The M2M opportunity in the Middle East

Last updated: 11 April 2014

Machine-to-machine (M2M) technology will shape the future by laying the foundation for all spheres of life in the UAE.” So said Abdulla Hashim, Senior Vice-President of ICT at Etisalat, one of the largest telecom operators in the Middle East and Africa, at the recent M2M Middle East Forum 2013.

And I couldn’t agree more. M2M promises major advances in everyday life, from helping people make more informed decisions to creating new revenue streams. We are seeing these advances across multiple industries, from emergency roadside assistance call-outs managing to take the most efficient route to get to the accident site without delays to remote and mobile health monitoring to name a few

There are naturally more evolved M2M scenarios in certain regions over others, but we know for sure that the Middle East has huge promise and appetite for the technology. So where’s the sticking point? Why aren’t more M2M services deployed?

As in other regions where M2M technology is being deployed, the Middle Eastern market is experiencing similar trends in that stakeholders are having to come together to agree on a framework for large-scale M2M deployments – and this takes time. In reality, the pace at which the Middle East operates is actually faster than other regions, which means that M2M services will be deployed sooner than you think. One comparison is LTE network deployments which have progressed far quicker than in the UK for instance.

One of the main differences between the Middle Eastern M2M opportunity and other regions is that M2M is in its infancy and, now that the demand for M2M services is increasing, all stakeholders (including legislators) are coming together to put together the framework to cater for the demand in a standardized and structured manner.

In Europe for example there are some large-scale M2M activities being driven by legislation, such as automated emergency call-outs in the automotive industry . These services became a reality through dialogue and communication between all stakeholders and the Middle East market is following similar trends.

So, let’s explore further use cases for M2M technology in the Middle East. Some claim that the biggest opportunities lie in oil and gas, with some early adoption in transportation, logistics, utilities and retail sectors. I would argue that the vertical solutions, while useful, only grant certain specific benefits. There is far more creativity to be gained from M2M – it’s the evolution of the services that depend on the architecture being built and the stakeholders talking to each other.

Whether usage-based insurance in Saudi Arabia, whereby you can track how well you drive, with the information from the car collated and fed back to a central database to better track drivers’ behaviors and encourage good drivers for fewer accidents on the road, or mobile health offering healthcare to a larger section of the public without needing to go and see a doctor, thus reducing infant mortality, there are major advantages, and opportunities, that M2M offers.

The key question that should be asked for any M2M initiative, however, is what the benefits are. With the highly regulated industries it touches – telecoms, IT, healthcare, automotive and more – there is a great need for communication and collaboration in order to come to an agreement on standards. Let’s see how this develops.

We’ll be exploring the M2M opportunity at GITEX 2013 in Hall 7 booth A7-35 with several M2M demos on show. Follow #GemaltoGITEX or come along to find out more.