The Connected Effect

Wireless Gotchas! Number Two: Global Connectivity

Posted by Bill Zujewski

Oct 21, 2013 11:34:00 AM

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.

Topics: wireless, IoT, Machine Cloud, Internet of Things, AT&T, Wireless Gotchas, blog

Top Wireless Gotchas! Number Three: Mitigating Security Risks

Posted by Bill Zujewski

Oct 8, 2013 9:19:00 AM

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.

Topics: M2M, wireless, security, IoT, Internet of Things, Wireless Gotchas, blog

Top Wireless Gotchas! Number 4: Carrier Integration

Posted by Brittany Calvanese

Oct 1, 2013 1:37:00 PM

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.

Topics: M2M, wireless, IoT, Internet of Things, AT&T

Top Wireless Gotchas! Number 5: Reliable Connectivity

Posted by Bill Zujewski

Sep 23, 2013 4:08:00 PM

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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Topics: M2M, wireless, Internet of Things, Wireless Gotchas, AT&T M2M Platform, M2M Customers, Connecting the Internet of Things

M2M in the Wild – Part 5 – What’s in a name?

Posted by Ian Lee

Jul 16, 2013 10:00:00 AM

Internet of Things

There have been a few blog posts recently about what the name is of this area of technology we work in… whether they are blog posts in EE|Times, GE’s Industrial Internet, Wired’s Programmable World, or Cisco’s Internet of Everything, and even internally here at Axeda there have been some vigorous discussions about the use of “Machine” in regards to “Machine Cloud” and “M2M”.)

 The discussion here has been around what really constitutes a “machine” when you have “ant-sized” computers such as the KLO2 chip as reported in the MIT Technology review in May, or does an iPhone count as a machine? For sure the systems GE talks about in the industrial internet are machines…and big ones at that! According to Wikipedia (yes I know, not the greatest source available, but bear with me) the definition is: “A tool that consists of one or more parts, and uses energy to achieve a particular goal. Machines are usually powered by mechanical, chemical, thermal, or electrical means, and are frequently motorized.” And they go on to add: “Historically, a powered tool also required moving parts to classify as a machine; however, the advent of electronics technology has led to the development of powered tools without moving parts that are considered machines.”  So I guess if we don’t need moving parts, then our little ant-sized chip still does qualify as a machine, and I have to modify my prior position with some colleagues.
smart meterBut to me none of these terms are instantly grokable to anyone outside of the space, and maybe that’s ok. I don’t need to know the intricate and arcane terms for brewing, but I like a beer. So does Aunt Alice need to know that her smart meter sends data back to the utility company via some form of M2M connection so that they can monitor her usage, send her off-peak incentives, or allow her to use an app on her iPhone to see exactly what she is using? Probably not, to her, it’s all just magic.

So what are some examples of connected systems that can deliver up some magic for you, and allow you to explain what IoE, IoT, M2M etc. are to your friends and family:

HealthCare
By monitoring consumable levels in MRI machines, operations can resupply in advance to avoid downtime. Service, sales and marketing can observe consumption over time, and deliver the right service, at the right time to  avoid costly delays and patient/staff rescheduling.

Manufacturing
Gauging the temperature of manufacturing assets warns the service team if there is a risk of overheating and lets finance know when warranty guidelines are not being upheld. (For one of our clients customers, their outsourced cleaners ran the machines out of parameter like this causing a $100,000 failure. By having the data showing when this was happening, the customer was able to pursue the cleaning company for restitution.)

Energy
Tracking wind turbine speed alerts operations when an asset is under producing, and helps research and development develop a more resilient blade.

Transportation
Implementing a usage-based insurance strategy is revolutionizing the auto-insurance industry. Operations and finance teams can track speeds, idling time, parking location, distances traveled, hard stops and more, leading to decreased premiums for consumers.

So it probably doesn’t matter what you call it, but M2M allows you to fully harness the data that you can get from your machines as long as you have the innovative teams to see the possibility when they are developing the systems. A connected strategy can allow your company to make faster, smarter and more informed decisions across many departments and allow you to be more proactive with your customers.

If you have other examples that you use to describe the M2M space when you are having a cup of tea with your version of Aunt Alice, I’d love for you to post a comment below.

Topics: M2M, Internet of Things

M2M in the wild: Real World Examples – Part 4 – (The Ecosystem)

Posted by Ian Lee

Jul 12, 2013 2:41:00 PM

Putting together a connected product strategy is not as plug-and-play yet as maybe it should be, but I think there are some strides being taken towards making it a lot simpler for those who wish to build connected machines. For a manufacturer wishing to go it alone, and not rely on the emerging ecosystem of companies who are partnering to provide solutions can be a daunting task. Not only is complexity increasing with the choices you have for devices, the networks and protocols, and the security implications, but there can also be an increase in costs with more applications needed to be developed, more integrations to your ERP or CRM systems, or purely the amount of data that you may be pumping from the devices back to the databases.

hardware picSo why would you build this all by yourself and not take advantage of people who specialize in these areas, and can work together to get your products all chatting on the Internet of Things (or the Machine Cloud as we call it). I worked for a company a few years ago that had a legacy system to do inventory management, and due to rapid acquisition and growth, had to scale that system up. But it was running on older hardware and operating systems, as well as the actual development platform, and it mean that the company effectively had to become their own software house to support that vital product. Going off and building your own is effectively turning you into a software house when that may not be your core capability.

