Orange Business Systems
M2M APPS: Can you summarize your business activities and outline the relationship of Orange Business Systems to Orange the MNO and France Telecom?
GERT PAUWELS: Our M2M activities are headquartered in Brussels where we have an International Center that’s dedicated to the provision of M2M connectivity solutions for multinational businesses. Value-added wireless and wireline services are available in more than 220 countries and territories under different brands. In France it’s France Telecom. In Belgium it’s Mobistar. It used to be Orange in the UK but the new name is Everything Everywhere. However, the portfolio is the same. It’s a broad and comprehensive portfolio and I’d like to emphasize that M2M Communications is one of Orange’s top five priorities. It’s a fast growing sector, where we are very active: from consulting services to custom integration of industry-specific applications with back-office systems as well as providing connectivity services. End of the sales pitch.
M2M APPS: How does this broad portfolio impact on your M2M offer?
GERT PAUWELS: We’re well positioned to meet the needs of large multinational organizations, the Fortune Top 500. They require services like IP VPN backbones, IPv6 and so on. But most of the M2M action and almost all the innovation is coming from companies with less than 100 employees and they represent around half the market. For example, Coyote Systems is the biggest customer in Europe for active SIM cards. I think the figure is around 1.5 Million SIMs and there are only some 35 employees. They’re one of the many movers and shakers and those companies have very different connectivity requirements. It’s good to have all that technology in house, but we also need to understand their mindsets and their different ways of doing business.
M2M APPS: How do you do that?
GERT PAUWELS: We recognize the limitations of the industry and the market. M2M is moving from hype to reality. Will there be 50B connected devices by 2020 or 12B? The only valid prediction is that the market is going to be big. But the technologies are still maturing, the value chain is complex, more standards are needed so that M2M can deliver its full potential, and regulatory barriers have to be overcome. Governments could and should play a bigger role by streamlining regulations in order to promote growth and innovation. Healthcare and the utilities are major vertical markets and they are very conservative, which is a good thing, but that should not be used as a firewall. M2M will continue to take enterprises and organizations out of their comfort zone until the technology is better understood and doubts about the real benefits are removed.
M2M APPS: Is reality starting or are we still in the hype phase?
GERT PAUWELS: We’re probably in the middle. In a few years we might look back to April 2012 as a defining moment. SAP is the market leader in enterprise application software and on that date they launched an M2M resource Center with the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). SAP is a heavy hitter in the enterprise space and the EIU is a highly respected provider of insightful information, so the combination should go a long way towards clarifying those doubts.
M2M APPS: From a service provider perspective how do you see M2M in the Cloud developing?
GERT PAUWELS: It’s the key that’s enabling the integration of M2M information with back-office systems like ERP and CRM and maybe SAP in future. When those systems are virtualized and deployed in the cloud, then various components can be combined with those of M2M. What you get is a mashup and mashups can produce enriched results and also enable the creation of new business processes. Cloud connectivity is in our service portfolio. It’s wireline connectivity and it comes from France Telecom, but we can do M2M in the Cloud because we have extensive wireless resources. As far as I know that combination is unique and the big benefit for an enterprise is the fact that they get a one-stop, global connectivity offer as well as an end-to-end solution. There’s nowhere to hide. If there are issues that affect the customer’s expectation then the service provider is considered to be guilty until proven innocent.
M2M APPS: Is there a danger that the business community is going to get overwhelmed with all that data that is heading their way? Big data is a new buzzword.
GERT PAUWELS: There is: it’s one of those elephants in the room. Nobody is talking about it but it can’t be ignored. Sorting gigabytes of data and displaying only what the customer needs to know to make real-time decisions is a formidable task. We’re talking to the usual suspects about big data, which used to be known as data mining, but yesterday’s data mining systems can’t handle the workload. At Orange we are already seeing the impact. As a mobile operator we handle millions of customers but the number of billing lines on their invoice is low. But now we have a relatively small number of M2M customers and they are generating millions of lines and it’s a problem. Not just for Orange, but the whole industry. M2M is turning billing systems on its head.
M2M APPS: What changes and developments do you expect to see in the next 12 months?
GERT PAUWELS: Security will be a hot topic. It wasn't earlier because M2M stood apart from enterprise environments and the solutions were not an attractive target for hackers. But everything changes when M2M information becomes an integral part of an enterprise’s management information system. M2M is the new kid on the enterprise block and there are serious concerns about the complexity of the value chain: the ecosystem. I expect it to become simpler. We’re also going to hear a lot more about the cloud. The initial rationale for migrating to a cloud environment was cost savings, which result from the more efficient use of computing resources. But speed of deployment and operational agility are increasingly recognized as key drivers. Now you can launch new business services and applications in days or even hours.