Buckle up, this is going to be an exciting ride…

M2M - The Industry

Growing up in Toronto, an annual treat was the chance to go to the CNE (the Canadian National Exhibition, or known locally as “the Ex”).  It was a bunch of temporary rides that probably “just” passed safety inspection….in fact, one of the thrills for some of these rides might have been not dying! 

There is one famous ride where you go backwards in a car-like ride and the announcer yells, “You wanna go faster?”  In fact, a young Howie Mandel was among the people to pick up the microphone. 

Why am I telling you this?  Well, I think the “IoT M&A roller coaster” is about to go a lot faster….

Yesterday morning, Novatel announced the takeover of Feeney Wireless (or FW).  The takeover appears to make a lot of sense, as the folks at FW will add a lot of expertise and some great product offerings.  It makes you wonder….who is next?  We saw a rash of takeovers in the IoT software / middleware space (notably ThingWorx, Axeda and ILS) in 2014…so, does that mean that 2015 is the year that the Hardware companies get into the game?

There are some logical pairings…

Sierra Wireless

I can think of two that COULD happen, actually.  The first was one that was published in the Motley Fool a couple of weeks back where they speculated about a possible alliance/takeover between Sierra and RIM/Blackberry.  The logic was that Blackberry was starting to make its play in the IoT space through their QNX division and by offering some IoT building blocks, so they may wish to have their own end device as well.  Personally, I think this would be a disastrous merger.  The two companies are much too different to have any chance of finding the required synergies to justify such as deal.

A more logical acquirer for Sierra may be someone in the Industrial equipment space, such as GE or Honeywell.  These companies have shown an inkling to get into the Big Data space, so it makes sense that they would look to a company that could help them bolster their end-device offerings today (through Airlink), as well as how to add module-based connectivity (through their AirPrime area). 

Cradlepoint

One of the great turnaround success stories of the past decade in the technology space has been the re-emergence of Cradlepoint.  Once thought of primarily as a consumer play to give people Internet at the cottage, they have introduced some great products that have come to dominate some particular vertical markets.  They also seem to have the most “router-like” products among their peers, so.wouldn’t it make sense for Cisco to take them out?  Cisco’s efforts into the world of wireless have been, well, disappointing.  Does anyone remember how bad the first HWIC was?  While they have come a long way, they have never made the splash into the world of IoT that they could have, despite how much their ads make it seem like they have.  I could easily see CP fitting into well into the Cisco mix.  They would be a great “Mobile” arm to the company and would give Cisco a much needed boost with products such as their strong device management platform.

Digi

Digi is a tougher one to match up.  It is not because of their lack of product mix or lack of solid products (Digi has a ton of great products and they are among the best in the Industry).  It is more about how they could fit into a potential acquirer with their unique mix of legacy products and new ones.  As well, they are also the most solution oriented company, as they have a strong sensor and platform focus.

I simply could not find one company that could be considered an “obvious” acquirer, so I will go with the one that my gut would say and that would be Intel.  Intel and Digi are not strangers as they have done some alliance work together with FreeScale.  As well, Intel seems to be looking for a way to make a big splash (beyond what they have done) in the IoT space and this may be a good move.  Finally, it would give Intel a lot of building blocks to which they could further bolster their plans to be the IoT ecosystem of choice.

However, out of the three companies, this is easily the least likely takeover to happen.

The Bottom Line

While I have had extensive interactions with all three of these companies, I do want to point out that these thoughts are only my opinion and I have no actual basis/knowledge of any activities going on with any of them in these matters.  However, it does not take a crystal ball to be able to see that at least one of these companies will not exit 2015 in their current form as there is just too much excitement in our space for someone not to make them an offer (cue my bad Marlon Brando impression) “that they cannot refuse”.  Like I said, buckle up, this roller coaster is about to get started…

Will Connected Cars Kill People?

M2M Applications

When I hear about “Connected Cars”, I go crazy.  To me, Connected Cars mean that robot guy in the cab in “Total Recall” (the original movie, not the cheesy remake with Colin Farrell, which is another rant entirely).  I believe that Arnold shot the unfortunate cabbie in the head.  At any rate, the simple truth is that our cars have been connected for years and for as long as I have been in the M2M space, there has been this idea that our cars, through IDS (Intelligent Driving Systems), would be able to do the driving for us.  Back in the day, they were going to rely on pegs put into the road to keep the car in its lane and at speed … what a quaint and frankly dangerous proposition!  The other day, I saw an Audi that advertised lane correction using camera-based technology.  My modestly priced car features total collision avoidance and beeps at me if someone is in my blind spot or if there is movement to my side if I am backing up. Heck, even my wife’s Honda Fit (a modestly priced compact car) has a camera that looks down the right side of the car when turning right.  Don’t get me wrong, I think the electronics in cars to make them safer is a good thing, probably a great thing and it’s to be applauded, but “Connected” cars? The car companies are practically encouraging you to drive distracted. 

