The convergence of machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, big data analytics, and the growth in connected devices is enabling a highly connected world — known as the “Internet of Things” (IoT).
The coming decades will be characterized by billions of smart devices, exabytes of sensor-generated data, and trillions of dollars in economic growth and cost savings. Gartner rightfully observes that “the Internet of Things has become a powerful force for business transformation, and its disruptive impact will be felt across all industries and all areas of society.”
In 2 older Techzine articles, “The next step in internet evolution” and “The network can make it or break it”, we have respectively discussed the business opportunities and the network challenges related to the IoT. In this 3rd post, we will explore how M2M applications will change the way we live, work, and travel.
Futurists have been talking about smart cars and intelligent buildings for many years, but machine-to-machine communications and data analytics are not as new as many believe. For more than 40 years Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) has helped transportation, utilities, and industrial companies manage applications, optimize processes, and reduce cost of operations. Did you know that Henry Ford already measured pacing of the Model-T assembly line more than a century ago?
But it’s only very recently that the various technologies have come together to deliver affordable and scalable products and services.
M2M COMMUNICATIONS ENABLE A WORLD OF CONNECTED SERVICES
M2M is a broad label, used to describe any technology that enables connected devices to exchange information over short range and wide range wireless and wired networks, and perform actions without the manual assistance of humans.
- Decreasing hardware costs and ubiquitous mobile access are enabling smarter endpoints and seamless connectivity. Adding a few sensor chips or a wireless connectivity module to a new product or device is not going to raise its price dramatically. The average smartphone contains about a dozen sensors, and a modern car may well have 100 on board.
- The proliferation of these mobile devices and M2M endpoints is creating a whole range of opportunities for new applications. They constitute the foundation of sensor networks that enable monitoring and remote control of daily life objects at home, in the city, in your car, at the office, etc.
- Wireless and wired data networks are the backbone of the IoT. LTE networks complement short range wireless technologies like Zigbee, Z-wave, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi® to assure wide-area machine-to-machine connectivity. Further evolution of the standards, such as LTE MTC (LTE for machine-type communications) will optimize today’s 4G mobile networks for IoT applications. But also fixed broadband gateways and small cells have a role to play in providing in-building coverage and accelerating the deployment of new applications in connected homes and offices.
The ever-growing number and variety of networked devices will require a scalable and more energy- and resource-efficient network. Sensor-generated data will be massive, M2M endpoints and applications may behave differently, and traffic patterns may be very application specific.
5G, the next generation mobile network, will be designed to provide optimal performance and a superior customer experience for all services, supporting the broadest possible range from video streaming to IoT applications. It is expected to be more spectrally efficient, support much higher device connection densities, prolong device battery life, widen network coverage and reduce signaling overhead.
THRIVING ON THE 4 V’S OF BIG DATA
The Internet of Things is going to generate massive flows of data. Abundance of available data, combined with algorithms and tools to analyze this information, and a growing understanding of how this collective data can be used, will add greater efficiency to our lives. From an IT perspective, the IoT is thriving on the “4 V’s” of big data:
- Volume (data at rest): World's data volume is set to grow 40% per year, up to 50x by 2020, of which 35% of stored data contains information that might be valuable if analyzed. Nearly 40% of this information will be “touched” by cloud providers.
- Velocity (data in motion): The average broadband speed is growing with a factor 3 in the period 2012–2017, and the world may have exascale computers before 2020, yielding a 1000x performance improvement over machines of 2010.
- Variety (data in many forms): 100 TB data is uploaded to Facebook daily, as well as 48 hours of Youtube video every minute. In healthcare, electrocardiograms graphs can be generated based on 1000 readings a second, while heart rate, respiration rate and blood oxygen are displayed each second, resulting in 86,400 readings per day. At the same time, many millions of DVDs are ‘filled’ daily by the information produced by video surveillance cameras.
- Value (data enriching our daily lives): 83% of US government ITers say real-time data offer substantial savings. 87% say it can save significant number of lives. 75% say that big data can help improve the quality of citizens’ lives.
As storage and processor hardware further evolve, and the capabilities of data analytics and artificial intelligence software develop, consumers and businesses will get more and more value from big data.
Figure 1. Big data’s incremental value
THE IOT WILL POWER A SMARTER WORLD
Enabled by wireless and wireline data networks, M2M platforms, and big data analytics, new and innovative IoT applications will contribute to lifestyle, safety, productivity, energy savings, and provide a better customer or user experience. Many devices and applications already found their way to the public, either as a prototype or a commercial product.
IoT technology can help meet people’s basic needs for safety, security, and food, while enriching their home with digital lifestyle, comfort, and entertainment applications. Gartner says that a typical family home could contain more than 500 smart devices by 2022.
- Home-energy equipment and safety and security systems will become popular 1st, leading the way to broader consumer adoption.
- In 2014, 13% of US households owned at least one smart home device, 26% intended to acquire any device/system within 12 months.
- By 2020, the connected kitchen will contribute at least 15 percent savings in the food and beverage industry, while leveraging big data analytics.
By 2020, a quarter billion connected vehicles will enable new in-vehicle services and automated driving capabilities. Messages exchanged by these cars and their environment will generate 30 terabytes of data each day, creating $14.5B in potential big data value worldwide.
- A high-end Lexus contains 67 microprocessors, and even the world's cheapest car, the Tata Nano, has a dozen.
- From April 2018 onwards, all new cars in the EU will be equipped with eCall technology. In the event of a serious accident, eCall automatically dials 112 – Europe's single emergency number.
- Direct communication between cars may reduce accidents by up to 80%. In the 6 years since its self-driving car project began, Google vehicles have been involved in 12 minor accidents during more than 1.8 million miles of autonomous and manual driving combined. Google says that: “Not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident.”
By 2050, 66% of the world population will live in cities. Broadband networks, connected things and open data will help drive competitiveness, sustainability, and livability. They will drastically change the urban experience for city dwellers and travelers. According to BI, urbanized land areas will generate 4.1 TB data per day per km2 by 2016.
- In Amsterdam, the Netherlands, street lighting can be adjusted for to improve security and save energy.
- San Jose, USA, aims to improve quality of life through real-time data tracking of air quality, traffic flow, and more.
- The Chattanooga (USA) smart grid avoided 58 million minutes of customer interruption.
- An intelligent guidance system lets drivers find a free parking space and pay for it via their smart phone in Pisa, Italy.
- In the Spanish city of Santander, waste is only collected when garbage bins are at full capacity.
- In Sussex, in the UK, a device worn around the neck lets family and caregivers keep track of people with dementia.
THE WAY FORWARD FOR SERVICE PROVIDERS
To be successful in the Internet of Things a good market segmentation, a clear understanding of customers’ requirements, and a compelling value proposition are important.
M2M service providers will need to conduct a thorough analysis of their strategic priorities and capabilities before determining their best route-to-market. And look for innovative services, business models, and partnerships to make their business case flow.
-  “The Digital Universe of Opportunities: Rich Data and the Increasing Value of the Internet of Things”
-  “How Big Data Saves Money and Lives”, SAP, 2013
-  “Smart Home Ecosystem: IoT and Consumers”, Parks Associates, 2014
-  “Predicts 2015: The Internet of Things”, Gartner, January 2015
-  “Emerging Technologies: Big Data in the Connected Car”, HIS, 2013
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