China is a land of superlatives. It’s the most populous country in the world and is currently home to the world’s most networked machines. For comparison: at the end of 2013 the United States recorded 32 million M2M connections while Japan had 9,300,000. The total in China, according to GSMA Intelligence, was greater than that of the two countries combined: a whopping 50 million M2M connections.
Between 2010 and 2013 alone there were 54.8 million new M2M connections in Asia, including 39 million in China. Europe recorded an increase of 29.1 million connections during this period. What were the decisive factors for such rapid growth in the Land of the Dawn?
Smart Meters and Toll Booths
A major contributor to this development is China’s energy sector, which is the first industry to depend on M2M on a large scale. According to Machina Research, there are 180 million smart meters already in operation and another 60 million are ready to go. Currently, most smart meters are connected via cable.
The country’s large transport industry also spurred the use of M2M solutions. GPS Trackers and sensors determine the locations of trucks and the environmental parameters of their cargo. In addition, there is the networking of the transport infrastructure. Thus the study quoted an employee of the China Academy of Telecommunications Research, whereby, 26 provinces in China have already deployed electronic toll collection systems.
Private vehicles are likewise networked in order to provide navigation or entertainment offerings. European automakers have long since discovered the Chinese market. That said, half of all Bike-Share bicycles used worldwide are located in China.
??Smart City Rising
The driving force behind the M2M sector in China is not only the government and the three leading mobile operators - China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom - but cities and municipalities as well. Due to the rapidly growing urban population, for example, more than 219 Chinese cities have introduced Smart City technologies and services.
The spectrum ranges from solutions for intelligent traffic management, such as sensor-based parking guidance systems, to monitoring systems for street lamps and manhole covers. Increasingly, control systems are also being deployed in densely populated areas for environmental purposes. Among other things, these systems include special microphones to measure the noise level at construction sites and in residential areas, as well as sensors for air quality.
For several years now, policy makers in China have given the development of the Internet of Things (IoT) a high priority. For example, the IoT is a priority project in the government’s twelfth Five-Year Development Plan (2011-2015). In addition to a roadmap and defined goals, the project promotes the IoT through investment.
According to China’s R&D Center for Internet of Things (CIT-China), by 2020, government plans include additional investments of around 603 billion dollars for the M2M ecosystem. Development centers such as the National Sensor Information Center (NSIC) in Wuxi, in Jiangsu Province, bring together government agencies and private industry. More than 1,000 companies are working there on IoT-related projects.
A Matter of Scale
Besides the successful cooperation between state, mobile service providers and technology companies, it’s the sheer size of China, in particular, that is responsible for its remarkable M2M growth. This results in tremendous economies of scale, which, in countries with fewer inhabitants, less densely populated areas and smaller industries, simply can’t be reached.