Distracted driving kills, we all know that, but our penchant to be entertained is an even greater pull.  Who is to blame at this point? Someone on SnapChat or the car manufacturer who put all that wonderful stuff in an entertainment package that you selected as an option at the dealership?  Someone in our city was charged recently for watching a screen in their car as opposed to the road and was fined $240.00 this I guarantee is the tip of the iceberg.  It used to be, when I bought my first car, that my only distraction was playing my 8-Track too loud or trying to get close to the song I wanted to hear by … Or perhaps rescuing a tape cassette when the machine started to eat it. Today reaching for something in the car accounts for the least number of crashes at 6% of teen crashes Today, the unconnected cars that have a cell phone in them are just as likely to hurt us as they are help us. 

In a recent news report by AP columnist Judy Lowry 58 % of teen crashes were caused by distracted driving. I encourage everyone to have a look at the video, and read the article. It sobering.

I am all for being driven around … secretly I imagine having a chauffeur, I mean how cool would that be? It probably explains why I like to use taxis when I travel as opposed to rent a car.  Alas, the Board and Shareholders would never go for it, so I am forced to drive myself around and that’s really my point.  There is no advantage to having a Connected Car if you have to drive yourself. So, until we live in a future with the McQuades and Quattos, I really don’t see the point of being connected, except maybe if your car calls an ambulance for you when you are in an accident from reading your emails at the wheel. 


 

If we go back to 1999, do I get my lost hair back?

M2M - The Industry

There are certain sounds in my life that I am glad I don't have to hear any more.  I remember the screeching of nails on a chalk board....I remember the awful noise that my mom's antique mixer would make (not to mention that the shielding was so bad on that thing, it would actually scramble my TV in the other room!)....and, like you, I remember the awful sound that my "state of the art" 56K dial up modem would make when I logged on to painfully download email in the late 90s.

Well, what is old is new again, at least in the world of wireless M2M!

Quick, have you used a 56K dial up modem in the past 5 years?  I bet you have, you just may not have known about it.  You see, a shocking amount of connection in today's hyper-fast digital world is done over legacy landline based connections.  Ranging from banking machines to utility meters to Out of Band management for routers, landline technology is still alive and well in much of our lives, even if you haven't used one at home since Frasier left the air.

Has landline gotten better than when we all used AOL to discover chat rooms?

 

Well, not really.  It still has its limitations.  Besides the obvious speed thing, it still requires you to set up a demarcation point for where you want to start the connection.  This means not only expensive wiring, but it also means that you don't have a ton of flexibility on placement and you really can't pick up and move to a new location quite that easily.

Wireless data = landline reinvented

 

Some new solutions are going to be out shortly to help give you the flexibility that you never had in a wireline connection before.  Using a 3G modem, a converter card is able to provide a true landline experience for your remote device in the field that is expecting to connect using those annoying screeches.  And, since you now have the flexibility of wireless (easy set-up, easy to move around, easy to increase signal when needed), you are able to set up landline connections in minutes, not weeks and at a fraction of the cost.

As well, you now have a lot of billing flexibility.  As I recall, landline offered a nice benefit of a fixed cost for pretty much unlimited usage.  And, if you were using it to connect to browse the Internet 23 hours a day, it is likely a better deal than using cellular data as a transport.  However, this isn't how most data lines are used.  Most of them are used as little as a few minutes per day and send as little as 5MB per month.  When you look at what costs for a wireless rate plan of that size, it makes the ROI to use wireless products to give you your wireline experience quite compelling.

Using superfast wireless connectivity to give you a dial up line....isn't that taking a step back?

 

The obvious question is: "If you are using a cellular connection for the dial up line, why don't we just switch over to an Ethernet based connection and be done with it?"  For some, this is what they may do, however, it may not be an option for many others.  The cost of switching may be much more than the device itself, as it may require companies to change out entire backend systems to move from dialup to IP and many of them either don't have the money or have better things to do than to fix a solution that is working well.

