July 23, 2014
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M2M: “We Cannot Stop the Rise of Machines”

By Sonal Arora

Have you noticed a rise in machines and the communication amongst them; If not then continue reading. If you have, then  you should still read on for a different perspective.

After the cloud, M2M is projected as one of the fastest growing technology segments of the IT sector. But what is M2M? Machine2machine (M2M) is technology that allows both wireless and wired systems to communicate with devices of the same ability*. Wired M2M has been around for a long time, as well as machines guiding machines. However now it comprises Wireless communication, Radio standards, Software, IP, Remote human-machine communication and much more. With around seven million new users joining social networks every day, service providers no longer afraid of having huge maintainable data, and we have more resources at our disposal at smaller budgets courtesy of the cloud; we might very soon have “Everything Connected”, which is like a super set of IoT. Forecasts by analysts promise anything from 12bn to 50bn devices connected by 2020, up from just 1bn in 2010. Machina Research, an analyst, predicts revenue of €714bn (US$948bn) by 2020, including hardware and connectivity, a nearly eight-fold increase from €91bn (US$121bn) in 20101. In a nutshell, we are going to have a social networking of devices with M2M communication protocols and the Cloud is going to enable this huge setup.

Do We Need Extensive Device Connectivity?

M2M is triggered more for the behavioral aspect of its applicability; the driver for this M2M wave is “Relevance”, relevance of Machine-Human-Machine connectivity in our daily life, from the simplest form of switching on/off the electrical equipment to the complicated Watson. We cannot imagine a day without machines, be it our mobile, swipe card, laptop, pad or vending machine.

Machine Mesh

The picture here is very well described as “Once machines are networked, we’re only limited by our imagination.” (Yiru Zhong, senior industry analyst, Frost &Sullivan)2.

We have lived many examples of human-machine interaction, but the current M2M wave is all about human-machine-machine interaction. It becomes all the more convenient when I can remotely control my appliances with the touch of a button on my mobile and that is precisely the promise of modern M2M. For now, I will discuss Machine Mesh, how it would shape up and who would shape it up. Later I will discuss the sustainability aspect of Machine Mesh.

Who Would Make Machine Mesh a Reality?

You won’t get any brownie points for guessing who would be the enabler for connecting us to Machine Mesh…it has to be the same entity that connects us to everybody we want to connect with through our mobile devices, pc, or a laptop, and that is CSP.

CSPs are enabling connectivity for a meager amount. It is no wonder that M2M is supposed to be pushed by CSPs as they have good connectivity networks, enormous data to slice and dice and a huge customer base, not to mention that they are looking for new avenues of revenue generation so as not to have a lull after 2/3/4G. Additionally, having the Cloud is a bonus as trying out something new doesn’t cost a fortune now. Sensors, microprocessors and wireless technologies that once cost hundreds of dollars are now available for as little as the cost of a Café coffee day’s cuppa. Evolving wireless and battery less, Sensor/Control Nodes are enabling new Levels of M2M penetration. While Pods, Note books, Pads, etc. were initially perceived as good to have devices but not necessarily needed, they have enabled our connectivity to the non-living world in an unthinkable manner and opened new horizons for CSPs.

Why CSP Should Leverage Machine Mesh

CSPs are the most ideal and chosen drivers for riding high on the M2M wave for the reasons cited below.

They have the most pervasive network. They have been there for a long time and will stay there for even longer. They are time tested so users and partners can focus on functionality rather than focusing on the network. And with 2G networks being deprecated much sooner than expected, CSPs might use this bandwidth for M2M.

Advantages of CSPs

There are a number of benefits for CSPs:

  • Connected users
  • Massive Reach
  • Price of hardware devices required like processors, sensors, hard disks and even connectivity has fallen below the appreciable level

Challenges of CSPs

There are a number of challenges for CSPs as well, including the following:

  • Different data demands for different devices
  • Limited revenue per connection
  • Billing is going to be a difficult task
  • Revenue split across partners

Why the IT Industry Should Leverage Machine Mesh

We at IT shall never let innovation die for our good; if Social networking of machines is to become a reality, the IT industry has to be there. There are no standardization of protocols for communication between sensor and mobiles; this would give an edge to early entrants. And it is a continuous revenue stream with limited Opex (operating expense).

