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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?

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 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.

In the Clouds When Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

  
  
  

Guest Blog Post by Sander Biehn, AT&TPowerd by Axeda

When talking about his most important discoveries, Sir Isaac Newton admitted he could never have done it alone.  He quipped, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” What he meant was that he had used common and well understood theorems and formulas on which he built his new ideas. In that way he had stood on the shoulders of others to get a better view of how to apply existing knowledge to his new ideas.

Today’s enterprises are taking a chapter from Newton’s book as they begin to mobilize and virtualize their business.  Whether it is by using a cloud service to house their application, or by using common programming tools and interfaces to build and manage the application, businesses are beginning to rely more on common infrastructure to do most of the work.  By doing so, enterprises can more quickly and easily deploy their applications.

I think IT is embracing platforms because of past trials of going-it-alone. If you consider the world of Enterprises Software, impediments to rapid progress due to proprietary code are well known in the banking and transportation verticals. New platform-based cross-carrier services are welcome additions to avoid future complications in a rapidly changing environment where the pace is just too much to keep up with on one’s own. 

When it comes to new application development there is an enormous benefit in working on platforms. Here are a few of the reasons and examples of enterprises using the pre-existing building blocks of a platform to quickly deploy new technology.

    1. It is versatile: Cloud computing is a platform that takes the guess-work out of sizing a new application. In the cloud, computing and connectivity can shrink or expand to fit the needs of the application and ensure acceptable performance. Likewise, with the cloud's economic model you only pay for what you need and you never need to invest in new hardware when the application becomes too big.  Getting funding and becoming profitable with new applications is easier with a cloud-based strategy of starting small and then growing.

    2. It is easily upgraded or changed: When a M2M application for remote machine diagnostics needs to be repurposed to start collecting on-site big-data analytics, the platform can adapt without having to be re-written. By building on a carrier’s mobile platform such as AT&T M2M Application Platform powered by Axeda, dozens of plug and play sensors and software APIs can be added to the application so it can evolve without long delays and expenses in 'updating the code'. Additionally the latest firmware is pushed from the network for quick updates to a globally deployed M2M network.

    3. It covers the details: A major advantage of working on a platform is the suite of pre-existing tools to manage, expand and upgrade the application. For example, creating a helpdesk for a new M2M application is often an overlooked detail when writing a new home-grown application. Platforms, like AT&T’s Control Centre using Jasper Wireless, provide the necessary management tools for application tracking, application usage, performance, and even a monthly billing system.  

What success stories do you have about working with a common set of tools? How is the idea of a platform helping your business navigate mobile application build-out for either B2C or M2M?

AT&T powerd by Axeda

M2M Experts Discuss Wireless Connected Product Strategies

  
  
  

att header

As most of our readers know, Axeda has a long history of serving the manufacturing market – where machine downtime can cost more than $1 million per day.   Our company was founded on the idea that if we could make machines talk, and arm manufacturers with the ability to talk back, that we could fundamentally change the way that mission-critical products are monitored, serviced, and developed.

The options for how these connected products talk have seen a significant evolution over the last couple of years. Specifically in the industrial manufacturing market, equipment is now more intelligent, produced based on PLC, CNC, SCADA, and PC technologies, with some level of wired or wireless connectivity now standard.

Next week, we will host a webinar with AT&T, our leading wireless partner, where you can learn more about how industrial manufacturers are remotely collecting, monitoring, and analyzing the machine data for greater uptime, cost reductions, and improved productivity. 

We hope that you will plan to join us and learn how these types of solutions can benefit your company.

AT&T and Axeda – Making M2M Easy

  
  
  

 

If you are reading this you have almost certainly seen the partnership announcement from Axeda and AT&T. If you haven’t, read it now

I am particularly excited about this announcement, because it strengthens an already important relationship to the M2M industry. As I have said many times in this forum, M2M is hard. To deliver an M2M application a company must:AT&T

  • Communications enable a product
  • Get a carrier to provide airtime and ensure proper coverage
  • Get your product validated on the carrier network  
  • Provision the product on the carrier network once it deploys
  • Manage the product’s billing and carrier network operation
  • Develop a cloud service that listens to your product
  • Integrate that cloud service into your business and business processes

And, oh by the way, make sure that all of this works together, can operate at scale, and is secure!

To lower this bar, the M2M industry has been developing modular components that make it easier to do one part of this stack or the other. For example, Axeda provides a cloud based M2M application platforms, Jasper carrier network provisioning, companies like Telit provide hardware modules, AT&T airtime – but putting it all together – still big work.  

What the relationship with Axeda signals is that AT&T is taking the industry lead in corralling the disparate parts of M2M and creating a unifying experience for its customers that will simplify M2M adoption, improve its support experience, and reduce costs. In this agreement, AT&T and Axeda have made a commitment to each other and the industry to make M2M EASY.  

For more on this topic, check out my earlier blog:   “M2M Gets a KISS

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