The Connected Effect

Dale Calder

Recent Posts

AT&T and Axeda – Making M2M Easy

Posted by Dale Calder

Jan 11, 2012 11:13:00 AM

 

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

Topics: Axeda, M2M, machine-to-machine, AT&T

I Speak for the Trees! (The Lorax, M2M, and the Cloud)

Posted by Dale Calder

Nov 9, 2011 12:21:00 PM

The LoraxYou may ask, what one of Dr. Seuss’s most popular stories has to do with M2M? If you don’t know The Lorax – your childhood was incomplete, check out Wikipedia for some background.

Now to my story…

It all starts simply enough. The other day, I was doing one my favorite activities - web site hopping, when I happened upon a Wikipedia article on “Cloud Computing”. (Believe it or not, I actually do this for fun.) In any case, I was reading the article when the following image caught my attention.  

Cloud Computing
 
Figure 1 - Cloud Computing - Wikipedia

Take a close look and tell me if you can tell what is missing from this picture? I’ll even give you a hint – look at the stuff on the outside…

Missing from Wikipedia’s definition is the real world.  
This diagram implies that all cloud computing interactions come from people through their favorite computing devices. A machine or device communicating with the cloud is nowhere to be found.  

How could Wiki possibly forget the machines? Haven’t they seen the predictions? TRILLIONS of machines just waiting to join the cloud!

So it made me think? Is this some humanist plot! An effort to hold the machines down! Didn’t they see the Terminator and Matrix movie franchises – this type of behavior does not end well.

Perhaps, instead of a species-wide conspiracy, we just forgot? Is this possible? Could we actually forget that machines exist? After all, where we would be without the machines? Still living in caves and using a flint to start fire – no doubt! Wasn’t it machines that powered the amazing productivity gains we have enjoyed for the past 100 years? I really like running water, electricity, heat, refrigerators, cars… Could we really have forgotten them?

Maybe, maybe not.

But whatever the reason for this oversight, a simple fact remains that in 10 years machines will dominate the cloud. Their voices are joining the conversation. Instead of laboring silently in their factories, hospitals, homes and fields, they will be communicating with each other and with us. They will be coordinated, organized, and efficient and will power the next 100 years of productivity improvements.

So to Wikipedia – I say: I SPEAK for the MACHINES!

They belong in your diagram and deserve a special place in our conscience!

Topics: M2M, cloud, Cloud Computing

MY Connected Product!

Posted by Dale Calder

Sep 19, 2011 10:25:00 AM

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?

 

Topics: Axeda, M2M, Connected Products

Smart Grid Part 2: What is a Connected Product?

Posted by Dale Calder

Sep 1, 2011 2:39:00 PM

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…

Topics: Axeda, Connected Products

Worlds First Cloud Telematics Platform

Posted by Dale Calder

Aug 11, 2011 10:03:00 AM

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?

 

Topics: Axeda, M2M, Telematics

Is the Smart Grid Dumb?

Posted by Dale Calder

Jul 21, 2011 12:57:00 PM

Short answer… Maybe!

A little background.   The Smart Grid is an ambitious project that was put forth to modernize power distribution in the United States and other locations throughout the world.   If you go to the smart grid Wikipedia page, you will find lots of good information.  In general, I break smart grid down into two basic objectives:

  1. Modernize the power delivery infrastructure, including ways to add power to the grid.
  2. Enable the intelligent control of end point consumers of power in order to reduce demand.

Item #1:   Cool.  I have no problem with this objective.  It sounds to me like making a better widget.  Makes sense and should be done.

Item #2:  I also like this idea, but am completely against the direction the industry has taken in solving it.

For Item #2, there is an old saying that my father used to tell me - “if the only tool you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail!”  The industry’s approach to smart grid is very much down this path. 

Let me explain.

At the end distribution point of the grid is the electric meter.  The historic job of the electric meter is to measure the amount of electricity used so that the customer can be billed.  So far, so good.  The original method for getting the meter read was good old fashion sneaker net - a human walking to every meter and writing down the reading.  Slow, expensive, and error prone.  

Along the way, someone had the idea that if a meter could phone home (wired, cellular, or to a drive by truck), much money would be saved… The smart meter was born!  The smart meter measures how much electricity I use and it automatically reports my consumption to the utility.   Makes sense.   So far, so good.  

Now here is where smart grid took a wrong turn.  

Because there is a meter at the very end point where electricity is distributed and that meter has computing power – it seems only logical to have that meter do more.   In fact, wouldn’t it be great if that meter were able to CONTROL the electricity consuming devices and appliances at the utilities behest.  For this benefit, the utility could provide discounts to the consumer and reduce overall peak load on the grid.   Sounds like mom and apple pie, right?

Wrong!

