IDC defines M2M at the highest level as a technology solution that enables seamless and autonomous (without end-user inputs) wired or wireless communication between and among machines — or "things". It is a relatively new area in the Indian industry. In the CIO Summit that IDG/IDC conducted in February in Pune, India where more than 120 CIOs participated from diverse industries, a survey was conducted. 50 CIOs from the manufacturing sector (auto OEM/component suppliers, process industries – oil & gas, dairy, fertilizer, metal, power, cement) shared their thoughts on the current state and future plans for M2M communication.
16% of the 50 respondents feel that M2M is a buzz word and that they do not see real applications now or in the near future. Only 30% of respondents have a program in place for implementing M2M. Out of the 70% who do not have a program today, 30% organizations do not have a plan in place to start thinking about M2M. Among those who have plans of starting M2M, the time horizon ranges from a few months to 2 years. There is not much clarity on who funds the M2M initiatives. It may not be from the CIO's IT spend like traditional programs but get funded by other stake holders such as a Line-of-business (LOB) head or a Functional head based on the business need.
Mahindra & Mahindra has implemented a 'digital factory' at the Chakan vehicle plant in Pune, a green field project. It is a near real-time factory using IP connectivity for all assets from the shop floor to the data command center. Any disruption in manufacturing can be quickly spotted, the root cause identified and the problem fixed. Real time control systems from PLM to MES help in vehicle routing and tracking, quality systems and equipment performance monitoring. The factory is "future proofed" and can offer rich benefits when the economy picks up and the factory starts running at full capacity. Process industries such as the dairy use sensors and technology like NFC (near field communication) for tracking assets such as deep freezers. This may not qualify as M2M due to the manual intervention. But there is a clear movement towards making information flow automated and seamless to make it M2M.
Mahindra Reva has implemented "connected vehicles" for its electric cars, primarily to keep maintenance and support cost under control for its products sold across countries in Asia and Europe. Key parameters of the vehicle and its parts will be fed into its central data center, with a life-time paid SIM card in each vehicle. Customers are also offered advanced features such as remote control of the car (locking/unlocking, switching off the air conditioner, head lamps), prediction of battery life and hence drive range etc., More commercial vehicle OEMs (tractors, farm equipment) are starting M2M programs for similar business benefits as Reva.
Like any IT program, planning and implementation of M2M programs needs championing from senior management. It is not just a technology project but a technology enabling project creating new disruptive business models or making existing processes better. The programs are cross functional in nature requiring non-IT teams such as manufacturing/maintenance/service and LOB buy-in depending on the use case being implemented. When a CIO starts an M2M program with absolute commitment, support and ownership from a business leader with all stake holders brought to the same page on business impact, benefits and cost of implementation, the success of the program getting approved and implemented will be higher. M2M is no longer a buzz word. It is happening although in limited pockets, starting with the auto industry which is usually early in new technology adoption. Awareness can be the starting point to avoid getting left behind in the journey.