 

Some of the unique things you need to know about when building M2M apps over more traditional enterprise-type software are:

  • Do I need short-haul or long-haul drivers?
  • How do I create embedded agents, message translators of raw data to business information?
  • How do I efficiently organize my data in an M2M data model?
  • How do I cope with queuing, throttling and caching compression of a constant stream of real-time data?

After all, you should really be focused on your business and its future. Improving your product experience, increasing your agility and empowering not only your service and support staff, but as we saw in my last blog, your customers as well.

That’s where the Collaborative Ecosystem comes in. where the 5 main areas of an M2M deployment come together to get your products to market faster than you can do it by yourself. So whether you are building connected products for mHealth, for transportation, for Usage-Based-Insurance (UBI) or for utilities, partnering up with people who have the most knowledge in their area makes the most sense.. after all, would you build your own email system nowadays, do you have software engineers building a credit-card processing application?

The 5 areas are of course;

  • The Network and Connectivity Providers
  • The Hardware and Component Providers
  • The Application Service Providers
  • The Business Systems Providers
  • The Cloud Application and Platform Providers

At Axeda, that ecosystem looks something like this:M2M Partner Ecosystem

And that doesn’t even include all of the device manufacturers in the Axeda Ready Program that is a technical approval program for hardware and module manufacturers in the M2M industry to ensure device compatibility with the Axeda Platform. Programs like this speed time-to-market for multiple devices that can communicate with a platform, and ensures accurate and secure data communication, as well as setting technical support expectations based on their certification. And when those devices are used with an ecosystem network provider, and the applications are written by an ecosystem application provider, the whole process can go a lot faster than trying to do it yourself.

Recently at Axeda’s user conference, Connexion ’13, we had members from each area of this ecosystem, as well as analysts and customers; speak in keynote sessions giving their vision on where the market was going, and how the ecosystem was a strong driver to get there. So I put together a video with highlights from their presentations, to view it, click here:

Axeda Connexion Video

Some of the benefits, as I see it, to joining the ecosystem rather than going it alone are not only that you free up resources to drive innovation, but you also get:

  • Fast time-to-market with new solutions and initiatives
  • Approved security protocols
  • Efficient data communication and machine data processing
  • Built-In business and administration tools
  • Less code to write yourself
  • The flexibility to extend and customize
  • Benefits of input from multiple customers

But that’s just my view; and as I said in my first post, I’m a newbie at all this, so I’m sure some of you will have comments. So add them below and share them with the rest of us. And if in the meantime you want to see someone else's view, check out this recent post on VentureBeat talking about the very same dilemma.

Topics: Internet of Things, M2M Ecosystem

M2M in the Wild: Real World Examples - Part 1

Posted by Ian Lee

Jun 10, 2013 1:19:00 PM

A recent article in Wired magazine talking about the Internet of Things prompted me to think of some of the Axeda customers, and how they use connected devices. Machine-to-Machine or M2M is seen by some as new and emerging, but it has been around in some form or other for a long time, one of the earliest being during World War 2 as Identify Friend or Foe (IFF) sensors to identify aircraft, or other vehicles as friendly (or not) and to determine their bearing and range from the interrogator.

But things have on a bit since the 1940’s, so what are people doing with M2M applications now? I’m fairly new to this whole industry, so you pundits and gurus who have been in the industry for many years (we have a lot of them here at Axeda!) may want to walk away now, and just get a cup of coffee instead… because I just want to step back for a minute before we get to a use-case, and discuss exactly what (I think) M2M means, and how it may impact your organization.

The first thing you need is of course… a thing… yep, the thing you actually want to talk to… as an example, I am going to borrow from Dr. John Barrett, Head of Academic Studies at the Nimbus Centre for Embedded Systems Research at Cork Institute of Technology, who gave a good example in a recent TED talk.

m2m chairSay we have a chair, and we want to know who has been sitting on that chair. We first need to give our chair a Unique Identifier, so that we know that we are dealing with that specific chair out of all the other chairs in our universe.  Then we need to connect it to the outside world, so we can add a wireless device to it, then we can add pressure sensors, so that we know when it has been sat in. And finally, we can embed some other circuitry to it, so that we are able to control it whether that is robotically controlling the seat height, or activate the wireless SIM card.

