Anton Prenneis
Technology Evangelist
EMC OEM Solutions


First in a series of posts focusing on the Carbon War Room report: “Machine-to-Machine Technologies: Unlocking the Potential of a $1 Trillion Industry”

Key Takeaways:

1.) The revolution in human communications is spurring a second revolution: the ability to transmit, analyze and act on machine-generated data.

2.) Dramatic size and growth projections of the M2M market over the next decade suggest a huge economic opportunity for high-tech vendors.

3.) At the same time, the efficiencies offered by M2M technologies can lower greenhouse gas emissions without adversely impacting economic growth.

4.) EMC’s federated businesses (EMC, RSA, Pivotal, VMware) and our OEM customers stand to benefit from a joint, comprehensive M2M strategy.

 Do you believe in magic?

Stop for a moment to consider where we are in history today. On March 7, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell was issued U.S. patent number 174,465 for discovering that a voice could be transmitted across a wire immersed in a conducting liquid. And now, 137 years later (a mere blip in time), humans are able to connect to each other from anywhere on earth, over wires or wirelessly – nearly instantaneously. This is nothing short of revolutionary. 

Stemming from this revolution in human connectivity, sensor-based objects can now be programmed to connect directly to one another, and to data aggregation points, without human intervention. It is now possible to design systems that automatically transmit and collect machine-generated data at a scale never before possible. And thanks to advances in computing power and data processing capabilities, this data can be analyzed and acted upon – again, nearly instantaneously. 

This ability – to generate, transmit, analyze, and act upon device-generated data – goes by a number of different names. Some call it the “Internet of Things”. GE calls it the “Industrial Internet”. Others have referred to it as “pervasive computing”, or “ubiquitous computing”. Whichever moniker you choose, the technology that underlies it all is called “Machine-to-Machine Communications”, or “M2M”. 

Good for business

What is an M2M device? Smartphones and tablet computers quickly come to mind. But any device that can transmit data wired or wirelessly, via a communications network, or peer-to-peer to other devices, is an M2M device. This includes a computer onboard a car that can send diagnostic information back to the manufacturer, a pacemaker that can send health-check data to a mobile phone, and a smart thermostat that can monitor and report usage to both the owner and the utility company. Indeed, the possibilities are endless and even include things like emergency watches, smart toothbrushes, and distress collars to monitor the heart rates of sheep

Given the wide variety of M2M devices, it’s not surprising that their number is projected to grow from just over 1 billion devices today to over 12 billion by 2020. This explosion in the number of connected devices offers growth opportunities across a number of technologies – machines, sensors, networking, analytics software, and the supporting IT infrastructure. By one estimate, M2M has the potential of adding $10-15 trillion to global GDP over the next 20 years – equal to the current size of the U.S. economy. M2M products and services themselves are projected to grow by over 20 percent annually for the next seven years, generating annual revenues of almost a trillion dollars by the end of the decade.  

Tens of billions of devices. Trillions of dollars. There are a lot of big numbers being thrown around in reference to M2M and it’s probably safe to bet that these numbers are only rough guesses. The consensus, however, is clear: M2M represents a tremendous economic opportunity. 

Good for the planet 

While the economic opportunity of M2M has caught the attention of many, M2M presents what many may find to be an even more compelling opportunity – and that is the chance to “lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions without imposing restrictions on production, consumption, or economic growth”. A report from Richard Branson’s Carbon War Room project, refers to this opportunity as the “decoupling of economic growth from GHG emissions”. 

The idea that it is possible to generate economic value while simultaneously abating carbon emissions is a profound shift in thinking. Typically, when GHG emissions reductions are debated, the underlying assumption is that there is a zero-sum tradeoff between economic growth and energy conservation. Proposed remedies like fuel taxes, production limits, energy rationing, and fines for emissions regularly spark protest from businesses and generate resistance among consumers. But now, we’re looking at the opportunity to create high-tech jobs, to lower business costs and increase profitability, and to generate revenue from new products and services, through the smart application of analytics that can simultaneously reduce carbon intensity across numerous industry sectors. 

According to research cited in the Carbon War Room report, “M2M and related ICT technologies could reduce GHG emissions by 9.1 Gigatons CO2e annually, a figure equal to 18.6 percent of the world’s total 49 Gt CO2e emitted in 2011—approximate to the total emissions of the United States and India in 2010.” Additionally, “M2M can lessen the CO2 generated by things as diverse as widespread deforestation, automobile exhaust, the production of basic primary materials, and the generation of the electricity that powers our lives.”

What are some examples of this? Utility companies can dynamically turn energy generation sources on or off in response to demand. Transportation companies can optimize the routes of planes, trucks and other vehicles to reduce mileage and save fuel. HVAC systems in buildings can be built to dynamically adjust to temperature, per-room occupancy, time of day, and other conditions. And agricultural producers can optimize the use of water and fertilizer and more efficiently manage land and livestock. 

Our opportunity  

The coolest part of all this is that information and communications technology are the prime enablers of M2M, which means that EMC and its OEM customers stand to benefit from a comprehensive M2M strategy. Indeed, EMC business units are already working closely with key customers to help them find near-term opportunities and to develop the next-gen applications that will benefit both the bottom line and the common good. 

Stay tuned for future posts on this topic. The Carbon War Room report details use cases across the Energy, Transportation, Smart Building and Agriculture sectors. We will take a look at some of these use cases, paying particular attention to those areas where EMC, RSA, Pivotal and VMware technologies can be brought to bear in building the needed solutions. 

Meanwhile, please provide your thoughts around this topic in the comments section below. It will be interesting indeed to hear what you think about the M2M opportunity and, specifically, its role in the reduction of GHG emissions.

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