The wholesale arm of UK mobile operator Three has announced plans to launch a cloud-based machine-to-machine (M2M) platform, which it claims will reduce setup time and costs for MVNOs looking to capitalise on the embedded connectivity market.

M2M is the technology behind the Internet of Things that could enable smart cities of the future. It allows electronic devices to communicate with one another via SIM cards that can connect to wireless sensors and the mobile internet for management and monitoring, and to provide services.

The Ericsson-based platform allows MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) to activate and deactivate their own connections, track data usage, set alerts and apply data caps through their own branded portal.

The company expects the M2M platform to be used for markets ranging from remote CCTV cameras to automatic number plate recognition systems.

“Three’s network is built for the internet, so we’re in a perfect position to support data-rich MVNO applications,” said Lynda Burton, director of Three Wholesale.

The move is part of Three Wholesale’s push into the connected devices market, estimated to be worth £82 billion globally, according to research by IDC. Ericsson suggests that there will be 50 billion connected devices in the world by 2020.

A number of partners are already lined up to launch via the platform before the end of 2012, and Three expects this business to grow.

The news follows Telefónica Digital's launch earlier this week of an new integrated M2M offering that the company claims will enable town councils, urban service providers and entrepreneurs to integrate all the technology required by this type of service in a single solution.

Telefónica Digital’s global M2M director Carlos Morales said the solution will allow Telefónica to deliver a single scalable, flexible and self-managing solution which covers the whole value chain in Smart Cities.

“With this offering, Telefónica is demonstrating its capacity to respond in an open and flexible manner to the needs of its customers in the increasingly important M2M sector,” he said.

Earlier this year, a consortium of ICT standards development bodies set up a new organisation called oneM2M to develop global end-to-end specifications for M2M, with the aim of lowering costs, shortening time-to-market, creating economies of scale, simplifying the development of applications, and avoiding standardisation overlap.

The specifications developed by oneM2M will provide a common M2M service layer that can be embedded within various hardware and software, and connect the myriad of devices in the field, according to the consortium.