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Machine-to-Machine (M2M): Vehicle-Based Connectivity

The exploding popularity of in-car electronics is already opening up tremendous new opportunities for drivers, car manufacturers and dealerships. From sophisticated telematics services to greater design flexibility and enhanced safety, there’s almost no limit to the benefits of vehicle-based technologies.

The car technology revolution comes with a bit of a dark side, however, as it’s driving up the cost and complexity of repairs. Dealership service departments and their mechanics and technicians that have traditionally focused on building conventional troubleshooting skills are increasingly being called on to resolve technology-based issues. As the tech continues to race ahead, it can lead to gaps in service as staff try to address software- or integration-related issues. Not only does this impact the business bottom line, but it also frustrates vehicle owners and threatens long-term brand stability.

Turning challenge into opportunity
As we continue to examine machine-to-machine (M2M) technology within our ongoing series – it’s becoming increasingly clear that M2M can help businesses of any size and in any market cut seemingly overwhelming challenges down to size. Plus, it can get the job done relatively quickly, and without breaking the bank. In the margin-driven, brutally competitive automotive sector, for example, a typical scenario might look something like this:

A dealership’s service department finds itself dealing with increasingly integrated and feature-rich in-vehicle technologies. Failure frequencies are rising as customers grapple with new and sometimes unfamiliar technologies, while service professionals are similarly challenged to troubleshoot problems that may be outside their original area of expertise.

Using conventional troubleshooting tools and techniques to repair today’s breed of tech-rich vehicles is no longer sufficient. M2M-based technologies and processes can easily turn today’s labour-intensive, less-than-perfectly-precise service encounter into a wow moment that keeps the customer coming back for more.

Predictive instead of reactive
First, let’s look at the car. Today’s vehicles bristle with state-of-the-art diagnostic capabilities. Even if most of it is buried under the hood or deep in a menu on your car’s nav screen interface, it’s there, and it’s always watching for even the slightest hint of trouble.

In the bad old days, a growing problem with your engine would eventually make itself known in one of two ways: Either the engine light would come on, or you’d be forced to make an unplanned stop on the side of the road. In either case, the old way was based on little information, and no advance warning. Even if smoke was pouring from under the hood, you had no idea what was going on, or how much it would cost to fix.

The new, machine-to-machine (M2M) technology-based way is a lot more convenient. That growing problem with your engine trips a sensor long before any smoke begins to fly. Instead of flipping on a cryptic check engine light, it wirelessly contacts the dealership and sends detailed data on your vehicle, its performance history, and the apparent cause of the engine issue. Then it books an appointment with the service department after checking your calendar – synced to your smartphone, of course – and authenticating with the dealership’s scheduling system. And because it simply won’t do to have you thumbing rides from family or friends, your car helpfully books a loaner vehicle from the dealership.

Data from this exchange is also shared with the manufacturer, which uses the growing pile of information from all its owners and dealerships to better understand how its products perform in the real world. Identified issues are prioritized, and wherever possible, software-based fixes are distributed wirelessly to update affected vehicles. This symbiotic data exchange ultimately feeds back into new vehicle design, which improves long-term reliability and durability, hopefully negating the need for that service call in the future.

This scenario may seem futuristic, but large pieces of M2M are already here, and as manufacturers become more comfortable and adept with more sophisticated processes and tools, M2M will further deepen its influence in the automotive market.

While this particular scenario may focus on the car, keep in mind that it can apply to virtually any other product – however simple or complex – that will ever require service or support. Whatever the application, M2M uses sensor- and communication-based technologies to reduce guesswork, accelerate response, reduce costs, and maximize the precision of a given resolution. Stay tuned to the Bell Blog to learn more, as we’ll be digging deeper into other applications in future blog entries.

The bottom line
Machine-to-machine solutions are already having a positive impact on a growing range of industries, including retail, manufacturing, automotive, financial services, and health care. By automating the communications between devices, and allowing remote monitoring, predictive troubleshooting and problem resolution, M2M promises to revolutionize how we buy, service and upgrade the things we use day-to-day.

As you look around your own business environment, take a moment to consider how M2M is touching your work, and let us know where you expect it to go next in the comment section below.

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