Modular M2M/IoT makes sense
In a competitive environment companies need to reach the market quickly. So why go through the hassle of designing an M2M device and getting it certified?The process can take several months, says Bob Emmerson. Why not use a pre-certified device and focus on the creating the app?
That’s the basic pitch of innovative vendors like ClearConnex and Multi-Tech. But there is an even more radical alternative and that is a high-tech version of the Lego™ building block model.
For the moment let’s not differentiate between M2M and the IoT; that comes towards the end. The platform has sockets for the plug-in sensor modules. Around 70 are available: CO, CO2, soil moisture, presence, humidity, temperature, vehicle detection and recently even sensors for monitoring water quality. There are 11 mainstream wireless interfaces: wide and local area and the platform enables connectivity to any cloud platform. In recognition of the zillions of “things” that are set for deployment, each sensor node may use IPv6, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, ZigBee, 3G/GPRS as well as industrial and lightweight communications protocols.
Developers can take off-the-shelf generic products, plug them together and have the data acquisition and data transmission components of a solution up and running in a matter of minutes. That enables performance to be evaluated in an equally short time frame. Companies can employ two or more interfaces in order to evaluate performance options and even use them in pilot deployments. Product development was done by in-house developers who were targeting the requirements of third-party developers.
Yes, it does sound like something that is too good to be true, but go to the site and you’ll find an impressive list of use cases. And no, the company is not paying me. I love writing about genuine innovations that advance the intrinsic functionality and help realise the numerous, significant benefits that M2M can deliver to society and the economy.
I continue to see discussions on Linkedin about the difference between IoT and M2M. There is no formal definition, but I see the IoT as being a concept based on M2M technology. And the concept is to enable physical, everyday objects, things, to be connected to the Internet, thereby allowing many tasks and information exchanges to be automated. M2M devices are not everyday objects. The majority employ cellular connectivity and require certification, both are impractical and cost way too much for the IoT. Therefore, one can draw a line between M2M devices and IoT objects, but at times it can be blurry.
If one carries this distinction forward then it is clear that IoT connectivity has to come via low-cost RF technology such as ZigBee, RFID, Bluetooth and WiFi. And wide area connectivity will come via a certified gateway router.
M2M employs sensors to monitor and measure physical, quantifiable parameters and they are the common element in all solutions but it’s easy to overlook the pivotal role they play in IoT networks. For example, part of Libelium’s smart city project solution includes a solution that monitors and displays free parking slots. Sensors that are buried in the ground detect the variation of the magnetic field generated by a car parked on it. The information is sent to the router every five minutes and this allows citizens to find a free parking spot in the shortest time.
Bob Emmerson is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to M2M Now, No Jitter and Ziff Davis
Photo credit: Gemalto M2M