M2M Solutions for Finance

Hello Everyone - Thanks for reading!

In the world of finance, time really is money.  When most people think of wireless in the field of finance, they imagine their broker with a phone in one hand and their PDA in the other.  While this is often a vision that is seen often, it definitely isn't the only way that a wireless solution can help the Finance space.....

Internet connection = financial pipeline  Every transaction that is processed at a Bank branch, insurance agent, Financial planner or credit union probably transverses an IP connection to a main processing server.  When this connection goes down, much of the transactional work becomes impossible to do.  Financial companies know this, and often have taken a lot of precautions to keep the "lines of communication open".  However, most of their solutions have been based on Wired connection....connections that can be cut/damaged and do not allow for mobility in the event of an emergency.  Only Wireless gives you the true redundancy that your business needs!

ATMs are everywhere  Does anyone carry a lot of cash anymore?  It seems that we are always in the need for an ATM.  To help, Finance companies and ATM providers have tried to place ATMs where ever they are needed.  Unfortunately, accessing a landline to process the transaction is often difficult or expensive.  Many leading ATM companies are now using Wireless to allow for easy setup of their machines, as well as deployment in temporary situations like auctions, trade shows and concerts.  This can also apply to Lottery terminals and Video gaming machines!

Servers like privacy  Many IT professionals have known that it is important to protect all key servers whenever possible.  To do this, many of them have been using Out of Band Management over landlines for years.  Basically, they do not allow access to the servers across the company network, preventing unwanted hacking of the device, as well as to not use valuable bandwidth.  However, companies want to move away from PSTN lines, and wireless solutions allow for a much cheaper/flexible method of OOB management.  Plus, the same device can be used as a redundant connection (see first points), for a double return on investment!

Batteries, Diapers and a Car loan  Many retail locations are starting to provide space for a banking facility on their property.  While this is a great source for revenue for the retailer, as well as the finance company, it poses a problem for the IT team.  Finance companies like to have their own dedicated Internet connection at their store, while retail IT teams don't like to have too many landlines coming into the building (or sharing their line).  A wireless connection for the Finance company is a great way to meet both needs!

For our next blog, we will be looking at solutions for the Oil and Gas market

M2M Solutions for Government

Hello Everyone, and thanks for reading!

Everyone seems to have Government spending on their mind....and rightly so.  Every dollar that is spent by the government is a dollar that isn't in your pocket!  Governments, more than ever, are trying to maximize their use of tax dollars.  M2M solutions would be a good start....

Here are some of the M2M solutions that we've seen work in the Government space (from Municipal, to State/Provincial to Federal):

Monitoring made easy  Governments need to keep track of a lot of different things, ranging from water levels, to weather conditions to securing perimeters and much more.  M2M solutions allow for an easy, portable way of providing real time updates to field staff, as well as control centers.  This allows for decisions to be made in real time, using the correct information....this reduces downtime, provides better service to your users and reduces unnecessary costs such as driving to sites unnecessarily.

Remote workers need information     For most remote workers, a PDA is a great form factor to allow them to communicate with the office, and to receive real time information.  However, PDAs don't provide communication for remote sites, where machines such as Fax machines, alarm panels and video cameras require an Internet connection to report their status.  Agencies such as Inspections, Disaster recovery and Financial audits are just a few that can benefit from a more "office-like" experience while away from the office.  Plus, as an added bonus, these solutions allow IT teams to better enforce their security policies, ensuring that data is well protected.

To some, a vehicle is their office  Agencies such as Law Enforcement and Utilities have been using In-Vehicle computing for years.  However, many other employees, such as Waste/Water, Parks, Road repair and more are seeing great productivity improvements by deploying solutions that allow them to get real time access to information, as well as to reduce the burden of paperwork.  You can also use the same device to provide real-time GPS tracking, to improve the efficiency of your dispatching, and to increase worker safety.

Disasters happen  Many services simply cannot be unavailable for a long period of time, such as Hospitals, Public Safety, Water and more.  Landlines provide an excellent form of communications for the vast majority of work.  However, what do you do if they are unavailable (either due to damage, network unavailability or if you have to move in the event of a disaster)?  Wireless solutions provide a quick and reliable method of getting your communications back online....

