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How to dramatically reduce the amount of data M2M sensors transmit?

April 26, 2012 1 comment

M2M sensors are predicted to generate more data than their human counterparts in the coming years. Unfortunately the price that will be paid for moving this traffic will be substantially lower than human data traffic. So it makes sense to think about ways to dramatically reduce the amount of data M2M sensors transmit.

How to do it?

In recent weeks I have been playing with RapidMiner. This program might be soon installed on a lot of Windows machines next to MS-Office. RapidMiner allows complete data mining layman to easily get hidden information out of the data they have at hand in files, Excels, Access, databases, etc.

RapidMiner shows how with some simple drag-and-drop in 5 minutes you can use complex algorithms like Neural Networks, Support Vectors Machines, Bayesian Classifiers, Decision Trees, Genetic Algorithms, etc. to make sense out of data.

The fact that you can easily train an algorithm to take a decision on your behalf could be a key factor to reduce the amount of M2M sensor data. So instead of sending all the data to a central point and making decisions there, you would put intelligence into the sensors.

This artificial sensor intelligence would not only be limited to single sensor failure. By applying genetic and swarm algorithms and copying mother nature, you would be able to have different sensors behave like for instance an ant colony. Individual sensors would start sharing alarm data and if enough or the right sensors agree then they would launch collective alerts.

Wireless technologies based on for instance White Spaces technologies can be used, and are already used for instance in Cambridge, to cheaply have many sensors communicate with one another. Also harvesting techniques should be used to avoid having to install batteries into the sensors.

The last part of the puzzle would be extra features in a M2M PaaS to manage the distribution of intelligence for de-centralized and self-organizing sensor networks.  Sensors are likely to send data to a central server in which humans will have to train computers on what type of data is critical. Once the trained models are available, then they can be distributed to sensors. The M2M PaaS would focus from then on, on adjusting the algorithms in case certain alarms were not caught or when alarms were launched unnecessary.

Where should VCs invest?

If you are a VC and you are unclear where to invest then this post might be of interest to you.

Some Disruptive Technologies and ideas that startups might be working on or for which you might want to assemble a team:

Alternative networks

WiFi and 3/4/5G have their limitations. Any alternative networking technology that can change complete industries is probably a good pick. An example would be LiFi.
Networks as a Service – Software-Defined Networks – Openflow

This area is very hot at the moment. Today’s network are very hard to configure and manage, they are very tightly-coupled with hardware, they can not be extended easily.

Anything that makes Software-Defined Networks/Openflow easy for mass adoption is going to be a winner.

Anything that allows enterprises to buy a box once and get the network software later based on day-to-day business requirements, e.g. think about appstore for Openflow.

Anything that links Openflow to the Cloud.

M2M Disruptive Technologies
Printing electronics to make sensors cheaper.

Battery-free electronics to make sensors more mobile and less expensive to maintain.

Auto-discovery sensor mesh networks to avoid paying expensive 3/4G subscriptions.

M2M appstores to allow people to reuse the work others did.

Super-easy M2M APIs/PaaS. Look at Pachube as a model to beat.

Cloud Disruptive Technologies

Niche SaaSification in which applications that are only used in small niches can be offered as SaaS subscriptions in a global way.

Plug-and-Cloud Equipment for Hybrid Cloud & Exposure (Single Sign-on, Internal data sources, Internal integrations) – on-site equipment that allows enterprises in an easy and secure way to expose their internal assets to the Cloud e.g. employee single sign-on, secure exposure of company data, secure exposure and easy integration of company applications

Plug-and-Play SaaS integrations that allow multiple SaaS offerings to be easily integrated without programming.
Mobile

Mobile PaaS = mobile GUI drag-and-drop designer + no-programming back-end systems like Usergrid + plug-and-play integration with external and enterprise APIs + enterprise mobile app / SaaS stores + BYOD made easy solutions (some elements are optional)

Big Data / Data Analytics

Visual data miner as a service

Big Data PaaS (easy tools/APIs for complex big data operations like mood analysis, natural language processing, etc.)

