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When the Tool Just Fits – A View From the AT&T Hackathon

  
  
  

By Sara Jarjoura

It’s 2014 and the tech scene is a-buzz with the outcome of the AT&T Hackathon at their Developer Summit in Las Vegas, just prior to CES.  Partners present at the Hackathon - ARM, Qualcomm, Intel, Netgear, SparkFun, MultiTech, Plantronics - all brought great hackable hardware.   As a developer coach for the AT&T M2M Application Platform powered by Axeda, I worked alongside hackers through the night and ultimately had the amazing privilege of seeing one of our teams win an overall grand prize. AT&T made it obvious that they know how to put on a Hackathon, and the result was happy developers unleashing their inner Einsteins (or Teslas if you prefer :)

Teams using our platform were able to build working, end-to-end solutions quickly.  When the SafeNInternet of Thingsecklace team (click here for WSJ coverage) had set up the sample code and hardware, I saw them working out the problem with the tools on the platform and realizing that those tools matched how they were thinking about the problem.  When a DATA VALUE crosses a threshold distance we want to create an ALARM that needs to stay active until CLOSED. We want to set up a RULE that an ALARM will trigger code to run and send alert messages.  They could do everything on the AT&T M2M Platform with no other server needed.

With the agent running on the Kontron M2M Smart Services Developer Kit, an Arduino Due handling simple sensor data, and Axeda’s simple HTTP API protocol called AMMP , (Adaptive Machine Messaging Protocol) I could say yes to any question developers asked. "Can I add a camera?" Yes, plug it into the USB on the Kontron and the agent will send up image files based on a timer or event. "Can I read a simple temperature sensor?" Yes, plug sensor into Arduino and send data up through Kontron. "Can I just use the platform to record data from an Android app?" Yes, simple HTTP POST.

I sensed initial skepticism from several groups of developers. "Just show me how to get data in and out of your platform and I'll code up the rest myself." The developers who looked a little deeper stuck with the platform once they found it could do everything they wanted to do.

AT&T Hackathon
A few of the AT&T and Axeda Sensai's at the AT&T
Hackathon: Chris Meringolo, D'Lani Jean, Sorin Netu,
Joe Rogers, Kevin Holbrook, Sara Jarjoura, Mark
Scheel

Another project was ReportIt, a social emergency notification system that reduces the strain on first responder communication channels.  Kevin Holbrook coded up a working system for theteam in less than 3 hours that was very similar to a system I created 5 years ago with another developer in 3 weeks – an 80% productivity increase gained by leveraging the AT&T M2M Platform.  The system Kevin created had not just dots on a map but also Geofence creation and alerts.  I know it sounds unbelievable but a physical analogy would be like 2 guys with shovels trying to do the same job as 1 guy in a backhoe.  In that example you would believe an 80% productivity difference.  The millions and millions of lines of code and over a decade of real world use in the AT&T M2M platform are not visible but like a backhoe they are there for someone who knows how to use them.

What hardware inspires you?  What could you build with the AT&T M2M Platform?

Best of the IoT Web – December 2013

  
  
  

IOT Intro
Welcome to this new blog, where I endeavor to find some of the most interesting articles relating to IoT that I have come across in the past few weeks, and pull them together in an easily digestible form for you…

First up our friends and partners at ARM sponsored a global survey by the Economist's Intelligence Unit of 779 business executives from 19 different industries. The result of which is that “a mere 6% of business leaders believe that the idea of IoT is simply hype”, and that the Internet of Things (IoT) is an idea that has finally come, with the result that the business community is beginning to look seriously at the IoT.

Leading the charge in terms of industries according to the Economist’s IoT business index for internal operations and process is Manufacturing followed by Construction with external products and services being led by the IT and technology sector. 95% of respondents believe IoT will have a significant impact in the next three years, and 75% of businesses surveyed were already exploring the space.

Within the survey, they also include the top 5 actions companies are taking to increase IoT usage the top responses were:

•    Learning from the successes or failures of early movers
•    Seeking advice from third party experts/consultants
•    Training existing staff to work with the IoT
•    Hiring talent with IoT capabilities
•    Conducting or sponsoring research to establish market size/demand

To read the top 5 obstacles, you’re going to have to check out the report itself.

