As cell phone penetration in the US hits 95% (100% if you rule out kids under 5 years of age), the battleground for the largest telecom carriers has shifted to machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. And it looks like AT&T (Dallas, TX USA) has just gotten its nose ahead in this race, adding almost 2 million devices in Q4 2010. (Note: this includes consumer and computing devices like eReaders, tablets and laptops.)
The total number of emerging devices, including postpaid and prepaid embedded computing devices, connected to the AT&T network – both for consumers and businesses – has reached nearly 11 million by the end of 2011. According to industry analyst Berg Insight, that makes AT&T the largest provider of machine connectivity in the world, edging previous leader Verizon, with Vodafone in third place.
Says Bruce Thompson, AT&T’s Senior Product Manager for M2M Solutions, “Our strategic focus on connected devices grew out of our long M2M connectivity experience, along with more recent focus on emerging consumer devices and applications. On the enterprise side, we’re focusing M2M more now on mobile application integration, along with configurable products and services packaged for small- and medium-businesses in both vertical and broad markets.”
The company also credits its efforts in certifying products – both those carrying the AT&T brand, and many without that brand – for helping put it ahead in the large-scale deployments of devices. The company has certified more than 940 specialty devices for use on its wireless network that can be used for consumer or business solutions, such as eReaders, netbooks, digital photo frames, personal navigation devices, telematics, home security monitoring and smart grid devices.
AT&T has announced plans this year to support several new devices with its network, including:
• Vitality, Inc’s GlowCaps, intelligent pill caps designed to help patients take medications regularly through a series of reminders, including light, sound, text message and phone call alerts if the cap is not opened as scheduled. The pill caps are now available through Amazon for $10 per cap and $15 per month with a connectivity service plan from Vitality.
• The Pandigital Novel eReader, a 9-inch full-color LCD eReader and AndroidTM Multimedia Tablet, for accessing the Barnes & Noble eBookstore. The Pandigital eReader will be available beginning this month at several national retailers for $279.99.
• The new Garmin GTU 10, a Small, waterproof device that allows customers to track what’s important. From a backpack to dog collar the GTU 10 can attach to things that matter most to customers. GTU is available for purchase at www.garmin.com  for $199.99, which includes one year of Standard Tracking.
• AT&T also announced an agreement with BMW to wirelessly deliver an enhanced suite of safety and infotainment services to future BMW models in the US. The enhancements build on BMW’s existing portfolio of connected services – known as BMW Assist – which includes, among other features, direct access to emergency and concierge call center services, traffic information and an online portal for weather forecasts, fuel prices, and news.