While US and European machine-to-machine (M2M) technology developers are still banging their collective heads on the wall trying to work out what the Internet of Things (IoT) will be like, who will be developing it and where it will emerge, China is busy forging ahead. 

According to new research released by Europe-based GSMA last night, not only is China outstripping both the US and Europe — but it is doing so with the active and concerted support of its local and national government bodies.

Going Strong

The GSM Association (GSMA)(Groupe Speciale Mobile Association) is an association of mobile operators and related companies devoted to supporting the standardization, deployment and promotion of the GSM mobile telephone system.

The findings of the research is pretty impressive, and should give M2M developers outside of China considerable food for thought. According to the report, titled How China is Set for Global M2M Leadership, Asia now has 27 percent of total global M2M connections, with over 50 million connections. That's more than one quarter of the total M2M market in 2013.

In fact, Asia is currently the largest regional M2M market. The global breakdown goes as follows:

  • Asia, with 40 percent of global M2M connections
  • Europe, 29 percent
  • America,19 percent
  • Latin America, 7 percent
  • Africa, 4 percent
  • Oceania, 1 percent

This means that between 2010 and 2013, Asia added 55 million M2M net connections. This is compared with 29 million in Europe and 15 million in North America. China, the research found, is the primary driver of the growth in Asia, adding almost 39 million M2M  connections during the period.

GSMA IoT development globally.jpg

The research also noted that China's massive growth was made possible by close collaboration between the country’s leading mobile operators -- China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom -- and state owned enterprises.

M2M versus the IoT

Though M2M technology is not quite the IoT, it is as close as you can possibly get to it at the moment. Last year, Sanjay Poonen, head of the mobile division at SAP, explained the difference between the two:

… M2M technology is primarily being used to collect vast amounts of machine and people based data. The "Internet of Things" concept goes one step further by not only integrating machines, people, ERP and CRM systems and other information sources like social media, but also analyzing and making use of all the data. Soon, people will interact with devices that in turn interact with data to deliver personalized products and services directly to the consumer in real time…”

The ultimate outcome of all this, the research says, is to allow people to interact with data and enable enterprises to deliver personalized products and services directly to the consumer in real time.

China Takes The Lead

We have spoken a lot about the difficulty pundits have been having trying to figure out what the IoT will look like. Anne Bouverot, director general and member of the board, explains why no such problem exists in China:

Demand from the energy and transportation industries has driven much of this early growth, while M2M solutions are also gaining traction in the automotive, smart city, healthcare, education and retail sectors.

Much more than connectivity, China’s leading mobile operators…are developing sophisticated M2M service propositions that go far beyond the provision of basic connectivity. In many cases, they are providing end to end solutions, supported by systems integration and dedicated charging policies."