Next on my list for you to review is a paper from Harbor Research on the IoT Impact on Diversified Industrial Manufacturers. In this paper (called a storyboard) Alex Glaser of Harbor Research  many businesses that have moved to smart remote services programs utilize less than 10% of the data value that is being collected, and that the programs focus primarily on services delivery efficiencies. Alan goes on to say that as machine-to-machine systems and technologies evolve from the “simple” monitoring applications and related tracking/location of today that a lot of manufacturers are using today, future development will be focused on collaboration between devices, people and systems. Along with this, the opportunities that can be opened up to forward thinking product and service organizations are nearly infinite, and businesses can begin to explore many new possibilities for system solutions unthinkable just a few years ago.
Axeda Maturity Curve
All of that goes along nicely with Axeda’s own Connected Product Maturity Model whitepaper, where we explain how companies can leverage the data and intelligence from connected products to create smart business processes that will transform their businesses and drive improvements in efficiencies and effectiveness, and then move up the value chain to change the customer experience and to differentiate their offerings.

Third on the list worthy of review was a column in Fast Company. With the Internet of Things  changing the way companies built products, interact with customers, and run their business , four experts in the IoT space were asked to talk about how to have the best shot at bringing a successful product to market, with the answers to their questions providing a roadmap to ensuring your connected device will be well received.

Fourth to take a look at this week is a blog by Cisco executive Wim Elfrink. Wim is Cisco’s Executive Vice President, Industry Solutions & Chief Globalization Officer, and he recently participated in two smart city forums, one in Hamburg, and one in Amsterdam, and while in those cities, he saw validation that IoT adoption is spreading to those mature cities as well as to new greenfield metropolises such as Songdo in South Korea.

HafenCity, Hamburg’s innovative, award-winning “city within a city” has 163 acres of newly intertwined residences, shops, restaurants, offices, parks and canals, which will evolve into an IoT showcase for the 21st century. In the centuries-old city of Amsterdam Wim tells us that there is already an installed IoT base to improve sustainable working/living, public spaces and mobility, they are exploring new LED-connected street lighting.

Finally for this post, I’d like to draw your attention to an article written by Christopher Mimms on Quartz which is the first in a series, where he tells us that 2014 will be the Year of the Internet of Things. You probably heard the same for 2012 and 2013 – but next year will be different. Why? Because devices are getting cheaper, and tech titans are focused on making the industry explode.

Lead the Connected Revolution

  
  
  

By Ian Lee, Director of Product Marketing

Axeda Connexion 2014 is only 6 months away and we are challenging our community of users to “Lead the Connected Revolution.”  What does this mean?

We believe our customers and partners are in the best position to lead the charge when it comes to the Internet of Things. With a breadth of applications from hybrid vehicle recharging stations to power generators, and from MRI machines to ATMs, no one is better placed to tell the world the Return on Investment they have seen, and the business challenges that they have solved. 

Axeda Connexion 2013
 Watch the highlights from Connexion 2013.

So be a part of it, and come tell your story… we would love for our customers, partners, or anyone involved in Machine-to-Machine or IOT applications to submit their story and join us in May 2014 to show how you are leading the way.

In addition, for those of you who are going to pass up on a free ticket by coming to speak at the event, we of course have our early-bird special running until the end of December with $400 off the cost of attending.

Connexion 2014 will feature more than 30 content sessions focused on reinventing the product experience and optimizing enterprise-wide business processes with M2M data.  More news coming out shortly with the roster of industry all-stars that we have assembled, but if you missed last year’s event, and want to know what happens, you can take a look at our highlights reel from the 2013:

We also have provided you with the 10 reasons why you should be at the event, so you can better justify it to your boss ! So come along and hear from an M2M all-star speaker line-up, including customers, partners, industry analysts, and Axeda leadership, or better still, be a part of it and submit your story.  If you would like more information, please do not hesitate to contact me!

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Axeda Will Have A Major Presence at Dreamforce Next Week

  
  
  

By Bill Zujewski

Salesforce.com’s Dreamforce event begins Monday and Axeda will be there in full force.  We have 2 customers, Ventana Roche and Isilon, presenting their Axeda to Salesforce.com integration stories on Monday. I’ll be on a panel entitled “Current Challenges & Opportunities in the Connected World” on Nov 19th at 2pm.  We’ll also be in the Developer Showcase exhibit hall, booth #7, previewing a new application that will be available on the AppExchange.

