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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Mobile Industry - Shifting Gears

With most people in the Western world having mobile phones, the cellular industry is turning its attention to machines. While machine-to-machine mobile communications, or M2M, has been available for long,these narrowband radio networks provide highly secure, reliable communications for things like bank machines, security systems, vehicle tracking and messaging. But the spread of GPRS, the most common data standard used in Europe, has broadened the opportunity for M2M. The market is set to take off for several reasons. GPRS equipment prices have dropped sharply. GPRS networks, are ubiquitous, reliable and relatively inex pensive to use. Analysts pointed to several sectors where mobile machine-to-machine communications are changing the way companies do business.

- In fleet management: the tracking of large numbers of trucks, rental cars, taxis or anything else that moves - mobile communications systems are already a big presence, saving time and money and increasing security by allowing companies to know what vehicles are where and in what condition.

- With home and office security systems : companies are experimenting with systems that take advantage of the higher speeds of GPRS to provide more information - including images - faster.

- Companies in several industries were beginning to realize that machine-to-machine communications gives them the ability to "attack their markets with a new business model." Orange was working with another company on wearable, GPRS-based systems for patients at risk of heart attack that can detect abnormal heart rhythms and send data to a hospital, where a doctor would call a patient in if cardiac arrest seemed imminent. With wireless technology, a lot can be done in health monitoring and pharmaceutical trials.

- In a pilot program, Beacon Wireless is providing a satellite tracking service with the ability to receive documents in the cab via GPRS. "The company can watch the truck approach the nation border and e-mail a PDF file when he approaches it and the base unit can file-transfer it to the unit in the truck, which has printer attached. The bill of lading is then printed out in the cab with a preapproved U.S. Customs bar code, so all the driver has to do is hand over the document to be scanned and drive through.

- By 2009, the number of mobile-network connections used for small alarm systems and surveillance cameras in Europe could top seven million, says, Tobias Ryberg, an analyst with Berg Insight, Sweden.

- A European Union initiative under discussion would require automakers to include systems that can send location information to emergency services. The so-called e-safety initiative would require such a system in every personal car sold in the EU beginning in 2009. This would create a market for 50 million per year.
Equipment manufacturers would benefit most from a surge in machine-to-machine connections. The network operators would gain a lot of connections, but they would typically carry very little data.

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"All views expressed are my personal views are not related in any way to my employer"