Entries with tag iot .

Is M2M the Same as the Internet of Things?

Machine to machine (M2M) and the Internet of Things (IoT) are buzzwords that have been used interchangeably for quite a while, but lately, they’ve started to be defined differently.  Essentially, experts now argue that M2M communications provides the connectivity needed to create the Internet of Things.

M2M communications has been around for a long time in remote monitoring and control applications in things like power grids, oil pipelines, heating and ventilating controls, and door entry systems.  In these applications, sensors are monitored by remote computers, and actions can be taken automatically based on the data gathered.  They may use IP for the communications protocol, or they might use one of a number of other proprietary protocols.

The IoT builds on these capabilities but takes them a step further.  It uses M2M to connect large numbers of devices to Internet platforms that can apply powerful analytic tools to the data gathered.  These insights are then made available to other applications.  Protocol is not important.  Instead, the emphasis is on pooling, combining, and analyzing the data to create new possibilities, new applications, and new business models.

There are a number of emerging open platforms that allow you to create IoT applications.  For example, OpenRemote supports dozens of existing protocols and allows you to create smart devices and control them using Java.  The Thing System will find all the smart devices in your house, including Nest thermostats, Pebble smart watches, Samsung air conditioners and Goji smart locks, and let you control them from one place.  Freeboard lets you create your own dashboards for monitoring IoT deployments, and it's free if you make your dashboard public.  At the other end of the scale, Qualcomm started Alljoyn, an open platform designed to make it easy to network consumer devices from Microsoft, LG, Qualcomm, Sharp, Panasonic, Cisco, Symantec, and many others.  The Eclipse Foundation is developing an Open IoT stack for Java.  Founded by Ericsson, HP, IBM, Intel, MontaVista Software, QNX, SAP and Serena Software, the foundation now has hundreds of members.

Clearly there are many issues around data security and privacy to be addressed, but these open platforms that create the Internet of Things are being hailed as the start of a new industrial revolution.

Public US Networks for the Internet of Things

The concept of the Internet of Things (IoT) is that anything and everything can be remotely monitored and controlled, with the data accessible via the web or smartphones.  In April [ article], we looked at the low-power wide area (LPWA) cellular networks designed specifically for IoT applications.  These networks trade off the bandwidth smartphones need for longer range and battery life, so that they can collect data from sensors in remote locations, deep inside buildings or even underground.

At the date of that blog post, there were no such public networks in the US, only private networks such as that provided by On-Ramp for San-Diego Gas and Electric.  Since then, the French company Sigfox launched a network in San Francisco that covers Silicon Valley.  This network uses highly sensitive listening posts that can collect data from sensors over long distances using inexpensive devices that can last up to 20 years on a single AA battery.

A US company launched this year, M2M Spectrum Networks, aims to cover all the metropolitan districts in the US by the end of 2014 and to extend that coverage to reach 95% of the US population by the end of 2016 with the help of partners.  The company focuses on making the business case work for innovators and is launching an app store in which developers can create IoT applications, and the company will take a percentage of their revenue.  It also hopes to fill the gap left by the 2G switch-off with a conventional subscription-based service, priced at a few dollars per end-point per month, for applications such as smart metering.  M2M Spectrum Networks has not made long battery life as high a priority as Sigfox has, but its devices can be meshed and can connect to WiFi and Bluetooth end points, as well as LPWA devices.  The first commercial solution using this network is expected to go live this month in Jackson, Florida.

Low-Cost Networks Expand the Internet of Things

The concept of the Internet of Things (IoT) is that everything and anything can be remotely monitored and controlled, with the data made accessible via the web or your smartphone.  Up until now, much of this monitoring has either relied on linking to a local WiFi hub or used wired connections, rather than cellular networks.  A new technology—low-power wide area (LPWA) cellular networks—could change that; they’re designed specifically for IoT applications.

Many IoT applications involve automating tasks such as collecting readings from temperature sensors or flow meters where only a few bytes of data need to be transmitted.  Some need to monitor devices in hard-to-reach locations such as remote pipelines, or underground in manholes.

Current cellular mobile networks are intended for people to use, so they are concentrated in well-populated areas.  They offer real-time response and high bandwidth that many IoT applications don’t need.  In-building coverage can be poor and people need to move around to find a signal, but fixed sensors can’t do that.  Additionally, conventional cellular devices need their batteries charged on a regular basis.