Advantages to IT

There are a number of advantages for IT:

  • Go to the market scenario.
  • Price of hardware devices required like processors, sensors, hard disks and even connectivity has fallen below the appreciable level.
  • Cloud computing and the ubiquity of smartphones will also drive adoption as providers can offer more attractive applications to lure users.
  • Maintaining and managing the troublesome parts of the partnership (hardware and network) would lie with CSPs.

Challenges to IT

There are a number of challenges for IT as well:  

  • Solutions will not be as easy as with human social networking, as here we involve devices that cannot decipher but operate along with humans.
  • Huge data coming from devices and humans; to collate and analyze them smartly will be a tricky job.
  • Priority assignment with precision as a washing machine start or a power share can wait but ECG machine start or Airport cab pool cannot.
  • Number of partners required to make an end to end case.
  • Tricky pricing fixed/usage basis.

What Lies Ahead with M2M

The following is a very small snapshot of Future for M2M scenarios...

  • Smart Homes, campus and cities: for sustainability, Automatic heating, cooling or ventilation etc.
  • Emergency services and security: sending SOS when in trouble, disaster management, etc.

In fact while compiling this paper, I learned that my previous employer has rolled a safety solution for their Hyderabad DC, which got an overwhelming response with 400+ registrations in an hour… future scenarios were fast becoming present and past, while I reread and recompiled this paper.

Solutions We Have Seen so Far

Smart meters, Smart grids, and Vehicle Tracking Systems are some of the very common and typical M2M applications we hear about. We have seen M2M communication happening in corporate campuses, sensors telling lights to be switched off when nobody is in the room and switched on the instant somebody strides in. Fire alarms going wild after sensing smoke/fire… In all these scenarios, sensors are sending instructions to other machines and presently are moving beyond with mobile wallet and safety apps where humans and machines interact.

Why Machine Mesh Predictions are not Failing

Most of the research and forecasts, if revisited, would fall flat due to the tall claims they make. Nevertheless we cannot ignore how smart phones are gaining acceptance, much faster than any researcher would have predicted. I would not credit only the smartness of these handsets, apps, and games they provide for their mass appeal but also the way they connect us to each other, which earlier hand held devices couldn;t do with just voice call and text messaging features.  They have sped up the zest of connectivity. The success of human-human connectivity is the accelerator of the machine-machine connectivity. If Facebook is the 4th largest country then it is assured that machine mesh is going to be a galaxy. Forecasts by analysts promise ample opportunities and excitement in the space of machines connectivity.

Social Networking of MachineIt might not be just another funny idea that at Machine Mesh, devices get to add other devices as connects. Adding new human or device connect would be the same as adding a friend. Similar to our statuses, connected devices will have statuses but they will be based on the device type, like a washing machine can have a status as Rinsing/Spinning etc., whereas a toaster would have something like Popped up. A human user would be able to send commands, similar to a comment through mobile, which would be received by a sensor attached to the machine. Based on the device types, status feeds from sensors attached to these devices lands in our notifications, e.g. a washing machine sends timeline feed as Soaking/Rinsing/Spinning/etc. and a human user would be able to check the devices’ status on the portal in a private feed. Machine mesh offering so many promising scenarios with so much relevance to our daily life is bound to succeed; I cannot see any factor that might fail it, be it technology, required infrastructure, end user learnability or usefulness.

Why I as an Individual Should Leverage Machine Mesh

Ultimately it is the user that all the service providers are working for. Smart cities, buildings and homes, better healthcare, more managed retail and power sectors as promised by industries, which plan to ride high on the M2M wave, might make our life hassle and waste free.

We should be looking forward to the idea of the virtual world becoming a reality, because connecting to things that touch our daily life is like a need served on a silver plate.  The idea of connecting with home appliances seems more relevant than being connected to a friend’s friend. I am listing here some scenarios to emphasize the brighter side of having that connectivity.

Imagine a vacation where you can control your home security system, turn on-off water sprinklers so you do not feel guilty for killing the plants you raised all those years, in a span of 7 days.

