Machine-to-machine (M2M) technology is a rapidly growing part of the global economy, especially in automotive, transportation, logistics, energy, and healthcare. To better understand how businesses are approaching M2M, TechRepublic and ZDNet have invited their members to take the M2M: Hype or Transformative Tech survey. Over 220 people responded, sharing their company’s view of the technology, current implementation, and future plans.
The results reveal a significant amount of interest in M2M, but relatively few actual implementations. Those companies that have implemented M2M or have projects underway are looking for both new business opportunities and ways to improve their existing processes and products. Many, however, are waiting for the market to mature and a clear business need to appear.
32 percent of respondents say that M2M is integral to their business performance. A further 10 percent report that M2M is important (although not transformational). Therefore, over 40 percent of respondents see M2M as important. Even among those who don’t see M2M as critical or important, there is interest in the technology. 23 percent say that M2M has possibilities, but that it isn’t a priority for their organization. And 12 percent of respondents feel that M2M technology offers nothing new.
Given that 32 percent of respondents believe that M2M is integral to their business, it’s not surprising that nearly the same number (29 percent) are already using M2M technology or have an M2M project underway. Over half (56 percent) of respondents say their companies have no current plans to implement M2M technology.
Of the respondents who currently use M2M technology or plan to do so in the next 12 months, energy, IT, and transportation top the list of M2M uses. 48 percent say they’re using (or planning to use) an energy-related M2M technology, such as smart metering or wirelessly connected grid assets. IT and network monitoring applications are second on the list with 46.9 percent. Automotive, transportation, and logistics are third with 43.9 percent.
Topping the list is new business opportunities, with 71.5 percent rating it a 4 or 5 in importance. 69 percent say enhancing existing products/services is a major or top priority. And faster response times rounds out the top three with 67.1 percent. Cost savings comes in a distant fourth, with less than half (48.3 percent) rating it a 4 or 5.
Of the companies that aren’t using M2M technology, over one third rated an immature M2M market (34.6 percent) and lack of a clear business need (34.5 percent) as very important in their decision not to use M2M. Data security concerns were a close third with 29.2 percent.
Twitter recently developed a whimsical tweet-enabled cuckoo clock. It uses a toolkit that could help other designers and engineers test ways for new products to contribute to, and feed on, the social network’s chatter. Twitter created the clock, called #Flock, last month in partnership with London-based technology consultancy Berg; the clock responds to incoming tweets, @-messages, and retweets by animating small wooden puppets. The toolkit made by Berg is designed to make it easier for consumer-tech companies to prototype similar “connected products” and experiment with their novel user experiences. As the cost of networking technology has plummeted and wireless connectivity has become more ubiquitous, connected products have begun to enter the mainstream marketplace.
The Berg Cloud dev kit includes two small circuit boards and microcontrollers with access to a set of Web APIs, allowing the microcontroller to send and receive data from Internet applications. Another device in the kit, called a Bridge, provides wireless connectivity, and a built-in mobile user interface called Remote can access, manage, and control the system via iPhone, Android, or Windows Phone devices.
Berg Cloud is specifically designed to make it easier for companies to scale up their connected-product experiments. User-management tools in the kit’s firmware allow for managing multiple customer accounts, as well as analytics for understanding the user-experience patterns that emerge. Another tool, called Sandbox, allows multiple Berg Cloud Bridges to establish an ad-hoc wireless network for testing connected prototypes “throughout your office or campus,” according to Berg’s website.
Source: MIT Technology Review
This year, seven standards bodies from across the world came together to try and solve this quandary by forming the ‘OneM2M’ organisation, whose goal is to hammer out the standards that will define how the internet’s next few billion devices talk to one another without running into difficulties.
“M2M is already global by nature… what we develop needs to comply with requirements all across the world,” says Luis Jorge Romero, the steering committee chair of the OneM2M organisation. “If we do something regional, the basic fear is that each region by default develops their own, let us say flavour, and at the end of the day you will have difficulties in getting the right global standard. [This is] not something that is very efficient.”
For this reason, OneM2M has brought together major standards bodies from Japan, China, Europe, Korea and the US to try and create a technical specification for M2M communication.
