As Chief Executive of M2M company InHand Networks, Li Ming has a wealth of experience in traditional applications, yet he is always on the lookout for emerging solutions and services with the potential to transform the industry.
What are the big trends in the M2M market?
There are two main trends. The first is that the M2M market is calling out for a more complete, integrated solution. My company is driven by this need to extend our product portfolio, and it will change how we interact with suppliers and customers. The second is that the market is becoming more diversified and is expanding to more applications and machines. In the past 10 years, we’ve seen the market going from remote services to high-value machines, like MRI and other healthcare apparatus, to smaller, less-sophisticated machines as the costs of M2M solutions go down.
How will the Internet of Things affect our daily lives?
The main values it can bring are more convenience and control – to be able to remotely control
applications and devices at home, like air conditioning from the car or from the office. Right now, for example, we’re supporting vending machines and helping to make them smarter than ever. The customer will be able to use these machines in metro stations or office buildings, not just for buying a cold drink but for things like paying bills, buying a movie ticket and so on.
Which M2M services will see the biggest growth in the next 10 years?
Data analysis is a fast-growing sector and will become one of the things IT companies will look to provide to customers. It may become a big part of managing the process of M2M solutions. We may look like a hardware company making M2M routers, but we’re spending more resources on software. Our engineers are working on a data aggregation platform based in the cloud called the InHandDevice Network. It will help customers acquire a large amount of data from a large number of devices, then allow them to manage and analyze the data. This is not just targeted at our big enterprise customers; small and medium-sized businesses will also benefit.
What is the role for security in a world of connected devices?
I think security should become an integral part of the solution of the system. If I can make a comparison: everyone has anti-virus software on their laptop or their PC, and something similar will happen for connected devices. I think the security issue will evolve, and it will become mandatory for every device and every connection to have embedded security. Currently, security is limited to data, and its role is to prevent external intrusion or unauthorized access, such as through a VPN or data encryption. The next stage for security will be a more sophisticated solution. Security always evolves with the problem, and in the future it will need to be embedded in the operating system, into software, the controls and throughout the system.
What are your biggest business challenges and how do you overcome them?
The emerging challenge now for me is how to manage the balance between two voices. The first, from everything I have learned, tells me I need to select one thing, focus on it and do it really well. However, the second voice, which comes from a rapidly changing market, tells me that we need to be aware of new opportunities and new applications and follow those. Traditional M2M industries include smart grid, industrial control and machine monitoring. But now there is an emerging need for things like vending machines and digital signage, which are changing very quickly, becoming smart and connected. Should we follow a new opportunity, we need to think carefully about which resources we should dedicate to it. Will the new application be a short-term bubble, or will it become something that is really sustainable? Will we have a competitive advantage in this new segment? We need to consider new opportunities and whether we have the right technical infrastructure for it.
How do you personally use technology in your daily life, both for business and socially?
It changes, but right now I use just two items: a mobile phone and a laptop. I recently started using a smartphone with a very big screen, which means I don’t need my iPad anymore. I use my smartphone for email and social media apps like WeChat [China’s popular text and voice messaging application] and weibo [China’s Twitter-like microblog services]. I haven’t purposely tried to limit my gadgets and electronics – it’s just the convenience. I used to carry around two mobile phones for two numbers, one iPad and one laptop. That’s crazy! Now I just have one phone and one laptop.
How has work changed since you started your career?
I started my career a long time ago [in the mid-1990s], and the biggest change has been in the technical methodologies used. I cannot imagine working now as I did then. Back then, there was no internet and no mobile phones. I relied a lot on telephone and fax, but fax is a one-to-one communication tool and it was difficult to share information with different people in different offices. Now, I haven’t used fax for several years and I can’t live without email. I also spend a lot of time in web conferences having meetings with people across different cities. I think web conferences are a very useful and accountable system.
The full interview is on Gemalto The Review brochure Page 24-25: