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IoT vs. M2M... There's a Difference

  
  
  

By Bill Zujewski

The “Internet of Things” (IoT) is red hot… it stole the show at CES, the world’s largest Consumer Electronics event.   It is grabbing the headlines with stories about Google, Nest and the connected home and “Wearables”, one of the poster children for the internet of things.  The IoT buzz is hitting the blogosphere with new views on the future connected world we will live in.

One observation… IoT has leap-frogged Machine-to-Machine (M2M) as the new buzzword.  Is there a difference between IoT and M2M?  Yes.  Axeda defines M2M as the communication between a machine or device and a remote computer.  M2M is about connecting a device to the cloud, managing that device, and collecting machine and sensor data.  In essence, M2M is about connecting and communicating with a “thing” where a thing can be a machine, device or sensor…. Basically anything that can send data.

IoT goes beyond M2M… beyond computers connecting to things.   IoT represents things connecting with systems, people and other things.  To be clear, here are our definitions:

  • Things – Includes machines, devices, sensors, consumer products, vehicles, etc.
  • Systems – Include business applications, ERP/CRM/PLM systems,  analytics systems, data warehouses, and control systems
  • People – Includes workers and consumers; employees, partners and customers
Internet of Things

Axeda provides an IoT Platform for orchestrating data between things, systems and people.  Our IoT platform is the technology that enables things to connect to the cloud and then interact with business systems, people and other things connected to the cloud.  What might be confusing is that part of our platform includes M2M capabilities for connecting to things and managing devices, but our platform also includes the key capabilities to integrate systems and people and implement IoT solutions.   Some of our key  IoT Platform features are:

  • Extended  Objects – To store any data; Includes the ability to go beyond machine/device data and store data related to other business objects like accounts, cases, policies, configurations, warranties, service requests, and rate plans
  • Associations – To define a data model that associates business information with devices and associates sensors with physical objects;  For example, Axeda can associate an OBD tracking device with a vehicle, driver and insurance policy and store that complementary information natively in the Axeda platform
  • Groovy Scripting Engine – To provide a development environment to handle business logic in our platform.  The scripting engine also provides an easy way for developer to write scripts that interact with other external systems and applications.
  • Web Services – To provide APIs for accessing data and software application services in Axeda
  • Scripto – To provide API’s for sending non-device data to Axeda.  This could include sensor and device information from other IoT solutions or business information from enterprise systems.  This essentially enables the mash-up of web services from multiple systems with Axeda as the central point of integration.
  • Message Queue – A secure way to interact with other systems and clouds in an asynchronous way

Net/net: Axeda provides an IoT platform that includes M2M capabilities.   In my next few blogs, I will discuss customer examples of IoT solutions.  Unlike other platforms hyping what’s possible in the Internet of Things, I’ll share with the readers, real world customer success stories of Axeda integrating things, systems and people to deliver innovative new solutions that change business outcomes.

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.

Mobile Is Speeding Up M2M Adoption – and in Surprising Places

  
  
  

connectionsToday’s cellular capabilities for connecting machines creates a lot of possibilities – untethered from wired or wireless internet connections, mobile products like cars, personal health monitors, or shipping crates can get connected fast.

But surprisingly, it’s not just things that move that are going cellular. Our recent survey from Axeda Connexion 2012 found that a whopping 86 percent of M2M adopters currently support or plan to support mobile connectivity – representing all flavors of connected enterprises, including those with large, non-moving assets.

Why the massive interest in cellular? Three simple reasons:

  • M2M is global. Many areas of the world can’t provide reliable Internet access. Cellular allows organizations to expand their global footprints to remote regions.
  • Cellular is easy. As Robin Duke-Woolley, CEO of Beecham Research, points out in our new eBook, fixed line installations are labor-intensive, and require data to navigate on-site networks. Cellular connections can bypass these steps, and provide data straight into the data center.
  • Mobile is affordable. Once-prohibitive costs are rapidly falling – and organizations are jumping at the opportunity.

As everything from iPads to ATMs to entire electrical grids become ‘mobile,’ a new concern arises: what does this mobile device management (MDM) entail?

SAP’s Sanjay Poonen believes, on one hand, that the huge demand for managing and securing all the apps and content that comes with the ‘Internet of Things’ will push the industry to the mainstream. On the other hand, the tools and processes that already exist for managing mobile ‘devices’ (i.e. tablets and smartphones) can be extended to manage mobile ‘things’ – which is why SAP is investing more resources to extend the capabilities of Afaria.

