We have been promised a revolution in machine-to-machine communication, yet Canada’s biggest investors in this new ecosystem are surprisingly shy about their efforts.
Perhaps because the market is so new, or that companies don’t want to tip off their competitors, or maybe that the companies themselves aren’t making boast-worthy profits quite yet, but whatever the reason, hard numbers are hard to come by when it comes to M2M investment and returns at some of Canada’s big players.
M2M communication is already with us, providing the backbone for Hydro One’s smart meter system, smart parking meters that can direct drivers to empty spaces in Austin, Texas, and in tracking systems used by big logistics firms such as UPS and FedEx.
At the M2M Canada 2014 conference organized by the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association on Wednesday, Eric Simmons, the executive who heads M2M at Rogers Communications Inc., wouldn’t say how much money the company makes from his division. He wouldn’t give a definite number of how many employees they have, only that the number is over 100.
In January 2013, then-CEO Nadir Mohamed said Rogers would generate more than $100 million in revenue from its M2M business by 2015, according to a report from the Globe and Mail. Simmons declined in the interview to provide any new revenue information.
Simmons said in a presentation at the conference that the changes wrought by M2M would be equivalent to the industrial revolution. Yet revenues from the revolution will not be publicized.
And Simmons’ circumspection isn’t rare.
Nauby Jacob is vice-president of products, services and content at BCE Inc.’s Bell Mobility subsidiary and heads its M2M operations. In a phone interview on Friday, he declined to give out detailed information about the company’s M2M investment.
“We put the information out there that helps people in making the decisions that they want to make, not necessarily help our competition make decisions,” he said. “Telling the world the number of M2M connections that we have doesn’t help our partners in any way. It’s not relevant information for them. And it’s certainly valuable information for our competition.”
Industry-wide numbers are hard to come by, as well. A study from IDC released in February found the world market for M2M to be worth $4.8 trillion. The Globe and Mail reported that formers Rogers CEO Mohamed said in 2013 that the market in Canada would be worth $4 billion over “the next few years.”
Even the companies don’t agree on how much the market is worth and who is taking the lead.
At the conference, Simmons said that Rogers had the dominant market share in the M2M market, representing more than 50 per cent.
Jacob, in the phone interview, said that Bell was the big player in M2M in Canada.
“I’m not going to get into a numbers game with the competition,” he said. “We are undoubtedly the leaders in machine-to-machine, let’s just leave it at that.”
Although the numbers are tough to get, promises are easy to come by.
Cisco, in a recent release trumpeting its $100-million investment in a new innovation centre, said the Internet of Things enabled by M2M will be worth $19 trillion US within the next 10 years—almost $3 billion more than the entire U.S. economy is worth.
Mark Henderson, president of Ericsson Canada, said at the conference on Wednesday that M2M would provide solutions for urbanization, dealing with a growing and urbanizing population, and climate change.
“It will be an extraordinary revolution, and it will come very quickly,” he said. “Disruptive business cases centred around wireless connectivity are arriving every day.”