Companies from across the industry are participating in the scheme, including Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, HP, Juniper Networks, Motorola Mobility, Qualcomm, Samsung and Texas Instruments.
Each participating company is tied to a local standards body partner that provides information to ensure they don’t develop technologies that “overlap with the work of OneM2M”. If they have already duplicated OneM2M work, they will contribute it to the organisation, according to OneM2M documents (PDF).
By working with standards bodies across the world and with major technology companies, OneM2M hopes to create a standard that satisfies everyone.
Service layer architecture
OneM2M’s proposed standards concern the ‘Service Layer’ architecture for M2M devices. Protocols and APIs will then be created that fit with this architecture.
Service layers are the systems used to pass M2M messages through a network, transfer data in and out of other IT infrastructure, present information to the administrator and communicate with other M2M clouds.
Initially the Onem2M scheme hopes to hammer out standards for how individual M2M devices communicate their information, after which it will look at standardising how the M2M device authenticates itself with the network. If these projects go well, it will turn its attention to the mechanics of how the data is processed within the service layers —although there’s some doubt about how far this part of the scheme may get.
Already there are around 180 different ways of communicating, authenticating and securing data transfer between M2M devices and service layers. Needing to support so many different technologies can put a huge cost burden on M2M technology companies.
If OneM2M successfully creates a global standard for how these service layers function and exchange data with one another, then it should be possible to, for example, buy a fridge in China that communicates data with a local service layer, then move countries, taking take the fridge with you, and seamlessly plug into another service layer operated by another service provider or your own home network.
Although this example may seem trivial, it illustrates the interoperability benefits that standards provide: in the same way that any 3G phone can make calls across the world thanks to the universal 3GPP communication standard, future M2M devices should be able to use the OneM2M standard to exchange data with devices wherever they are.
However, forging a global standard is a difficult task, and there are already signs of tension.
Global versus de facto standards
For one thing, some M2M-focused companies are adopting proprietary technologies that are set to become de facto standards. Some of these standards are being built for specific industries, while others are being developed by companies to sell to a variety of business sectors.
Numerous technologies are currently potential de facto M2M communications standards, ranging from ZigBee‘s low-power mesh network, to Z-Wave’s similar technology, to Neul‘s backing of the ex-analogue TV ‘white space’ part of the spectrum, to plain old 3G via companies like Wireless Logic.
Some companies are beginning to standardise on the service layer itself. In July Telefonica formed a global M2M alliance with other telecommunications operators that all plan to use Jasper Wireless technology for their M2M networks. Many of the world’s leading M2M service providers — KPN, NTT DoCoMo, Rogers Wireless, SingTel, Telefonica, Telstra, Vimpelcom and Telefonica — are involved.
OneM2M’s gambit is that Telefonica and the other ISPs will give their local standards bodies enough information about the technologies they are using for these capabilities to be implemented in the eventual world standard.
However, if M2M providers naturally converge around certain technologies, then a standard may not be entirely necessary.
Beyond the service layer
The feeling is that there are far more serious problems brought about by the rise of proprietary clouds for processing M2M data than there are in the basic communications layer.
If you look at the list of companies involved in OneM2M, the majority are service providers or telecommunications companies and there are few participants from specific industries. However, this may be more representative of the overall shape of the M2M market than any real deficiency.
OneM2M believes that local standards bodies will be able to mesh their recommendations with the technologies being developed and sold by local M2M specialists. The gamble is that this can embrace many of the industries likely to use the technology.
Over the next few years OneM2M will develop the specifications and hope that they closely match the technologies being used. According to our interviewees, a standard seems to be the best way to help structure this market and avoid problems.
Smart PJ’s is an innovative company with the distinction of creating the “Worlds first and only interactive Pajamas!”.
“We have children ourselves and understand how important a bedtime story is for kids, and how important a quality pair of pajamas is for parents, so we have combined them both into one EASY and FUN to use product that every kid and parent will LOVE!”
Users can scan one of the multiple patterns on these Smart PJ’s with their smart phone to reveal a different Children’s bed time story!