SAP’s focus on mobility gives a glimpse into just how big the M2M industry will be in the coming years, how much value enterprise systems turn from machine data, and how the innovators are tapping cellular to get connected – and integrated – fast.


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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

MY Connected Product!

  
  
  

Most companies think that the connected products they sell are theirs – this is a mistake.   All connected products and their associated services and applications are the property of, and for the benefit of, the consumers who have purchased them.

This is one of the reasons that I am adamantly against a Smart Grid initiative that is utility-centric – see my recent “Is the Smart Grid  Dumb” blog for reference.   I ended my last blog on this topic with the question: How does a vending machine become MY VENDING MACHINE?

Let’s consider some of the elements that enable a product to be mine.  In general it boils down to control of the following:

  1. Who has access to it
  2. What it does
  3. When it does it
  4. What it can do
  5. And who else it plays with

It is much like a drawbridge on a castle.   You can’t pass the alligator filled moat unless the bridge is down.   The bridge will only be down if someone on the inside says its ok.

A connected product respects this concept.   From a software stack perspective, a connected product looks like the picture below:

 myconnectedproducts

In the wild is the physical product, creatively called the “Product Instance” in this drawing.   The “Product Instance” communicates through the Internet (wired or wirelessly) to the Cloud.   The Cloud holds a virtual incarnation of the product, I call the Product Avatar.   (Since everyone saw the movie, I thought the word would work)   In this context a Product Avatar is a data representation of a specific product.  Now here is the interesting part: the Product Avatar is wrapped via owner credentials.   This means that the web services, the data, and everything that makes this product in the wild yours is protected and controlled by the owner’s user credentials.   That means that nothing can be done to the product without the owner’s explicit permission. 

Next up in the stack are the applications that interact programmatically with the Product Avatar.  The manufacturer or 3rd parties may provide the applications.   The owner may use the applications or enable the manufacturer or a service provider to operate them on their behalf.  But the key point is that no one can do anything without the owner providing the credentials that say it’s ok.

A subtle, but very important point, is that the Product Avatar is separate from the applications that operate on it. There are several reasons for this:

  1. This separation enables a single application to operate on many Product Avatars
  2. The application and Product Avatar can be updated separately and independently of each other without breaking
  3. The credentials for access to the core of the Product Avatar are separate from the applications that operate on them, improving security significantly

The morals of the story?

  1. Connected product interaction is shielded from activity by the owner’s credentials and preferences  
  2.  A manufacturer’s business process must respect owner credentials and permissions  
  3.  All connected product interactions should be managed through applications that my have additional/independent settings.  

Think about your connected products – are they owned by you or your customers?

 

Smart Grid Part 2: What is a Connected Product?

  
  
  

It’s four days post Hurricane Irene. Here in Foxboro, MA, we have trees down everywhere and the town is still without power.  I have to admit, I assumed that the storm was a big non-event once it went west and weakened.  WRONG!  One of my neighbors had four trees fall down – all on his house.  What are the odds of that?   As bad as it was around here, it was nothing compared to what happened in Vermont – Massachusetts is counting itself lucky.

In my last blog, (Is the Smart Grid Dumb?) I talked about a consumer centric approach to smart grid that is built on the concept of a Connected Product.  In the conclusion, I talked about how Connected Products could serve a world of applications, even ones such as smart grid.  This blog digs further into that concept.

WARNING: This section may get a little technical – I’ll try to keep it English.  

Background:

Computer scientists use a term call “Services” to describe capabilities that a particular application provides that can be utilized by others. In the past, this was called an Application Programming Interface, or API for short. Services have been around forever. When you run an application, like word, on an operating system like Microsoft Windows, the application is using the services provided by the operating system to do its job.   

The word-wide web is comprised of many sites. Each site has an address, like Amazon.com and Weather.com. Many of these sites expose little pieces of functionality that can be leveraged by the developer of another web site. For example weather.com has a full set of services that can be used to find local weather. If you expand the concept across the entire world of web sites, there is a site that does almost anything you could possibly want to do that can save you tremendous amount of time and energy. Want to send a text message notification to someone? Twitter can do that. Want to send them a voice message? Try Twilio. These sites perform useful functions that can be accessed programmatically as well as via a traditional browser.

