Machine to Machine (M2M)

What is Machine to Machine (M2M)?

Machine to Machine (M2M) and the opportunities surrounding it generally refer to devices that have communications capabilities to other devices and to the services and network traffic that can be delivered using these communications capabilities.

More specifically, M2M refers to machines or devices that can communicate with other machines or devices, on either wired or wireless networks, to pass information on events, which can then be acted upon. In many cases these devices are sensors that trigger and communicate the events that can then be acted on by other machines, applications, and/or by people. 

Many terms have been used  to help convey the evolution and potential of M2M technologies and capabilities such as "Embedded Mobile" and "Internet of Things" (indicating a network that links everyday objects), - or "Spime," a word coined by author Bruce Sterling to describe an object that can be tracked through space and time throughout the lifetime of that object. 

The advent of mobile communications has helped M2M expand from wired environments into the growing wireless communications arena, allowing the deployment of devices to new and previously unavailable areas. This is helping drive new services for operators and enterprises, and more traffic onto networks. 

Further advances include two-way communications with the devices, which are expanding from sensing-only to being able to deliver full monitoring and control capabilities.

Notable segments for M2M technologies are healthcare, transportation, consumer electronics, utilities, and industrial applications. Example M2M applications include vending machines reporting inventory levels, machines tracking shipments, utilities using smart metering, and healthcare workers using feed-back sensors to determine a patient's condition. 

M2M Market Trends

The M2M market is not new and has had significant growth over the years from Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technologies, however, the market segment of communications through mobile and WiFi networks is still in a relatively early phase of development in M2M.

A number of chip vendors are working on devices that have mobile wireless communication capabilities aimed at the M2M market. The delivery of these will further accelerate the M2M market and the delivery of new services. 

Over the last few years the traditional M2M market, primarily in the enterprise segment, has been growing. According to the Groupe Spéciale Mobile Association (GSMA) "This is a market that is projected to grow at over 30% CAGR, attaining unit shipment levels of about 90m units/year in 2012".[GSM World, "Market Opportunity", GSMA] This means service providers will continue to see an increase in the number of devices connected to their networks.

Figure 1 shows M2M shipment forecasts. [GSM] These figures do not take into consideration the many new market segments where M2M will start to be deployed in, such as healthcare and consumer electronics.

 Machine to Machine Market Trends 

  Figure 1: M2M Shipment forecasts- source GSMA

To date, a large part of the market is consumer-driven with top deployments in the areas of smart metering, vehicle tracking, and security solutions. This is coupled with the fact that until recently the larger mobile service providers have shown little interest in M2M. Service providers now realize the growth opportunities for new services that are available with M2M without a huge capital investment because the network already exists. Service providers can continue to increase their connections even in a time when growth is slowing down for personal communications devices due to large market penetration. M2M over wireless means more data going over the wireless networks which means new and increasing revenue streams to the service provider.

Two examples of service providers joining in the M2M "business": Sprint recently announced two M2M initiatives that will help businesses to manage their M2M development and devices, and Telenor, a company that has been supporting M2M for a number of years, acquired early M2M service delivery adopters in 2000 and started Telenor Connexion in 2008 to work in the M2M areas.

M2M technology is still evolving, but based on use by volume, the potential is significant. For example, in healthcare worldwide, approximately 860 million chronic disease patients benefit from monitoring devices and/or sensors; utilities use approximately 200 million energy meters; and in transportation   approximately 75 million cars are served by traffic monitoring devices.

Benefits of M2M

The benefits of M2M are broad ranging. Having detailed, up-to-date information from sensors allows for the best decisions to be made- be it related to a waste water treatment plant or healthcare services - it helps ensure that the most appropriate action can be taken in a timely fashion.

M2M can make a big difference in delivering improved performance, streamlining operations, improving customer experience, and by delivering up-to-date information, supporting the delivery of new services. By improving information flow, M2M enables better service delivery for consumers, such as:

  • Environmental monitoring using smart meters on pollution levels or energy consumption allowing decisions to be made that mitigate issues and manage networks based on need or demand.
  • Connecting ATM machines to clearing houses or banking computers. Often this will not be done via IP links due to security constraints.
  • Connecting swipe card terminals and other electronic payment systems to POS concentrators.
  • Traffic monitoring and adapting the traffic flows based on needs and circumstances at the time.
  • Remote monitoring of patients, allowing healthcare workers to react as necessary to any changes in a patient's condition.

 The ability of M2M to enable such changes supports

  • Better, faster and more efficient processes
  • Timely decision making
  • Return on investments

M2M Technology

For the last few years for mobile-based communications, SMS has been the favored approach for M2M, and is seen as the next growth area for Short Message Service (SMS) communications. The pervasiveness of GSM mobile networks ensures that the communications ability is "always on" when needed (see the following figure). The following are some benefits of an SMS approach for M2M:

  • The immediacy of SMS allows for speedy delivery of the information
  • SMS is cheaper than data services over mobile networks
  • IP communication over mobile networks may not match SMS for speed until Long Term Evolution (LTE) has been rolled out
  • IP or "data" communications over the network are more expensive than SMS communications

 Machine to Machine Technology

Figure 2:  M2M enabled by SMS communications

The pervasiveness of SMS and its capabilities means that cheap, mobile-connected devices can be deployed to deliver data over affordable networks. Once transmitted, the data is received by an SMS Gateway and passed on through the network to a recipient where it possibly can be aggregated with information from other devices, and then acted upon by applications or individuals. By aggregating messages at the recipient point (possibly creating a situation where messages are mixed with all other messages on the network) instead of at the SMS Gateway, service providers are losing performance and revenue.