Data transfer patterns in the M2M-driven Internet of Things will differ fundamentally from those in the classic ‘human-to-human’ (H2H) internet. M2M communications will feature orders of magnitude more nodes than H2H, most of which will create low-bandwidth, upload-biased traffic. Many M2M applications will need to deliver and process information in real time, or near-real-time, and many nodes will have to be extremely low-power or self-powered (eg. solar powered) devices.
The ‘things’ in the IoT, or the ‘machines’ in M2M, are physical entities whose identity, state (or the state of whose surroundings) is capable of being relayed to an internet-connected IT infrastructure. Almost anything to which you can attach a sensor — a cow in a field, a container on a cargo vessel, the air-conditioning unit in your office, a lamppost in the street — can become a node in the Internet of Things.
These are the components of ‘things’ that gather and/or disseminate data — be it on location, altitude, velocity, temperature, illumination, motion, power, humidity, blood sugar, air quality, soil moisture… you name it. These devices are rarely ‘computers’ as we generally understand them, although they may contain many or all of the same elements (processor, memory, storage, inputs and outputs, OS, software). The key point is that they are increasingly cheap, plentiful and can communicate, either directly with the internet or with internet-connected devices.
All IoT sensors require some means of relaying data to the outside world. There’s a plethora of short-range, or local area, wireless technologies available, including: RFID, NFC, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth (including Bluetooth Low Energy), XBee, Zigbee, Z-Wave and Wireless M-Bus. There’s no shortage of wired links either, including Ethernet, HomePlug, HomePNA, HomeGrid/G.hn and LonWorks.
For long range, or wide-area, links there are existing mobile networks (using GSM, GPRS, 3G, LTE or WiMAX for example) and satellite connections. New wireless networks such as the ultra-narrowband SIGFOX and the TV white-space NeulNET are also emerging to cater specifically for M2M connectivity. Fixed ‘things’ in convenient locations could use wired Ethernet or phone lines for wide-area connections.
Some modular sensor platforms, such as Libelium’s WaspMote, can be configured with multiple local- and wide-area connectivity options (ZigBee, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GSM/GPRS, RFID/NFC, GPS, Ethernet). Along with the ability to connect many different kinds of sensors, this allows devices to be configured for a range of vertical markets.
Server (on premises)
Some types of M2M installation, such as a smart home or office, will use a local server to collect and analyse data — both in real time and episodically — from assets on the local area network. These on-premise servers or simpler gateways (right) will usually also connect to cloud-based storage and services.
Local scanning device
‘Things’ with short-range sensors will often be located in a restricted area but not permanently connected to a local area network (RFID-tagged livestock on a farm, or credit-card-toting shoppers in a mall, for example). In this case, local scanning devices will be required to extract data and transmit it onwards for processing.
Storage & analytics
If you think today’s internet generates a lot of data, the Internet of Things will be another matter entirely. That will require massive, scalable, storage and processing capacity, which will almost invariably reside in the cloud — except for specific localised or security-sensitive cases. Service providers will obviously have access here, not only to curate the data and tweak the analytics, but also for line-of-business processes such as customer relations, billing, technical support and so on.
Subsets of the data and analyses from the IoT will be available to users or subscribers, presented (hopefully) via easily accessible and navigable interfaces on a full spectrum of secure client devices.
M2M and the Internet of Things has huge potential, but currently comprises a heterogeneous collection of established and emerging, often competing, technologies and standards (although moves are afoot here). This is because the concept applies to, and has grown from, a wide range of market sectors.
Understand and better manage what we currently have
Monitor pollution levels
The Air Quality Egg is a community-led air quality sensing system designed to allow anyone to collect high resolution readings of NO2 and CO concentrations outside of their home using an RF transmitter and ethernet driven base station. The data can then be shared to create a network of readings to be used by the community and general public.
The University of Berkeley’s Floating Sensor Network project uses motorized drifters (Outfitted with cell communication, GPS, temperature, and salinity sensors) that can be quickly deployed in response to unanticipated events such as floods to track the movement of water, contaminants, and other conditions in waterways.
Help protect wildlife
A project by Ground Labs and Lion Guardians is creating an open source wildlife tracking collar system to safeguard the Maasai herders cattle and protect the last 2000 lions living Southern Kenya. The system consists of a tracking collar that utilizes a GPS/GSM module to locate and track the lions and communicate their coordinates to researchers and Maasai herders via SMS.”
