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M2M Platform Proliferation


Snaps #41

M2M platforms, designed to accelerate development and deployment of M2M solutions past point solutions, are proliferating, something that became readily apparent in the course of Beecham Research's second Service Enablement Services (SES) study, recently completed (see last month's Snaps article).

During Beecham Research’s earlier 2009-2010 SES study, less than 20 platform providers were profiled; 40 or so were listed in the second study but we'd counted over 50 by the time we began presentations and are now aware of 60-70; there are undoubtedly more, and additional platforms are likely to appear.

Robin Duke-Woolley, Beecham Research's CEO, commented on this at this year’s CTIA show in San Diego a couple of weeks ago and in a blog entry at M2Mapps which included this list. Whenever we present such a list, people contact us to ask why their company's M2M platform isn't on it, and the numbers grow. No list can be exhaustive so long as this dynamic situation continues.

Platforms are coming not just from M2M solution providers but from a range of companies -- hardware suppliers, system integrators, MNOs, software companies, and from different vertical industries, as well, whether consumer or B2B. In some cases a platform will have existed for some time in, say, the Industrial Service Sector, but until recently wasn't marketed as an M2M platform -- a provider may have come across M2M marketing material, realized their existing platform was in fact an M2M platform, and commenced suitable development and marketing activities.

Platform providers exist all over the planet and come in all shapes and sizes, from tiny start-ups to huge corporations.

Large Players

The huge corporations include all major telecomm groups while Snaps #39 briefly explored Intel's entrance into M2M, which includes elevating a good-sized embedded computing ecosystem that incorporates a wide range of companies, including M2M platform providers ILS Technologies and Eurotech Group.

Other large players are interested, too, but approach M2M platforms from their own vantage point.

Cisco's August announcement of its Integrated Services Router (ISR) 819 M2M Gateway is one example but is it intended to be part of a solution that includes Cisco's Prime Fulfillment, "a comprehensive service fulfillment platform"? If so, it may be necessary to view M2M platforms in a wider context, one that may include fixed line, voice, mobile broadband, short-range wireless, and so on, a context that includes Service Delivery Platforms (SDPs).

SDPs are offered by a good number of companies, whether focused on IT or telecommunications. Within this context, an M2M platform may be seen as a specialized SDP. (As it is M2M-specific, Beecham Research's SES term encompasses a wider range of enabling services than those usually found in SDPs.)

A short list of Cisco's competitors and/or SDP providers would include Juniper Networks, Brocade, Enterasys, Extreme Networks, Ciena, and Hewlett-Packard, as well as infrastructure providers like Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, and Huawei. Oracle, too, is sometimes mentioned as an SDP provider. All are potential M2M platform providers.

Ericsson, which purchased Telenor Connexion's platform earlier this year, is already on our list.

We haven't seen any HP booths at M2M shows, but a search of its site reveals a number of M2M-related pages, one of which describes "The HP M2M Solution." The word "platform" isn't found here -- this is described as "a comprehensive end-to-end software solution" but the words "device management" suggest there may well be an HP M2M platform, while additional HP material on its mProve product discusses asset management and a partnership with Enfora, which offers the "N4A" M2M platform.

Newer Players

The growing numbers of platform providers include not just large companies but small companies and start-ups, as well. Their backgrounds are as varied as larger platform providers but much has changed in the M2M/IT/telecom space in the last few years and this is reflected in some of the newer offerings. A case in point is Pachube (pronounced "patch-bay"), a small UK start-up acquired in July by U.S. based LogMeIn -- a provider of software enabling remote control of PCs either from other PCs or iPhones or iPads or "cloud-based remote access solutions."

Pachube, the company, was launched in 2008; the platform was publicly released in 2010. Pachube provides a service that offers real-time monitoring and management of connected devices and sensors. As an example, users connected radiation detectors to Pachube's platform during Japan's Tsunami crisis -- data was available to other users for analysis.

Possibly, Pachube's business model was the primary factor in its acquisition, as quarterly operating costs were close to $1,000,000, with data from over 7,000,000 data points sent every day. It looks as though it was burning cash fast -- the acquisition should enable much greater scaling.

Pachube is new enough so that its website emphasizes "The Internet of Things" instead of "M2M." It takes its place alongside other post-Kindle, post-iPhone, post-iPad platforms. Time will tell how this newer stream of platforms competes with older offerings.

Platform Futures

M2M Platform proliferation is reminiscent of on-line video in the era. For a brief period, new companies offering their version of streaming video were appearing on an almost daily basis, but one day the situation changed, with most of the same companies going out of business nearly as quickly. This had much to do with the overall meltdown and the limits of technology at the time but the fact of too many players was also a big part of this. Eventually, YouTube succeeded where others failed; before long Google swooped it up. Today the number of on-line video companies is again increasing, although at a much slower rate than during that earlier heyday.

We can expect a similar but likely less dramatic shake-out for M2M platforms at some point, undoubtedly featuring consolidation. Which platforms will survive? Which platforms will thrive?

This is an area Beecham Research will continue to keep a close eye on.

Bill Ingle
Beecham Research, Ltd.

M2M2.0 Executive Brainstorm: Rethinking M2M Economics: Service enablers for the connected home

Thursday 10th November 2011, Guoman Tower Hotel, London UK

Produced by Beecham Research in partnership with business model innovation firm STL Partners, M2M 2.0 Executive Brainstorm explores M2M Service Enablers, M2M Business Models, and service enablers for the Connected Home. Building on the successful half day sessions in November 2010 and May 2011, this event will use STL’s interactive ‘Mindshare’ format and will be attended by senior representatives from telcos, application developers, hardware manufacturers and utilities and service providers to the connected home. See website for more details and registration.


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