Why is an IoT platform company at Dreamforce? 
Because mSalesforceachine data is very valuable information when it comes to managing customers, their assets and their cases.  Extending the Salesforce.com cloud with machine data enables proactive service, streamlines customer support, and enhances case, asset, and account management.  For our customers who are manufacturers, connecting machines and integrating the machine data into the Salesforce.com Sales and Service Clouds, it will enable your Salesforce.com users to use an application they are comfortable with to access machine information.  This new data provides Salesforce.com users with greater visibility into customer and asset information and delivers a long list of benefits. Then in turn users will be able to:

  • Understand how customers are using equipment
  • Review machine down-time and idle-time to understand the quality of service
  • Troubleshoot issues more effectively with real-time machine information and logs
  • Reduce call times with better information to resolve cases
  • Get notified when equipment issues occur before a customer contacts you
  • Review past machine issues and historical alarms to diagnose recurring problems

Machine Data is also very valuable to sales and marketing organization as it can drive more sales and improve customer satisfaction.  Equipment usage information is very valuable to understanding a customer and account situation.  For example, high machine utilization can uncover a customer’s need for more capacity and addition equipment.  Low utilization can be an early warning sign of equipment problems or potential churn to a competitor’s equipment.  Machine data can also provide visibility into consumable levels and enable your operations organization or supply chain partners to replenish the machines proactively.  

Net/net: Machine data is making its way into Salesforce.com.  Axeda’s customers are taking us there… and we are jumping on the bandwagon and making it easy for them to do so.

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The Internet of Things Poised to Take Center Stage at Dreamforce

  
  
  

By Dan Murphy

Salesforce has its sights set on the Internet of Things, and – like Axeda – the company is focused on helping organizations to turn data and connected products into real business value.

While thousands of companies have transformed business functions from service to sales to R&D, few have achieved greater success than Ventana Medical Systems – whose M2M success story was featured in a GigaOm podcast this week.

Dreamforce
Going to Dreamforce ’13? Be sure to check out Axeda and our customers for a first-hand look at the power of M2M data and Salesforce integration.

At Dreamforce – Sean Casey, director of IT at Ventana, will share how his company uses M2M connectivity and Salesforce integration to improve service levels and customer satisfaction across the organization. Sean will present ‘Improving Patient Care with Connected Medical Devices’ on Monday, Nov. 18, at 10 a.m. at the Palace Hotel - Presidio

But Ventana won’t be the only Axeda customer showcasing their M2M story at Dreamforce. Additionally,  Jason DePardo of EMC Isilon will present ‘Extending the Value of Connected Product Data’ on Monday, Nov. 18 at 4 p.m. at the InterContinental San Francisco, InterContinental Ballroom A.

And Axeda’s own Bill Zujewski, CMO & EVP of Product Strategy, will participate on a panel discussion ‘Current Challenges & Opportunities in the Connected World’ on Tuesday, Nov. 19 at 2 p.m. at the InterContinental San Francisco, Telegraph Hill.

You can find the Axeda team in Booth #7 in the Developer Zone in Moscone-West, where we can give you a preview of our new Salesforce AppExchange and demonstrate how integrating machine data into the Salesforce Cloud delivers real, tangible value to businesses.

Hope to see you there!

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Wireless Gotchas! Number One: Application Development

  
  
  

By Bill Zujewski

This is the fifth and final post in a multi-part series, which specifically explores the challenges of dealing with wireless technology as part of an M2M (Machine-To-Machine) initiative. Today’s post will focus on data storage and application development.

In our first four posts, we’ve covered the key steps for establishing, managing, maintaining, and  securing wireless M2M connectivity. But all of this leads up to the one essential question:

How will you use all that data?

And for a dose of truth: lots of data is pretty meaningless if you don't have a plan for it.

The ability to turn wireless machine data into consumable and useful information is critical to making an M2M initiative successful and impacting your organization's bottom line. But there isn't always a clear path, and it can be awfully challenging to see the promise land when you're buried in facts and figures.

  big data
  Perhaps the biggest challenge of making M2M data
usable is that it involves a lot of low-level designing
and application logic which can be time-consuming
and tedious.

In its raw form, machine data is arcane, proprietary, and not very usable for most organizations. Businesses need tools and strategies to make raw data easy to consume, and need to come up with a data model and programmatic interfaces that make it easy for programmers to develop applications and integrate machine data into other systems.

