MWC 2013 Days 2 and 3 – 50 Billion Connections Including Your Coffee Maker

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After the flurry of mobile device announcements on Day 1 of this year’s Mobile World Congress, Days 2 and 3 provided time to see what else is going on. Various presentations and exhibits at this year’s show are continuing an increasing interest in Machine-to-Machine (M2M) applications that started last year. Automotive industry exhibits and conference sessions are drawing big crowds, as are other telematics and M2M applications featured in various sessions and in MWC and GSMA-sponsored pavilions.

According to Francesca Forestiera, the director of mAutomotive for GSMA, growth of the ‘connected car’ sector is expected to be rapid, estimating that by 2015 almost half of new car purchases will include connectivity. Another market research firm, Machina Research, forecasts that 90% of new passenger cars will have some kind of connectivity by 2020 and that the automotive telematics market will reach $600 billion by 2020.

Initial telematics applications included entertainment (e.g. Pandora in your radio), cell-phone connectivity and navigation (real-time traffic and weather overlays for your map). Manufacturers are now moving to a more complete package that will include features such as messaging and email, real-time update of fuel prices, social networking, local area information (such as restaurant recommendations and events), more complete weather and news. For me, this is definitely a wait-and-see scenario.  I can already do all of these things on my smartphone and tablet, albeit when I’m a passenger (I certainly don’t want the driver of any car messing around with Facebook while driving!) Would a special in-the-car version of these apps make the experience any more useful or enjoyable?

At a connected car event hosted by Fierce Wireless, one of the key connectivity issues was hotly debated by vendors – should the car have its own embedded LTE connection or simply be tethered to a smartphone. Some, like Ford Motor Company believe that there’s no reason to pay for another data connection just for the car. On the other hand, General Motors just signed an agreement with AT&T Mobility to install LTE modems into all its cars starting in 2014. As a practical matter, both approaches will probably be used.

Another interesting M2M announcement at MWC was by Deutsche Telecom and IBM. The companies announced a partnership to deliver ‘Smarter Cities’ products using M2M intelligent data capture capabilities. For example, using sensors in places such as traffic lights, transport vehicles or parking spaces, real-time status reports of the system being monitored can be distributed via the internet. IBM and Deutsche Telecom are featuring various ‘Smarter City’ demos in the GSMA Connected City Pavilion.

Another industry forecast caught my eye and explains this increasing interesting in M2M technology. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the number of connected devices will rise from 5 billion today to 50 billion by 2020.  Wow! And I thought that the current 5 billion connections was huge.