Adding value to M2M

Don't let a non-differentiating approach wreck your chances of capitalising on the high growth M2M market where the channel's ability to stand out from the crowd and add value will be pivotal to success, writes Bamboo Technology Group Managing Director Lorrin White.

Data is data - right? It's just binary signals sent over the air. How do you differentiate in a market when your core product is identical to the competition? Simple. You don't have to, because it's not identical. Not all data services are created equal, particularly in M2M connectivity, the latest telecoms opportunity where differentiation is key to long-term success.

Competition is heating up around the Internet of Things (IoT) with new entrants keen to secure their share of this emerging market. According to Juniper Research there will be 46 billion IoT devices within the next five years. That's a lot of M2M connections, and with it, a big opportunity to supply it. Now is the time for new M2M connectivity providers to take first-mover advantage in this emerging technology and stand out from the crowd. Here's how...

Pre-sales consultancy: M2M is more than just a pipe of data. It is the connectivity underpinning a product or service. And in a fast-moving industry, this product or service may often be brand new to market. New use cases for M2M/IoT are being dreamed up all the time, from smart GPS-enabled padlocks to the latest smart home devices. It is therefore critical that the new service is built in partnership with the communications technology provider that will provide the connectivity. By leveraging their experience and expertise, IoT creators can avoid the costly mistake of launching something that is not fit-for-purpose or over engineered and not commercially viable.

Good network coverage: By definition, network coverage of any kind is a necessity for IoT. A device cannot be smart if it can't communicate with the outside world. Yet ‘good' network coverage can be interpreted in many different ways. Does ‘good' simply mean the connectivity provider uses the carrier that you ranked best for network coverage in one area for example? Or does it mean multi-network connectivity to ensure your customers' devices always have the best chance of being connected? Does the contract cover global coverage or just the UK? Is 4G included, and if so, in which countries? Not all IoT devices need 4G but if the service in question is data hungry then this will be an important consideration for the potential IoT customer.

Network monitoring: Does your customer know how much data each of their devices are using in real time? Can they provision new SIMs from a control panel or stop data being sent to malfunctioning devices at the touch of a button? Extensive monitoring and control features from platforms such as the Cisco Jasper IoT services platform are essential to protect the profitability and service levels of an IoT product or service.

Flexible pricing: Mobile handsets and call plans are largely used in the same way. Your customer may have heavy users and light users, but the core service requirements are the same. This is certainly not the case with IoT, where one-size-fits-all couldn't be further from the truth. One service offering simply isn't possible in such a diverse and expanding ecosystem. A mobile security camera, for example, does not operate in the same way as a smart light switch. The amount of data it uses, its security requirements, power requirements etc are vastly different, so you cannot force the creators of these devices to use the same M2M packages or data bundles. Be flexible!

Values: Do your values as an M2M connectivity provider align with your customer? Are you a supplier or a partner in their eyes? How do you approach business? A relationship built on partnership and a shared mission is the only route to success in M2M. Whether they realise it or not, they are going into business with you.

While they can change their mobile phone provider without their customers knowing or even caring, the same cannot be said with M2M. This is especially true for specific M2M use cases where the service provider's SIM must be soldered directly to your device for security or resilience reasons, or in situations where the SIM might be in a device buried deep underground. The connectivity is an intrinsic part of the customer's IoT experience. Your service becomes their service, so ensure they know what they're letting themselves in for.

M2M is an exciting new era for the integration of telecommunications into IT services, but no two M2M services are created equal. If your customer ever tells you that data is data, put them right. People are just cells at the end of the day, but we're not all the same.