Circa 2001: the promise of machine-to-machine commerce

Back in 2001, I published a white paper under the banner of the SaaS solutions company I cofounded.  The white paper, titled Ten Things, addressed ten emerging dynamics that I saw as having significant promise in changing the way people would live and businesses would operate in the not so distant future.  One of the “Ten” was my take on the emergence of M2M and IoT.  I thought it would be interesting to share here for posterity’s sake.

Somewhere somebody has just purchased the last Caffeine-free Diet Coke from a Coke machine standing next to a building in downtown Chicago. It immediately sends a signal over the Internet to the regional bottling facility and the local distributor informing them of the outage, while also conveying the inventory levels of the other soft drinks in the machine. Simultaneously, it electroni- cally canvases its peer network of other Coke machines in its general geography and shows the availability on an interactive screen on its face to direct the next consumer to the closest machine with inventory.

Transparent machine-to-machine commerce activities such as this will soon become commonplace as the machines that make our lives easier continue to get smarter and more connected. As new technologies make the wires in existing electrical networks capable of transmitting voice and data, the traditional machines and appliances in our homes, workplaces and retail environments will increasingly communicate within private networks. And the more sophisticated machine-to-machine commerce becomes, the more intelligent the systems of business rules that underlie the decision- making will have to be. Refrigerators may not only reorder automatically to restock food and bever- age inventories in the kitchen, but also price compare using the desired market basket among multiple grocery suppliers. The residential home is both a power and compute grid with enormous potential to leverage and share those resources on a neighborhood or global basis. One hundred intelligent homes could potentially be networked together to share power usage information and make peer group decisions on how much power is needed, when it is needed, and how much excess could be sold spot market-style on the open market.

The potential of machine-to-machine commerce is virtually unlimited. The primary constraints are bandwidth, sophisticated software applications, and our own imaginations. Recent history demon- strates that where there is significant upside opportunity, entrepreneurs race in to create the solu- tions. As with all great ideas, the reality of machine-to-machine commerce is only a matter of time.

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