Developing a new solution…Cellular module, SocketModem or Modem?

Hello again, and thanks for taking time to read my blog!

At Novotech, we sell a large variety of products that allow customers to acheive their M2M needs.  These products have a wide range of cost, functionality and integration requirements.  So....which one is right for you, to meet your needs now, and in the future?

There isn't a perfect rule for you, unfortunately, as every company has differing requirements and capabilities (such as internal programming talents, timelines, available resources and much more).  Below is a guideline that may help make your selection just a bit easier....

Using a Cellular Module:

What does this involve: Installing a Cellular module either onto your existing systemboard or adding a board to allow you to integrate the cellular module into your solution

This is a great solution for you if: You have sufficient internal resources (or can contract out the work) to develop the module into your are deploying a large number of units (thousands, at least) want to have complete control over the design of your have time/resources to handle the necessary certifications required (and possible re-certifications, as well)

This is not a great solution for you if: You don't have a lot of time to take your solution to market.....You want a solution that is "external" to your current product or you cannot easily add a component to your existing solution due to space restrictions....You are not rolling out a lot of units (less than 10,000-15,000, as an example)

Important to know: Depending on the geographical location where you are deploying your solution and on which cellular carrier you are using, you will likely have several different certifications that will be required to deploy your units.  While some / most of this work can be done on a contract basis, it is important to determine the level of effort prior to beginning your efforts.

Using a SocketModem:

What does this involve: Installing a pre-made component that contains a cellular connectivity solution embedded on it.  This component contains much of the required components (embedded IP stack, monitoring tools / applications, some with GPS tracking, etc) contained on the device to allow you to access the cellular networks.

This is a great solution for you if: You are looking to design your own device / add wireless connectivity to your offering, but do not wish to invest the time/cost of using a cellular module....You are looking to deploy a large number of units (at least a few thousand), and are looking to use a cost effective have some available resources for (or are willing to contract out) some of the required certifications to design/deploy your may wish to upgrade the cellular technologies on these devices at a future date.

This is not a great solution for you if: You don't have a lot of time to take your solution to market.....You want a solution that is "external" to your current product or you cannot easily add a component to your existing solution....You are not rolling out a lot of units (less than 5,000 - 10,000, as an example)...

Important to know: Despite the fact that you are using a product that is "certified", you will likely have to undergo some additional certifications once you deploy these units inside of your offering.  Novotech always recommends some investigation into these efforts during your planning phases, to avoid future issues.

Using an External Cellular Modem:

What does this involve: Attaching an external cellular modem (via Serial, USB or Ethernet) to your existing hardware, where the modem establishes a connection to the Internet via the cellular network.  The modem handles most (if not all) of the communication for the device.

This is a great solution for you if: You want to allow a device to access the Internet that does not have the capability of adding on-board cellular connectivity.....You need to quickly deploy devices to market.... You need simple IP connectivity for your device with no proprietary requirements....You are not deploying "many thousands" of cannot easily add components to the device that you are trying to may need to deploy across a variety of technologies (various cellular networks, such as GPRS, EDGE, CDMA and HSPA, as an example) with little effort.

This is not a great solution for you if: You don't have the physical space in your solution to house an extra box and you can only use a box that is contained outside of your device...You are deploying a very large number of units (over 10,000, as an example) require complete control over the connectivity portion of your solution....

Important to know: Most cellular modems have undergone both Governmental and, in some cases, all of the required Cellular carrier testing required to deploy your solution quickly.  The certification effort for your solution should be minimal...

Still a bit confused?  Don't worry....Novotech is always here to help!

Again, thanks for reading!


Do you know the “true” cost of a modem

At Novotech, we sell a wide variety of modems, which allows us to provide products that fit the vast majority of any customer’s needs.  When asked what selection criteria they use to determine which modem to use, many customers list “Hardware Cost” as one of their top choices.  This makes a lot of sense, as everyone is trying to maximize their purchasing power by keeping down upfront costs.  However, it is important that decisions are made using the “true” cost of a modem, to ensure that the best selection is made.

For certain applications, a very low cost modem may be the idea choice.  This may include applications where the physical environment (i.e. temperature extremes, shock and vibration) is relatively controlled, as well as for applications that are not mission critical to your business.  As well, many applications simply do not have the “hardware budget” to support a price for any device other than the lowest cost offerings.  Since many lower cost modems now offer many features that were once the domain of the higher price modems, it can make a lot of sense to include these modems into your selection choice.

When you are deciding which products to go with, however, it is important to consider what the “true” cost of a modem may be.  Developing the true cost of a modem involves factoring in different items, such as:

Does the modem provide the ability to remotely monitor / reset the device, in the event that you wish to make changes or have connection issues?  If you have to visit each modem to make changes or perform a reset, this can add to your maintenance costs over the life of the modem.  A single visit once per year may result in a lower cost modem costing much more than even the highest price product over the life of the product....

What does it cost your company (i.e. lost revenue, impaired customer service, service level penalties) when a modem is no longer working?  As well, what is your tolerance for downtime at these sites?

What is your expected / budgeted lifespan for the modem?  As an example, if your equipment that you are deploying the modem with has an expected lifespan / replacement cycle of 8 years, will you have to replace a lower cost modem 2-3 times in that time period, whereas you may only replace a higher cost modem once?  

After factoring in these points, you will have a better understanding of what the true cost of a modem deployment will be over the lifespan of the product.  This will allow you to make an informed decision as to whether a lower cost modem will truly be less expensive in the long run, when compared to a higher price product….

Whatever your decision, ask Novotech how we can help!

Cheers, Larry