I Dream of IoT/Chapter 6 : IoT and Machine-to-Machine (M2M)
Introduction to machine-to-machine communication
The Internet of Things (IoT) is the interconnection of uniquely identified stand-alone and embedded computing devices within the existing internet infrastructure. Usually, IoT is expected to offer advanced connectivity of devices, systems, and services that goes beyond machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and covers a variety of protocols, domains, and applications.
The M2M communication of the IoT is a very useful and effective aspect of the system. For example, IoT at the workplace — particularly in the factory — has already taken over the mundane tasks of monitoring industrial processes, managing fleets of vehicles and assets, and securing the facility. Additionally, it's also used in our own homes to control home security, adjust energy consumption, etc. In the future, our home will likely be called the smart home because of all the components that will use the technology.
M2M refers to technologies that allow both wireless and wired systems to communicate with other devices. The history of M2M has existed in different forms since the advent of computer networking automation and predates cellular communication. The expansion of IP networks across the world has made it far easier for M2M communication to take place and has lessened the amount of power and time necessary for information to be communicated between machines. These networks also allow an array of new business opportunities and connections between consumers and producers in terms of the products being sold. Originally M2M was used for automation and instrumentation, but more recently it has also been used in telecommunications applications.
The anatomy of M2M
Any developing field comes with its own concepts and jargon, so it's useful to map these out as clearly as possible. Our taxonomy is outlined below:
- 1. Things
- The "things" in the IoT, or the "machines" in M2M, are physical entities whose identity and state are being relayed to an internet-connected IT infrastructure. Almost anything to which you can attach a sensor — a cow in a field, a container on a cargo vessel, the air-conditioning unit in your office, or a lamppost in the street — can become a node in the Internet of Things.
- 2. Sensors
- These are the components of "things" that gather and/or broadcast data, be it location, altitude, velocity, temperature, illumination, motion, power, humidity, blood sugar, air quality, soil moisture... you name it. These devices are rarely computers as we generally understand them, although they may contain many or all of the same elements (processor, memory, storage, inputs and outputs, OS, software). The key point is that they are increasingly cheap, plentiful and can communicate, either directly with the internet or with internet-connected devices.
- 3. Comms (local-area)
- All IoT sensors need some means of relaying data to the outside world. There's a plethora of short-range or local area wireless technologies available, including: RFID, NFC, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth (including Bluetooth Low Energy), XBee, Zigbee, Z-Wave, and Wireless M-Bus. There's no shortage of wired links either, including Ethernet, HomePlug, HomePNA, HomeGrid/G.hn, and LonWorks
- 4. Comms (wide-area)
- For long range or wide-area links there are available mobile networks (using GSM, GPRS, 4G, LTE, or WiMAX for example) and satellite connections. New wireless networks such as the ultra-narrowband SIGFOX and the TV white-space NeulNET are also emerging to cater specifically for M2M connectivity. Fixed "things" in convenient locations could use wired Ethernet or phone lines for wide-area connections. Some modular sensor platforms, such as Libelium's WaspMote, can be configured with multiple local- and wide-area connectivity options (ZigBee, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GSM/GPRS, RFID/NFC, GPS, Ethernet). Along with the ability to connect many different kinds of sensors, this allows devices to be configured for a wide range of vertical markets.
- 5. Server (on premises)
- Some types of M2M installation, such as a smart home or office, will use a local server to collect and analyse data — both in real time and incoherent — from assets on the local area network. These on-premise servers or simpler gateways will usually also connect to cloud-based storage and services.
- 6. Local scanning device
- "Things" with short-range sensors will often be located in a exclusive area but not permanently connected to a local area network (RFID-tagged livestock on a farm, or credit-card-toting shoppers in a mall, for example). In this case, local scanning devices will be required to extract data and transmit it onward for processing.
- 7. Storage and analytics
- If you think today's internet creates a lot of data, IoT will be another matter entirely. It will require massive, scalable storage and processing capacity, which will almost invariably reside in the cloud, except for specific localised or security-sensitive cases. Service providers will obviously have access here, not only to curate the data and tweak the analytics, but also for line-of-business processes such as customer relations, billing, technical support, and so on.
