Cloud Computing

Machine-to-Machine M2M – the ‘Next Big Thing’

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Two years ago this month I published the first of a series of articles outlining Machine-to-Machine M2M [1]:

  • M2M or Internet of Things is not new; many industries over many years have been connecting physical infrastructure such as trains and electricity networks to computer-based monitoring and control systems
  • the market is expanding because several trends are making M2M easier to deploy:
    • a move from application silos in each organisation to layered and shared infrastructure
    • spread of the internet as the ubiquitous network across fixed and wireless networks
    • simplification of the programming model
    • lower cost of device and sensor technology

 

Introducing IoT Cloud

In case you missed it, there was an announcement this month by IBM of the Internet of Things Cloud.

IoT Cloud is basically a service that enables you to connect sensors and other devices in the physical environment to a data and messaging service in the cloud.

The primary advantage is you can get started immediately with no capital cost. To deliver an IoT service in the past you would have had to put up time, money and effort and build a compute and storage platform that the devices connect to. On top of that you’d have to put in place the monitoring and control application.

Now you can simply go to the IBM IoT Foundation website, sign up, start connecting devices and have the devices relay data to the cloud where it is stored:

  • devices are sensors, actuators, microprocessors and the like that connect to or are embedded in physical equipment such as traffic lights, automobiles and whitegoods
  • messaging transport from device to cloud is primarily MQTT; open source, lightweight, secure, efficient and now being baked into the firmware of many microprocessors and components
  • data and messaging services in the cloud are built on IBM’s scalable, proven, industrial grade messaging gateway and ‘historian’ or time-series datastore
  • base IoT function is readily complemented by other capabilities such as analytics and asset management, as outlined in this youtube video
  • development platform is Bluemix, simple yet powerful to the point where I bet it is being used by High School students as well as proficient app developers and software engineers.

Bluemix provides interfaces to mobility, analytics, integration, security and other services, enabling the IoT application to more quickly harness other capabilities and functions

Whereas building a secure, scalable and reliable platform is a significant investment of time, money and effort, the developer can get underway with IoT immediately and focus on building the app, embedding IoT into existing services and differentiating their offering, rather than reinventing the wheel.

What’s in it for industry?

For chip and device manufacturers, the opportunity is to connect their products to the IoT Cloud and supply to a new marketplace.

For manufacturers and developers of apps and services, whether a start-up, established enterprise, consumer electronics company or equipment or automobile manufacturer, the main benefit is being able to get started immediately with no capital cost in a simple to use development and execution platform.

For Communications Service Providers, the opportunity is to earn greater revenue and supply more than connectivity to the market: bundle IoT Cloud with existing M2M connectivity services and related capabilities such as Industrial SIM Cards, devices and monitoring services. Perhaps in the future the CSP can also bundle the third party and apps and services such as home security or energy efficiency that will be built on IoT Cloud.

In other words, the CSP can make the resulting IoT product or service much easier for people to buy and use.

CSPs and others with large capital and operational costs such as mining companies who deploy and run infrastructure can also use IoT to reduce costs and increase availability and efficiency. An example is Bharti Infratel who have optimised 33,000+ cell towers across India.

And for consumers, IoT Cloud should result in better products and services coming to market more quickly.

What Next?

In some ways, IoT Cloud is the next evolutionary step, harnessing the trends I outlined two years ago and making it easier and less expensive to design and build IoT services.

In other ways, use of cloud as the delivery model is a fundamental change, removing the need to build a platform.

Either way IoT Cloud is a likely catalyst for increased industry activity and innovation.

A more interesting question is what will people build on top of IoT Cloud?

And what new insights will be gained from analysing the accumulated data?

 

[1] The term ‘M2M’ is used by Communications Service Providers who provide connectivity services equipment embedded in endpoints or machines such as traffic lights and automobiles

 

Client Technical Advisor to Telecom & Media

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