Green is cool    Everyone wants to reduce their Green image today, including Governments.  Programs such as Recycling, Idling reduction and Carbon capture will help to make our planet much greener.  However, why stop there?  There are many Wirelessly enabled solutions such as Automated Meter Reading, AC control systems and more that can help today.

It's 11am....do you know where your machinery is?    Tracking your equipment, especially in the field can be a nightmare.  As well, even if you know where it is....do you know if it is being used properly?  There are some great Asset Management solutions in the market that help optimize the usage of your devices, reduce theft/vandalism and help you find your devices when you need them.

In our next blog, we'll focus on how M2M can help the Finance space. You might also be interested to readM2M in Everyday Life...

How can an M2M solution help your business?

Ok...in the last post, we touched on just what an M2M solution was.  However, most business owners/managers don't usually have a lot of interest in the technology itself.....rather, how does this technology help my business?  Technology usually helps in two ways: reducing cost (clerical, compliance, fuel, etc.) and increasing productivity (reducing driving, better information in the field, etc.).

Here are some of the reasons why an M2M solution may be right for your business:

Fuel costs aren't likely to go down overtime....Are we likely to see the $140+ per barrel price that we saw during the summer of 2008?  Maybe some day, but probably not anytime soon.  However, lofty fuel costs are going to be here for a while, and companies are always looking for ways to decrease their fuel consumption.  It's not only good for the pocketbook, it's also good for a company to be seen as being eco-friendly....

M2M solutions help to reduce driving to remote sites, as they provide real-time information as to the status of a device.  As well, many Vehicle tracking solutions can reduce costs by allowing you to minimize the amount of driving through more accurate dispatching.  Finally, many machines run during times when they don't have to (such as heaters, generators and compressors).  By having remote access to these devices, they can run less often....

Skilled employees doing paperwork....an evil necessity?   M2M solutions allow you to make your employees more productive in many ways....First, by giving them the correct information (in real time), they can make educated decisions as to how to proceed while away from the office.  Next, nothing wastes time/money more than unnecessary visits.  M2M solutions can tell you when something is wrong, so you don't have to go when everything is fine.

In addition, many M2M solutions can speed up Data entry significantly by both allowing your remote worker to get back to work quicker and also by reducing the amount of data entry back at the office.  You pay your employees to work, not to write on a clipboard!

Downtime = Loss revenue and angry customers  You've got your equipment at a remote location, maybe even at a customer's premise.  What is the cost to your business for every minute/hour that this machine is not working?  Equally important in this economic environment....will such downtime cost you a valuable customer to your competitor?

M2M solutions allow you immediate access to your devices, without having to use your customer's Internet connection....so their IT guys will love you!

Anyone have a wall jack for the Internet?  In today's fast moving environment, so much work is done away from the office.  In many cases for your remote workers, you can use a Mobile Data device (such as a Blackberry or USB stick) to access key information.  However, what do you do if the device that you want to connect to is actually an ATM machine, Utility meter, Lottery machine or another device?

M2M solutions allow you to quickly connect your remote devices for many reasons....can't use device on a 3rd party network?  In a location where landlines are not available?  You need a setup that connects to the Internet without user interaction? ...... All situations where M2M solutions are right for you.

Vital decisions = Real time data   When you are making important decisions, you need the facts and you need them immediately.  Old information can cost you....downtime, lost customers, and in some cases like Police work, it is the difference between life and death.  M2M solutions provide up to date information such as Blueprints, key readings of equipment, updated medical records and more....

In future blogs......we will examine particular industries and how specific M2M solutions can help them.

As always, let Novotech help guide you through all aspects of the M2M solution experience!

What exactly is M2M, anyways?

I was at a dinner party once, and I overheard my wife telling someone that "my husband works in the Machine to Machine space, something to do with modems".  Then it hit me....not everyone knows what M2M is.  Sure, it's in a lot of the technology headlines, and people have probably heard of some of the M2M applications out there (such as Smart Metering), but few people can ever really grasp the idea.  M2M is such a very wide spectrum of applications and technologies....but I am going to give it a shot to simplify it for everyone.

For most people, Machine to Machine communication generally refers to communication that does not involve any human interaction, although this can be deceiving.  Technically, computers talking to each other could be considered Machine to Machine communication, even with a human in front of the keyboard browsing on Facebook!