There are so many things wrong with this idea that it actually shocks me that people take it seriously.   For example:

  1. To provide fine tuned control of an end site, I still have to build connections from the consumers of the electricity at a location to the meter – no trivial undertaking.
  2. What human in their right mind will actually turn over on/off control of their electricity to a utility?   It reeks of Big Brother.
  3. Practically speaking, a central control system of this magnitude is beyond the core competency of the utility.
  4. Can you imagine the utility actually troubleshooting this system if something went wrong? I can’t.
  5. Did I mention that it sounds a lot like Big Brother to me?   Government utility controlling my home?  Yikes!

I call this approach to smart grid – utility centric smart grid.  I don’t like it.

Individuals like control.   Corporations like control.   The utility having an off switch for my stuff is bad.

So how can we get the obvious benefit of demand control and take this fundamental of human nature into account.  Perhaps we should look at it from another direction. Instead of controlling via push (i.e. Big Brother), the solution should be consumer lead, i.e. pull.  The utility still has a role, but it is through policies, universal access to those policies, and perhaps standards.

My smart grid vision is consumer centric.   A consumer centric smart grid would center on individuals and corporations controlling the behavior of their devices and appliances.   Think of it like Netflix.   Netflix provides me a single login and lets me consume content across a wide range of devices.   What if, instead of Netflix, there was a web presence that I could access from my smart phone or computer where all of my products were known.   From this web presence I could configure the behavior of all of these products, provided they had some simple smart grid extensions – think next generation of energy star.   This web presence could stay in contact with the grid, keep track of its current status, and affect my products based on my configuration.   I may be willing to not wash dishes until the middle of the night, but don’t touch my heat.   In the end, it will be up to me to determine the level of aggressiveness that I want.  See Figure 1, Consumer Centric Smart Grid for a description.

 describe the image

For simplicity sake, let’s consider a single large consumer of electricity at my house, the air conditioner.  I am envisioning that my air conditioner has a connection to the Internet, perhaps piggybacking my local Wi-Fi connection.   I expect to log into a cloud-based application, either provided by the air conditioner manufacturer or a trusted third party that enables me to configure the smart grid behavior of this air conditioner.  This application should access the policies and current situation from the utility and send the appropriate desired behavior down to my AC unit.  The AC unit itself or a third party add-on will actually perform the smart grid algorithm.  

The benefit of this approach is that I, the actual consumer, have more fine-tuned control over my grid utilization.  I can be more aggressive or less, I can change the behavior at a whim, perhaps from my iPhone.  I can use a third party application or something provided by the product manufacturer itself – in the end I am in control. 

To enable this vision, we need to shift the focus of the smart grid initiative from a push-orientated big-brother type of control to one that encourages cloud-aware products and provides a series of standard interfaces on those products that promote smart grid applications development.

In my next blog, I am going to talk more about these connected products and how they can serve a world of applications that can affect their behavior, including those related to smart grid

 

 

Topics: M2M, smart grid

M2M Point Solutions are “Pointless"

Posted by Dale Calder

Jul 15, 2011 11:56:00 AM

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.

Topics: Axeda, Connected Products, M2M; customer success, machine-to-machine, Axeda Platform, cloud, cloud computing; SaaS, network

Machines - Embracing The Network Effect – Part 2…

Posted by Dale Calder

Jun 22, 2011 10:55:00 AM

“The more users connected to a network, the more valuable that Network becomes”, Metcalf’s Law… 

This was one of my key themes from my Axeda Connexion 2011 keynote.  

For the past 13 years, the M2M industry has been focused, almost solely, on connecting things.   If you go to an M2M conference, listen to a M2M webinar, or read an M2M article, the topic always drifts to connectivity.

  • What type of communication to use?
  • How much data to send?
  • How much does the data cost?
  • Wireless, wired?

It drives me nuts…

When I was preparing my keynote, I kept wondering why there was a myopic focus on connectivity in M2M, when it’s clear that the value happens on the other side of the pipe (the user) …   See Metcalf’s law above.

Then it dawned on me … we focus on connectivity, not only because it is required, but also because for most of those 13 years, there really wasn’t a good way for connecting users to a M2M system.

So I used my pulpit at the Axeda Connexion to explain what I coined, the “Cloud Phase” of M2M.   In the Cloud Phase consumption of M2M data becomes the focus and connectivity is assumed.

In discussing this phase, I first went into why the cloud is such a key enabler.   Directly from the keynote, my description of cloud: 

Cloud computing contains the following three elements: 

1)     It’s Everywhere
2)     It’s Elastic
3)     It’s Consumable

I think of it a lot like electricity. None of us know the magic of power creation or distribution, but we do know that we can plug something into an electrical outlet and it just works. 