If M2M is enabling control of my microwave while I am still driving back to home, then why not to have it right now.

So machine mesh connects you to your appliances so as to understand their status, control their timeline and send operation commands through some mode of communication. And in the end of the job, you can pat them on the back with aLike Button.

Challenges I as a User Would Have

As the only challenge we as a user would have is to shell out more bucks, as the cost of those extra hardware enablers--like GPS, sensors, etc.-- in our appliances, and data flow between devices would be borne by us.

Sustainability with Machine Mesh

Till now we talked about connectivity, its enabler, challenges and future snapshots, that make life more manageable but not sustainable. How can we bring sustainability out of this machine mesh?

Devices are getting connected and Machine Mesh is getting formed whether we approve it or not and if connectivity of devices is inevitable and we are going to have a Machine Mesh worldwide, then why not tweak it to be more sustainable. The definition of the term “Share” is fast changing and shrinking its meaning with the mad rush over sharing a post or tweet. Now why not tweak Machine Mesh and instead of sharing some post or photos, we start sharing non-living entities, which could be a washing machine or surplus power or network bandwidth or a car etc. When everything is up and connected through a network with its unique identity, which is a GUID; then why should not we make it accessible to whomsoever possible?   End result… connected community, easier eco system, less waste and a dash of green.

 

But How do I Share!

Share Power Surpluses

Imagine there’s soon going to be a blackout in your home as you forgot to pay your power bill or your solar grid did not produce enough for consumption; you check if any of your human/machine connects is sharing power surplus and … you find one.

Another scenario where you have bought a DTH package where most of the channels are uselessly paid for as you don’t mind skipping them while surfing; you can put them up for share on machine mesh Share and any of your connections can grab that through his/her DTH.

I Share My CarAnd also a scenario where you are stuck on a lonely road on a rainy day and finding no public transport to reach home, you send a SOS and immediately notification of a car in your vicinity flashes in your machine mesh Share feed; the car is loaded with GPS navigation and registered at machine mesh evidently. You can call up the owner, or a share request with your location is sent to the system in the car based on the design of the system.

The above stated scenario is expandable to a daily car-pool as well. There could be members who need a carpool and some members who are sharing extra space in their car with the machine mesh Share feature.

Similarly sharing of Network bandwidth, Voice and Data plans can be done through machine mesh Share. Moreover CSPs can put soon to be expired plans from a subscription for other users at discounted rates and give some credit points to the original subscriber, hence making it a win-win for all parties involved.

Only the request or putting things up on share would be manual trigger, the rest of the flow would be seamless without any human intervention to make it a successful case of “M2M for sustainability”.

“Options are limitless so are the imaginations.” Idea of I, You and WE share might open up various possible ways where we get to share and hence ethically use our resources. We have emitted enough carbon with those “have to do Likes” and “must submit Comments”, at Machine Mesh Share we can undo all those.

Conclusion

Virtual world… could become a reality in a very short time looking at the push M2M is getting. The M2M wave is said to be much bigger than any of the earlier trends we have seen, all for its relevance in our daily life. While M2M was a communication restricted inside the premises of manufacturing units, with the advent of newer things, it’s been touching our life. It promises us “an almost perfect life” where we have less waste, more control and automation for sustainability. Whether M2M will pass sustainability tests or not, it’s too early to say however its offerings looks very promising.

At this point, M2M is making sense with limitless applicability and sharing might become the icing on the cake. With a pinch of Share added to Machine mesh, we will certainly make our planet not only smarter but greener too. 

As was said earlier we at IT shall never let innovation die for its own good.

References

*Machine to Machine. Wikipedia”

1,2. James Watson and Jason Sumner (2012),”Rise of the Machines”. (Economist Intelligence Unit)

Other references

Camille Mendler, Andy Castonguay, Sheridan

Nye, Marceli Passoni and CharlesMoon(2012).M2M communication: Turn Potential into profits”. (Informa telecom and media)

AT&T (July 2009).AT&T M2M (Machine to Machine) Communications.

Deloitte and CII(2013).“Machine-to-Machine:Vision 2020“. (Teletech ).


Tags: Cloud, m2m, machine to machine, machine to machine communications




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