The M2M platforms used to support the burgeoning Internet of Things (IoT) market are now playing centre stage with a number of key technologies and alliances springing up to widen development. Writing for M2M Now, Antony Savvas looks at some of the main platform players.
To illustrate the backing that M2M/IoT platforms are now getting, Sigfox, the French technology start-up, is in talks with investors to raise funds to help build a dedicated global network for the IoT. The company is aiming to raise at least €50 million (£42m / US$62.9m) to fund the building of a cellular network to support sensors attached to the IoT. It previously raised £13 million (€16.5m / $US20.8m) for network development.
Sigfox uses unlicensed radio spectrum and existing mobile operator masts to offer basic internet connectivity to IoT providers, which can include car makers, utility companies, smart home operators, and others firms paying a subscription for the privilege.
The company reckons it will be able to offer a service to “half the world” within three years. Spanish security company Securitas is already using Sigfox’s network to connect smart home security systems. As well as Spain, Sigfox also already offers coverage in France, the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, and parts of the US.
Alliances vital in M2M
Alliances will be key to delivering widespread M2M/IoT connectivity. This can be seen with the deal between global satellite firm Inmarsat and Stream Communications, making it an Inmarsat M2M distribution partner. This partnership reflects the growing convergence of satellite communications with existing GPRS, 3G, and 4G technologies in connecting M2M applications worldwide.
Nigel Chadwick, founding director at Stream Communications, said: “Our partnership with Inmarsat will combine GSM and satellite technology to deliver anytime, anywhere M2M. Satellite connectivity can no longer be viewed as a niche component within the M2M space. To offer our customers the most affordable, consistent and seamless service across multiple territories, satellite services must be considered a vital element in the M2M mix.”
Satellite M2M, says Chadwick, offers assurance against mobile network outages, and is not just a tool to address mobile “not spots”. In today’s increasingly connected world, he says, connectivity failure can have “serious consequences”.
Vodafone has also given global approval for the use of Kontron’s M2M smart services developer kit on its cellular networks. OEMs can use this application-ready M2M platform to connect their distributed systems via GSMbased 2G and 3G networks to the IoT and embedded cloud applications.
“The Vodafone certification is a decisive factor for our global OEM customers, as it enables the quick and cost-efficient market introduction of their cloud-based remote supervision and management appliances,” said Kevin Rhoads, vice president of Kontron’s embedded products business unit.
The Kontron kit provides scalable processor performance, and cellular network connections to cloud applications are offered with pre-installed 3G connectivity, which can be extended for higher bandwidth applications via a 4G module.
Another operator/M2M platform alliance has seen Interoute, owner of Europe’s largest fibre network, strike an M2M connectivity deal with Wyless. The Wyless Porthos Management Platform will be used across Interoute’s Virtual Data Centre (VDC) offering to support Wyless customer services and connected devices.
Porthos on Interoute VDC in New York is supporting Wyless’ partnership with a large mobile operator in the US, who will use the Porthos Management Platform to manage its M2M services. A second Interoute VDC site in London will add global capability to the Wyless platform and serve as a failover for the US location.
Securing the IoT
On the security side of things, Oberthur Technologies (OT), a leader in digital security solutions for the mobility space, is partnering with Cumulocity, the IoT platform provider, to extend the security it already offers in smartcards, banking and mobile to the IoT space.
OT is providing a solution to help Cumulocity customers securely collect data from any connected object over any network, manage those objects in real-time – including remote configuration and software updates – and easily develop business applications.
“By joining forces with Cumulocity we are extending our offer beyond connectivity and security and moving up the M2M value chain,” said Marek Juda, managing director of the solutions business unit at OT.
Bernd Groß, CEO of Cumulocity, said: “The Internet of Things is going to be based on open cloud platforms to integrate real time machine and sensor data with existing IT systems, mashups of internet services and new applications. In close collaboration with OT, our customers will be able to capitalise on the IoT based on secure, mobility-oriented and highly extensible software-as-a-service offerings.”
Herding the IoT
Not only things, but animals are now being served by M2M/IoT platforms. ThingWorx, a PTC group-owned business, recently announced that Vital Herd, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution provider for animal health and nutrition management had selected its technology. The ThingWorx application platform will be used to power M2M non-invasive individual animal monitoring technology, through sensors that the animals swallow.
This technology will offer advanced intelligence and analytics to dairy and beef operations to improve animal health and nutrition management, which until now has been largely done by visual observation.
Vital Herd is offering ePills which contain a novel sensor that captures real-time vital information from each cow, for the life of the animal. Vital Herd is using the ThingWorx application platform to develop the data, create vital benchmarks for each animal, and then deliver this information back to the producer in an easy-to-understand, actionable dashboard format.
Brian Walsh, CEO of Vital Herd, said: “Being able to collect individual animal data economically that can provide early insights into health or nutrition is vitally important, and can make a very meaningful impact on productivity. We chose the ThingWorx platform because we are able to rapidly develop intuitive applications that highlight what action may be needed before possible disease or nutrition becomes a clinical problem.”
The animal theme continues with leading IoT player Telit Wireless Solutions, which has been involved in a tracking solution for koala bears in Australia. LX Design House, an Australian IoT and M2M contract electronics design consultancy, has been working with the Australian Koala Foundation‘s conservation programme to develop “the ultimate koala tracking collar” using Telit technology.
The small and lightweight Telit GSM HE910 module is being used to track the animals with location accuracy of less than 2.5m. In addition to GPS co-ordinates the tracker provides veterinary staff with information on activity levels.