Machine-to-machine (M2M) is real and will continue to become more prominent in business and home. For some, the idea behind M2M is a bit vague — for others, the idea is clear — but where M2M is heading is filled with questions.

I sat down with some folks at Verizon to dig deep into the muck and mire that is M2M and came out with some points of clarity.

Point 1: Is Verizon working in conjunction with other companies to further M2M with tablets, smartphones, and other mobile devices?

Verizon Wireless is committed to providing M2M partners the facilities they need to develop and commercialize products, services, or applications. To that end, the company has two Verizon Innovation Centers located in the key innovation hubs of Boston and San Francisco. At these centers, Verizon works with a variety of business partners in the healthcare, security, transportation, vending, and marketing fields, among others.

Here are the capabilities of the Verizon Wireless Innovation Centers:

  • Access to Verizon’s multi-vendor 4G LTE network testbed
  • Private engineering spaces, including environments to easily replicate real-world cell coverage conditions
  • Opportunities to collaborate with Verizon partners and other members of the 4G LTE and application ecosystems
  • Dedicated, on-site Verizon network engineers and application development staff
  • Application development
  • Mobile app strategy
  • Network API usage
  • Application network performance optimization
  • User experience
  • Business development
  • Project management

In addition, Verizon Wireless’ partnership with the 4G Venture Forum opens new opportunities for seed capital for selected projects by Innovation Center participants.

Often, when Verizon Wireless works with a partner to create a custom M2M solution, it ends up helping them create a new revenue stream. For example, Verizon worked with a company that leases printer/copier machines to create a solution that self-diagnoses any issues their machines might be having and sends that information back to the company. The company can then dispatch repair personnel with the appropriate parts. But the technician also can see whether, for example, the toner is low or suggest certain accessories or other add-ons based on customer usage information. Thus, the company gets the revenue instead of the local office supply store.

Taking that example further, the company may be able to change its warranty terms, making them more favorable to its clients and giving it a selling edge.

Moreover, the connection is totally autonomous from corporate LAN, so if that network goes down, the company still has a connection to its clients’ machines.

Other examples of companies Verizon Wireless currently is working with include:

  • Nomad Innovations: To develop LiveEdge, a 1.5 lb. unit attaches to television news cameras to enable live coverage for broadcast, cable, or the Web using the Verizon Wireless network. LiveEdge can replace legacy technologies, such as microwave networks, live trucks, and satellite and production vehicles.
  • Security Pros: To develop a surveillance camera that can stream video in real time and send alerts to both users and first responders. The camera has analytics built in so users can define the parameters for alerts.
  • Mavizon Technologies, Inc: To develop the Mavia vehicle-tracking and diagnostic product that transmits location details and diagnostic data to a web portal and/or to users’ cell phones.
  • Genesis Health Technologies: To develop a new wireless glucometer that sends test results over the Verizon network so doctors and caregivers can help manage a patient’s condition in real time.

Point 2: What is the goal for Verizon’s M2M plans? How does Verizon plan to make M2M easier for the end user?

Verizon Wireless has created a suite of plans that can be customized to fit individual customers’ situations. If a customer is using the network for credit card processing, it’s going to need less data than a company that is streaming video. The Verizon Wireless plans ensure that customers don’t have to buy more than they need, and there’s no fee to change plans when a customer’s needs change. View Verizon Wireless’ business plans.

Point 3: What are the biggest benefits for businesses who want to add M2M into their systems?

By giving businesses the opportunity to connect and communicate with those machines that aren’t connected today, M2M offers valuable, strategic information that’s otherwise not available or that requires a time-consuming manual process to collect. Key benefits include:

  • The ability to capture and adjust in real-time supply chain data and consumer insights
  • Reduced costs
  • Improved efficiency, productivity, and customer service
  • Improved regulatory compliance (safety, HIPAA, etc.)
  • The potential to create new revenue streams
  • Product/service differentiation
  • Enhanced 21st-century image
  • Improved functionality
  • Increased customer loyalty
  • Enhanced environmental credentials

Point 4: What is the easiest means for new users to try out M2M?

That really depends on the business, but one question to ask is: What is the largest expense for your business? Once you identify that, you can begin looking solutions. For example, you can work with Verizon to develop tools that enable you to re-purpose personnel for revenue-generating tasks rather than support.

Some of the easily customizable solutions include digital signage, security, and fleet management solutions.

Point 5: Will Verizon offer M2M integration with home and business infrastructure? If so, to what end?

Verizon Wireless is doing this right now. There are household management tools that enable users to turn their lights on and off, adjust the thermostat, and open or close a garage door — all remotely. The same is true for buildings.

Verizon also works with IT departments to develop tools to help them communicate with the machines under their purview. For example, IT personnel can have access to help desk tickets so they can act on the tickets and close them remotely, or they can have remote access to the server.

M2M communication is not just about The Singularity. In fact, M2M is already a reality, and Verizon is helping to push that reality further into the future. Does your business already take advantage of this amazing technology? If so, how? If not, will you be implementing M2M solutions? If so, to what capacity?

More resources

For a comprehensive look at the issues and technologies surrounding the Internet of Things and the emerging M2M ecosystem, check out ZDNet’s latest feature page, Tapping M2M: The Internet of Things.