Entries with tag m2m .

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.

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.

AllJoyn: An Open Initiative that Aims to Make Smart Homes a Reality

Smart homes and offices are easy to create in new buildings, but most of us buy items piecemeal once they need replacing.  Increasingly, we’re going to find that what we buy, whether it’s a TV, sound system, or coffee maker, is capable of being controlled from a smartphone or tablet (See our Internet of Things post).  But will these smart appliances work?  Oftentimes, new technology over-promises and under delivers.

AllJoyn, a Qualcomm-led open source software development project [1], aims to change all of that.  It provides a common language for devices from different manufacturers, which makes establishing smart homes and offices a snap.

At the moment, you can get smart devices for media, heating, lighting and cars.  You can even get smart plant monitors and pet feeders.  Unfortunately, they can't “talk” to each other or work together.  The AllJoyn project aims to create an open gateway that will take the hassle out of connecting your devices, allowing them to communicate with each other.  This revolutionary change will make it easy to play a guest's music through your sound system, reset all the clocks in your home and office with one click, or have your car open the garage door and start the coffee.

The AllJoyn system includes an onboarding service that takes the pain out of configuration—the new device creates a soft Wi-Fi access point and the existing devices recognize this and create a link.

Currently, technology exists to control your heating or to notify you via smartphone that the freezer door has been left open.  However, each device requires a separate app.  AllJoyn enables all manufacturers to use the same Linux software stack and to share the same user interfaces, so multiple devices bought separately can work together to create a smart home or office.

At Scisbo, we’re excited about the potential of AllJoyn and we’re pleased to announce that we are a participant.  We look forward to bringing you new and better services, driven by the AllJoyn project.