London - Cellular network operators’ connections for devices other than phones, laptops and tablets will rise to 250 million this year as the global market for links to cars, smart watches and thermostats takes off.

That was up from 195 million worldwide, or 2.8 percent of mobile connections, at the end of last year, the GSM Association (GSMA) said in a survey of cellular carriers.

About 40 percent of cellular operators offered machine-to-machine services (M2M), a market that had been growing at about 38 percent a year since 2010, the GSMA said. Devices that depend on M2M include vending machines that alert suppliers when they need to be refilled and thermostats that monitor energy use. Carriers are betting these will provide the next wave of growth as the increasingly saturated markets for cellphones and laptops slow.

“Operators not only want to provide connectivity, but they are trying to take a larger slice of the overall revenue opportunity,” Sylwia Kechiche, a GSMA analyst who worked on the report, said. Carriers were accomplishing this by offering suites of services for connected devices, such as AT&T’s Digital Life home automation packages.

The automotive industry was one of the fastest-growing parts of the market because of services such as in-car internet access, real-time traffic monitoring and pay-as-you-drive insurance, the GSMA said.

The market for wireless, internet-connected devices could create between $2.7 trillion (R29.2 trillion) and $6.2 trillion of economic value annually by 2025, according to the McKinsey Global Institute. – Bloomberg