Gamification/Crowdsourcing

Kaggle type of services but for other domains e.g. competition to create the easiest/best mobile interface or API

Kaggle + Kickstarter => competition together with crowdfunding. Who can build the best solution for this problem, gets their venture funded.

Nail-it-then-scale-it/Lean Startup type of crowdsourcing in which ideas get tested (e.g. paper prototypes, business model discovery, etc. before actual prototype) and funding is delivered bit by bit. Ideally with stock options of the funders in the new venture.
Enterprise/Consumer Telecom

Managed enterprise software-defined networks or BYOD – services that help enterprises to maintain their networks or devices that employees bring along in a managed way hence no experts need to be hired and the service is pay-as-you-go instead of CAPEX.

Cloud + Set-up Boxes – Appstores for ADSL/Cable Modem set-up boxes, SDKs to manage large sets of consumer’s set-up boxes, etc.

Conclusion

These are just a handful of ideas. If you want more or need more detail, let me know at maarten at telruptive dot com. Also if you are in need of an external adviser or executive in a new venture, let me now…

10 ways telecom can make money in the future a.k.a. telecom revenue 2.0

LTE roll-outs are taking place in America and Europe. Over-the-top-players are likely to start offering large-scale and free HD mobile VoIP over the next 6-18 months. Steeply declining ARPU will be the result. The telecom industry needs new revenue: telecom revenue 2.0. How can they do it?

1. Become a Telecom Venture Capitalist

Buying the number 2 o 3 player in a new market or creating a copy-cat solution has not worked. Think about Terra/Lycos/Vivendi portals, Keteque, etc. So the better option is to make sure innovative startups get partly funded by telecom operators. This assures that operators will be able to launch innovative solutions in the future. Just being a VC will not be enough. Also investment in quickly launching the new startup services and incorporating them into the existing product catalog are necessary.

2. SaaSification & Monetization

SaaS monetization is not reselling SaaS and keeping a 30-50% revenue share. SaaS monetization means offering others the development/hosting tools, sales channels, support facilities, etc. to quickly launch new SaaS solutions that are targeted at new niche or long tail segments. SaaSification means that existing license-based on-site applications can be quickly converted into subscription-based SaaS offerings. The operator is a SaaS enabler and brings together SaaS creators with SaaS customers.

3. Enterprise Mobilization, BPaaS and BYOD

There are millions of small, medium and large enterprises that have employees which bring smartphones and tablets to work [a.k.a. BYOD – bring-your-own-device]. Managing these solutions (security, provisioning, etc.) as well as mobilizing applications and internal processes [a.k.a. BPaaS – business processes as a service] will be a big opportunity. Corporate mobile app and mobile SaaS stores will be an important starting point. Solutions to quickly mobilize existing solutions, ideally without programming should come next.

4. M2M Monetization Solutions

At the moment M2M is not having big industry standards yet. Operators are ideally positioned to bring standards to quickly connect millions of devices and sensors to value added services. Most of these solutions will not be SIM-based so a pure-SIM strategy is likely to fail. Operators should think about enabling others to take advantage of the M2M revolution instead of building services themselves. Be the restaurant, tool shop and clothing store and not the gold digger during a gold rush.

5. Big Data and Data Intelligence as a Service

Operators are used to manage peta-bytes of data. However converting this data into information and knowledge is the next step towards monetizing data. At the moment big data solutions focus on storing, manipulating and reporting large volume of data. However the Big Data revolution is only just starting. We need big data apps, big data app stores, “big datafication” tools, etc.

6. All-you-can-eat HD Video-on-Demand

Global content distribution can be better done with the help of operators then without. Exporting Netflix-like business models to Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin-America, etc. is urgently necessary if Hollywood wants to avoid the next generation believing “content = free”. All-you-can-eat movies, series and music for €15/month is what should be aimed for.

7. NFC, micro-subscriptions, nano-payments, anonymous digital cash, etc.

Payment solutions are hot. Look at Paypal, Square, Dwolla, etc. Operators could play it nice and ask Visa, Mastercard, etc. how they can assist. However going a more disruptive route and helping Square and Dwolla serve a global marketplace are probably more lucrative. Except for NFC solutions also micro-subscriptions (e.g. €0.05/month) or nano-payments (e.g. €0.001/transaction) should be looked at.

