Alan Weissberger Technology Wireless

Emerging Devices and M2M Team Up for Explosive Growth- Part 2

Editors Note:
This is the 2nd of 3 articles that explore new telco markets and opportunities. Much of the information gathered for these articles comes from the 2011 Connections conference in Santa Clara, CA. The 1st article, New Telco Services Enable the Connected Home, described different versions of a “connected home,” including consumer electronics for home entertainment, home energy monitoring & control, and security/ surveillance systems. This article examines emerging devices (that have or will soon have embedded wireless communications capability) and M2M communications capabilities that enable those devices to connect to telco networks.


While cell phones, media tablets and netbook/notebooks are generating the overwhelming majority of data traffic on wireless networks, there are a growing number of non-traditional devices which are gaining market traction. These are known as emerging devices, embedded devices, or “the Internet of Things (or IoTs).” They may be stand alone devices connected wirelessly to the Internet (e.g. digital signage on a billboard or a vending machine), tracking devices, eReaders, camcorders, on-line game players, or any device installed at home, in a vehicle, ship, or in an enterprise that has direct Internet connectivity (which is not necessarily broadband). These new devices will be described from AT&Ts perspective in this article.

On the network side, new telco platforms for Machine to Machine (M2M) communications are being built to support a very diverse, large and increasing installed based of connected machines and devices. We’ll examine Sprint’s M2M initiatives and enablement activities later in this article.

Note that this article does not discuss any of the consumer electronic, home energy monitoring or security gear in the “connected home,” which was the subject of Part 1 of this three part article series.

Glen Lurie’s Emerging Devices talk at 2011 Connections Conference

Glenn Lurie of AT&T
Click image for video interview with Glenn Lurie of AT&T

During a keynote session at the 2011 Connections conference, Glen Lurie – president of AT&T Emerging Devices, Resale & Partnerships- described the AT&T Emerging Devices Organization and its key intiatives. He noted the stupendous growth in both connected devices and wireless data traffic and predicted even more explosive growth in the years ahead.

The AT&T Emerging Devices Organization was formed in 2008 to leverage the tremendous growth in the demand for wireless data and build the “next big thing” in the communications industry. It was created to bring wireless connectivity to a host of new devices (not just smart phones, netbooks & notebooks) and applications in the consumer marketplace. One objective was to build strong partnerships (with AT&T) to launch innovative products in new connected consumer market segments. Recently announced partner relationships include: Ford Electric Vehicles, Sony Vita, Amazon Kindle eReader, BMW Telematics, and with multiple Tablet makers.

The U.S. wireless penetration in 1995 was 13%, in 2010 it grew to 96%, and by 2013 it’s expected to reach 107%. But that latter projection evidently doesn’t included M2M or Device to Device (D2D) connectivity, which would make the penetration rate much higher (more on this later in the article).

According to Mr. Lurie, the U.S. leads the world in mobile broadband and AT&T leads the U.S. in that category. AT&T mobile data traffic increased 8,000% in the last four years. Glen expects mobile data traffic volumes to be 8 to 10 X greater by 2015 The composition of that mobile data has changed significantly over the last few years with the availability of 3G/4G networks, smart phones and media tablets. For years, the majority of mobile data consisted of email and SMS messages. But now, it’s shifted to mobile apps, on line games, web surfing, video and audio streaming content and even content creation (still pictures and video) upload from the mobile devices. As a result of this shift in traffic types, total mobile data traffic has gone from 1/2PB per month in 2007 to 12PB per month in 2010 and is expected to reach 150PB per month in 2015.

AT&Ts wireless emerging device business is growing very rapidly. Here are a few AT&T 1Q11 highlights:

  • Added 1.6 M emerging devices in
  • 1Q11, 9 M in 2 years
  • 21.3% YOY quarterly growth in devices added

Looking ahead, Mr. Lurie referenced the forecasted phenomenal growth of “Connected Devices.”  Here are a few predictions made by IT industry leaders:

