Sprint focuses on wireless M2M with new business unit

SAN DIEGO -- Sprint Nextel Inc. has been in the wireless M2M (machine-to-machine) business for a decade, but this week announced a greater focus on the exploding market area by creating a new Emerging Solutions business unit to speed up delivery of the technology to businesses and consumers.

Sprint defines M2M as any transmission of data between devices and computers, not including voice, said Wayne Ward, the new vice president of Emerging Solutions, which will be one of four groups inside Sprint's Integrated Solutions Group of 1,000 workers.

M2M is already widely used in industry for remote monitoring of everything from gas meters to power lines, including a SmartGrid initiative under way in San Diego.

Doctors are also using M2M technology to monitor heart patients remotely over wireless. AT&T and Verizon Wireless have efforts in M2M as well, but Ward argued that Sprint is taking a more focused approach.

However, Ward also said in an interview at the International CTIA wireless conference that renewed focus on M2M by all the carriers is a good thing, because it will raise market exposure for all kinds of customers.

Ward will manage all industrial applications and work with aggregation companies that rely on Sprint's iDen, EVDO and WiMax network capabilities.

But M2M deployments by Sprint also include consumer applications, including the Kindle e-reader , which relies on Sprint for wireless connectivity to allow readers to download books from Amazon.com.

Following Sprint's work with Amazon for the Kindle, AT&T and Verizon Wireless have announced wireless connections to e-readers as well.

Ward said hundreds of customers have relied on Sprint for more than a decade to deploy various M2M applications, but several interesting trials are now under way.

One West Coast television news operation that Ward declined to name is testing using WiMax connections between its roaming TV news truck and its headquarters to transmit news video.

The availability of WiMax means high-bandwidth video can be transported wirelessly without the need for satellite connections between the TV trucks and the TV station, reducing the cost of equipping the trucks with satellite dishes and other technology.

Ford Motor Co. also works with Sprint, using M2M technology in its 2009 F-Series and E-Series vehicles, which gives drivers productivity applications available through dashboard displays.

This story, "Sprint focuses on wireless M2M with new business unit" was originally published by Computerworld.

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