Don’t forget that people will still want to buy things in a digital world which they do not want others to know about or from people or companies they do not trust. Anonymous digital cash solutions are needed when physical cash is no longer available. Unless of course you expect people to buy books about getting a divorce with the family’s credit card…

8. Build your own VAS for consumers and enterprises – iVAS.

Conference calls, PBX, etc. were the most advanced communication solutions offered by operators until recently. However creating visual drag-and-drop environments in which non-technical users can combine telecom and web assets to create new value-added-services can result in a new generation of VAS: iVAS. The VAS in which personal solutions are resolved by the people who suffer them. Especially in emerging countries where wide-spread smartphones and LTE are still some years off, iVAS can still have some good 3-5 years ahead. Examples would be personalized numbering schemas for my family & friends, distorting voices when I call somebody, etc. Let consumers and small enterprises be the creators by offering them visual  do-it-yourself tools. Combine solutions like Invox, OpenVBX, Google’s App Inventor, etc.

9. Software-defined networking solutions & Network as a Service

Networks are changing from hardware to software. This means network virtualization, outsourcing of network solutions (e.g. virtualized firewalls), etc. Operators are in a good position to offer a new generation of complex network solutions that can be very easily managed via a browser. Enterprises could substitute expensive on-site hardware for cheap monthly subscriptions of virtualized network solutions.

10. Long-Tail Solutions

Operators could be offering a large catalog of long-tail solutions that are targeted at specific industries or problem domains. Thousands of companies are building multi-device solutions. Mobile &  SmartTV virtualization and automated testing solutions would be of interest to them. Low-latency solutions could be of interest to the financial sector, e.g. automated trading. Call center and customer support services on-demand and via a subscription model. Many possible services in the collective intelligence, crowd-sourcing, gamification, computer vision, natural language processing, etc. domains.

Basically operators should create new departments that are financially and structurally independent from the main business and that look at new disruptive technologies/business ideas and how either directly or via partners new revenue can be generated with them.

What not to do?

Waste any more time. Do not focus on small or late-to-market solutions, e.g. reselling Microsoft 365, RCS like Joyn, etc. Focus on industry-changers, disruptive innovations, etc.

Yes LTE roll-out is important but without any solutions for telecom revenue 2.0, LTE will just kill ARPU. So action is required now. Action needs to be quick [forget about RFQs], agile [forget about standards – the iPhone / AppStore is a proprietary solution], well subsidized [no supplier will invest big R&D budgets to get a 15% revenue share] and independent [of red tape and corporate control so risk taking is rewarded, unless of course you predicted 5 years ago that Facebook and Angry Bird would be changing industries]…

SIMless M2M Strategy

February 1, 2012 Leave a comment

For all operators that are counting on selling a lot of SIMs for M2M, they might have to think again. Yes there will be M2M devices that will incorporate a SIM but they probably will be the exception.

WiFi and other free standards are a lot more likely choice for device makers then SIM-based solutions. Costs of incorporating and managing a large SIM-based deployment are high. Industrial, retail, medical, consumer, etc. markets are more likely to accept WiFi-based solutions since they often already have WiFi deployed.

Designing a SIMless M2M Strategy

In addition to any SIM-based M2M strategy, operators should also design a SIMless M2M strategy. Operators are experts at deploying, managing, monitoring and maintaining  millions of data streams and devices. These core competences are not readily available in other industries. Operators should understand the customer pain points and work together on industry-specific solutions. Hosted M2M management solutions, and especially cloud-based, can become a lot bigger revenue stream then selling SIMs at rock-bottom prices. The telecom industry is uniquely positioned to span multiple industries and offer a base platform on which niche players can build up their business. Also the support business (monitoring, call centers, field force management, SLAs, etc.) should form part of the SIMless M2M strategy. Since data volumes are likely to skyrocket over the coming years, network as a service will be vital. Dynamic routing of data, loadbalancing on demand, fail-over, securing access to devices, quality of service, etc. can all be offered as part of a M2M network as a service offering.