  • “Our vision is that by 2020, we will have 50 billion connected devices” – Ericsson CEO, Mar 2010
  • “There will be 1 trillion devices connected to the Internet by 2013” – Cisco CTO, Mar 2010
  • “Shipments of connected CE (consumer electronic) devices are forecasted to grow at a rate of 65.2% (CAGR) to reach 271 million in 2015” – Berg Insights, Feb 2011
  • “Machine-to-Machine (M2M) traffic will increase 40-fold between 2010 and 2015” – Cisco VNI Mobile Forecast, Feb 2011

Areas of emerging device growth are expected to be the connected car, home health, home automation, unified media and unified communications. These are all expected to sync our personal settings to the appropriate environment. A major challenge is to blend these business ecosystems into a unified business model with a single bill for users. That single bill model was pioneered by the Amazon Kindle- AT&T arrangement, where the Kindle user pays only to dowload an eBook from Amazon, which then pays AT&T a share of that for 3G access.

Table 1. Trends in Emerging Devices by Category (Source: AT&T)


  • Purchase content anywhere
  • Share content across devices
  • Optimize reading experience

Picture Frames

  • Share memories as they happen
  • Manage control remotely


  • Dosage reminders – text or voice
  • Family alerts to ensure adherence
  • Track adherence over time

Tracking Devices

  • Track what’s important
  • Monitor vital stats
  • Use geofence parameters

Extending connectivity to the car via “Tethered Solutions”

  • Leverage content & apps from smartphone
  • Streaming audio & video
  • Access to web, cloud for entertainment

Embedded Solutions in the car

  • Engine, system diagnostics
  • Auto crash notification
  • Stolen vehicle assistance
  • Navigation, local search
  • Emergency voice calls
  • Remote Unlock, Remote Start
  • Real-time traffic, weather, parking
  • State of charge & pre-conditioning for Electric Vehicles

Home Automation

  • Moisture Sensing, Water Shut Off
  • Temperature Control
  • Garage Open/Close
  • Lights On/Off/Dim
  • WiFi Touch Pad
  • IP Cameras

Synching it all up with devices in the connected home…

  • The home becomes the hub of personal data
  • Access via any web-enabled device
  • Share content across all connected devices
  • Transition experiences between devices

To handle the explosive growth in mobile data traffic and the huge increase in connected devices, AT&T claims they are building the nation’s most advanced wireless network. Mr. Lurie cited a sustained investment of $19B which is committed to build out AT&T networks in 2011. LTE deployment has been accelerated and is planned to be largely complete by the end of 2013. Mr. Lurie said AT&T’s proposed merger with T- Mobile would bring integrated tower grids with compatible technology to drive efficiency and add capacity. With that merger, AT&T can commit to cover 97% of all Americans with LTE. [Editor’s note: one source estimates that this represents approximately 50% of the U.S. landmass].

According to Mr. Lurie, several factors are coming together in this space of non-traditional connected wireless devices: Demand is exploding, Innovation is soaring, Connected Devices provide the platforms, and Consumers will benefit as a result.

Mr Lurie concluded by saying, “Rethink is possible. AT&T is dedicated to the relentless pursuit of innovation and our Emerging Devices Organization is committed to accelerating next-generation wireless device development and speed-to-market on the nation’s fastest mobile broadband network.”
For more information, please visit:

AT&T Emerging Device Innovation Center & Development Ecosystem

To help companies design, develop and finalize specifications for the many new emerging devices, AT&T has created a development community. This community consists of start-ups, device makers, application developers, and AT&T network personnel. It helps with IP and implementation plans, but also business models, business process development, and schedules for deployment. AT&T Emerging Devices CTO John Donovan is overseeing this ED Innovation Center. Read more about this new developer resource at:

Sprint’s M2M Enablement and M2M Collaboration Center

Mike Finegan, Manager of M2M Solutions Engineering for Sprint’s Emerging Solutions Group has talked about Sprint’s M2M platform and initiatives at an IEEE ComSocSCV workshop and a seminar/ tour of Sprint’s Advanced Development Center earlier this year. We believe that Sprint is the leader in M2M communication platforms and has a very impressive M2M Collaboration Center in Burlingame, CA.

Mr. Finegan described Sprint’s network as being reliable and secure IP transport with nationwide mobile broadband (3G, mobile WiMAX-4G) coverage. They claim they offer the broadest network choice and are a leader in Location Based Services (LBS). Hundreds of non-Sprint devices have been certified and millions of non-Sprint devices are on their network. Sprint is currently very focused on support of many different types of M2M devices and applications.

