Vodafone showcases the age of M2M
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Vodafone showcases the age of M2M

Jim Mortleman — July 2016

Cyril Deschanel, head of IoT at mobile technology giant Vodafone in Northern Europe, provides a whistle-stop tour of some of the more innovative customer uses of its M2M technology.

Internet of Things is ushering in an era of ubiquitous IT, with the physical world becoming populated by billions of interconnected devices. For providers of cellular data networks that revolution presents the biggest commercial opportunity since the advent of the smartphone, as machine-to-machine (M2M) communications enable a cornucopia of novel, business-enriching applications — especially in locations where WiFi is patchy or non-existent.

Mobile comms giant Vodafone hasn’t been slow to show its hand in this area. Six years ago, the company employed just six M2M technology experts worldwide. That’s grown to a 1,400-strong specialist division offering end-to-end IoT solutions and services, with local teams in multiple countries and a core data center dedicated to managing the streams of data pouring in from different IoT applications.

Cyril Deschanel
Cyril Deschanel, head of IoT at Vodafone in Northern Europe

The fast ramp-up has paid off and Cyril Deschanel, head of IoT for Vodafone in Northern Europe, claims the company now has a significant market lead in IoT communications over any other carrier.

A lot of the growth is being driven by smart city applications, says Deschanel, in areas such as waste management, traffic management, street lighting and digital signage. At the recent IoT Tech Expo in London, Deschanel outlined five customer projects that illustrate that breadth of M2M innovation, as well as its potential for improving efficiencies, enabling new service-based business models and opening up untapped markets.

BMW and Sixt
Unlocking the potential of smart car sharing

DriveNow in action, Copenhagen

DriveNow is a joint venture between BMW and car rental company Sixt that uses M2M technology to enable flexible car sharing in cities. Running since 2011, the service operates in five German cities plus Brussels, Copenhagen, London, Stockholm and Vienna. Customers use a mobile app to locate a nearby vehicle and a secure digital key on their smartphone to unlock the vehicle. When they have completed their journey, they can leave the car at their destination for use by someone else. When vehicles aren’t in use by customers, DriveNow staff pick them up for cleaning and refuelling.

“It’s spontaneous and flexible. People are using it for things like shopping, airport trips and corporate appointments,” says Deschanel. Originally, the service didn’t use the cellular network, which resulted in some problems with cars refusing to open when they couldn’t find a network connection. “That highlights the need to select partners who can provide the right levels of reliability and service,” he says.

UK Environment Agency
Connected culverts keep floods at bay
Given the significantly increased levels of localized flooding in areas of the UK in recent years, the Environment Agency urgently needed to improve the way it managed the 30,000 culverts across the country. Flooding often occurs when those under-road tunnels become blocked, but previously the only way to monitor this was to send technicians to each incident, which was both expensive and inefficient.

“To address that, we developed a two-part solution for the agency, comprising a solar-powered camera to remotely check the status of culverts and a mobile SIM to transfer that data back to the agency,” says Deschanel. To save power, the cameras are only activated during a period of rainfall and engineers only dispatched to a culvert when a blockage is detected. “It’s been a great success that’s resulted in faster response times, lower staff requirements and a significant reduction in the number of properties damaged,” he adds.

Remote machine-monitoring for a polished service


As a company that sells through third-party channels, cleaning machine manufacturer Kärcher has historically had no after-sales relationship with its customers. The German company wanted a way to learn more about how customers are using its products, and how those products are performing in the field. “We provided the company with a remote monitoring and control platform that uses a SIM card inside the machines to send back data about their usage and the condition of their components. “Now the company can react fast if there’s an issue, engage in preventative maintenance, continually improve the product and increase sales,” says Deschanel.

Bike-tracking tech thwarts thieves and boosts CX

VanMoof electrified bike

Dutch bicycle manufacturer VanMoof has a reputation for producing some of the world’s most beautiful, best-in-class bikes. The problem is, being so desirable they are a prime target for thieves. “VanMoof turned to us for a solution, so we developed a mobile asset-tracking device that’s secreted inside the body of the frame and connects to a back-end platform to pinpoint the bike’s location, so that a stolen bike can be recovered by the police,” says Deschanel. Since introducing the technology, the company has seen a notable increase in sales and improved customer engagement. Because of its success VanMoof is now talking to Vodafone about developing a bike-sharing scheme with a model similar to that of the BMW/Sixt initiative (see above).

Calving alert system lets farmers get more sleep

Moocall calving alert device

Calving time is especially stressful for cattle farmers. Birth complications can often arise, so farmers typically need to ensure they are present for the entire duration of the delivery to ensure the valuable addition to the herd arrives without any problems. Traditionally, when calving occurs at night, they had little option but to stay awake waiting for labour to begin, possibly for several nights in a row. The Moocall system consists of a monitoring device, fitted with a mobile SIM, that clips to a cow’s tail and measures tail movement to accurately predict the onset of calving.

“The company can manage all its farming customers across the world from a central hub in Dublin, automatically alerting them by SMS one hour before a cow is going to give birth,” says Deschanel. The system has been a great success, significantly improving farmers’ productivity and efficiency during calving. Moocall is now looking at other ways IoT technology could help livestock farmers, including monitoring cows to maximise the effectiveness of insemination.

First published July 2016
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