Lessons from Machine-to-Machine Communications

What do these scenarios have in common?

  • Somewhere near Ciudad Juarez, an Albuquerque-based rental vehicle crosses into Mexico.

  • A soda machine in Palo Alto is dangerously low on Shasta Orange.

  • The back door of a house in Moline is forced open.

  • A gentleman in Connecticut is oblivious to a slight arrhythmia while making his morning coffee.

These are seemingly disparate events, and yet each could instantly trigger a chain of events designed to prevent subsequent undesirable circumstances. Without any human intervention, instruments monitoring the events would automatically communicate back to their systems in order to react. Welcome to the odd but burgeoning world of Machine-to-Machine (M2M) Communications.

In these examples, each situation is monitored by a local device. For example, the car’s GPS, the vending machine, the house security system and a heart rate monitor are all regularly communicating back to a central monitoring system (M2M portal). This regular communication consists mainly of short messages verifying that the devices are operating correctly (aka “heartbeats”).  When certain criteria or thresholds are met, the devices are set to send a very different kind of message, sometimes something as simple as an alert. For example, you may have an alert to get medical help or refill a soda machine. What’s common is that all the events demand action.

M2M allows vendors to create a highly-efficient distributed monitoring system for their system solutions. These systems can be quite complex and integrated to a variety of other systems. It’s important to note that general communications, aka “heartbeat” communications, traveling between devices and the M2M portal are not useful to consider individually. That’s because they are, by their nature, regular and predictable.

But the most valuable communications between devices are events that trigger messages that demand action. Oddly enough, the M2M model is well-suited for informing companies about how they could think of their recurring revenue businesses. That’s because each event could be considered an opportunity to offer something, with the offer of a product or service based on various criteria – e.g. type of event, magnitude of the event, or other things such as location, duration, etc.

The key is to enhance the value of each event based on the nature of that event, thereby establishing a good or bad (hopefully good and always getting better) relationship between the vendor and the consumer. To facilitate that relationship, the vendor has to have a recurring revenue management system that can orchestrate and respond to events accordingly.

Please note that no one was hurt in the making of this blog entry (except maybe my editor).

  • The rental car driver reported that they had simply made a wrong turn at Albuquerque.

  • Although the Shasta Orange was replaced with root beer, sales volumes are still high at this vending location.

  • The Moline police were alerted and reported back that the family dog had broken through the back door.

  • The Connecticut healthcare agency was able to make contact with the gentleman experiencing arrhythmia. They held him on the phone until a medical team arrived. He is still living a nice life.

Lewis Sears, Aria Systems

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