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Cisco Jumps Into The M2M Market

The machine-to-machine connectivity market, a.k.a. the "Internet of Things," may be more wishful thinking than a reality, but analysts predict that there will be 25 billion connected IP devices by 2015, with machine-to-machine (M2M) traffic expected to grow by 258% and the managed mobile M2M services market to be worth $20 billion by 2014. That's good enough reason for Cisco to release a new router that will extend corporate networks to billions of non-traditional IP devices such as ATMs, service vehicles, digital billboards and vending machines.

The Cisco Integrated Services Router (ISR) 819 Machine-to-Machine Gateway, available now in hardened ($2,300) and standard ($1,600) versions, extends 3G/4G wireless WAN network services to small devices in challenging environments. It also supports standalone a Global Positioning System for retrieving real-time GPS data via location-based applications.

This is Cisco's initial foray into the M2M market, says Borderless Networks executive Prashanth Shenoy, and addresses three key challenges: footprint and environment fit; remote management and monitoring; and operating cost. And while he details a number of emerging applications in retail/point-of-sale, financial services/ATMs, transportation, utilities, industrial automation and telehealth, he admits that this is new territory. "It will be interesting to see how this will be used. We will know better in a year."

For the time being, Cisco will offer a number of potential ISR 819 applications: The system will enable portable medical services with remote monitoring of patients; track vehicles and offer text updates; speed up replenishing of vending machines; and increase security such as video surveillance from ATM machines.

This is more a strategic than tactical announcement, says IDC's Rohit Mehra, director, enterprise communications infrastructure. "We've seen some glimpses of the M2M opportunity, but it's still a vision in terms of growth. At the end of the day, it's still a forecast, and a forecast is a forecast."

He can't say when, but he expects that, eventually, a broad range of verticals will find value and will deploy M2M. "Strategically, I think it makes sense what Cisco has done." Rohit says operators have been mulling over M2M for the last couple of years, but they've been buried by the data deluge from smartphones overloading their networks. "As they get past that ... and the pent-up demand for users wanting to jump on the smartphone phenomenon and it starts to flatten out, I expect operators to take a much longer-term view to this."

He agrees with Cisco about a number of the M2M opportunities and finds it significant that the company is making this move. "Normally, you see some of the startups or smaller companies trying to differentiate themselves. From that aspect, ... it is actually in some ways refreshing to see a market leader like Cisco do this."

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