Not long after Vodafone brought two business focussed service providers back in to the fold it has taken a step in the opposite direction in the field of M2M by signing a deal to turn GSM module distributor Spectre into an airtime managed service provider.
Spectre, which distributes the Telit GSM telematics module, has signed a deal with Vodafone to be provide a managed airtime service to businesses offering telematics services who have no wireless experience themselves.
Douglas Gilmour, managing director of Spectre, told Mobile Europe that the ability to act as an airtime provider rather than a mere Vodafone agent means that customers can aggregate data allocation across a number of machines, rather than having to take a contract out on each individual machine.
With individual contracts, users have found that they pay over the odds on machines that generate large amounts of data and also pay out fixed amounts for under-utilised modules. Spectre's manages service will enable them to average data use across all their active modules.
Gilmour also said that Spectre has a bundled capability to provide an interface between X.25 networks (typically still used as a data protocol for applications such as point of sale) and the Vodafone's GPRS network. This would make the integration of wireless technology with users' own IT systems much easier, he said.
Machine to Machine communications is a big target area for operators, with Orange in particular making it a priority for its business solutions portfolio, but Gilmour said he thought many in the industry had really yet to fully consider its implications.
As well as data collection and delivery, it can be used for diagnostics and control. For instance, a business service provider could use a very simple command protocol to use a module to turn off a photocopier, air conditioning system or other item of industrial equipment for which the user had not paid service charges.
For an application like Electronic Point of Sale wireless technology can take out several links of the network chain, and reduce dependence on proprietary hardware and software, Gilmour said.
For operators, a service provider like Spectre can provide a level of customisation and service to a customer that the may not be efficient for the operator to provide. Vodafone has re-integrated many of its service providers in recent times but M2M may just be an application that sees that layer return.
According to Jeremy Flynn, head of commercial partnerships at Vodafone UK, "The partnership with Spectre will build on Vodafone's M2M tariff with a service package that enables customers to gain additional value from the data they receive. Spectre is well-positioned to develop solutions for customers with Vodafone UK, and to adapt new service solutions as customer needs evolve and grow."