Archive for the ‘Realtime SMS’ Category

50 billion machines worldwide that can be connected together right now!

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

From the home, to the car, to your health, consumer applications of machine-to-machine technology are growing, and they’re slowly, but surely, changing the way we live.

There are more than 50 billion machines worldwide that can be connected using M2M (machine-to-machine) communications. From robots in manufacturing plants to trucks transporting fresh produce to refrigerators in consumer kitchens, billions of machines have data that’s just waiting to be tapped.

With such large market potential, the number of ways people and companies are using M2M today and the number of ways they will likely use M2M in the future is vast. Yet, in the current marketplace, much of the dialogue on how M2M can be applied focuses on commercial applications: how fleet managers use telematics solutions for fuel efficiency, how big-box retailers use RFID (radio frequency identification) to manage inventory levels, and how manufacturers can create new revenue streams with smart services, among others.

But of the billions of machines in the world today, some undoubtedly belong to the consumer, not the enterprise, leaving many asking: Where does the everyday Joe Smith of the world fit into the (M2M) system integration equation?

The answer to that question is tied to how M2M is impacting everyday life: It is in our home alarms it’s in our cars, and it’s even being used to monitor our vital signs.

Machine-to-machine technology is at the forefront of a “silent revolution,” a subtle, but influential transformation in which people, devices, and systems are becoming more connected.

And nowhere is this revolution happening more “silently” than among everyday consumers. It’s not so much that the technology isn’t available (because it is), or that it doesn’t work (because it does). The reason this revolution is happening “silently” is most people don’t even know it’s happening and sometimes don’t even know it’s there.

Unlike many of today’s commercial markets, the conversations with consumers about M2M products and services rarely broach the technological ins and outs of the solution. In fact, it’s probably unusual if consumers even know they are using M2M. Simply put, consumers don’t want to know how the technology works they simply want to know what it can do and that the technology will deliver on its promise.

And as such, system integration has unassumingly manipulated its way into consumers’ homes, cars, and even medical devices, taking advantage of the progress made in analogous areas in the commercial market.

“Consumer applications are a maturation of other solutions that have been put in place previously for the enterprise space. (The solutions) have proven that the technology does work,” says Dean Fledderjohn, general manager, Kyocera Wireless Corp., www.kyocera-wireless.com/m2m-business, San Diego, Calif.

IN THE HOME
When it comes to consumer applications of machine-to-machine technology, one of the areas technology providers are successfully penetrating is the home. M2M is making its mark in home-centric applications such as automated home technology systems and consumer energy-management solutions, but according to Peter Fowler, president, Cinterion Wireless Modules North America, www.cinterion.com, Issaquah, Wash., alarms have become the gateway into the North American home for M2M.

He believes this technology brings an ease-of-use factor to home security. With cellular M2M becoming more widely adopted for many of today’s new residential security alarms, installations are much easier to do.

“Rather than having to go in the old way and cut a hole in the wall and fish out a telephone line that would make an emergency call, now (installers) can simply activate a SIM (subscriber identity module) and have the customer live within a few hours of them agreeing that they want their home monitored,” explains Fowler.

An added bonus of using cellular is extra reliability. Since the alarm is not connected to a wired phone line, burglars cannot disable the alarm by simply cutting the telephone connection.

In addition, M2M has done more than improve on existing security technologies it has also helped bring security alarms to a new level, giving consumers unprecedented control of their security settings.

“What consumers want is the ability to be notified, to be proactively engaged, and to change the setting on their security systems,” explains Brent Barrs, vice president North American sales, Enfora Inc., www.enfora.com, Richardson, Texas. “They desire to (have the ability) to log in and check the status of the various sensors associated with the system.”

According to Barrs, the days are gone when consumers settle for notifications from a call center. “They don’t want to wait to receive that phone call from the call center alarming them that (an alarm went off) at the house. They like the ability to also receive realtime SMS (short-message service) notifications and email notifications, and consumers are very savvy (since) they have the portable devices that allow them to be comfortable with checking and changing these systems.”

One company providing this level of control to consumers is Alarm.com, www.alarm.com, Tysons Center, Va. Using communication modules from Enfora and sensors and security panels from GE Security Inc., www.gesecurity.com, Bradenton, Fla., Alarm.com offers a wide array of remote monitoring and control capabilities that extend its consumer security offerings into what could more accurately be described as home awareness systems in which security is just one facet of the solution.

“(In the past), most people had residential security systems that were useful only when the systems were turned on, in an armed state,” explains Mary Knebel, vice president of marketing, Alarm.com. Because most people don’t arm their security systems on a daily basis, Knebel adds, the system only delivers value once or twice a month when the homeowner arms the system.

Alarm.com’s solutions combine traditional security alarm capabilities with remote monitoring and control capabilities. Sensors installed throughout a home allow a number of different events, including the opening and closing of doors and windows and whether or not children arrive home from school on time, to be monitored. Homeowners can also use the system to remotely control their homes through a Web interface, performing tasks such as adjusting the temperature of their HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning) systems.

