Networking & Communications

It's Nothing Personal

May 1, 2005 By: Barbara G. Goode, Sensors Sensors


Whether or not you know what M2M stands for, you already understand the concept it represents: automation. In usage, the term refers to automation accomplished on behalf of humans (but without their involvement) based on sensor data communicated over a wireless infrastructure. It is sometimes known as pervasive Internet, ubiquitous computing, or WSN—wireless sensor networking.

 Barbara G. Goode
Barbara G. Goode

An article I read recently purported that M2M could stand for machine to machine, man to machine, or machine to man. But the real promise of M2M can be fulfilled only when a person is not key to the operation of an M2M network (though he or she may be able to eavesdrop at any time). This is what The FocalPoint Group (www.thefpgroup.com) refers to in its research report that projects that nearly 880 million new M2M-enabled devices will be produced annually by 2010. Don't we all have our hands full keeping track of the devices that already exist?

"M2M technologies create the conduit for delivering a whole new level of service functionality previously impossible to attain," says FocalPoint Group managing director John C. Williams. His company points out that M2M represents a new era of connectivity, where everyday devices (lighting systems, meters, air conditioners, vehicles, etc.) are network enabled and able to send and receive vital operational information to improve uptime reliability, customer service, and revenue-generating opportunities.

Some of those opportunities were on display in the M2M Zone at the March CTIA Wireless show—the telecommunications industry's premier wireless event. In this dedicated pavilion were stalwarts of the telecom market—carriers such as Aeris.Net (the company that proposed the idea of the M2M pavilion to show management) and Motient Communications, and cellular device manufacturers such as Kyocera and Sony Ericsson—plus participants not endemic to the telecom realm. They were there to discuss services and products they offer specifically for M2M applications. Some of them involve humans for practical purposes, such as the GPS-enabled device that prompts a driver to adjust the pressure in his truck's tires when he moves from paved to unpaved surfaces (a Kyocera representative patiently explained to me that it would not be a good idea to surprise the driver with automated inflation adjustment—though this was certainly possible). Here it was clear that the possibilities of M2M expand far beyond the factory floor that gave rise to the term M2M. By integrating the strengths of local area network protocols such as ZigBee, and with the cellular infrastructure already in place, it is possible to imagine all kinds of new possibilities that engineers and managers are sure to seize upon. To this end, Motient described its low data rate usage plan that provides a single interface (and consolidated bill) for access to all carriers necessary to carry out your work. Check out the movie on the Aeris.Net Web site and let your imagination go.

Barbara G. Goode
Barbara G. Goode


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