First M2M Event Showcases Device Networking

Machine-to-machine conference brings together suppliers, partners and users as the new technology explores market opportunities.

The first-ever M2M Expo and Conference, held April 13-15 in Dallas, gathered industry professionals to define and explore the emerging machine-to-machine market. Expo attendees included technology suppliers, integrators, original equipment manufacturers and early adopters of the technology.

M2M, which is also known as machine-to-mobile, focuses on linking sensors and devices over wired and wireless networks. A hot market for M2M is the building automation segment—one of the major reasons the M2M Expo was co-located with BuilCon, a budding trade show and conference for building system professionals. While BuilCon highlighted environmental control, security, energy management and other solutions, the M2M Expo showcased ways M2M technology can provide the backbone for these next-generation building systems.

But M2M holds promise for much more than building automation. Early on in the conference it became clear that, while new in name, M2M has been around for a number of years, often referred to as telemetry, device networking or device relationship management.

What is new is the convergence of technologies that is making M2M feasible at lower cost points (as low as $5/node), over longer distances and in more diverse applications. These include asset management, remote machine health monitoring, shipping container monitoring, radio frequency identification (RFID) applications and point-of-sale, among others.

Bob Sheffres, vice president of sales and marketing for Opto 22, in Temecula, Calif., says M2M combines three elements—the physical asset or device connectivity; the communications and carrier services; and the hosted software application. “The glue tying all of this together is the Internet protocol. IP is the universal language for all systems, whether wireless wide-area network (WWAN), wireless local area network or wired networks,” says Sheffres.

Partner for performance

While the Expo was lightly attended by end-users, of great importance to exhibitors were the relationships formed with other suppliers and exhibitors. Key to a successful M2M practice is partnering among companies that can complement each other’s areas of expertise.

Take, for example, exhibitor Cingular Interactive, the Mobitex Network division of Cingular Wireless, in Atlanta, Ga., which offers an Alliance Program of M2M hardware and software vendors. Tom Langan, executive director of Cingular Interactive, says what brought Cingular to M2M were the “rumblings two years ago about device networking.” Langan says Mobitex meets the short, frequent data exchange needs of M2M with its broad coverage, 99.9 percent availability and low latency of 3 to 10 seconds, roundtrip.

Spencer Cramer, cofounder and president of ei3, Montvale, N.J., says the company offers partners its online software and communications network technologies for use in monitoring and service systems. “Our tools power a major automation supplier’s 24/7 online service and support center,” says Cramer.

During the Expo, Opto 22 announced the new Nvio M2M system, which is the result of its partnership with leading M2M suppliers SensorLogic, based near Dallas, and Sony Ericsson. Nvio is a low-cost, turnkey solution that combines all three M2M elements in a single platform, including sensor interfaces, communications components (for wired Ethernet, wireless LAN, dial-up and cellular) and 24-hour device access through the Web portal. Developed by SensorLogic, the Web portal is a secure interface to view assets and manage alarms and messages.

As part of Nvio, Opto is offering the $995 Nvio Starter Kit, which embeds WWAN technology from Sony Ericsson to transmit data over cellular networks. Says Opto’s Sheffres, “With the starter kit, users can take a piece of hardware right out of the box, plug it in and use their PCs to immediately begin receiving data.”

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