LPWA cellular networks trade off the bandwidth for lower frequencies that give longer range, so they can connect remote locations, as well as reach deep inside buildings and even underground.  LPWA devices will cost only a few dollars each and will be able to operate between ten and twenty years on a single AA battery or coin cell.  Networks are currently being rolled out in France, Spain, the Netherlands and Singapore.

LPWA will make it feasible to provide detailed remote monitoring of more things, including goods in transit, soil in farmers' fields or water pressure in pipes.  For example, a French insurance company is offering its elderly customers smoke alarms with low cost LPWA monitoring to verify that they are working.  Forecasters were already predicting that tens of billions of devices would connect to the IoT.  LPWA will make that hundreds of billions.

Widespread Adoption of Tablets and Smartphones Is Driving Growth in the Internet of Things

Although the idea of the Internet of Things (IoT) has been around for a long time, the widespread adoption of tablets and smartphones is making it an exciting reality, leading to a wave of new solutions for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).  At Scisbo, we’re particularly enthused about monitoring devices that use apps.  Now that tablets have risen in popularity, both the cost and the learning curve of introducing new applications have been reduced.  Gartner recently estimated that the Internet of Things will reach 26 billion connected devices by 2020, a thirty-fold increase over today.

Already, medical doctors are able to monitor patients' health with heartbeat monitors, sleep monitors, and pedometers that connect to the cloud via a smartphone and send an alert when there’s a problem.  People with chronic conditions such as diabetes can use a smartphone to monitor their blood sugar, making fewer trips to the clinic.

Smartphone docks in cars are valuable for more than just phone calls and entertainment.  Now, they can be used for monitoring and diagnostics for the car itself or to track driving patterns for pay-as-you-drive insurance programs.  By using such telematics programs, insurance discounts of up to 40% on commercial fleets are now possible through verifiable safe driving practices.

Many SMBs reduce the energy use in commercial buildings by installing intelligent thermostats and heating controllers that can be programmed and monitored with apps.  Additionally, businesses can improve building security with movement detector webcams that send alerts and pictures when they’re triggered—either with a SIM card that connects to a mobile network or via Wi-Fi to the building's broadband—allowing full motion video to be stored in the cloud.  Businesses can even control door locks from a smartphone to give the plumber access while away or use an app to set up a varied schedule to turn lights on and off to deter burglars.

In short, for the small business owner, using an app to provide reports on the heating bill or installing self-monitored security cameras in vulnerable locations—such as storage facilities and car garages—can increase peace of mind without breaking the bank.  Contact Scisbo to learn about how fixed wireless and mobility management services can be utilized to provide access to and also enhance these types of applications.

What does the Internet of Things mean for your company?

The vision of the Internet of Things is that one day every device and sensor in the world will be connected over the Internet so that they can be controlled and monitored without human intervention, in order to save energy and increase efficiency and convenience for everyone.  The vision encompasses many applications that have become familiar, such as fleet management with GPS tracking, intruder alarms and CCTV monitored from remote control centers, while newer ones are starting to gain traction such as heart rate monitors that connect via smartphones.

There are a number of newer applications that might be of interest to your business that use combinations of the basic applications of real-time monitoring:

  • detecting temperatures, humidity, light levels, sunshine, fuel use, people flows

  • asset tracking so that locations of products and equipment are known at all times

  • predictive fault detection and diagnosis (FDD) from detailed equipment performance information.

By installing sensors with machine to machine (M2M) communications that send data over a cellular wireless network back to a central data management platform, it is possible to have real time information about everything that is happening in your business – and even products that have been sold and are now operating on customers' premises.  If your organization does not have the technical expertise to deploy the solutions itself, you can rent services from platform providers that supply the sensors – and sometimes even install them – and then collate the data and apply big data analytics to generate automatic reports that can be sent to your email or accessed via dashboards over the web.

Real-time information can transform your business through: having real-time sales information combined with weather and holiday data in order to target promotions and manage stock levels hour-by-hour; offering service and support contracts, based on predictive maintenance, that mean equipment almost never breaks down; or just managing HVAC systems remotely to reduce fuel bills by 20 percent or more.

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