By using the SMS Gateway, specifically designed for aggregating SMS data, the service provider can better manage performance on the SMS delivery for the M2M market. Both the management of the messages through the network and the aggregation of the data are potential growth areas for service providers.

Future directions for M2M will include IP communications and more complex devices where the two-way communications capabilities will include areas of Person to Machine (P2M) and Machine to Person (M2P). These will involve more complex interactions, and attention to user interfaces will be of notable importance.

Traditional wired communications M2M capabilities are still deployed, and they require a device to call into a central point, which has modem capabilities establishing the connectivity for the transfer of information. New deployments would generally steer away from such communications unless time is not an issue when establishing connections and transferring data. Many Point of Sales (POS) and automated stocking systems, which update to a central point over night, use this technology.  

Summary

Machine to Machine is an important and growing area of communications. Dialogic has been involved in this space for many years, delivering the low level communications capabilities and APIs for the development of these systems. As communications move to IP, Dialogic will continue to maintain a focus to support these capabilities for the future.

 

Dialogic® Products Support and Enable M2M

Dialogic products support M2M by enabling the necessary communications of the information and the application developers who are aggregating the received data. Today, the primary communication type is SMS, although similar abilities to support IP-based communications are available.

There are several Dialogic product lines that will support the development of M2M solutions. This list contains solution examples where Dialogic products are being used by our customers:

The listed product lines cover almost the whole area of M2M communications. For each of the 3 product lines we have given an overview on how they can serve in specific M2M market segments.

Dialogic® DSI Signaling Servers and Gateways

Dialogic® Distributed Signaling Interface (DSI) Signaling Servers enable affordable, high-performance, distributed, cross-platform, cross-operating system signaling applications in carrier networks.

The Dialogic® DSI Signaling Interface Unit (DSI SIU) and the Dialogic® Signaling Gateway (DSI SGW) are based on the Dialogic® DSI SS7G31 Signaling Server and the Dialogic® DSI SS7G32 Signaling Server. Collectively, these two servers are known as the Dialogic® DSI SS7G3x Signaling Servers.

Dialogic® DSI Signaling Interface Unit (DSI SIU)

- Provides signaling connectivity for distributed, multi-system-based telecom applications. The DSI SIU offloads signal processing from application servers and can run a wide range of signaling protocols, including specific local variants, enabling worldwide deployment in a variety of applications. The DSI SS7G3x Signaling Servers are suitable for solutions where a high throughput of signaling traffic is required.

Dialogic® DSI Signaling Gateway (DSI SGW)

- Provides an interface between SS7 and IP networks, and is a notable building block in next-generation networks and service platforms. Models are available for a variety of SS7 network connectivity technologies and densities.

Dialogic® DSI SS7G31 Signaling Server

- Connects 4 T1/E1 ports, and can manage 4 to 64 SS7 low-speed links.

Dialogic® DSI SS7G32 Signaling Server

- Connects from 4 to 12 T1/E1 ports and manage 4 to 192 channelized SS7 links.

Dialogic® Signaling Servers can be used for the deployment of SMS-C within the network. SMS-C does the initial store and forward of the SMS Message.

For more information, see the Dialogic white paper entitled "Succeeding with SMS Today," located here.

Dialogic® PowerMediaTM Host Media Processing Software

The PowerMedia product line is an excellent platform when SMS, Voice or Video needs to be processed by computer systems. This can be, for example, the generation of SMS, Voice or Video Messages in the case of an alarm or another event. The PowerMedia products are being used in security systems, health care and other vertical markets.

The PowerMedia products are in general used on IP-based communication links; however T1/E1 connections can also be supported for compatibility and to support the transition to IP.

Dialogic® Diva® Media Boards and Software

The Dialogic® Diva® hardware and software products provide a future proof and flexible platform for the implementation of "traditional" M2M solutions. Here the support of the major Analog modem protocols is a requirement, as in most cases the system will have to support both legacy and new equipment. The remote devices are usually sensors, meters, remote controls, alarm systems and electronic payment systems using a great variety of data communication protocols which are rarely supported by the IP based communications servers.

The physical connectivity of the Diva based system to the communication link can be E1/T1, ISDN PRI and BRI, Analog and IP (SIP/RTP). The same application can use different types of connectivity so it is possible to implement solutions that can be installed into most known networks.

The type of communications application that can be implemented based on the Diva platform is fairly unlimited. Typical M2M applications that have been implemented on the Diva platform are network and protocol test equipment, Point of Sales (POS) concentrators, remote meter reading, Remote Access (RAS), and SMS Gateways.

A free downloadable Diva SDK is available for Windows and Linux. Great care has been taken to allow for easy development of M2M servers. There are several APIs for many different programming languages (e.g. C, C++, C#, VB-Script, .NET, Java) so that most development environments can be used. The Diva SDK contains many ready to run samples that can be used as boiler plates for M2M applications. For example, there is the "SMSServiceCenter" sample that shows how to implement an SMS Service Center.