Selecting a Cellular Provider for our Raffle Terminals (part 1)
Machine to machine (M2M) is direct communication between devices using any communications channel, including wired and wireless. Telcoms have created M2M programs due to the growth of the Internet of Things. These programs can be used to add cellular connectivity to our raffle terminals and centrally manage multiple devices.
I wouldn't consider this a daunting task, as I'm pretty comfortable working outside of my comfort zone and there are a lot of providers out there. This is part of the reason I find the raffle business interesting in the 21st century, as the new normal will more and more involve different aspects of technology, whether it's security, robustness or in this case connectivity.
Here's the problem: We do business in Canada and the US. Our clients either purchase our platform and those that do, their locations will be static, but we also do a lot of one-off events and we lease our equipment and the problem becomes whether the event is in the US or Canada. Switching out sim cards on devices for each event isn't attractive. So there are three basic scenarios:
1. It is a fixed location US event;
2. It is a fixed location Canadian event; and
3. The location could be in Canada or the US
I then looked at client needs. I priortized them accordingly:
Quality of connectivity of course by far is the most important issue or teams would still want to use wifi;
Ability to seasonally suspend terminals during off season; and
Lastly I looked at our needs. Ideally having teams having their own M2M accounts would be ideal, but I thought it was unrealistic all teams would have the appetite to manage their own accounts. So that leaves us with offering the cellular capability as a service to teams. Our needs are secondary to the teams needs, but still important. This is what we decided we needed:
I wanted one dashboard, one solution. I don't want two different providers. A Canadian provider and an American provider wasn't attractive to us.;
The ability to pool data was important. Teams that weren't using all their data may help teams that were going over their allotted data;
The ability to set the plan to the device. By this I mean for one team different data plans may be more optimal than other teams' useages.
Customer Service. I've had experiences with Telcom's and they aren't always customer centric. They often have "This is the package. Take it or leave it." mentality. I prefer some flexibility and the ability to talk to real people when you need to. I also don't want to paint everybody with the same brush however.
From a qualitative perspective, our ideal solution is hinting at a third party M2M solution provider. From my understanding Telcom's will always push their network first regardless of strength of signal. So the quality of connectivity may be an issue in some locations. Third party solution providers can optimize the network they are on. In one part of a building Horizon may be best, and on the other side of the building AT&T may be better.
From a all-in-one solution, Third party solution providers also have realtionships with carriers in both Canada and the US (and many other countries) so there are no expensive roaming charges.
I would love some input. I may be missing something and haven't made any decisions as of 3/13/20. Hearing from a few teams would be great.
With some input part II will focus on our solution.