Wireless connections creep into everyday things

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Jose Maria Figueres, the former president of Costa Rica, is now the president of the Carbon War Room, an organization co-founded by billionaire Richard Branson to promote cutbacks in greenhouse-gas emissions through smart private enterprise. Figueres believes M2M has huge potential to wring efficiency out of energy-guzzling activities, and could reduce emissions equivalent to 9.1 billion tons of carbon dioxide by 2020 _ roughly equal to the combined emissions of India and the U.S. today.

Vodafone provided one example of how this might be done. The city of Groningen in the Netherlands has put sensors in the trash containers that serve public-housing units. They alert trash haulers when they need to be emptied, saving on unnecessary trips and reducing fuel use by 18 percent.

With M2M, “in many cases you have information moving instead of us moving,” Figueres said.

In another example, Dutch authorities started controlling their street lights wirelessly rather than with “dumb” timers. They save on energy by dimming the lights if traffic is scant, but can also turn them on early if the day is dark.

Could M2M be overhyped _ a promise that won’t deliver? The wireless industry is no stranger to rosy projections that don’t pan out. Shey, the ABI analyst, thinks M2M will deliver, but perhaps not in a sexy, flashy way. When machine-to-machine connections are created, he said, it’s usually not because someone is making a big bet on the future, but because they save money.

“It’s about gaining more out of the asset that you have, like a truck. When it needs maintenance it gets maintenance at the right point. Or ensuring that the vending-machine guy only goes to the vending machine when it’s empty,” he said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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