Bob Emmerson
Bob Emmerson is an English national living in the Netherlands. He holds a degree in electronic engineering and mathematics from...
Read Full Bio >>

Bob Emmerson | January 17, 2014 |


Solutions Slash M2M Development Costs and Time to Market

Solutions Slash M2M Development Costs and Time to Market Without short development times for M2M applications, the Internet of Things will be slower to develop. Here are a few ways that the industry is attacking the challenge.

Without short development times for M2M applications, the Internet of Things will be slower to develop. Here are a few ways that the industry is attacking the challenge.

Corporate IT might look at M2M and see it as just another data communications app, and in a way, they would be right. But they may not realize that the right place to start is on the design of an entire system: Developers should choose a network service provider and the service delivery platform before considering the device that will run the app. And going down the do-it-yourself device route is problematic.

There is a dark side of the M2M moon. If the design process starts with the device, which is the way most of today's apps began, then unexpected issues will surface. Devices have to be certified by the carriers, and in the U.S. that can take months.

Furthermore, the bill for each device model could run somewhere between $40k and 100k. In Europe, cellular certification times are much shorter and costs much lower, although the process is the same: RF interference coming from the antenna and communication protocols are the carriers' key concerns. It would seem that the MNOs (mobile network operators) are getting in the way of stateside progress and milking a high-yield cash cow, but let's park that issue, although it's important.

Starting the design at the wireless module level isn't easy: specialist knowledge and experience are needed, and if they are lacking, then the module vendor should provide a full set of support services, which is what one such company, Telit, does. They can also facilitate the certification process, but there is an alternative, relatively new way of getting M2M apps out the door and to the market in much shorter time frames and at lower costs.

Open Boxes Open Up the Market
Newcomers to an ICT sector are unencumbered by legacy baggage, and, therefore, they can come up with new ideas and innovative solutions. ClearConnex is one of those companies, and its offering is based on a concept called "open boxes."

These are certified devices into which companies can load their application software. When you put a module on a board, add peripheral circuitry (e.g. a microprocessor) and an antenna, you've got a modem that can be connected to a cellular network. Put the whole thing in a housing, and you've got a device. I'm spelling it out here because the M2M industry isn't consistent in the way these terms are used.

The key benefit of the open box concept is that there is no need to do any hardware design: RF interference does not need to be measured. So how does it work?

Let's keep things simple, but not too simple. ClearConnex has created licensable hardware and software platforms, which comprise the basic building blocks that all M2M applications need. In a nutshell, they bypass the usual way of creating apps from scratch: They eliminate the need to reinvent the wheel. There's a wireless module library, ClearLink, which provides an API that developers use to build apps without needing to know anything about the ins and outs of wireless modules. They can be created using Java, i.e. just like any other data app.

The library supports more than 60 wireless modules coming from eight leading vendors and there's an operating system, ClearOS, which enables application development without needing the embedded device. Moreover, it supports mainstream operating systems like Windows and Linux, and for an encore, it future-proofs the app. There's no lock-in to any OS, processor or development environment.

Given the complexity of bringing an M2M app from concept to deployment (i.e. the need to integrate wireless modems, application processors, low-power microcontrollers, hardware interfaces, operating systems, application frameworks, cloud connectivity, etc.) the open box concept sounds almost too good to be true. But the company is gaining significant traction and indicating that big-name announcements will come in the second half of 2014.

Unlocking M2M's Market Potential
Established vendor Sierra Wireless has recognized the need to lower the technical barriers that are preventing M2M applications from evolving as rapidly as they otherwise might. These barriers not only slow down the concept-to-deployment process, but they also result in enterprises spending the majority of their engineering resources on performing basic system integration tasks instead of on the area where they can provide the most value, i.e. the application. It's the same message as that of ClearConnex, and it indicates that a significant trend is underway.

Sierra's offer is relatively new and facilitates integration from the device through to the cloud. It includes a service delivery platform and an application development environment. It is based on a new generation of pre-integrated multicore solutions that provide an entire M2M ecosystem on a module. The combined result, according to Sierra, is a powerful, new way to build M2M solutions more quickly, efficiently and inexpensively, and this should enable enterprises to apply M2M innovation to a broader set of applications and business challenges.

The deliverable is basically the same as that of ClearConnex and Eurotech (to be discussed shortly): It simplifies the process of developing and deploying new M2M applications. However, the fact that it comes from a leading module vendor is significant since it indicates that the company has abandoned the traditional, time-consuming design process of starting with the device.

Sierra has also joined forces with ARM, the world's leading supplier of semiconductor intellectual property. Around 800 processor licenses have been sold to more than 250 companies and over 20 billion ARM-based chips have been shipped, so they're a good partner to have on your side. This is particularly true when the devices have to be powered by batteries or solar panels. ARM is supporting this effort by providing the extremely energy-efficient ARM Cortex-M series of processors as part of its multicore solution

Challenges Recede; Trends Emerge
Open boxes and providing an entire ecosystem on a module indicate that the challenges are beginning to recede, and they are also complemented by a number of important trends in the M2M sector. These include open operating systems designed for M2M applications, large sets of software libraries, and easy-to-use integrated development environments.

Cloud management is a hot topic and a key M2M trend. Deployments need scalable device management to allow customers to update firmware and software applications, configure devices, and manage airtime subscriptions across global networks. The new cloud management platforms also allow enterprises to manage millions of deployed devices over the air.