The basics hold true for any device,

  • Identify
  • Communicate
  • Sense
  • Control

But once you have this great device, already connected and managed, how are you going to innovate, what new and clever thing can you do with your device now you have remote access to it?  Well, you can monitor its environment, you can use it to populate search results when you are looking for your inventory (think fleet management, food shipments etc.) or you can come up with some very cool value add for your customers that you didn’t even consider before you had a connected device. And of course, a lot of customers are still just using connected devices to perform remote service or preventative maintenance on systems, providing cost savings and improved utilization of their field repair staff.

So in this blog series, I am going to highlight some of our customers, and the way in which they use connected products. And first one up is Diebold, Incorporated, who, over their 150 years have brought together a combination of innovation, expertise and quality service to become a global leader in providing integrated self-service solutions, security systems and services.

Diebold had the challenge of implementing a remote monitoring and diagnostic capability into a new line of ATMs, to enable them to reduce field service visits and minimize system downtimes. Because of the trend to a more software-driven self-service terminal, the company sought to remotely service its ATMs over the Internet, and of course given the sensitive nature of cash-dispensing ATMs, the solution need to be both proven and secure.

By embracing a connected solution, the ATMs are enabled to deliver high-quality remote services with built-in data-capture technology. This feature carefully stores pertinent information about a device’s performance for quick access. In addition, Diebold’s remote support operators are also directly alerted when an ATM problem occurs, and can begin resolving the problem immediately by viewing a mirror image of the module. This provides a level of information that allows for an in-depth analysis of ATM status messages before a technician arrives on site. And when the technician arrives, he then has a precise knowledge about that particular machine which in-turn increases the first-time-fix ratio.

If you want to read more about what Diebold is doing, you can read the case study here. And next time, I will delve into a customer or two in the medical device environment.

Topics: M2M, Internet of Things, Diebold, Axeda Customer

According to Gartner, the Internet of Things / M2M is Already Here

Posted by Dan Murphy

Oct 25, 2012 10:37:00 AM

Gartner announced its “Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends For 2013” from its annual IT Symposium this week (see related Forbes article).  Most notable to the team here at Axeda was that the Internet of Things was #4 on the list - ahead of both Big Data and Cloud Computing.

Whether you call it Internet of Things or Machine-to-Machine (M2M), the strategic importance of companies connecting their non-IT assets is becoming hard to ignore.  As Gartner laid it out this week, and according to Eric Savitz’s summary in Forbes:

  • Over 50% of Internet connections are things
  • In 2011, over 15 billion things on the Web, with 50 billion+ intermittent connections.
  • By 2020, over 30 billion connected things, with over 200 billion with intermittent connections.

Over the last two years, Gartner has led the thought leadership behind the trend of IT and OT (Operational Technology) convergence.  This matters to the CIO audience, because as Gartner predicted this week:

  • By 2015, in more than 70% of enterprises, a single exec will oversee all Internet connected things. 

This responsibility will most likely fall with the CIO.  And it won’t only be the performance of these assets, but also how the flood of data coming from the assets is gathered, processed, stored, and utilized for the gain of their enterprises. 

Gartner recently released a new report: Market Trends: IT Services for Machine-to-Machine Communications, U.S., 2012.  It discusses how System Integrators and “vendors to watch” like Axeda are well positioned to help IT organizations successfully take on machine data management and integration projects.  View the report for free at www.axeda.com.

Topics: M2M, machine-to-machine, M2Mize, Internet of Things

2 Billion New Voices!

Posted by Dale Calder

Feb 16, 2011 9:21:00 AM

Live from Mobile World Congress in Barcelona …

2  Billion New Voices!

I was blown away by a comment that Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, made in his keynote yesterday at Mobile World Congress.   Eric said “Over two billion new people will join the Internet in the next two years” … He went on to add (this one I’m paraphrasing) “think about the possibilities - two billion new voices that have never been part of the conversation:  What will they say?   What will they contribute?   How will the planet change through their participation?”

I found this thought amazingly exciting.  Think about it … through the mobile Internet, people living in areas without modern facilities, sewers, roads, and even schools will have the opportunity to access a world of information.   They will have an opportunity to have their voices heard.   They will be hard to ignore!  Will people rise up and change their condition …  think Egypt …  

I was traveling in India a couple of years ago and I remember seeing a young child standing in an alley - just watching the traffic go by.   The child was school age, but was not attending school.   The look on his face – hopeless…   kid

I’m excited to think that Eric’s comment could help bring a world of information to that young child.   What will that child have to say?   Could he be the next Gandhi?   The next Einstein?   A diamond in the rough just needing an opportunity to shine?

Improving the human condition - this is the real value and purpose of the Internet.   I for one – want to hear what that child has to say!

 

Topics: Axeda, wireless, Internet of Things, Mobile World Congress, google

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