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It’s not just about phones anymore.

Machine-to-machine (M2M) wireless communications is become a big deal, says Zacks Equity Research. Mobile M2M messaging system link devices to a computer for transmitting data.

M2M is commonly used in utility meters, vending machines and cars. A classic example of this is the OnStar system provided by General Motors. A onboard sensor notifies OnStar when there’s a problem with the vehicle. Tracking the real time movements of cars and people to overlay on Google Earth, for example, could require far more bandwidth than current applications.

According to market researchers like ABI, M2M is expected to reach more than 85 million connections globally by 2012, and more than 200 million globally by 2014, with a total market valuation of approximately $57 billion.

Zacks reviews some of the M2M developments with cellular operators:

  • In 2007, AT&T and Jasper Wireless entered into an agreement to provide mobile M2M connections. It will support a variety of emerging consumer electronic and business devices on AT&T’s nationwide wireless network.
  • Last July, Verizon Wireless and Qualcomm formed a joint venture to provide M2M wireless communications and smart services offerings across several market segments including healthcare, manufacturing, utilities, distribution and consumer products segments.
  • Last September, T-Mobile and Sierra Wireless signed a Memorandum of Understanding to form a joint venture to provide M2M wireless communications for fleet, automotive, navigation, utility, and security markets.
  • Recently, Sprint Nextel and DataSmart have partnered for M2M solutions.

Wireless IP specialist InterDigital is also entering the M2M sector with a deal to license its 2G/3G patents to Cinterion Wireless Modules, a specialist supplier of M2M modules.

According to a Gartner survey, Cinterion Wireless Modules has a 34 percent share of the global wireless modules business for M2M applications.

KORE Telematics, an M2M hardware and software firm, estimates that there are 60 million to 70 million machine connections to wide-area networks (WANs) now. Open M2M Protocols include BITXML and M2MXML.

Satellite provider ORBCOMM and Sierra Wireless have partnered on a M2M services platform to enable customers to control their M2M services, devices, and communications.

At the end of the day, the M2M market segment will feature a combination of cellular, satellite and wireless players, says Adam Crossno, the CEO of OnAsset, a service provider to the M2M industry.

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