Another obvious question is: "Aren't landlines going away soon, so should they not be moving over to cellular anyways?"  Another valid point and if you are looking at some of the more advanced solutions, you'll have your cake and be able to eat it too.  Most of the higher end offerings in this space offer not only an RJ-11 (dialup) port, but also an Ethernet port.  So, once you make the switch on the back end away from dial up, you may make some simple changes on the device and change cables....

As a final benefit, you also get another free nugget for using this service....two applications for the price of one.  Many people use dial-up modems as a method of connecting to a key server (such as a Cisco) in a manner called Out of Band management.  This increases IP security and reduces the threat of someone making changes to key servers if they gain access to the room.  So, while you can use the RJ-11 port for this OOB Management, you shouldn't forget about the Ethernet port....which you can use as a redundant path to the Internet for the main traffic of your modem in the event of a failure.

The Bottom Line

 

Ok, if we are going to go back to 1999, can I not only get my hair back but also be able to purchase shares in companies like RIM and Under Armor?  While we can't go back in time, at least not unless you are Superman or the Flash, we can find solutions that better extend the life and usability of solutions that most people would be surprised to find out we still all use on a regular basis....just don't make us listen to the screech! 

As always, Novotech is ready to assist with your M2M needs. Whether you’re looking to control, track, monitor or back-up, Novotech has the solutions and products you need. View our Line Cards and let us know how we can be of assistance.

 

 

 

Stay connected! Follow Novotech on Twitter (@NovotechM2M) or follow me personally (@LBNovotechM2M).  We’re also very active on LinkedIn so follow our company page too. 


 

 

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A single place for health/fitness data … maybe a good idea after all?

M2M - The Industry

You may have read my colleague's (Richard Hobbs) latest rant, where he talks about how security is in our numbers. While I don't totally disagree, I have a few concerns with security and I believe that these concerns are wide-spread among many different entities.....customers, namely.  In fact, I believe that these concerns are actually negatively affecting the growth rate of our industry.

However, I don't think that the only solution is to develop a "better mouse trap".  I think we need to start learning how to use what we already have better to start...

 

 

 The first thing we need to do is to better use security methods / solutions that we already have....here are a few: 

"Open your desk drawer, where you will find your password"

 

Richard's point about "too much security" actually being a negative is a valid one, but maybe for a different reason that he mentions.  When I worked at IBM, we had to change our passwords 1-2 times a month.  In addition, the password had to be pretty long, contain a certain number of non-traditional characters and we could not use any of the last 20 or 30 different passwords.  So, how did most people solve this?

They wrote down their password on a piece of paper and taped it inside their top drawer for reference.  It was true....you could pretty much open up anyone's top drawer to find their password.  So, while they were satisfying the IT department's requirements for password changes, they were easily making the entire system of security dependent on locking up one's drawers when they went to the bathroom, which almost no one ever did. 

So, we need to find a way to make security both easy to enforce as well as easy to comply.  This is why the area of biometrics, especially ones based on retina scans and heartbeats are quite interesting.  If we can both personalize security as well as make it easy, it will be much more effective.

"Keep your valuables out of sight"

 

We all see this sign in parking lots, and it makes a lot of sense.  If thieves see an iPad sitting on a car seat, they now know that there is an instant reward for choosing to break into your car.  The same goes for valuable information.  Stealing a health record, banking information or allowing someone the ability to get free electricity are very appealing targets for hackers.  One way to keep these things safe is to get them off of the Internet in the first place.

By using private networks, we don't make it is impossible for thieves to hack into our systems, we just make it more difficult.  They now have to go the extra steps of locating key servers by taking multiple hops to get there....but, by limiting their access, we have gone the extra steps of making it more difficult, which is often enough of a deterrent. 

"I have reset your password to default, please be sure to change it"

 

The scary part is....not everyone does.  Ok, I can maybe see how someone forgets / does not bother to change the password on their new WiFi garage door opener, but there have been stories of government agencies not changing the default password on passenger screening equipment at airports...

So, now that we are a bit more secure by doing some simple things/methods that we already know, what else can we do?

Think local  I hear this one at the grocery store, referring to produce and it may apply here.  Everyone wants to have everything sent to the cloud for central storage, and there is often a lot of benefit to collecting so much data in one place.  However, there is also more liability (and a much bigger target) when you do so....in some cases, it is fine to keep data locally stored.  This means that the collection devices need to be more intelligent, which many of them already are.

