Industry forecasts predict that there will be more than 20 billion IoT(Internet of Things) devices deployed across various industry segments by the year 2020. This means 20 billion heterogeneous connected devices that need to be managed remotely. A connected device can be as crude as a sensor relaying its data or it could be a device with its own software module that is capable of sending and receiving data. The difference between the two devices is that with a sensor, the focus is on the hardware and in the latter case the integration is with a software module embedded on the device.
This white paper aims to address the challenges and need for new platform design which is agnostic in controlling and managing discrete M2M devices across different industry verticals.
M2M or IoT?
M2M and IoT even though are used interchangeably, M2M is more of a telco term that refers embedded hardware communicating over cellular or wired networks with a software application to perform service management. M2M is point-to-point communication between devices and the service management applications.
IoT is broader and has more applications than just service management. IoT devices communicate over IP Networks and provide feed to enterprise applications.
In this sense, M2M is a subset of IoT. Telco’s gravitate towards M2M solutions as opposed to IoT given their technical expertise in the traditional network. Even so, IoT has greater potential in terms of ability to accommodate a wider variety of devices and is more viable due to economies of scale.
Connected devices range from a smart watch to washing machines, from windmills to GPS trackers. The variety of devices and the lack of uniform standards governing the device manufacturers have caused various vendors to develop their own implementation and communication strategy. Most of these devices are managed by service managers written by the manufacturer itself, thus tightly coupling the device and the device management application.
The industry segment of IoT devices could range from home appliances to health care devices to smart watches to fitness gadgets to GPS trackers to industrial equipment. The applications for which the device communicates are just as diversified. There is no standard technology used by the IoT device manufacturers.
Interoperability is by far the biggest challenge in developing a device management solution across industry verticals.
Connected devices reside in varied ecosystems or industry verticals like connected cars, Healthcare, Smartphones, smart cities, fleet management in shipping etc. The nature of the devices and the industry it caters to define accessibility and availability of the on the network.
Security is an important factor for those living among connected devices. The security aspect of connected devices is only just taken seriously and is evolving to support encryption and transport data over secure protocols. Ignoring security can have serious consequences and can help perpetuate misuse and fraud.
Devices traditionally connected over the cellular and satellite networks but is now moving towards NGN. The protocols used by today’s devices include MQTT, AMQP, HTTP and LWM2M. In the situation where devices are tightly coupled with vendor’s device/service management platform, most of the devices communicate over proprietary protocols thus making an enterprise solution for a variety of devices hard to implement.
Managing heterogeneous devices means provisioning of the devices in the ecosystem, application management on the device, firmware update on the device, diagnostics and troubleshooting the device remotely. M2M devices also send out specific communication for which they have been created, for example, a smart watch sends out its location at configured intervals. This necessitates device specific information be routed through secure logical bearers to respective enterprises in different industry verticals. Managing multiple enterprise application on the platform requires careful management.
M2M devices are live devices that need to be managed remotely as sending a service personal to the location of the device may not be possible many times. Imagine a device in the hull of a ship that malfunctions, an engineer cannot be immediately sent forward to tackle the issue.
The way forward
Understanding the evolving market of connected devices is important to build a mature solution. According to a VDC research, the future of the embedded technology is moving towards Java although a great many devices exist that are developed using C, C++, Assembly, Python and C# etc.
M2M Platform solution should synchronize with the evolution of embedded technology in devices.
The M2M/IoT devices cannot be always expected to have the same battery, processing or memory or bandwidth of an internet router or a smartphone for that matter. The devices will do well to communicate in a constrained environment.
Even though the industry standards are in the nascent stages, there are standardized protocols evolving like the LWM2M (Lightweight M2M), LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Network) etc. It’s imperative to design solutions that will support these standardized protocols as mandatory among the proprietary protocols which are anyway necessary.
A solution with a developer platform is essential to boost M2M application development. Device vendors and developers can be invited to use our developer platform to integrate the device apps with Application platform. This also enables device app developers to practice a common standard of development.
Focus should also be on end-to-end solutions that include enterprise onboarding, rating and charging and business integrations with subscription based models. A solution that binds the device manufacturers and the enterprise users seamlessly will have the most impact.
M2M is a volume game. In order to support millions of varied devices belonging to different vendors and enterprises, the solution needs to be scalable. A cloud-based solution that can be expanded and deployed across several locations is best suited given the mobility of the devices.
Telco’s should be unafraid to expand their horizons into the relatively new and challenging domain of M2M. It is an industry riddled with obstacles but it is also an opportunity that cannot be ignored. A careful watch on the device vendors and the evolution of the market is necessary for the M2M platform developers to remain relevant. The industry is at a stage where it is innovation in motion, it promises not only profits but also is an opportunity to be part history making given the scope of technological advancements possible.