- 8. User-facing services
- Subsets of the data and analyses from the IoT will be available to users or subscribers, presented (hopefully) via easily attainable and navigable interfaces on a full spectrum of secure client devices. M2M and the Internet of Things has huge potential, but they currently comprise a heterogeneous collection of established and emerging, often competing, technologies and standards (although moves are afoot here). This is because the concept applies to, and has grown from, a wide range of market sectors.
In systems engineering, a system monitor (SM) is a process within a distributed system for collecting and storing state data. This is a fundamental principle supporting application performance management. M2M communication is used in system monitoring applications such as:
- water level measurement
- air quality measurement
- monitoring of gas and pollutant levels in the air
- monitoring system and component temperatures and pressures
Water management systems, using M2M wireless technology devices, can monitor irrigation schedules in order to provide the right amount of water to farmland using weather data and water evaporation level. The installed device can record the run time cycles and other needed data to maintain the system and the irrigation schedule. The State of California regulates their water usage levels and irrigation schedules using M2M. The ability to monitor electrical power systems, waste-water treatment, and oil and gas production provides an effective system for maintaining and improving efficiency, thusly saving time, money, and resources while reducing maintenance costs. It also allows companies to make immediate decisions based on accurate, real-time data from near and far-flung portions of their infrastructure.
M2M and the mobile environment
M2M communications — or the broader category of the Internet of Things — is changing the way many industries go to market and operate. Pretty much everything these days is being connected. There are many things that can be accomplished by upgrading communication methods, especially in relation to the mobile environment. Mobile network operators (MNOs) need to upgrade their system to become more reliable in every field for the future.
For instance in the realm of vehicles, the cars of the future are going to communicate with each other to reduce necessary human intervention, which can lead to fewer accidents and improved traffic. Vehicles can be controlled autonomously without the full need of a driver to do all the work. These always- or almost always-connected services include transmitting information between vehicles and traffic lights or bridges as well as applications to tell mass transit users when the next bus will arrive. There are many advantages to implementing this technology such as helping people navigate through remote areas, reducing the time of people waiting for public transport, and avoiding traffic jams.
M2M and its impact on the telecommunication industry
M2M communication is something that involves a large number of intelligent machines that share information and make collaborative decisions without direct human intervention. This potentially leads to achieving improved cost efficiency.
M2M offers the telecommunication industry a great opportunity as it needs a lot of communication systems via various technology families, such as IP, RFID, sensor networks, smart metering, etc. According to Galetić et al., its communication principles are present in many different industry verticals. Some of the most prominent M2M supported application areas are:
- Security – surveillance applications, alarms, object/human tracking, etc.;
- Transportation – fleet management, emission control, toll payment, road safety, etc.; remarkably interwoven with Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) concepts;
- e-Health – remote patient monitoring, Mobile Health, telecare;
- Manufacturing – production chain monitoring and automation;
- Utilities – measurement, provisioning and billing of utilities such as oil, water, electricity, heat, etc.;
- Industrial supply and provisioning – freight supply and distribution monitoring, vending machines, etc.; and
- Facility management – informatisation and automation of various home/building/campus-related resources management.
All of the above examples represent fields where associated equipment must be connected to telecommunication devices that can alert for out-of-range and dangerous scenarios. Members of the telecommunication industry such as Ericsson, Nokia, Siemens, and Motorola have taken the opportunity to seize on the idea and plan for the Internet of Things and the important concept of machine-to-machine interaction.
The internet isn't just for communicating with people; it is now also used to intelligently connect devices which must be able to communicate and interact with speeds, scales, and capabilities far beyond what people originally needed or used. The Internet of Things (IoT) is slowly making the world more agile and functional via M2M and other protocols. M2M represents a developing field with its own concepts that include sensors, communications in local-area and wide-area, server on premises, local scanning devices, user-facing services, and storage and analytics. Additionally, the tech has developed into the mobile environment to further improve people and machine communication, including in monitoring systems that collect data and drive decisions. M2M is also having an impact on the telecommunication industry, helping change how we interact with our devices.
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