To facilitate easy utilization of these services, standards have evolved that govern the way that services are published and consumed. These services are called, appropriately enough, Web Services.

A modern web site will have an architectural stack that looks something like this:

modern Site architecture.emf 

You put a bunch of the sites together, all doing their thing, you have the Cloud.

Still with me?

Extending Cloud Architecture to Products

Now lets take the cloud architecture of modern web sites and extend it to everyday products. One way to do this would be to take the architecture of the cloud down to the product. The old website in the toaster guys though this way. It never took off!   
The better way is to bring the products to the cloud and enable each and every one of them to start acting like a major web site. The picture below shows the general idea…

connected architecture.emf

The general gist is that each product gains a virtual representation of itself in the cloud. That virtual representation can be interacted with via web services just like a major site. In effect, each product becomes like amazon.com – a fully functioning element in the cloud.

In the Cloud? Now What?

Once that product is in the cloud everything is possible. It is now a Connected Product. Connected Products are publishers of services. Want your product to participate in the smart grid? It publishes a series of services that manage it’s power consumption. Want it to play well with others in its operational environment? It publishes services to interact with its operational behavior. Once these services are published, standard web tools can be used to develop applications that interact with the product and extend it functionality. Those applications can be developed to run in the cloud – web site like, a smart phone like Apple’s iPhone or Google’s Android. You name it, it’s possible.

In effect, we have taken a humble product in the wild and brought it to a place where its power can be harnessed.

Not Finished Yet!
Next comes the tricky part – user logins and product security… How does a vending machine become MY VENDING MACHINE!

To avoid potential brain melting – that will have to wait for another day…

Worlds First Cloud Telematics Platform

  
  
  

Yesterday Axeda and Walsh Wireless announced an alliance for Cloud Telematics Solutions.   Quoting from this release:

“Through this collaboration, enterprises now have access to a flexible cloud platform that enables them to layer value-added applications on top of the real-time data coming from vehicles.”

In the past enterprises had two choices:

  1. Pick a pre-canned point solution that did one thing and one thing only
  2. Write a complete solution from scratch

With this announcement, Axeda and Walsh have provided a third & better choice:  A solution that combines the ease of deployment and consumption of a point solution with the flexibility and fit of a solution built from the ground up.

Today’s enterprise is a complex labyrinth of business processes.   Each business processes enables the organization to perform a key task – both reliably and at scale.   The biggest challenge for traditional telematics solutions has been plugging into that labyrinth of business processes.   With the Axeda/Walsh alliance, that challenge has now been overcome!   What was once impossible is now EASY.

In my title, I called the product of the alliance a Telematics Platform.   For me platforms make hard things easy, impossible things possible, and provide leverage throughout the entire technical solution stack.   I can’t wait to see the type and scale of solutions are enabled by this collaboration!  What are your thoughts about the possibilities?

 

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M2M Point Solutions are “Pointless"

  
  
  

The general problem with point solutions is that they are point solutions.  

Point solutions, as a rule, do a good job solving the specific problems they were designed to solve.   The flip side is that they do nothing else.  Point solutions just aren’t designed to look beyond their silo.Moobella

For a modern enterprise – that’s a big problem!

A modern enterprise could contain hundreds of M2M point solutions.   These point solutions represent islands of information that will prevent full organizational efficiency from being achieved.  

Remember how hard it was to get your sales force automation system to talk to your financial system.   A million dollars, a bunch of high priced consultants, and maybe you’ll get a simple integration.   (Oh by the way, it will break as soon one of the systems is upgraded.)

Now what happens if you want your fleet management system to integrate with your vending management system and both of them to interact with your supply chain automation system -> sounds like a problem.

A better solution for M2M is to base all of your organization’s device (or product) interactions and applications on a single M2M platform.   An M2M platform acts as a system of record for all real-time device communication.  It provides shape to those real-time data sources and gives them a web-orientated programmable representation.   In effect, an M2M platform normalizes an organization’s device interactions and provides a hub for organizational optimization.  

The real power of M2M is using one real-time source of information to automate a myriad of business processes.   A single source of M2M data will likely touch many aspects of your business – the last thing that you want is to go to the trouble instrumenting your devices - only to find their use is limited.  

For M2M - think platform.

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