“Alarm.com enables the consumer to know what is (occurring) on the property even if the security alarm is in a disarmed state, giving value on a daily basis versus just once or twice a month,” explains Knebel.

Interest in these types of systems is gaining momentum. According to Knebel, when the company entered the market at the end of 2003, Alarm.com worked with only a handful of dealers. Now, she says Alarm.com has a network of more than 900 dealers.

Alarm.com’s solutions are an extension of what many classify as automated home technology systems, an area previously relegated to only the very wealthy.

“Compared to five years ago, (automated home technology) has grown quite dramatically,” says Bob Gohn, vice president of marketing, Ember Corp., www.ember.com, Boston, Mass. “The home automation systems that were traditionally reserved for the rich and famous … have really come down in price and have gotten more popular,” he adds.

Gohn points out this trend doesn’t mean that each and every home will have a home automation system, but he does see home automation moving downstream from the top 0.1% of homes to a wider base.

Analysts echo Gohn’s observations. According to a new report from ABI Research, www.abiresearch.com, Oyster Bay, N.Y., shipments of automated home technology systems are expected to increase to four million by 2013, up from the 237,000 shipped in 2007.

POWER MANAGEMENT
While security systems are the gateway to North American homes, that’s not the case in Europe and other parts of the world. “(Home security) alarms is a growing business in Europe, but it’s more focused on businesses,” says Fowler. “Alarms that are being developed by U.S. companies like Honeywell (are) being sold in Dubai and Europe, but the focus in those markets tends to be on commercial buildings more so than homes.”

So, how is M2M entering homes abroad? Through intelligent metering, Fowler says.

With government regulation pushing widespread adoption of AMI (advanced metering infrastructure) in Europe, and other parts of the world such as Canada, intelligent meters are becoming more commonplace, and as a result, M2M has entered the home in much larger numbers throughout regions with more pervasive intelligent metering.

In North America, where intelligent metering is gaining traction, but has yet to be government mandated on a large scale, only 16% of all M2M connections are home centric, according to ABI Research. In comparison, that figure rises to 43% for Europe, and for regions like Scandinavia and Italy, where regulatory-inspired smart-metering projects began some years ago, the percentage of home-based M2M connections stands at more than 65%.

Traditionally, smart metering solutions were installed with the intention of helping utilities improve their operations, but with the advent of AMI, or the two-way communication between the home and the utility, smart metering is now part of energy-management consumer applications. And the proliferation of AMI infrastructure couldn’t come at a better time.

“All of our ears are greatly attuned to the idea of managing energy or controlling energy and minimizing costs,” says Gohn.

With an AMI infrastructure in place, consumers can use in-home displays to monitor their realtime energy use, receive information on pricing during peak events, and adjust energy consumption levels in response.

“AMI … now allows the consumer to have the information and to have the ability to opt in to various control mechanisms so that they can modulate their use,” explains Gohn. He adds one of the opt-in programs that consumers can agree to participate is one in which energy loads are controlled by the utility. For example, a homeowner gives the utility permission to raise the setting on the home’s HVAC system by several degrees during a peak event, thereby reducing the energy consumption for that home.

Gohn points out, “That’s really where the most exciting penetration for this technology will be in the homes because it won’t be just (in) the top 1% or 2% of homes it’s going to be rolled out for entire regions.”

IN THE CAR
Like the home, the consumer vehicle has garnered a lot of attention from the M2M community. Some of the most notable consumer-focused automotive M2M applications involve auto insurance, vehicle-tracking as part of loan terms for borrowers with bad credit and after-market service.

What these three applications have in common is their impact on the consumer wallet. “With (consumers) in particular, it’s all about the wallet. The wallet is on everyone’s mind right now,” explains Kyocera’s Fledderjohn.

With PAYD (pay-as-you-drive) insurance, consumers save money on their auto insurance if they drive less. For consumers with bad credit, agreeing to have a vehicle tracking device may be the only way to obtain a car loan with a reasonable interest rate. And when it comes to fuel prices, anything that helps ensure the fuel efficiency of a car—such as telematics offerings that catch potential mileage-impacting mechanical problems—is appealing to the consumer.

Using M2M to improve vehicle performance has been prevalent in commercial markets for quite some time, but as drivers continue to feel the pinch at the pump, these applications certainly captured consumer attention.

“It started out with fleets, but the individual consumers are obviously worried about the same things because they’re (also experiencing) the higher costs of fuel,” says Shawn Aleman, vice president business development, Xirgo Technologies LLC, www.xirgotech.com, Camarillo, Calif.

In the North American vehicle telematics market, OnStar has led the pack, dominating consumer marketshare for telematics offerings in the U.S. According to OnStar, it had 2.5 million subscribers at the end of 2003, and the company expects to have more than 5.8 million subscribers by the end of this year. If OnStar meets the projection, it will have experienced a 130% increase in its subscriber base during a five-year period.

“What was really successful in the U.S. was the business model,” says Ralf Hug, vice president product management and marketing, Airbiquity, www.airbiquity.com, Seattle, Wash., regarding OnStar’s success in the U.S. market. He points out carmakers in this market decided to put this equipment in as many vehicles as possible, while in comparison Europe chose to only offer it as an option.