The large developer community has had its eyes on the M2M sector for some time, but resources and guidance had also been hard to come by. That situation has changed, and now there is a large, growing community that is providing tools, knowledge, and open-source integrated development environments. ARM, for example, is bringing its global community of developers and partners to support these developments.

Different Approach; Same Objective
Eurotech is another established vendor that has focused on the need to dismantle technology barriers in order to minimize time to market. The company cites concept-to-deployment times between six and 24 months using the traditional approach, versus two to three months using a combination of the company's multi-service gateways (MSGs) concept and a cloud-based M2M Integration Platform. This enables seamless integration of devices in the field with enterprise IT applications.

The basic concept is very simple. As illustrated below, sensors and devices connect to the gateway using a mix of RF or wireline interfaces and the certified gateway connects to the communications infrastructure. Therefore, as in the two previous scenarios, this concept bypasses integration issues and allows companies to focus on their core competence, which in this example would be the development and marketing of eHealth devices.

Eurotech's offer includes a range of gateways that target six vertical markets. They're based on Intel Atom or ARM processors and they deliver the following: communications, computational power, a middleware application framework and an M2M platform.

The platform is IT centric and cloud based. It acts as an Enterprise Service Bus for machines, which allows easy integration of different devices, systems and applications. Everything is integrated: All that's needed is for the developer to add the application or specific business logic on the device, which can be written in Java. After that the solution can be deployed and managed using the Integration Platform.

Medical and Healthcare is one of the six verticals. The others are: Industry and Commercial; Logistics and Networking; Security and Surveillance; Defense and Aerospace; and Transport and Mobility.

Although the requirements of these verticals are different, the gateways are created from a portfolio of hardware and software modules. This facilitates the creation of gateways for new verticals as well as a range of connectivity options that link distributed devices with business applications.

The company's offer also includes an extensive portfolio of products. For example, for Transportation and Surveillance applications there are various rugged systems designed for accurate location tracking, passenger counting, real-time vehicle tracking and specialized surveillance systems. And there is support for the use of different mainstream operating systems as the basis for embedded applications.

Although the M2M industry has been very successful and is experiencing double-digit growth, the complex, multi-vendor value chain, along with certification issues in the U.S., have served as barriers to even more remarkable growth. This article has highlighted three solutions that address the problem, and, in doing so, allow development costs and deployment times to be radically reduced. However, the really big benefit comes from the fact that they allow application developers to focus on their core competence--creating innovative business apps--and forget about the various integration issues.

Moreover, ClearConnex underlines the fact that there is no need to be involved in any aspect of hardware design: applications can be developed in the same way as they are for PCs, tablets and smartphones. Maybe there will even be an online store in future.

It's clear that M2M is set to make a bigger, extended entry into ICT environments. And without this kind of progress, an Internet of Things (IoT) comprising zillions of devices isn't going to fly. And without short development times, we would need more developers--many millions more.


Check out this recap of Enterprise Connect Orlando 2017, and register now to join us in 2018 and save $200 off or get a Free Expo Plus Pass.

Enterprise Connect Orlando 2018
March 12-15 | Orlando, FL

Connect with the Entire Enterprise Communications & Collaboration Ecosystem

Stay Up-to-Date: Hear industry visionaries in Keynotes and General Sessions delivering the latest insight on UC, mobility, collaboration and cloud

Grow Your Network: Connect with the largest gathering of enterprise IT and business leaders and influencers

Learn From Industry Leaders: Attend a full range of Conference Sessions, Free Programs and Special Events

Evaluate All Your Options: Engage with 190+ of the leading equipment, software and service providers

Have Fun! Mingle with sponsors, exhibitors, attendees, guest speakers and industry players during evening receptions

Register now with code NOJITTEREB to save $200 Off Advance Rates or get a FREE Expo Pass!

March 7, 2018

Video collaboration is experiencing significant change and innovation-how can your enterprise take advantage? In this webinar, leading industry analyst Ira Weinstein will present detailed analysis

February 21, 2018

Business agility has become the strongest driver for enterprises to begin migrating their communications to the cloud-and its a benefit that enterprises are already realizing. To gain this benefit

February 7, 2018

Enterprises are starting to grasp the critical importance of security and compliance in their team collaboration deployments. And once the risks are mitigated, your enterprise can integrate these n

February 16, 2018
What trends and technologies should you be up on for your contact center? Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center & Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2018, gives us the lowdown.
February 9, 2018
Melanie Turek, VP of connected work research at Frost & Sullivan, walks us through key components -- and sticking points -- of customer-oriented digital transformation projects.
February 2, 2018
UC consultant Marty Parker has crunched lots of numbers evaluating UC options; tune in for what he's learned and tips for your own analysis.
January 26, 2018
Don't miss out on the fun! Organizer Alan Quayle shares details of his pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon, TADHack-mini '18, showcasing programmable communications.
December 20, 2017
Kevin Kieller, partner with enableUC, provides advice on how to move forward with your Skype for Business and Teams deployments.
December 20, 2017
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, shares his perspective on artificial intelligence and the future of team collaboration.
December 20, 2017
Delanda Coleman, Microsoft senior marketing manager, explains the Teams vision and shares use case examples.
November 30, 2017
With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.