Rise of the Machines


In the opening scene of the first "Terminator" movie, an army of machines is overrunning earth, looking to destroy the remnants of the human race in 2029.

The machines send back the Terminator cyborg played by a young Arnold Schwarzenegger to kill Sarah Connors, the mother of John Connors who is leading the human resistance to the machines in 2029. Luckily for humanity, the Terminator fails in his initial mission.

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However, in "Terminator 2," the original Terminator--played by a slightly older Schwarzenegger--protects Sarah from the next-generation Terminator sent back to finish the job. Here, the machine is the "good guy" and helps humanity, rather than trying to destroy it.

In "Terminator 3"… well, let's not waste time with that movie.

So why this review of the "Terminator" movie series? Because an army of machines is invading humanity well before 2029--although that year is a lot closer than it was when I watched the first "Terminator" movie. And like in the second movie, those machines are the "good guys" helping humanity with its many tasks.

In the enterprise, those tasks range from monitoring industrial processes, such as the flow of oil through pipelines or the flow of electricity through power lines, to managing fleets of vehicles. Other tasks automated by the machines include asset management, crop monitoring and perimeter security, to name just a few.

These many uses of machines are fueling a rapid expansion of the machine-to-machine communications market. Research firm Signals and Systems Telecom estimates that the wireless M2M communications market will increase at a 23 percent compound annual growth rate through 2018, reaching nearly $136 billion in revenues by then.

According to a recent report from ARM, three-quarters of 779 business leaders surveyed by the Economist Intelligence Unit said they are exploring the economic opportunities created by the Internet of Things, a broader but similar term for interconnected machines.

The "Internet of Everything" has been the mantra of Cisco's visionary CEO John Chambers. He is boldly predicting that there will be 50 billion interconnected devices by 2020.

The ARM report found that 30 percent of business leaders feel that IoT will unlock new revenue opportunities--and 29 percent believe it will inspire new working practices. The report recommends the implementation of common standards to enable seamless communication between millions of connected devices.

An interesting recent use of M2M technology is a program undertaken by Yarra Trams in Australia. Yarra, which operates 156 miles of track and trolleys serving 185 million passengers annually in the Melbourne area, deployed an IBM system using interconnected sensors and data analytics to monitor its 91,000 individual assets.

In August, using the M2M system, Yarra's network maintained service delivery levels of 99 percent against its scheduled routes, according to a report by GreenBiz.com.

"Technology from IBM has allowed Yarra Trams to unlock and share information in new ways, gaining valuable insight into improving operational efficiency and enabling us to provide a world-class service to passengers. Access to this important information enables operations teams to ensure our fleet regularly exceeds punctuality and service delivery goals," Neil Roberts, Yarra Trams' director of information and communications technology, told the GreenBiz reporter.

The Rise of the Machines is ahead of schedule. It's time for CIOs and other enterprise leaders to heed the call and seize the M2M opportunity as soon as possible. Firms that ignore the potential of M2M may face termination by their competition. - Fred

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