While the telematics market continues to gain significant marketshare, there are still some cost factors that have to be sorted out in order to meet consumers’ expectations. Aleman explains, “The end customer is not concerned much about the technology rather than overall cost of ownership. … The hardware costs have come down quite a bit during the last couple years. But I don’t think the network costs (of communicating vehicle data) have come down as much. The recurring cost is what I believe is preventing a lot of consumers from adopting the technology.”

FOR YOUR HEALTH
Another area in which M2M has made significant inroads into the consumer world is healthcare. According to a report released earlier this year from ON World, www.onworld.com, San Diego, Calif., the use of wireless sensor networks—one of the key enabling technologies for M2M solutions—is growing within the healthcare industry, and the technology could save the healthcare industry $25 billion in 2012 by reducing hospitalizations and extending independent living for seniors.

Analysts say two of the most promising WSN (wireless sensor networking) healthcare solutions are AAL (ambient assisted living) and BSNs (body sensor networks), both of which are used directly by consumers.

AAL solutions give the elderly the ability to live independently longer. Using a network of sensors placed throughout the person’s home, caregivers and family members can remotely monitor the activity (and inactivity) of the person throughout the day to ensure his or her safety and well-being.

CMI (Community Management Initiative Inc.), www.simplyhome-cmi.com, Green Bay, Wis., is one company that provides AAL solutions. Its SimplyHome offering, which is based on technology from Alarm.com, uses a network of sensors, including motion detectors, door/window contacts, and a panic pendant, to keep caregivers informed on what’s happening in an elderly person’s home.

The system is directly shipped to the consumer, and the company says customers can set up the system in 20 minutes. Wireless sensors are placed throughout the home, and they communicate to a central base station that’s either placed on a counter or mounted to the wall. The base station then sends the information wirelessly to a central processing center.

The caregiver manages the “rules” for the system, such as the times of the day the front door should not be opened, through the Web. If the event occurs, an email or text message is sent to a designated contact person.

BSNs, on the other hand, are based on wearable or implantable devices that can sense vital signs such as heart rate, blood oxygen levels, or blood glucose levels. In the past, when a patient suffered from a heart attack or other abnormal occurrence, healthcare providers had to depend on symptoms conveyed by the patient and/or results from tests conducted after the fact in order to prescribe the right treatment.

BSNs give nurses and doctors the ability to access near-realtime data on vital signs, such as abnormal fluctuations in heart rate or blood glucose levels, as the event is happening or immediately following the event. In turn, consumers can better manage their own health and possibly reduce hospitalizations and doctor visits.

Moreover, remote healthcare monitoring solutions can also mean dollar savings for the consumer. Enfora’s Barrs calls attention to the example of glucose monitoring.

Unlike in the past when patients took glucose readings, but didn’t necessarily pass that data on to their doctor or other healthcare organization, with M2M-enabled devices, “those measurements are transmitted to a datacenter in realtime,” explains Barrs. He adds, “The benefits are Medicare, Medicaid, and other organizations steeply discount diabetic drugs and other types of precautionary pharmaceuticals from the standpoint that they are hoping they’re eliminating a hospital visit by taking precautionary care with the patients.”

Without these M2M-enabled medical devices, healthcare organizations simply had no way to confirm the patient was following the prescribed treatment plan.

“By having this availability to pass this data and have statistical information to them in realtime, they have the ability to continue discounting (prescriptions for) those folks that are managing their conditions by taking the discounted drugs and by taking those readings in a timely manner,” explains Barrs.

While BSNs and other remote monitoring technologies are far from being pervasive tools in today’s healthcare industry, interest is definitely growing.

According to Medtronic Inc., www.medtronic.com, Minneapolis, Minn., a provider of remote cardiac monitoring solutions, the number of consumers using its technology has grown significantly during the past several years. The company says today nearly 290,000 patients and 2,600 clinics use its remote monitoring technology, compared to the 50,000 patients and 550 clinics that were using the technology three years ago.

Moreover, Enfora is observing significant growth in M2M applications for the healthcare industry. According to Barrs, Enfora believes the volume of rollouts it will ship for healthcare applications in 2009 will likely match the number of those it will ship for security applications, which is currently Enfora’s top consumer M2M market.

INNOVATION TO COME
So, what can everyday Joe Smith expect from the M2M industry in the coming years? While the answer is not cut and dry, the possibilities are certainly endless.

Greg Jones, vice president marketing and business development, Sensorlogic, www.sensorlogic.com, Addison, Texas, says the consumer market is ready for M2M. Now, it’s just a matter of educating the SMBs (small-to-midsize businesses) and entrepreneurs that serve the consumer market that M2M technology is available at a reasonable price point.

“Our biggest issue right now is that people don’t know it’s possible (to get these consumer applications to market),” he explains. “We have, as an industry, a marketing challenge to get the word out that this stuff is doable. A lot of people are doing it today. It can be done cost effectively. And you can actually launch products fairly quickly.”

Jones adds, “As consumer apps start to really roll into the market, that’s also going to help raise market awareness about what might be possible. So, it could potentially (create) a snowball effect.”