Machine-to-machine (M2M) cellular communications is one of todays fastest-growing technology sectors. But it can be costly if not planned, deployed and managed properly. If M2M is in your companys future, there are several factors you need to know to control costs.
1) When planning your M2M services, start by considering whether you're using apacket data radio service ofShort Messaging Service (SMS), which is a text messaging service. SMS is usually the costlier of the two, and a packet data radio service supportsSMS text messaging as well as other cellular networks. A packet data radio service also allows the use of User Data Protocol (UDP) or Transmission Control Protocol (TCP). While TCP is the session protocol of the Internet and transmits information more reliably, UDP is effective in transmitting small amounts of data betweenmachines in a network. Although somewhat less reliable, UDP actually uses less data in transmissions, and one of the secrets to controlling costs is minimizing the amount of data that's transmitted.
2) Design: This involves determining the amount of data usage required. For example, if your device is monitoring a vehicle, youll need to decide how often you want data reported, depending on whether the vehicle is moving or immobile. Transmitting periodically when a vehicle is stationary is significantly less costly than constant monitoring of a moving vehicle.
Other design elements that can lower costs include a heartbeat, which is a daily report that everything is working fine, avoiding the need for costly data transfer to validate reliability.
Design costs also include the type of equipment being used and whether that equipment is built as proprietary or is something off-the-shelf. Equipment requiring specialized sensors such as temperature or light sensors will generally increase the cost of design.
Often in the rush to market, first generation products transmit a lot of data. Through design and firmware iterations, companies can compact and minimize the amount of data that theyre transmitting in order to only send what is relevant.
3) Deployment: Before deploying, consider costs for the entire lifecycle of the M2M service. Does the device have an average lifespan? Could it be replaced by someone on your team? What will a technicians time cost if the device breaks down? Are there startup and end-of-life costs with the device? You can keep costs in check by answering these questions in advance, and by choosing a provider that offers billing transparency and flexibility.
4) Operations: Preventing overages is the primary way to keep costs low, and the best way to accomplish this is with thresholds and a real-time alert system. Thresholds can be established for daily or month-to-date usage and/or for SMS and voice traffic, with alerts set to trigger when devices reach their plan limits. Its also important to have the ability to suspend the flow of communication or block traffic when thresholds are reached.
5) Troubleshooting: Remote troubleshooting capabilities can reduce the costs of truck roll, or the act of sending a technician on a service call. Truck roll costs range from about $100 to deploy a technician (and truck) in the same town as the affected device, to more than $3,000 to fly someone to an international site. And who wants to pay those kinds of fees when all thats needed on a device is a simple reset?
Its all too easy to begin an M2M program with an insufficient coverage plan that doesnt take into account all the usage needs of your device, leading to costly overages. You can avoid this by determining the usage profile for your M2M system and looking closely at its data needs for a given month. By working with an M2M provider that offers flexible rate plans, real-time tools and mid-cycle rate plan changes, youll be able to minimize your exposure to overages and keep your costs affordable.
Aeris Communications offers the lowest M2M prices across all these factors. To view a real world case study of how Aeris provides the lowest Total Cost of Ownership, click here.