2012,The Enterprise Apps revolution

2012 will be the year in which Apple’s mobile app revolution will be translated to every device (PCs, tablets, mobiles, signage, m2m, cars, TVs, etc.) and to the enterprise. Instead of a static company portal and an IT-driven software selection, 2012 will bring apps to the enterprise. Workers will be able to use their PC’s browser as well as a BYOD (bring your own device) to select apps from a company-wide or global enterprise app store. No longer will you have to pay for an annual license to edit a video, image or CAD drawing if you only use it twice a year. Software will be a lot more social. Not only IT will loose power, also marketing and upper management. Crowd-sourcing can allow employees to vote and rate and as such let content and opinions bubble up that might not always fit upper management’s strategy. However when used correctly the opinions are likely to beat any internal reporting system or dashboard in accuracy.

What is still pending?
Except for easy-to-use apps, inter-app and Backoffice integration is very important. Expect new “standards” based on innovative dotcom solutions in this area. Enterprise PaaS, a là Salesforce.com but often in private cloud, will move a lot of Excel and Access apps into SaaS apps. Employees will be the major enterprise app creators and no longer programmers.

Easy over training
This app revolution will focus on mini apps with basic functionality and no longer full enterprise solutions that do everything but in a too complex way.

Telecom’ s involvement?
What I described so far sounds like an IT platform and solution however it will span communication services as well. The link between IT and telecom will become very blurry. For this reason it is important for operators to be active in this market.

A Social M2M PaaS

December 13, 2011 Leave a comment

I found an interesting alpha project called ParaImpu. It combines M2M / Internet of Things, a Cloud-based M2M Platform-as-a-Service / PaaS and a Social Network. The site is in private alpha stage but the concept of allowing people to easily set-up applications, connect multiple devices and share with friends, family and strangers is a strong concept. They call it the “Web of Things”.

Operators should pay attention to a new underground movement of hobbyists and small enterpreneurs that are using Do-it-Yourself kits to build new devices and applications. Although enterprise efforts are under way to offer end-to-end M2M solutions, the real M2M revolution is more likely to come from small startups like ParaImpu. A whole community of device builders, artists, software developers, etc. is forming around open source and Internet of Things solutions like Arduino, OpenPicus, mBed, ThingSpeak, Netduino, IOBridge, Pachube, Arrayent, etc.

Although most devices internally still use embedded C++ based software, more and more web technologies are being used to connect, monitor and manage devices. This is socializing the Internet of Things. The iPhone and its mobile apps took enterprises by surprise, the Web of Things might do the same…

M2M + Cloud = M2M PaaS

December 12, 2011 1 comment

Arrayent caught my eye the other day. They are a small startup that invented a very low cost way to connect sensors to a gateway and on to the cloud. Each device would need a $2 module extension in order for it to talk to the gateway. The gateway costs $5 and hooks up to an ethernet access point. The nice thing about the Arrayent solution is that the sensors are like mini webservers that can be controlled from the Cloud via simple REST APIs. Data can flow from the sensors to the Cloud as well. Via a mobile phone or tablet you are able to control remotely the sensors or understand the data that is provided by them. Developers can easily create applications.

Wireline operators should see this as an opportunity to offer M2M Cloud services without SIMs. Via a M2M PaaS, developers could create applications and sell them to consumers and businesses. Home automation could be a great example, however not the typical thousands of Euros example in which you need to rewire your house to get your blinds to go down automatically.

Instead who would say no to a bunch of low-cost flood, heat, gas, freeze, electricity, etc. sensors that automatically connect to your operator’s router and send information to the Cloud. The moment you have a water flooding, fire, gas leak, freezer that stopped working, power outage, etc. you get a call on your mobile via an automated IVR. With a two-year contract, your house is 24×7 protected for a small monthly fee without upfront investment.

Combining a SIM with the gateway would make it a viable solution for wireless operators that want to offer Cloud-based industrial sensor networks in remote locations…

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