Sprint has developed a M2M web services based platform to handle the many new and different devices that are and will be connected to their network. The platform handles provisioning, IP address assignment, operations management, billing and other functions (see quote below).

Please refer to Figure 1. for a functional block diagram of a typical M2M application.

Sprint M2M Architecture
Figure 1, Sprint M2M Architecture, source: Sprint

Sprint’s goal is to spur innovation by enabling the ecosystem and to that end they have a very impressive M2M collaboration center where device makers and application developers can work with Sprint to test their products over Sprint’s 3G and 4G network. This M2M center includes both public and private labs with:

  • Test equipment and RF chambers
  • Cabled and native wireless access
  • Solution design and engineering resources
  • Innovation and collaboration rooms
  • Solutions showcase and demonstrations
  • Access to leading partners

Mr. Finegan concluded by saying,

“The Sprint M2M Command Center is a purpose-built infrastructure that provides billing activation, billing suspension, automated API activation, private 5YY ESN assignment, IP addressing, billing plan pooling, utilization alerts and notification. This self-service portal allows customers to have command of the provisioning, activation, and billing process effectively giving them control and allowing them to be their own carrier.”

For more information on Sprint’s M2M initiatives, please visit:

Closing Comment on M2M Communications

When we look at M2M Communications from the network perspective, there are a lot of issues in need of clarification. Some of them are:

  • New services and billing arrangements for M2M, especially considering the machines/devices have widely varying traffic requirements, duty cycles, latency, and performance
  • Need for 2G vs 3G vs 4G for specific types of M2M communications
  • Service provider provisioning and operations platforms to automate subscriptions, manage and monitor connectivity, audit traffic, ensure SLA compliance
  • Other types of network management
  • Need for IP V6 to accomodate the large number of addressable endpoint devices
  • Different requirements and service for fixed wireless (e.g. a billboard signage, vending machine, factory floor, etc) versus mobile wireless (e.g. vehicular technology, ship)
  • Special requirements and arrangements for high priority machines/devices, e,g 1st responders, police/law enforcement, ambulances/medical emergencies, fire fighters, Dept of homeland security, etc
  • Failure recovery and restoration of service
  • Testing and certification of embedded devices/machines


© 2011, Alan Weissberger

Author Alan Weissberger

By Alan Weissberger

Alan Weissberger is a renowned researcher in the telecommunications field. Having consulted for telcos, equipment manufacturers, semiconductor companies, large end users, venture capitalists and market research firms, we are fortunate to have his critical eye examining new technologies.

4 replies on “Emerging Devices and M2M Team Up for Explosive Growth- Part 2”

Alan, thanks for the comprehensive article about the Machine to Machine onslaught that we are starting to experience. The creation of an Internet of Things is evolving fast and that AT&T and Sprint have created centers to facilitate development of new devices and services for M2M is indicative of how important these major wireless carriers believe the future to be for M2M.

Looking forward to reading part 3.

Very comprehensive and informative article!

Seems like there are many definitions of IoTs.
-Is a PC with 3G/4G card or dongle, smart phone, media tablet, X Box player, residential gateway, etc one of those things? All of those have embedded Internet capabiilty.
-What about all the devices that have HAN connections, but no direct Internet connection?
-Does the Internet connectivity have to be wireless or can it also be wireline, e.g. coax cable, fiber, twisted pair, BoPL, etc?

Are there any standards for IoT or embedded/emerging devices?

Great article, but I have a huge problem with this statement: “AT&T claims they are building the nation’s most advanced wireless network.”

AT&T has had the most complaints of any U.S. 3G carrier (especially in big cities like N.Y. and S.F. where there was often no data dial-tone). Moreover, VZW is way ahead of them on LTE deployment. And what about the bottlenecks in cellular backhaul with so few of AT&T’s cell towers having direct fiber optic connectivity. Their wireless future seems to hinge on the T-Mobile acquisition (not merger) to get more spectrum and cell towers.

Sprint’s M2M Director Michael Finegan will be joining IEEE ComSoc friends at our Aug 17 social in Santa Clara, CA. Viodi View readers are invited to attend. Details and RSVP instructions at:

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