Machine-to-machine (M2M) solutions are becoming increasingly prevalent and communicating information about everything from the cars we drive to the food we eat. While the technologies are becoming more visible in our everyday lives, the costs involved in delivering M2M remain something of a mystery.
1) View real-time usage and traffic reports: This is one of the best ways to define and track M2M costs. Usage and traffic information displayed real-time in a dashboard will help you to avoid costly overage charges. Ideally, you should also be able to download this information into a tool like Excel for further analysis. By running analytics on the data, you’ll be able to identify outliers, such as which devices are consuming the most or the least data. This can be especially helpful if you’re monitoring a large number of devices with different usage profiles.
2) Use mid-cycle billing: The ability to make changes to your plans in the middle of a billing cycle can help with planning when you might need more data for a brief period of time. This is a valuable tool for avoiding overages.
3) Test to understand your usage profile(s) so that you fully understand the cost impact of changing the reporting frequency of your devices from hourly, to every 5 minutes or even 1minute. Real-time reporting through a portal allows you to see the actual data traffic in real times rather than waiting for a monthly report to review device usage. With analytical tools, you can test various levels of reporting to determine how much data is being transmitted and the impact on costs,
4) Perform quarterly usage audits: Take a closer look at your service plan(s) once every quarter. A plan that fits your business model at the beginning of the year may not be a good fit by the third quarter if your business evolves and you add or change assets and reporting intervals.
5) Create thresholds: Control your costs and lessen your risk of costly overage by defining set usage limits for data, SMS and voice on your devices. It’s good to work with a provider that offers a feature for blocking traffic on your devices when they reach or exceed a specified threshold.
6) Make sure your provider offers a suspend device feature: If a device will be shelved or out of service for an extended period of time, you should be able to save its operation costs. For industries in which devices are used sporadically — such as medical patient monitoring or agricultural equipment — it’s beneficial to be able to suspend service for periods of non-use.
7) Look for a provider offering remote trouble shooting: The ability to remotely troubleshoot devices that are displaying erratic behavior or consuming large quantities of data can produce significant cost savings. M2M carriers that operate their own networks have real-time visibility into device behavior, resulting in faster resolution of issues than most Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) are able to provide. MVNOs, which are wireless communications services providers that typically resell data on someone else’s network, typically have to open a ticket with their carrier partner and then wait for the network provider to resolve the issue, which can take up to 48 hours at times. A M2M carrier with its own network is typically able to resolve an issue from within their portal without any human intervention and if 15 minutes or less.
8) Plan ahead for firmware and software downloads: Review updates in advance to ensure your rate plan is able to handle potentially excessive software downloads. If you have a flexible rate plan, you can change it mid-cycle to accommodate a firmware download to avoid being charged excessive overage fees.
9) Always use approved devices and modules: Certified modules and modems can accelerate your time to market, eliminating the lengthy certification process and associated costs. Utilizing off-the-shelf, approved devices will accelerate your time to market and don’t require any additional certifications. Using approved modules can be more cost effective in the long run with higher volumes. However, the finished product typically has be certified.
10) Sign up for a pooling plan: Pooling aggregates usage across a group or “pool” of devices, helping to manage the risk of overages. Pooling allows devices that may consume more data then their assigned plan to be offset by those devices, which are using less data in a given month.
11) Reduce or eliminate overage fees: Your largest unexpected or planned expense will often come from overage fees. M2M providers commonly offer tools to help you manage your usage, optimize your devices, control costs and tailor data plans. Using these tools can lead to significant savings from reduced overages and better customization of data usage and devices.
Take the mystery out of your M2M costs by reviewing and gaining a better understanding of your plans.