Welcome to Novotech University...

Novotech University

As a kid, I always used to hate Jerry Lewis.  I never actually met him but I hated him anyways.  The reason?  Whenever I had to see him on television doing his annual telethon, it meant that school was only a day or two away....summer was over.

As a parent, I have a bit of a different way of looking at things.  If he was still with us, I would worship the ground that Jerry Lewis walked on, as his telethon meant that school was about to start and my household would be back to normal.

The World of Data 101

When I started this blog a few years ago, I made a conscious effort not to sell, but rather to provide a space for me to voice some of my many opinions and for people who take the time to read to (hopefully) get both a better appreciation for the world of M2M/IoT and maybe a few movie quotes along the way. 

As part of this, I have put together a 4-part series that may help give people a better understanding of this wacky industry that I have spent close to 2 decades working in. 

As a follow up to the video I posted last week, here is a post to launch our first class, the World of Data 101 and it outlines three types of cellular hardware that can be used to connect your solution to the Internet. 

If you prefer to listen vs read, here is a link to the video...

Local vs. Long-Haul

I think most of us use some sort of WiFi connection in our day to day life.  It may be at your home, office or maybe your local Starbucks for writing the next great novel.  Either way, that is a good example of a Local area network.  Another one is the connection between your Bluetooth phone and your car, at least when it connects.  This differs from a long-haul type connection, which is what happens between your modem and your final destination (such as Facebook).  Today, we are talking about the long-haul part... 


You've heard me talk about it before, but let's explain what a modem does for a cellular based connection.  You have a Point of Sale device in front of you and you need to get it "on the Internet".  In this scenario, you plug in an Ethernet cable into your POS device on one end and in the modem on the other.  The modem looks after every thing else....it establishes the IP connection and takes care of transporting your data.  This method takes a lot of the complexity out of the equation, but it comes at a cost. 

Modems can pretty much work out of the box (for many customers), but this comes at a cost.  It is the most expensive method (in terms of hardware costs) to establish a cellular-based IP connection.  It is ideal for customers deploying less than 5000 units. 

Cellular modules

Now, the nerdy stuff comes to the table.  You are designing a product....let's say a smart garbage can and you want to know when it is full.  So, you set up the can's controllers to tell you when the can needs to be picked up.  Now, you need to get onto the Internet to let you know.  If you are planning to sell many thousands of these, it may make sense to incorporate a cellular module into your solution. 

A module is a board level component that allows you access to the cellular network (it is actually way more technical than that, but let's keep it simple for now, ok?).  By designing this component into your solution, you are able to access the cellular network with your cellular device.  

But, there is a fair amount more to this.  You have to balance out the much lower per units cost of a module (when compared to a modem) compared to the much higher burden of certifications, design costs and engineering work.  Check with us, we can help you make the right decision! 

A hybrid solution?

Now, if only there was a solution that offered some of the benefits of a modem AND a module at the same time.  Well, hybrid solutions can do that for some people.  By taking the module and putting it onto a system board (along with some other components/software), these devices can allow for the connectivity to be put "into" your device (like a module) while taking care of much of the design/certification burden (like a modem). 

Now, it isn't all nirvana....these hybrid offerings are often larger is size than a module-based one, so there may be size issues to address.  As well, they can cost several times what a module does and may not always reduce all of the certification burden in a way that a modem does.  Again, check with us! 

The Bottom Line

Hopefully, you were able to get something out of the World of Data 101 course.  In future courses, we will explore:

  • 201   Some common M2M applications
  • 301   Some vertical approaches for M2M solutions
  • 401   How to position M2M to different people within an organization.