The cloud is a lot like that …  Data is located in a place where it can be aggregated, analyzed, and distributed. Its ubiquity enables massive consumption of information on an unimaginably large scale.

I then discussed cloud as the key enabler to the unleashing the power of the network effect in M2M:

“It is the wide consumption of M2M data and its millions of users that will create the virtuous cycle that will enable the M2M industry to become the next Social Networking of technology…. “

Finally, I discussed how the network effect is ruling the future of the Internet.   I discussed how M2M unleashes a network effect so powerful and large that in the future it will dwarf even Facebook in “connectedness” … 

Sean Parker, the guy who is most famous for starting Napster (but richest from his involvement with Facebook!) stated in a recent interview: 

 "Companies that harness the power of networks will dominate the future of the Internet." 

The more I thought about the quote, the more brilliant I thought it was. With Facebook, we all act as a hub for our own networks of interconnected friends. In M2M, that hub is the device. The key to the M2M industry generating the type of value that Facebook is unlocking is to extend the personal networks of those devices to as many users and uses as possible.

Let’s do a little back of the napkin math … What if 50 billion devices were the hub of 100 human and business interactions. That would be tantamount to a network with 5 trillion users. Remembering Metcalf’s law, I would contend that the leverage and value creation that can be unlocked from this network would dwarf what we are currently seeing even from social networking…” 

I concluded my keynote with a challenge to everyone… 

I challenge each of you to look to your markets & your organizations, and think about how you can use the M2M cloud to drive massive M2M network effects on top of your connected products.

In the end, we are all part of an industry that will reshape the fabric of the world.   Connected products, connected not only to the company that sold them, but to the world of users, application writers, and each other, will reshape how our global infrastructure operates and how we interact with the products we use … Ultimately improving our quality of life… 

I can’t wait…

Topics: M2M, Connected Products, Axeda Connexion, cloud

Machines - Embracing the Network Effect

Posted by Dale Calder

Jun 9, 2011 5:24:00 PM

Yesterday, I had the privilege of keynoting Axeda Connexion 2011 – properly coined “The M2M Event of the Year”.   I joined a knockout group of M2M industry luminaries, including Eric Goodness of Gartner, Chris Hill from AT&T, and Wayne Ward from Sprint, in discussing both the present and future state of the M2M industry.

I found that each of the primary keynotes had an amazingly consistent message:

• M2M is massive
• M2M is here now
• The Cloud will play a huge role in M2M

Drawing a correlation between the Network Effect, the cloud, and social networks, I focused on the importance of the cloud in propagation of M2M data to as many users as possible.  

So select points from my keynote…M2M

“The M2M industry compares very favorably to the social networking industry:
• LinkedIn is seeking to connect every professional in the world - > 1 billion people.
• Facebook counts every Internet user in the world as a potential user -> currently greater than 2 billion and growing every day.

But with more than 7 trillion machines to connect, M2M dwarfs them both. “

“It is the wide consumption of M2M data and its millions of users that will create the virtuous cycle that will enable the M2M industry to become the next social networking of technology…. “

“The cloud provides a place where M2M information can be aggregated, analyzed, and distributed. Its ubiquity enables massive consumption of information on an unimaginably large scale.”

“The Axeda Platform … is built to acquire the vast quantities of M2M information that our machines and devices communicate, process it, and enable its consumption.   Without the ability to seamlessly consume the tons of M2M information we create, the power of the network effect is not unleashed. “

In my next blog, I will share more from my keynote and discuss more about how the cloud unleashes the network effect for M2M.

Stay tuned.

Topics: M2M, Connected Products, cloud, network

The M2M Event of the Year - Less than a Week Away!

Posted by Dale Calder

Jun 3, 2011 9:45:00 AM

Axeda has assembled an armada of M2M industry experts, customers, press, and analysts who will convene in Boston next week for Axeda Connexion 2011.

With keynotes fromAxeda Connexion

  • Eric Goodness, Research Vice President, Gartner
  • Chris Hill, Vice President for Advanced Mobility Solutions of AT&T
  • Wayne Ward, Vice President Emerging Solutions, Sprint Nextel, and
  • Yours truly, Dale Calder, Founder Axeda

Combined that with sessions from leading companies, such as:

  • Brinks
  • NCR
  • Roche
  • Welch Allyn
  • Among others

 And for good measure, add an Industry Leaders Panel Discussion, “50 Billion Connected Devices by 2020, Hype, Fact, or Fiction?” 

You end up with a very exciting and stimulating couple of days.   There will be no other place in the next twelve months where you can learn more about the state of the M2M industry than at Connexion.  And attendance has almost tripled from last year’s event! 

For my keynote, I plan to discuss the similarities between M2M and Facebook.   I look forward to seeing you there…

Topics: M2M, Connected Products, Axeda Connexion, machine-to-machine

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