Here are four key steps that businesses should take to make machine data consumption and integration easier:

  • Understand the originating data formats. With no real standard for M2M communications, M2M data is highly fragmented and often varies from device to device. There’s a difficult learning curve involved, but understanding the data formats you’ll be using with different devices will help you prepare to translate it into formats you can more easily deal with.
  • Normalize the data. Store machine data in a normalized format regardless of the device sending the data.  For example, trip records from vehicle devices are very different depending on the device supplier, but for most of them you can extract common information: the start time, end time, and points hit along the way.  Regardless of the device used, store the information the same way.  Consider using a relational database or data repository that you are familiar with.  This will enable you to manage the historical data more effectively and efficiently.
  • Expose the data using  modern APIs (like REST or SOAP) to turn raw data access into familiar API access. This will improve developer productivity.
  • Make it scalable. Rest assured – your M2M initiative will grow, whether by bringing new machines onto the network, or retrofitting older ones for connectivity. Ensuring that your data storage and access architecture is built to handle the influx of data is key.

Perhaps the biggest challenge of making M2M data usable is that it involves a lot of low-level designing and application logic which can be time-consuming and tedious. Leveraging M2M/IoT platforms that are device-agnostic, can handle massive amounts of data, and include elegant APIs out of the box will dramatically reduce the time needed to translate and manage machine data, and accelerate your time to market for new applications and integrations.

Wireless Gotchas! Number Two: Global Connectivity

  
  
  

By Bill Zujewski

This is the fourth post in a multi-part series, which specifically explores the challenges of dealing with wireless technology as part of an M2M (Machine-To-Machine) initiative. The series will offer insights to help designers and developers prepare for and overcome the unique challenges involved with implementation. Today’s post will focus on global connectivity.

The Internet of Things is a global phenomenon that's not slowing down - it's really just picking up speed, with impact just starting to materialize. Many of the leading connected productmanufacturers build, deploy, and support connected assets all around the world, and combined with wireless, M2M technology goes a long way in helping organizations expand their M2M initiatives across international borders.

Global Connectivity
International connectivity isn't necessarily
difficult to establish, as most carriers offer
a version of Global SIM.

International wireless connectivity isn’t necessarily difficult to establish, as most carriers offer a version of a global SIM. The challenge is that global M2M connectivity adds layers of complexity and significant additional considerations that connected businesses need to juggle – or they risk setbacks and disruptions in service.

Some of these challenges include:

  • Ensuring compatibility with various networks or carriers: An asset in Germany will rely on a different network than one in India. Manufacturers need to ensure their machines can connect to different networks in different regions – something that becomes even more difficult for mobile assets (e.g. shipping containers) that need to connect to various networks as they move throughout different regions. Otherwise, businesses risk losing sight of and access to their machines.
  • Managing economics: Rates from carrier to carrier vary greatly, so businesses need to do their due diligence to ensure their connectivity will be affordable, especially for mobile assets that rely on more than one network. Without proper research and planning, connectivity costs could unexpectedly skyrocket.
     
  • Ensuring reliability: Don’t assume you’ll have connectivity in all parts of the world. In many areas, even wired connectivity is not guaranteed. Manufacturers need to understand where their connectivity may be at risk, and which wireless methods are the best options. Downtime doesn't just halt productivity -- it can literally cripple profitability.


For an effective international M2M initiative that doesn’t break the budget or risk service, flexibility is key. Manufacturers should design an architecture that is carrier, device, and SIM management agnostic – so that machines can smoothly rely on different networks and communication devices anywhere in the world.

Top Wireless Gotchas! Number Three: Mitigating Security Risks

  
  
  

By Bill Zujewski

This is the third post in a multi-part series, which specifically explores the challenges of dealing with wireless technology as part of an M2M (Machine-To-Machine) initiative. The series will offer insights to help designers and developers prepare for and overcome the unique challenges involved with implementation. Today’s post will focus on security risks.

M2M wireless
Demonstrating that connected products are
secure and data is handled responsibly
is essential for the industry.

Security and privacy concerns are front-of-mind for everyone – regardless of industry. But they’re even more prominent for the M2M community, and breeding skepticism around the future growth of the ‘Internet of Things.’ And there's reason: Cybercrime and government spying is headline news every day. There's no doubt the state of privacy and terrorism in a hyperconnected world . will be front and center for 'Internet of Things' as it continues to move mainstream.

In reality, the biggest security risk of the ‘Internet of Things’ is someone accessing a machine and making it malfunction – machines are almost never used as a Trojan Horse to access the network it’s on.  However, ensuring the security of machines, networks, and data is trickier in a wireless environment – but it needs to be a top priority for every business involved in M2M.