Whoa, Dude, TMI!  I was at a Starbucks last week and a gentleman was looking at his company's financial dashboard on his 17 or 19 inch laptop for everyone to see.  I could see that his company was losing money and that he was likely on his way to bankruptcy.  Even better was how he walked up to get his coffee and use the washroom without locking his computer.  It is great that mobility gives us access to such data, but we need to be more mindful on who can see it and where we allow access to such information. 

IoT is not for everyone  Wait, are you really saying that?  After this many years of preaching, why would I say that not everyone should use it?  Well, I still believe that there are some things that may be better left being done the old way.  I, for one, am not in favour of doing an all-electronic voting method.  I believe that the idea of using paper ballots will be the best for a long time to come (but, I am okay with them being counted by a machine).  It provides a greater level of security at this stage, considering how much of a target a US Presidential election would be, as an example.  I know there are other things that would fall into this category.

The Bottom Line

 

Unlike my colleague, I don't believe that we have enough security in the world to protect our data.  However, I do believe that we need to start using more common sense to protect our data, as well as to better use the tools that we already have.  Spending billions on data systems at the server level will not do any good if people leave their laptop connected to their corporate server while going to the bathroom at Starbucks.  Sure, we need to constantly improve algorithms, to put better firewalls in place and to put more security at remote sites...but, all of that won't matter if I can just open your drawer to find your password...


 

Would IoT & the New Watch help push Apple towards becoming an MVNO?

M2M - The Industry

In a previous blog post, I wrote about how the idea of Apple becoming an MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) actually had some merit to it and was not the craziest idea I had heard.  My thinking was that it would allow an even greater way for Apple to force you to "stay in the family".  Part of the thinking had to do with that, as an MVNO, Apple could potentially provide both a greater depth of coverage while also linking Airtime to services (such as free downloads of Apple purchases).

Well, I think the Apple Watch and its new move into the world of IoT may start to make this make even more sense....

Watch

 

As I am writing this, Apple sent out an invite a little while ago to tell the world all about its new Watch that is coming out.  While I can't say that I love the feature set of the watch (they seemed to strip out a lot, making it just a bit more functional than most activity trackers at half the price or less), I am excited for the possibility that such a platform can bring. 

Think about it....how long will it take for future watches to have built in cellular and WiFi connectivity, if it won't already on this generation?  Now, you will easily be able to not only transmit data from you (namely your health, location, etc) but this gives a truly "always on" platform to send key IoT data.  It would be ideal for updated information about flights, traffic and emergencies from home.  It would just make a lot of sense for Apple to tie in a Watch sale to an overall package including Airtime.

HomeKit

 

The latest issue of Macworld had an interesting article about HomeKit.  Basically, it provides the building blocks to help many IoT solutions move into the IOS platform quite seamlessly.  Among the few that they listed were automated locking systems, the ability to control lighting and even the ability to connect legacy non-connected devices to a plug that would allow them to be remotely controlled.

Now, is this revolutionary?  Hardly.... we've been talking about similar solutions for a while.  However, the idea that one's iPhone (or, even better, a Watch) could be easily connected to these things is quite compelling....and, it becomes a much better ecosystem if Apple controls the transport layer.  Now, you can have a service at your home that is controlled by your Watch, where the Airtime is part of the overall service (even though you are using your own device to do it).

And, the implications are well beyond the consumer.  Using one's iPad to turn on key pieces of industrial equipment....using an iPhone to control the temperature of a fridge....using a Watch to open a security gate.  Again, these applications are quite far from revolutionary, but what Apple has done is what they always do.....taken something and made it much simpler and more appealing to more people.

Will this fail if Apple does not venture into being an MVNO?

 

No, I don't think it will.  Apple will still have a very strong and compelling offering that will further reinforce the stickiness of their overall ecosystem.  I just think it gets a heck of a lot better if they do.  Plus, think about how they could offer a better evergreening program!  Most of us are lucky if a Smartphone lasts 2 years, so does it not make sense that Apple would offer a combined offer (New phone every 2 years, Airtime and some services) for a monthly price?  While they could still do it now, it becomes awfully sticky if they are providing the airtime too...

The Bottom Line

 

The one thing that Apple has shown is that they are a very unpredictable company and that they tend to march to their own drummer.  So, it almost seems that the more we talk about them becoming an MVNO, the less likely they are to actually do it.  However, just because it may have been forecasted for a while, it doesn't mean that it won't be smart for them to become one.