Vodafone is launching a communications platform to enable companies to speed up and reduce risk on projects where machines communicate with each other.
Vodafone anticipates a trebling of investment in machine to machine (M2M) communications projects over the next five years. Analyst Berg Insight predicts the M2M market, which includes smart metering, "connected cars", and the remote monitoring of equipment, to rise from €3bn in 2008 to €8.9bn in 2012.
M2M communications is already well-entrenched. The most common example is where a mobile telephone contacts the nearest base station to provide its location, and the base station can then forward calls to the handset.
Other examples include telemetry, where a sensor collects and sends information to another machine that aggregates it or sets off an alarm; weather buoys and balloons that send temperature and pressure data to weather modelling computers, and even the Coca-Cola vending machine that alerts the bottler via the interent when stocks run low.
Vodafone's global enterprise division will provide a single point of contact for customers to manage national and multinational M2M projects from idea to post-implementation.
A service platform will let customers manage and control centrally the roll out and connection of M2M devices. This will increase the speed of implementation and reduce the cost, complexity and risk traditionally associated with deploying such projects, said Nick Jeffery, chief executive of Vodafone's global enterprise division.
The platform will offer a suite of management functions, including the ability to activate, suspend and deactivate devices at the click of a button, he said.
Vodafone has set up a 100-strong M2M team to analyse and develop systems for emerging M2M markets such as smart metering for energy companies, and e-calls, an alert system for cars involved in accidents, for the automotive industry.
An upcoming Vodafone report entitled Carbon Connections claims that M2M-enabled smart systems could cut European Union members' greenhouse gas emissions by more than 90 million tonnes a year by 2020.