Here are five security strategies that every wireless M2M initiative should include:

  • Encrypt utilizing the machine when possible. Many new devices have encryption chips that will allow for easy encryption of traffic without relying on the wireless network. Older devices may not have this option and will likely want to utilize carrier wireless traffic encryption.
     
  • Encrypt from the data center to ensure that any traffic between the wireless carrier and the your business applications travel over an encrypted pipe. This may require setting up a VPN and APN with your carrier. Axeda and AT&T deliver this service as part of our joint core offering.
     
  • Configure your assets so that machines can only receive instructions from your M2M cloud platform.  Axeda customers’ assets are configured such that they can only respond to instructions from Axeda’s Machine Cloud. 
     
  • Turn off unnecessary services. Ensure that ports or services on your device are disabled or turned off. That debug interface that is so useful in testing can be a backdoor for malicious attackers.
     
  • Whitelist web sites and services such that the machine cannot access web services that are explicitly approved. Axeda and AT&T’s offering can help to enhance the security of your wireless solution with this service.

The good news is that, so far, there have been few recorded incidents of a connected product leading to a data breach or cyber-attack. Demonstrating that connected products are secure and data is handled responsibly is essential for the future of the industry.

Top Wireless Gotchas! Number 4: Carrier Integration

  
  
  

By Bill Zujewski

This is the second post in a multi-part series, which specifically explores the challenges of dealing with wireless technology as part of an M2M (Machine-To-Machine) initiative. The series will offer insights to help designers and developers prepare for and overcome the unique challenges involved with implementation. Today’s post will focus on carrier integration.

Declining costs around cellular components have had a huge impact on how quickly the 'Internet of Things' has grown – its significance cannot be understated. Cheap components have enabled the industry to expand into countless new verticals -- it's also why providers like AT&T have turned their full attention to the M2M industry in a big way.

However, cellular connectivity brings M2M architecture and management considerations.

For one, manufacturers need to  effectively and efficiently ensure that existing connected machine solutions can integrate with cellular infrastructure and mobile carrier business systems.

Here are three other things to consider:

  • On A Data Budget: Manufacturers need real-time visibility into how their communications are performing against their cellular data plan, and need to be able to adjust data plans and data flow when necessary. Otherwise, they risk going over budget.
  • Connectivity Management: Similarly, manufacturers need to be able to understand the status of their connectivity, and the performance and health of their assets at all times. 
  • Asset Management: Finding connected assets in a carrier’s system can be difficult, as the carrier’s system only identifies assets by their SIM ID. This means manufacturers often have to manually associate the asset’s SIM ID with its VIN or serial number – a long and pain-staking process.

The best solution is to leverage M2M platforms that have already achieved integration with carrier systems. This will drastically cut your time-to-market and start-up costs.

Top Wireless Gotchas! Number 5: Reliable Connectivity

  
  
  

By: Bill ZujewskiInternet of Things

This is the first post in a multi-part series, which specifically explores the challenges of dealing with wireless technology as part of an M2M (Machine-To-Machine) initiative.   The series will offer insights to help designers and developers prepare for and overcome the unique challenges involved with implementation.  Today’s first post will focus on “reliability”.

For obvious reasons, wireless technology will play a key role in the future of M2M. And right now, the stage is being set. Technological advances in edge devices and cellular networks have made it easier and less expensive for mobile assets to be connected, removing two significant barriers to adoption. Fact is, machines communicating via cellular, satellite, or wireless connections will be just as big of a part, if not bigger, of the Internet of Things as machines with wired connections.

But it's not all sunshine and rainbows: the unfortunate reality is that wireless communications aren’t always as dependable as wired internet connections.

That said, there are a number of steps connected product manufacturers can take early in the M2M development and implementation processes that will help ensure the level of connectivity M2M initiatives require.

1. Design an architecture that assumes and accounts for intermittent connectivity by building in intelligence that queues up data when offline to be sent out once connectivity returns.

2. Build in connectivity redundancies, so that if one kind of connectivity fails, another will take over.  For example – if a moving asset loses its cellular signal, the machine can automatically switch to satellite communications. This strategy is essential for mobile assets that require continual connectivity.

3. Test your assets’ connectivity. Connect the asset, take it to a specific location, and see what the connection quality is. In the end, nothing beats real-world testing.

Even though nothing is more dependable than a wired connection, wireless M2M is opening new doors for the industry – from the shipping and fleet industries to a wide range of consumer products. Wireless connectivity is a critical part of the industry’s future – it just takes a bit more thinking and planning to make it work right.

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