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The Rise of M2M Means Standards Are Critical

| August 15, 2011

By Jeffrey O. Smith, PhD, Chief Technology Officer of Numerex

We teach managers to think “outside the box,” to explore new options in business strategies. But while we all strive to make our own mark, industries can’t always act that way. We cannot deny the need for standards. The simple fact is that standards are most conducive to economies of scale if they are compatible worldwide.

Technology standards in particular are critical as the world gets “smaller” and connections increase at an exponential rate.  Perhaps one of the most important issues today regarding worldwide technology standards is in regard to Machine to Machine (M2M) technology. There’s no question M2M has become the backbone of today’s worldwide business.  But the systems today look different in the U.S. vs. Europe, vs. China, vs. India.  Many organizations around the world are working on M2M standardization in their own backyard, for sure, but that only increases the possibility of redundant or conflicting standards (see electrical outlets).

The availability of global M2M standards will be an important enabler for connecting multiple devices in complex systems and reaching economies of scale for manufacturers and solution providers alike. In short, we are working to bridge the needs for standards and the market’s needs.

The Global Standards Collaboration (GSC) Machine-to-Machine Standardization Task Force (MSTF) gathered on an invitation-only basis for a two-day meeting in May, during TIA 2011: Inside the Network, the annual member meeting and industry event of the US-based Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA). The GSC MSTF meeting clearly demonstrated the imperative need for M2M standardization and related collaboration.  The GSC MSTF, where information and ideas can be exchanged among traditional and non-traditional standards developing groups, has a key role to play in facilitating industry harmonization. The GSC MSTF, to all intents and purposes, is an information exchange, bridging the actual work of Standards Developing Organizations and the M2M industry’s needs. We do so by reaching out to a wide range of M2M players which have an impact, direct or indirect, on M2M standardization.

After this productive meeting in May at which we were largely enlightened by industry peers and experts from Canada, China, India, Japan, Korea, Europe and the United States, we outlined several critical issues that we need to address most urgently. It became clear that there is a need for a forum, with enough clout, where ideas on M2M in general and M2M standards in particular can be exchanged , coexisting with other organizations or initiatives specifically focused on the production of standards.

We all agreed that a key next step is to consider the work being done in vertical markets where substantial standardization work is also being accomplished. Since standards are being worked on simultaneously, it’s critical that we have strong relationship and cooperative liaisons with vertical organizations to reduce duplication and avoid fragmentation of standards. The GSC MSTF organization will talk about this vertical need and much more at a September follow up meeting in Atlanta, GA at the Georgia Tech Research Institute, this time open to the public.

The discussions at this September 20-21 event will seek to highlight the role and importance of machine-to-machine -communications standards in vertical markets as well as the contribution of vertical industry associations in standards development, whether they are or not part of the standardization mainstream.  Not only organizations such as the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) GridWise Architecture Council , the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITSA), the International Payments Forum (IPF), and  the International Society of Automation (ISA) to name a few, will be represented at the Atlanta conference but so will market leading companies such as GE, and Oracle.

At the September GSC MSTF meeting, the theme of which is “M2M standards as growth enablers,” our goal is very simple: present to a broad audience the pervasiveness and diversity of M2M technologies, underline the critical role of standards in market growth and encourage comments and ideas about the direction of standardization.  We plan to finalize an activity map from which we will make recommendations on current and future M2M standardization undertakings in close liaison with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

These suggestions and perspectives will be presented at the annual GSC event (GSC-16), which will take place this year in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada and hosted by the ICT Standards Advisory Council of Canada (ISACC) the week beginning October 31. Ms. Cheryl Blum, TIA Vice President of Technology and Business Development and head of the TIA delegation at GSC-16 captured well the group’s global and collaborative perspective when she explained at the previous meeting of the GSC MSTF in Dallas, TX “the GSC MSTF aims at strengthening the work of international bodies focusing on M2M standards by providing very valuable information from an eclectic range of sources and offering a venue where ideas on M2M can be debated and exchanged outside a formal standardization process framework.”

The Atlanta, GA meeting, which is hosted by TIA, is broken down in two parts. The first day takes the form of a conference at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) auditorium where experts from a wide range of industries will present their views on the impact of M2M standards on their vertical markets. The second day will feature a roundtable at the Georgia Tech Technology Square Research building focused on summarizing the findings of the Dallas and Atlanta meetings, and drafting suggestions and recommendations regarding the direction of global M2M standardization.

Speakers at the GSC MSTF meeting in September will include representatives from a variety of markets and related standards organizations. Topics we will discuss, debate and hone in on include: healthcare, transportation/logistics, residential and commercial security, payments, manufacturing and energy.

In the end, it isn’t a question of “if” we need to work together to make M2M worldwide standards a reality. It’s something that definitely needs to happen or, I fear, the lack of standards will dramatically slow down the industry’s progress.  As mentioned above, standards allow economies of scale.  Without them we cannot grow, evolve and succeed.  I hope you will join us in September and let your voice be heard as we work to develop worldwide M2M standards. Interested participants in registering for the free conference and/or the roundtable can do so at  Additional information can be obtained from Alain Louchez, GSC MSTF coordinator, at


(*) Jeffrey O. Smith, PhD, is Chief Technology Officer of Numerex (NASDAQ: NMRX) and Chair of TIA TR-50 Standards Committee on Smart Device Communications.  He was appointed Convener of the Global Standards Collaboration M2M Standardization Task Force at GSC-15, in Beijing, China in September 2010. Numerex Corp ( is a leading provider of machine-to-machine (M2M) business services, technology, and products used in the development and support of M2M solutions for the enterprise and government markets worldwide.




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