In 2011, the total amount of global smartphone sales was 491.4 million units. Let that sink in for a moment. Q2 of 2012 saw 153.9 million units sold. With those types of numbers, the mobile market will continue to place a stranglehold on the tech sector, forcing everything and everyone to realign their perspective that smartphones are the device of choice that the majority of people use for connection.

But what does that mean for business? Simple. It means that the industry must continue to grow to meet the specific needs of an increasing mobile work force. For this to really take hold in the business sector, machine-to-machine (M2M) must reach well beyond smart energy, smart cars, household appliances, and DIY.

So, how can businesses take advantage of the dependence on smartphone technology and M2M to help enable their staff as well as their business? We’re already seeing the likes of Near Field Communication (NFC) and “smart tags” helping to create elaborate networks of sensors with direct M2M connections. These types of interconnected machine-driven networks are helping to further connect healthcare and drive the first consumer-ready wave of automotive telematics.

Verizon Wireless is working hard to help businesses take advantage of M2M.

Back in August of 2012, Verizon certified its first chip vendor (Altair) that makes radios for LTE networks.  With this certification, Altair can now sell chips to hardware makers that will allow their devices to communicate on the Verizon network. This means that there will be more devices and sensors capable of M2M communication with Verizon-branded smartphones.

Prior to that certification, Verizon purchased Hughes Telematics to help build its M2M footprint. Hughes Telematics technology relies upon M2M wireless technology to monitor and control a variety of devices, ranging from home thermostats to heart monitors. How will Verizon take advantage of Hughes? Verizon plans on combining its global IP network, cloud, mobility, and security systems with Hughes’ wireless service delivery technology to create one of the most powerful M2M solutions. It’s predicted that 2013 will see this dramatic growth extend to retail, finance, and manufacturing.

Another initiative Verizon has joined is in Charlotte, N.C. The Envision Charlotte’s Smart Energy Now and Smart Water Now project is a private-public initiative demonstrating the potential of how M2M can help manage critical resources. Verizon is gathering energy and water-usage data from a network of M2M devices and is transporting near real-time information to kiosks, utilizing their high-speed 4G LTE wireless network.

Verizon states very clearly:

“Verizon understands how important it is for enterprises to intelligently take advantage of the mobility and M2M explosion to realize all the benefits it can offer. We also believe that mobile technologies and solutions should be leveraged as tools to empower business decisions – not simply support them. With Verizon mobility and machine-to-machine professional services – which complement Verizon mobility management services – we offer the capabilities and expertise to help enterprises achieve that goal (Figure A).”

Figure A

Verizon offers M2M solutions for multiple areas.

What strikes most people is how M2M completely changes the way we think about devices. Prior to this revolution, communication was person-to-person. Smartphones were used to help humans connect with humans or to machines. M2M, on the other hand, brings a Matrix-take on technology. Now, effectively, machines will communicate with machines. A person with a smartphone will walk into a room and immediately their phone will have access to every M2M device. Or a person will automatically receive sales and other information when they enter a retail store. And what about evolving solutions, such as Redbox, where your smartphone can instantly communicate to the Redbox vendor and have a movie automatically transferred (via NFC). Imagine not having to wait in line for such a service — just being within a few feet of the vending machine would be enough. That is M2M in action.

This, of course, brings up a plethora of issues, from security to the legality of forcing data upon an unsuspecting user. But the topology is still in its infancy. Eventually, issues like these will be sorted out and I would suspect Verizon will be the major player in M2M solutions.

The singularity has not arrived, but M2M might well be the springboard from which it is launched. Or it will simply be the newest technology to make our lives even simpler. What are your thoughts about the future of M2M? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.

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.