Get an advanced warning
The University of Loughborough’s Acoustic Landslide Detector system called ALARMS (Assessment of Landslides using Acoustic Real-time Monitoring Systems), detects high-frequency stress waves produced by soil movement. They can be used to calculate soil movement in real time and send out alerts to communities before an event occurs.
Know the variables
Nik Sargent’s Bumblebee project sheds light on how the environment influences bees activity patterns and behaviours using sensors (visual, audio, temperature, sunlight, weather) and web technology to monitor and record their daily lives.
Stop the bleeding
Invisible Tracck is a wireless device being used in pilot programs to help combat illegal deforestation taking place in the Amazon. The battery operated devices are installed on select trees and as soon as the logged trees are in transit and able to connect to a mobile network (Up to a 20 mile range), an alert notification with location coordinates is sent to the Brazilian Institute of Environment so they can take action.
Optimize operations, boost productivity and save in resources and costs.
Maintain & Repair
Sensors installed inside equipment will monitor if any parts have exceeded their designed thresholds, and will automatically send reports to owners and manufacturers if they have. Early predictions on equipment malfunctions can be made with parts and service maintenance can be automatically scheduled ahead of a an actual part failure.
Retailers can run real-world A/B tests using networked cameras and sensors like those in the Shopperception system to detect how customers are engaging with specific products and the store’s layout.
Smart Structures’ SmartPile technology is an example in action that uses wireless sensors embedded within concrete foundation piles to ensure the quality and integrity of a structure. These sensors can provide load and event monitoring for the projects construction both during and after its completion.
Keep track of your assets
The OnFarm solution combines real-time sensor data from soil moisture levels, weather forecasts, and pesticide usage from farming sites into a consolidated web dashboard. Farmers can use this data with advanced imaging and mapping information to spot crop issues and remotely monitor all of the farms assets and resource usage levels.
Enguage offers an electronic system that notifies authorities when a fire extinguisher is blocked, missing from its designated location or when its pressure falls below safe operating levels. Alerts can be sent directly through an instant email, phone call or pager notification to proper agencies and supervisors.
Maintain quality & consistency
Using networked sensors, cameras, and lasers to analyze manufacturing processes like those from SightMachine you can determine if a part is good or bad based on its physical characteristics; identify if it is the right component for the job and monitor trends, variations, and relationships in the system over time.
Budweiser Brazil just launched The Buddy Cup, a cup integrated with Facebook. When two people toast with their cups, they become friends.
Soon you will also be able to make friends with just a toast in the Budzone of Budweiser major events.
Engage with the data exhaust produced from your city and neighborhood.
Keep streets clean
Products like the cellular communication enabled Smart Belly trash use real-time data collection and alerts to let municipal services know when a bin needs to be emptied. This information can drastically reduce the number of pick-ups required, and translates into fuel and financial savings for communities service departments.
Stop driving in circles
With the use of installed sensors, mobile apps, and real-time web applications like those provided in Streetline’s ParkSight service, cities can optimize revenue, parking space availability and enable citizens to reduce their environmental impact by helping them quickly find an open spot for their cars.
Receive pollution warnings
The DontFlushMe project by Leif Percifield is an example that combines sensors installed in Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) with alerts to local residents so they can avoid polluting local waterways with raw sewage by not flushing their toilets during overflow events.
Use electricity more efficiently
The SenseNET system uses battery-powered clamp sensors to quickly measure current on a line, calculate consumption levels, and send that data to a hosted application for analysis. Significant financial and energy resources are saved as the clamps can easily identify meter tampering issues, general malfunctions, and any installation issues in the system.
Light streets more effectively
This smart lighting system from Echelon allows a city to intelligently provide the right level of lighting needed by time of day, season, and weather conditions. Cities have shown a reduction in street lighting energy use by up to 30% using solutions like this.
Share your findings
AirCasting is a platform for recording, mapping, and sharing health and environmental data using your smartphone. Each AirCasting session lets you capture real-world measurements (Sound levels recorded by their phone microphone; Temperature, humidity, carbon monoxide (CO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) gas concentrations), and share it via the CrowdMap with your community.