Here is a better description:  M2M Communication involves the sharing of information between two devices for the purpose of reporting a change in condition of one of the devices, one device controlling the another device , to acquire data from a device or to allow a device access to the Internet that does not normally have it.....here is that explanation broken down:

"Reporting a change in condition"

- This is commonly referred to as "reporting an alarm", as it is similar to a home intrusion alarm activation at a Security monitoring centre.  The device uses a variety of methods (SMS messaging, Internet traffic or the phone lines) to notify a remote device that something has happened that is outside of the normal range.

- This could be an unexpected door opening, an airbag has deployed in a vehicle, a water level is too high or a worker is in an emergency situation.  Whatever the reason, a notification is sent out to another party to alert them of the new situation.

- Many industries use this type of communication, such as Security companies, Fleet Management companies, Construction companies and more.....it crosses over virtually all industries and company sizes.  Feel free to ask me about some ideas for your industry!

"Controlling another device"

- This is someone linked to the first point.....it refers to one device sending instructions to cause another device to perform an action.  It can often be done in response to an alarm being received (such as in the first point), or it can be done as part of some scheduled maintenance or work.

- One example is that an alarm has been received to notify that a unexpectedly high temperature reading is being seen in a refrigerator.  In this scenario, the computer uses M2M to communicate to first receive the alarm, then sends a message to another device (such as a cooling system) to engage to fix the problem (to cool the fridge).  This notification can happen locally (across wired, or radio communication) or can happen a long distance away (through a wired Internet connection, or a Cellular one).

- Industries that may use this solution include Utility companies, Water Treatment plants, Oil and Gas monitoring of Oil wells / pipelines and more.

"Acquiring data from another device"

- This is probably the most commonly known application type in the M2M space.  This refers to how you can use M2M to retrieve information (either on a planned interval, or on demand) from another device.  It is usually for a few different reasons....determining how long something has been running for, pulling information as to the status of a device, and determining the amount of usage of a device (for the purpose of billing) are some common examples.

- Companies use this application primarily for the purposes of increased information flow.  By knowing more about a device's status, you allow yourself to make better decisions in a variety of areas (such as are you maintaining service levels for your customers, do you have to perform maintenance now or can it wait until a quieter time, is your device being used as expected, where is your device now and is it where you think it is, are your employees really where you think they are and much more...)

- Applications in this space are more common to most people and used on a regular basis....they range from GPS Tracking of vehicles, to Automated Metering Reading for your home, to keeping track of inventory at a vending machine to tracking the level of IV in a patient's room.  Again, virtually every industry has some need for an M2M solution of this kind.

Allowing a device access to the Internet that does not normally have it

- This one isn't complicated, but it sounds like "science fiction" to many people.  Most people, when they think of Internet access, think of a laptop, PDA or maybe their new iPad looking up something on Google.  However, millions of devices that are on the Internet include things such as water pumps, garbage cans and traffic lights. Well, they are on the Internet with some help!

- Cellular modems/modules are used by many industries to provide Internet access for devices that normally would not be able to access the Internet on their own.  The modem/module looks after establishing a connection to the Internet, and then provides an easy way for these devices to send information over a cable to the modem, which is "packaged up" by the modem and sent across the Internet.  There is more to it than that....but this is the basic idea.

- Industries such as Oil/Gas, Utilities and Water Treatment plants have been doing this for a couple of decades.....many other industries are starting to use the technology to gather valuable, real-time information from devices in the field that they weren't talking to today.  This helps to reduce downtime, improve service levels, eliminates unnecessary service calls and more....

- A final example is providing Internet access for devices that are often on the Internet during normal use (such as Bank Machines and Point of sale terminals), but are being used in locations where normal Internet connections are not available. This could be in a moving vehicle such as a bus, in a temporary location or in an area that is not serviced by the Internet, such as in some forest/nature areas or new subdivision.  As well, this may include providing a failover access method to the Internet in the event that the main line becomes temporarily unavailable, such as a network outage or natural disaster.  Cellular is often used to provide a backup for important Internet connections such as one that process Financial transactions or monitor key equipment.

Next blog....I will focus more on the Business gains brought to you by M2M.

Thanks for reading...

Larry