When I first started focusing on the M2M field many years ago, I found it very difficult to explain to people what I actually did. When I explained how we facilitated communication from remote assets, it brought on different reactions. For some, they found it way too difficult to understand, while others must have watched the Terminator series too many times as they started making references to how I was helping the "machines take over". Back then, M2M communication was slow, had limited network footprints and was expensive (on a per MB basis), so it was limited to industries that had high value assets in the field where wirelines weren't practical (such as Oil/Gas, pipelines and Utilities).
With the improving speed/coverage of today's cellular networks, combined with lower costs, M2M solutions have found their way into everyday life, often replacing solutions that had only ever used landlines. So, it has made it a lot easier for me to explain to someone what I do for a living.
For this blog, I wanted to take you through a normal work day for an everyday person, and outline many of the ways that M2M solutions are involved in improving businesses, making this more reliable and improving society.
In your home: Many homes today are designed to be "smart homes" in that they allow for automated control of key elements such as your HVAC systems and your swimming pool pumps. This allows for these items to be controlled remotely using M2M systems. As well, most regional utility companies have begun the move towards smart grid based solutions, which allows for optimization of the network, as well as finding ways to encourage homeowners to reduce their usage (especially during peak hours).
Starting your car: Before you even leave your house, M2M solutions help you. If you have an electric car, M2M solutions are used to provide key pieces of information to you, such as the status of your battery. Many other vehicles, such as GM's On-star, provide diagnostic information about your vehicle, including readings of key items such as the time until your next required oil change or information about key components on your vehicle.
On your drive into work: Traffic is a nightmare in most cities, and M2M solutions are being used to find ways to reduce long commute times. First, complicated algorithms are being used to optimize traffic lights and on-ramps on highways to maximize the flow of traffic. These advanced systems required real-time M2M data to ensure that they are working optimally. Next, one way to avoid traffic build-up is to alert drivers of issues far in advance, allowing them to choose alternative routes. Advanced overhead sign systems are using traffic flow data to be able to re-route drivers, helping to reduce traffic snarls.
Finally, over in different parts of Europe, some of the newer systems are using M2M data to slow down drivers when they get closer to a trouble spot. The theory is similar to sand flowing through an hourglass in that if you reduce the speed of cars gradually as they approach an accident, the traffic will get through faster (just like how sand poured gradually through the smaller opening gets through faster when it is poured at a gradual pace, as opposed to all at once).
Once in the office: Businesses are doing their best to reduce their carbon footprint for two reasons. First, it is good for a business to show that they are trying to help the environment. However, the bigger reason may be that as the cost of energy goes up, companies are watching the bottom line to reduce costs in this difficult economy. One way that companies are doing this is by using optimized HVAC systems. These systems work to optimize the heating and cooling systems by up to 12% without affecting the comfort of the occupants. As well, many companies are finding that it makes sense to lease/rent equipment on a long term basis, or in some cases, to pay for things based on a usage basis (such as photocopiers). This means that there has been an increase in the amount of devices that are deployed at customer's offices by third parties. This raises a question.....how does a company communicate with a device that is located on a 3rd party premise when they are not allowed access to the landline Internet connection? Using M2M, companies are using wireless data to monitor the usage, status and maintenance requirements of remote devices, allowing for a high level of uptime without the need for as many costly on-site visits. Finally, most advanced businesses are using wireless solutions as a method of providing a redundant connection when their wireline network has issues.
At the mall: At the end of a long day, you've decided to head to the mall. When you head into a store, especially a major retailer, it is likely that you are being followed! Many retailers are using advanced video systems to be able to track how you shop, what path you take, how long you spend at each section and how this differs based on gender, age or any other metric. Once you buy something, there is a good chance that the retailer's inventory system knows about it quickly, letting it make decisions as to stock replenishment. Finally, a surprising amount of financial transactions are taking place in shopping centers over a wireless data connection, even when wireline connections are available. The reason is that many retailers, especially temporary ones or kiosks, find it quicker, cheaper and more flexible to use wireless data for their financial, inventory and other data needs.
Finally, at home again: You decide to order a pizza to avoid cooking at the end of a long day. The driver is able to easily find your house on time, as they are using GPS-enabled systems in their vehicle. As well, you are able to safely pay by credit card at your home, as the pizza chain has deployed a wireless Point of Sale terminal.....two more ways that M2M is used in everyday life!
Let Novotech know how we can help you with any of your M2M needs!