Ingredients for successful M2M solutions

22 Oct

Over last few years, there has been huge predictions on M2M being a next big opportunity for various sectors to leverage, build smart solutions and services. However, the M2M industry has not grown as per the predictions made by market research firms time and again. Only few solutions have registered reasonable growth in the area of fleet and connected car solutions. Rest have been in trials for a long period of time or have seen very limited growth. What could be the potential challenges that are hindering the growth of an excellent technology that can solve, improve various aspects of product life cycle, enterprise process, human health and many more interesting ones. Let’s analyze what are the ingredients that go in to making an M2M solution successful.

You might have come across various case studies published that talk about automated meter reading, smart grid, smart city etc., but have you ever investigated if these kind of solutions have really been deployed in a larger scale anywhere in the world? The answer could be either No or to a limited extent to explore the feasibility. If we have to really get close to answering the above question, first we need to understand the components of an M2M solution.

Typically, an M2M solution involves acquiring data/events from a remote machine or a location and transferring them to a central management console that collects data, converts to information and generates appropriate actions in real time. The concept looks simple but making this happen in practical world is really very complex. Now, let get to the details of the solution components to understand the complexity.

Instrumentation: Firstly, the data expected to be acquired at a remote machine/location need instrumentation of appropriate sensors which are then connected to a M2M Gateway which acquires and then transmits the data over wireless or through any IP based communication. These sensors and gateways have to be physically supplied, installed correctly by experts at each and every remote location which needs to be connected.

Connectivity: The location of the remote machine or a site need to have connectivity either wireless or wired connection to the central management console. The M2M Gateways are designed to work with telecom network service providers by using their SIM to enable the gateway to push data out to a central management console.

Connectivity Management: Due to the very nature of an M2M solution which may have huge number of gateways deployed across geography, there has to be a way to manage connectivity at each of these sites. The M2M solution provider, need to have access to these network element and have to closely work with one of the telecom service provider to simplify this task. The associated challenge to connectivity is billing and payment management to the network service provider.

Central Management Console: The data and events from various machines, sites are continuously transmitted to the central management console which needs to manage simultaneous connections, handle humongous amount of data streams, intelligently process the information, apply real-time correlation, execute predefined workflows and business rules along with generating intelligent report and dashboards. This is the most critical component of M2M solutions that should be capable of working with various types of devices, protocols, networks and provide application enablement for vertical specific solutions.

Managed Services: M2M solutions are supposed to be completely automated and non human intrusive that run pre-configured rules and workflows based on the real time data feeds. However, there will be situations when the real time events are to be addressed suitably by experts and attended by 24×7 NOC agents. There could be sensor or gateway failures that need to be resolved within short span to ensure availability. All, these are to be co-ordinated by central staff and ground staff who may have to visit remote sites to investigate, resolve issues with the instrumentation.

Operations and Maintenance: The sensors, gateways deployed at remote sites have to be continuously observed for any faults and suitable arrangements needs to be made when there could be failures. The detection of failures of sensors/gateways can be easily detected at the central management console. When a fault is detected, a field staff close to the location of the machine need to visit the site physically, investigate the issue and take actions to resolve the issue.

All the above components have to be managed very efficiently by the M2M solution provider to have successful deployment and realize value out of the solution for a longer period of time.

You might have already got a sense by now that an M2M solution really involves management of technology, collaboration with service providers, ensuring high availability of instrumentation with strict SLAs that customers expects at all layers of the solutions. As there are diversified skills of resources involved in managing various components of the M2M solutions, inherently it becomes very complex and difficult for a single solution provider to manage all of this end-to-end. However, these could be managed when the deployment is small but increasingly it becomes difficult when the solution scales.


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