I recently attended the mPower M2M conference in Vancouver, BC, interested to learn how Machine-to-machine (M2M) technologies might compliment or enhance the functionality of the ZEMA Suite of applications. With as many as 50 billion of these machines transmitting data within the next few years, this is an area that is getting a lot of attention from industry and the media. Yet, with each speaker it became more apparent that this is a technology that is still defining its purpose.

The majority of the attendees and speakers belonged to the wireless business, which is not surprising as this appears to be where most of the action is at the moment. These are the players who are building out the infrastructure upon which the majority of this business will be based and they are placing heavy bets that this will prove to be a lucrative market for them in the near term. Conspicuous by their absence were the commercial and industrial companies that I suspect are still evaluating how to best take advantage of this quickly evolving technology. In particular, General Electric was mentioned many times over the course of the day as the type of company that stood to gain much from M2M communication, being a conglomerate with global operations. General Motors with its On-Star technology was also mentioned as an early pioneer in this field.

I see the M2M market as being in a similar position as the smart grid market. Both are receiving a lot of media attention, both are getting heavy investment by global players to build out the infrastructure, and both are going to produce a tremendous amount of data that must be managed. They are also both only scratching the surface of their potential, as most of this data is held and managed by relatively few large corporations with a limited scope. And while I am not holding my breath that home area networks and smart appliances are just around the corner, I do expect large energy and commodity companies with field operations to take greater advantage of M2M technology to track the real time status of their operations and ZEMA will be there to help companies manage this data and integrate it with their downstream systems.