Microsoft has been deploying some of these technologies at its headquarters campus in Redmond, Wash., using it as a living lab to explore M2M’s potential. In 2011 it rolled out an initial pilot involving 13 buildings (out of 118 buildings it uses in Redmond). A daily data feed automatically keeps track of building occupancy and other key parameters. Weather and utility information is gathered from third-party providers. The system can predict building energy needs in near-real time, adjusting continually to optimize energy use. Moreover, the system automatically detects faults that wouldn’t otherwise show up until the building was inspected, about once every five years. Microsoft has found millions of dollars in savings, and quick paybacks — in a region with some of the mildest weather and lowest energy costs in the Unites States.
Transportation is another area rich with M2M possibilities. Telematics and in-vehicle entertainment is one area of focus. Recent examples include Ford, which teamed with AT&T to embed Ford Focus Electric vehicles with a wireless connection and dedicated app that includes the ability for the owner to monitor and control vehicle charge settings, plan single- or multiple-stop journeys, locate charging stations, pre-heat or cool the car. Last year GM’s OnStar division partnered with Spain’s Telefónica to provide M2M connectivity to General Motors’ vehicles outside North America.
Wireless-enabled fleet management and telemetrics help trucking and logistics companies cut the number of empty or underutilized trucks on the road. For instance, better fleet management through wireless technology could cut the amount of time that trucks idle, reducing fuel costs per truck by $3,600 annually, according to a 2011 report by BSR and CTIA-The Wireless Association.
There’s much more. M2M is seen as a key enabling technology in improving efficiencies in everything from agriculture to health care to supply chains to traffic flow.
All of which is why some of the world’s largest companies see vast opportunities in M2M to help customers dramatically reduce their energy use, improve reliability, reduce waste and increase efficiency.
Next page: A big vote of confidence