“Machine to machine” (M2M) is proving to be as transformative as any technology innovation since the beginning of the Internet age. Survey findings released from a study conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of SAP AG (and check out the newsroom) highlight that almost 30 percent of IT decision makers (ITDMs) agree that smart cities would be the most beneficial outcome of deployment of M2M technologies. This would include highly intelligent cities capable of collecting and analyzing large amounts of data from smart, connected devices and citizens’ social media activity in real time to vastly improve urban life. Additionally, the clear majority of respondents expect M2M to provide businesses and employees with greater insight, including the ability to respond to real world events, as well as increased efficiency, productivity and collaboration. The ability to increase mobility among the work force was also identified as a big opportunity for M2M in the workplace.

The survey results found that most ITDMs in all six countries view M2M as the natural evolution of the “consumerization of IT,” with India and China at 92 percent and 90 percent respectively. The majority of Brazilian, German, UK and US ITDMs agreed, with a combined average of 81 percent.

“The number of ‘things’ connected to the internet is expected to reach 50 billion by 2021 and consumers are playing a central role in this transformation,” said Sanjay Poonen, president of Technology Solutions and head of Mobile Division, SAP. “Today, M2M technology is primarily being used to collect vast amounts of machine and people-based data. The ‘Internet of Things’ concept goes one step further by not only integrating machines, people, ERP and CRM systems, and other information sources like social media, but also analyzing and making use of all the data. Soon, people will interact with devices that in turn interact with data to deliver personalized products and services directly to the consumer in real time.”

Global Alignment on the Power of M2M Survey respondents in all six countries expressed a strong belief in M2M representing a natural step in the evolution of technology and widely agree with the need for, and benefits of, the broader adoption of M2M. In fact, an average of 70 percent of the ITDMs in all six countries surveyed agree that companies that fail to implement M2M technologies will fall behind their competitors. This is likely due to most ITDMs from the countries surveyed perceiving tangible benefits of M2M, including:
 Enabling businesses to respond to real world events: China (92 percent), India (86 percent), Brazil (82 percent), Germany (82 percent), US (78 percent) and UK (73 percent)

Those surveyed also view the following as presenting the biggest opportunities for M2M in the workplace:
 Increased efficiency was the No. 1 response in Brazil (54 percent), UK (53 percent) and US (49 percent)
 Increased productivity for employees was the top selection in China (69 percent), significantly higher than any other countries surveyed
 Increased employee collaboration was the No. 1 opportunity in Germany (63 percent)
 Increased mobility among the workforce was the biggest opportunity in India (65 percent)

Obstacles to M2M

Before any of the opportunities and benefits can be fully realized, an overwhelming majority of those surveyed in all six countries cited at least one obstacle to M2M adoption. ITDMs from all countries except China were most likely to see a lack of expertise needed to manage the adoption and security of M2M as presenting the biggest impediment to adoption: India (66 percent), Brazil (62 percent), US (57 percent), Germany (56 percent) and UK (50 percent). In China, while a substantial majority of ITDMs still cited a lack of expertise as the biggest obstacle (63 percent), a slightly higher proportion said “how to manage and analyze all the real time data resulting from M2M” (65 percent).

ITDMs from all six countries were also emphatic that the availability of broadband infrastructure, such as LTE/4G, will be instrumental in allowing M2M technologies to flourish in the future. ITDMs themselves, however, will most likely not serve as a barrier to the success of M2M as majorities in nearly all countries surveyed acknowledge that M2M will have an impact on the workforce (average of 62 percent for the combined six countries) and yet a majority are not concerned about a disruption due to M2M (average of 55 percent).

Discussing the survey with me, Benjamin Wesson, Vice President of Product Management at SAP, noted, “M2M is not something new. We are just trying to get beyond the hype. SAP’s MII product (the former Lighthammer product) fits within the scope of this process.

Later, Salvatore “Sam” Castro, Director – LoB Manufacturing at SAP and a member of the Lighthammer team, commented that M2M can be a sort of bad name because it leaves out the machine-to-people angle. Most of the industrial applications that SAP has involve reporting back from large equipment, such as the huge front-end loaders in mining applications or remote assets such as wind turbines. But it does have a connector to CNC systems to bring back data from machining operations.

Watch for the launch of The Manufacturing Connection coming soon. “Connecting things, data and people in a digital world promoting manufacturing excellence.”

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