Swisscom on M2M: Promising Business, Ecosystem Maze, and Assurance Challenge
Guest Post by Theodora Simeonidis-Orenstein, Revenue Assurance Manager at Swisscom
Once in a decade, a service comes along that truly revolutionizes the telecom business. Swisscom believes that M2M (machine-to-machine) services is such a ground breaking category. We are investing in M2M and view it as a valuable corner stone of our future business.
In many ways, M2M puts mankind at the edge of science fiction’s dreams. Intelligent objects think for themselves, evaluate which data is relevant and pass it on to the right place, often in real-time. But just as important and “cool” perhaps, M2M promotes greater efficiency and cost saving. It often delivers a greater level of safety and allows us to build a more sustainable planet – and do it all automatically. Mastering M2M looks easier than it actually is. While many M2M services are often built on common technology components, the coordination and scale of M2M applications can be extremely challenging. For instance, M2M can be highly partner-enabled with different partners in the ecosystem being responsible for different components of a given solution. The M2M applications themselves are also highly varied and cross over into just about every industry. For example some of the key application areas where Swisscom currently offers services and solutions include:
• Smart products - sensor data gathered from objects such as eBikes, coffee machines, elevators etc.
• Remote control and maintenance, e.g. ticket vending machines at rail stations.
• Capture and communication of mission-critical data, e.g. electricity and gas meters, manufacturing processes.
• User based insurance - tied to the driving behavior of policy owners
• Fleet management - more efficient use of vehicles, including scheduling and routing
• Track and trace - object and vehicle location identification and routing
• Navigation, smart home and other consumer devices.
But while the vision of M2M is inspiring, Swisscom – being a service provider -- knows full well we must remain practical and build M2M on a solid foundation. In other words, we must put a premium on quality. And there are many facets to quality, for instance, choosing which M2M products to develop, which partners to work with, and assure that it’s delivered and billed properly.
The Central Management Platform – Integrating the Ecosystem
M2M is developing at a rapid pace, so Swisscom is constantly scanning the field in search of the latest developments and also strong partners who will help unlock the full potential of M2M and meet our customers’ unique or personalized needs.
To better promote our M2M value chain and attract the very best partners, we have developed the Swisscom Connectivity Management Platform (CMP) as the platform that partners integrate to.
The CMP is not only the central interface to Swisscom for partners, it also helps improve the customer experience. For example, the on-line portal for the CMP keeps the customer informed at all times via up-to-date usage reports and invoice overview. The CMP portal also alerts or blocks misuse and offers a convenient way for the customer (or partner) to configure services. From the portal, customers can even order the publicly available SIM cards that go with certain M2M services. M2M service will be delivered through a wide variety of business models and Swisscom’s role in these ecosystems will vary. Sometimes the service is being sold direct to the consumer or business, meaning the carrier is responsible for the full end-to-end process – getting orders from the subscriber, managing them, provisioning them.
In other cases, the M2M service is provided by a reseller which needs to communicate with the carrier’s infrastructure. Depending on the scenario, the reseller may have its own SIM provisioning systems and it merely uses the carrier’s infrastructure to communicate with the SIM cards.
Managing the Risks and Revenue Assurance in M2M
If the carrier is selling services directly, one of the first risk areas is errors in the ordering or provisioning process because you are activating services on what could be a huge number of devices. Let’s say you want to provision a large number of SIMs simultaneously – all located on different machines. How do you ensure that’s done properly?
One innovative service involves have auto insurance premiums tied to the driving behavior of policy owner. The application uses location-based telematics to detect whether or not the driver is speeding on the highway.
Well, what happens if the telematics device in the car malfunctions? If we are not alerted right away to troubleshoot the problem, you not only lose the service, but can’t collect revenue for the period it wasn’t working. So this is a good example of why having controls to check the availability of devices is key to a successful M2M service.
Yet another key risk area is the product catalog. A product catalog is a very dynamic thing in M2M – it needs to be constantly updated. But what if the product is missing? Maybe your reseller is provisioning the M2M product, but when it comes time to charge the reseller, you have no record that the reseller has the product so it’s a blind spot and you’re losing money.
Monitoring Service Usage and Billing Correctly
The easier way to bill for M2M service, of course, is at a flat rate. Yet many of the emerging M2M verticals in utilities and telematics call for usage-based charging.
For example, in one service Swisscom proposes to sell its M2M services directly to the market, but partner with an M2M service partner such as an Ericsson or Jasco Wireless to provisioning the service and collect the information. At the end of the month, Ericsson sends the aggregated usage to Swisscom for billing.
Now there’s a problem in this workflow because it gives Swisscom no visibility into what happens provisioning, usage collection, and usage aggregation which are performed by Ericsson on its own.
So such weak points in the service become reasons to insert a rigorous end-to-end Revenue Assurance processes, including rating and billing verification.
When you add it all up, M2M promises some exciting new services in security, medical monitoring, and many other areas, but it requires quite a bit of diligence, investment, service assurance, and skill for a service provider to master the complexities of M2M.
Swisscom is up to the challenge and we look forward to working with partners and wrapping M2M with a protective blanket of system monitoring, process excellence – and most all – high quality and reliability.