Machine-to-machine (M2M) communication is transforming the way we live – and the way we do business
As automated, connected machines hit business fleets, it’s become more apparent the network perimeter has expanded greatly. This brings both risks and rewards. To keep the risks in check and to make the most of the rewards, businesses need to stay on top of their assets.
M2M can play a role in ensuring that expensive cargo remains secure and maintains its value from departure to arrival. Has the perishable food in the container spoiled because of a faulty refrigeration unit or has the correct temperature been maintained throughout? A well-constructed M2M solution can use one set of sensors near the food to measure temperature and another set on the cooler to ensure that it’s functioning properly.
If firms want to gain that competitive edge for moving assets around the globe, they need supportive solutions that help overcome challenges, such as capacity crunch when customers come flooding in, higher operating costs and commodity prices, and a more complex operating environment.
To deal with these unprecedented challenges, organisations need a supplier that has the understanding, solutions and expertise to stitch the vital parts of transport and business together. Companies must have operational visibility as it’s becoming critical for supply chain and transportation industries to know where a shipment is, and the ability to monitor the environmental conditions of transported cargo in near real-time.
If firms want to gain that competitive edge for moving assets around the globe, they need supportive solutions that help overcome challenges
“Companies that ship goods all over the world need the ability to track and monitor the conditions of their assets in near-real time to minimise the risk of damaged, lost or stolen cargo,” says Mike Troiano, vice president, advanced mobility solutions, AT&T Business Solutions. “We work with supply chain managers in a variety of industries to deploy mobility solutions that help streamline operations, but also help to transform how they interact and communicate with customers.”
M2M and connected devices will power the future of healthcare. Are wearable M2M solutions becoming the technology to watch? The dawn of wearables has opened the door to effective monitoring of a patient’s heart rate, blood pressure and weight, while fitness apps can record distances travelled by runners and calories burned.
Can M2M help to save lives? Yes, but only if the technology solution is right from the hardware, software, to the network. As a case in point, AT&T EverThere uses a mobile personal emergency response device worn around the neck, which is monitored by a call centre every day of the week. It provides GPS location to the call centre, so if the user needs assistance they can speak to healthcare professionals straight from the device. For the elderly who want to stay in their own house rather than being moved to a care home, this kind of technology is life changing.
Fitness tracking devices that monitor your activity – steps, distance, sleep, calories burned, and so on – can be worn on your wrist or clipped to your clothes. These devices can provide very helpful data to the user and have the potential to be linked to healthcare providers or viewed in conjunction with other fitness apps via the AT&T mHealth Platform. AT&T has been working with developers to create brand new applications that utilise health and wellness data.
InterMetro, a business of Emerson (NYSE: EMR), and a leading manufacturer and supplier of storage and transport products for the food service, commercial and healthcare industries, is working with AT&T to create “smart” mobile workstations that allow caregivers to access treatment information and update medical records at patients’ bedsides.
The two companies will integrate AT&T’s M2M solutions with the Metro® AccessPoint wirelessly connected mobile workstations, allowing InterMetro to proactively monitor, troubleshoot and share vital performance data about the devices. The connected mobile workstations send updates and alerts when systems are in need of service and are enabled to receive software updates from InterMetro remotely when needed.
Across all points of the supply chain, as well as in hospitals and the home, M2M has the ability to alter and improve the healthcare industry drastically.
The construction industry was one of the worst hit by the global financial meltdown. Yet it has the chance to rebound with numerous opportunities to increase efficiency. M2M has a big role to play.
By embedding connectivity in their cranes, excavators and other machinery, construction firms can determine when repairs are required, how often vehicles are being used, and where they are located. This will help them organise maintenance, decide whether they can streamline operations, and transfer workloads at greater speed and effectiveness. The data gleaned from this will show how to improve processes around construction and how field personnel can do their job more efficiently.
The technology is out in the real world already
Construction sites also need protecting from criminals. What if, in the middle of the night, thieves arrive and make off with the pile driver? Effective M2M solutions can provide alerts when anomalies occur, so security can be sent in. As the embedded devices don’t rely on site electricity, running on battery and using wireless communication, this layer of security will remain switched on even if the power has been cut on site. And if vehicles start moving, construction firms can switch the engine off remotely.
Opportunities lie beyond the construction site. Tracking of materials using GPS can help firms keep on top of their inventory. When resources are running low, internet of things devices can let managers know and fresh supplies can be ordered, whether manually or in an automated fashion.
Mr Troiano sums up the opportunity for the construction industry when he talks of “AT&T’s vision of enabling people to operate anything remotely, anytime and virtually anywhere”.
Deciding how the world sources and disseminates electricity has become one of the biggest issues of our age. Demand is rising faster than supply and the energy industry as a whole – from traditional suppliers to those betting on renewables – is desperate to create a smarter grid. It’s only with effective M2M that this will come about.
The technology is out in the real world already. Residential and commercial power meters are wirelessly sending real-time data about consumption to utilities and operators, meaning more accurate data for billing and, hopefully, less power usage. Prepay systems are proving increasingly attractive, allowing homeowners to deal with their bills easily, which saves both the consumer and provider time and resources.
“We’re serving utilities across the country with smart-grid offerings that go beyond wireless connectivity,” says Mr Troiano. “Utilities can now offer their clients more convenient payment options and the ability to monitor overall energy consumption, creating a better customer service experience for everyone.”
The world is really getting behind an M2M-powered energy industry that benefits everyone.
Analysts are clearly excited about the prospects for M2M in the manufacturing world. Frost & Sullivan are hailing the dawn of “smart manufacturing”, which will see embedded devices and sensors working within short-range wireless and long-range cellular networks to create “factories of the future”.
Inside these futuristic facilities, the analyst firm predicts advanced robotics and enterprise mobility will be on the plant floor, enabling convenient connectivity in inaccessible areas, communication across barriers, and simplified installation based on wireless local area, wide area and sensor networks (https://smartmanufacturingcoalition.org/news/frost-and-sullivan-survey-manufacturing).
In many ways, these factories are already a reality. Right now, M2M solutions are being used to monitor, manage and connect complex systems that link individual machine components on the plant floor with advanced control systems and manufacturing or enterprise resource planning software. This allows manufacturers to set up more efficient processes and ultimately make better products faster.
What kinds of products are likely to come out of these enhanced supply chains? In a recent IDC survey, some 35 per cent of respondents indicated the companies capturing and analysing sensor data were typically those based in chemicals, pulp and paper, metals and other process-oriented products.
The car industry is one of the more prolific users of M2M in the modern world. As 4G LTE networks reach more and more people in the United States, virtually every automobile manufacturer is working towards a connected car that takes advantage of next-generation data speeds, from voice-controlled apps and “infotainment” to advanced diagnostics.
AT&T is working on two major initiatives to lead innovation in the connected car market – a first-of-its-kind connected car centre in Atlanta, called the AT&T Drive Studio, and a modular, global automotive platform titled AT&T Drive. The AT&T Drive Studio integrates AT&T solutions across multiple companies and serves as a hub where AT&T can respond to the needs of automotive manufacturers and the auto ecosystem at large.
“We’re making a significant commitment to lead the future of the connected car with the launch of the AT&T Drive Studio and our AT&T Drive platform,” says Glenn Lurie, president, AT&T Emerging Enterprises and Partnerships, AT&T Mobility. “Our goal is to be the best carrier for connected car innovation in the world.”