Analysts Expect M2M and IoT to Drive 'Smart' Innovations, Challenges Notwithstanding

Vertical markets that show promise of innovative breakthroughs will seek to convert challenges into opportunity

New research from global tech analyst firms highlights the increased expectation for innovations to emerge from the convergence of vertical industries around connected products and services. While there is generally consensus that Machine-to-Machine (M2M) ecosystems and the Internet of Things (IoT) are creating new opportunities, most experts agree also that explosive growth is over the horizon.

"Connected industries will be a catalyst for efficiency and productivity by linking power, data and signals to enable greater automation processes, creating 'intelligent devices,'" according to Nitin Bhat, Partner, Frost & Sullivan Asia Pacific.

Frost suggests an explosion of IoT activity over the next few years will be driven by the nexus of low cost sensors, cloud computing, advanced data analytics and mobility.

Andrew Milroy, Vice President, Information Communications Technology (ICT) Practice, Frost & Sullivan Asia Pacific, said he believes IoT will be significant. "Numerous opportunities will emerge as more and more data is generated by machines ('things') than human beings."

Milroy added, "These include the ability to analyze and use vast amounts of data, to store data and source application functionality from the cloud, to create, manage and support apps that enable the operation and management of IoT implementations, and to provide high speed connectivity between objects and the people, who work with them and use them."

In 2014, each of the major vertical markets that show promise of innovative breakthroughs will seek to convert its challenges into opportunities.

The delivery of healthcare services, for instance, is challenged by rapidly aging populations, disparity in healthcare access, shortage of medical resources and rising costs, while an increasingly tech-savvy patient is rapidly raising expectations for better healthcare information and care.

"Increasing application of technology such as telehealth, mobile and digital health can be instrumental in mobilizing scarce resources and managing efficiency. Over the last decade, the focus has been on implementing technology and applications that improve operating efficiency and achieve cost savings," Rhenu Bhuller, Senior Vice-President, Healthcare Practice, Frost & Sullivan Asia Pacific said.

Stakeholders in the healthcare industry, particularly providers and patients are becoming far more aware of the benefits and applications of technology in healthcare.

Bhuller added, "Healthcare providers are now looking for measurable ROIs on their investments. Technology areas demanded by providers include knowledge and tools to support better patient outcomes, improvements in workflow efficiency and healthcare service mobility."

In the auto industry, buyers are increasingly interested in connected services, but the OEMs will need to bridge a gap between the sophistication of systems and services offered in high-end vehicles and the reality of what the average car buyer can afford.

As car manufacturers are not yet equipped to drive the transformation of the 'smart cars', Frost's research suggests the coming year could present a lucrative opportunity for ICT companies to work with automobile manufacturers to transform the industry.

As 2014 kicks off, we are likely to see many of new possibilities demonstrated by the auto makers, for instance at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, but sustainable business models and service packages that consumers can afford will have to emerge if the innovations are to take off.

The research firm IDTechEx recently identified these themes as key topics to track looking ahead. During a recent conference in Santa Clara, Calif., experts said that while the focus now is on business efficiencies, such as building management and supply chain management in manufacturing, the bigger opportunity is providing better and new consumer services and propositions - things they want and are prepared to pay for.

IDTechEx believes that those likely to succeed in the emerging IoT markets in the short term will be challenged to “offer new services to consumers that they want but which they do not yet know they want.”

To meet this challenge, IDTechEx suggests some basic approaches to move in the right direction:

• Develop platforms to start connecting existing disparate systems in one location together.

• Leverage existing hardware such as smart phones to do more useful things, based on new applications, such as indoor positioning systems connected to other hardware forms such as real time locating systems.

A recent release from ABI Research suggests the commercial fleet tracking market may offer a good example for the diverse set of consumer- and enterprise-oriented companies that hope to capitalize.

According to ABI, by 2018, one in three commercial fleet telematics units shipped will be based on consumer smart phone platforms.

With today’s mobile and cloud-based technology, commercial fleets no longer need to fit expensive hardware on their new trucks and the availability of consumer mobile devices with increasingly sophisticated capabilities means that smaller fleets are embracing commercial telematics.

Most fleet operators are already using smartphones as service access devices to monitor their fleets remotely. Now commercial telematics service providers are increasingly adapting their core applications including track & trace/route planning, driver behavior and fuel management solutions to run on consumer-grade smartphone and tablet devices.

“With GPS and accelerometer functionality, plus the power and flexibility of a sophisticated computer, smartphones and tablets are already important platforms for telematics applications,” comments Gareth Owen, principal analyst, ABI. “As sensors continue to develop, and new technologies such as voice and gesture recognition improve further, smartphone and tablet-based applications will become even more compelling for fleet telematics.”