in a report. It added that M2M could be a new income source for WiBro, which is seeing it as a new business model.

KT Research Institute expects the local M2M market to grow to 20 trillion won market in 2020.

SK Telecom, the biggest mobile carrier in the country, has been using M2M technology in building energy management systems. They automatically check electrical consumption of lighting, air conditioning and heating systems, and share the information with the central management center.

Source: The Korea Times

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