The ability to wirelessly interconnect business assets, industrial devices and personal objects is creating an opportunity for OEMs and mobile network carriers as machine-to-machine (M2M) communications enables the smart services sector, writes Jason Ellis, staff manager of business development for Qualcomm CDMA Technologies (QCT).
Consider, for example, your car parked at home in your driveway. Thanks to the Internet of Everything, your car would be able to synchronise with your home Wi-Fi network overnight, copying your newly downloaded music and movies ahead of your drive to work or weekend away. As you drive down the street your vehicle becomes the Wi-Fi hotspot for your passengers’ tablets, laptops or gaming devices, backhauling all the data over a cellular network.
Meanwhile, your telematics device is monitoring and managing live navigation and engine information. In the event of an accident on your journey, the system would be ready to make an emergency call with your exact location and incident details so emergency services can quickly and efficiently respond.
Once you arrive at your destination, after parking, you’re comforted in the knowledge that the integrated vehicle tracking system is capable of catching would be car thieves. Additionally, electric vehicle owners now have the ability to locate charging stations, monitor their charging status and receive alerts when their charging session is complete or interrupted, all remotely from a smart phone or computer.
It is not just the car that can deliver these enhanced services. By using cellular technology linked into energy monitoring systems at commercial, industrial or residences, energy providers are able to communicate in near-real time to enable a new host of applications for energy management including responding to demand response events.
By connecting these gateways with standardised Wi-Fi and powerline (PCL networks), end-users and the energy network operators would have better control over how much is being used and when. This in turn would mean that users could lower their usage by being aware of energy wastage and allow the energy operators to better manage the grid.
Despite these visions, cellular networks are believed to have some challenges, namely coverage, reliability and network longevity. Alleviating much of this concern comes by utilising chipsets that support multiple carrier networks with over-the-air management.
This capability is made possible through multi-mode, multi-frequency chipsets that allow for a global single-SKU supporting both the CDMA and GSM family of networks. However, multi-carrier capable chipsets alone will not guarantee that target devices will possess this flexibility.
Cellular carriers and solution providers must work together to ensure that the software and support services are in place to leverage the unique strengths and capabilities offered by the various carrier networks that serve a particular geography. One such example of innovation in this area is the eUICC (embedded SIM) standard that is now making its way through the ETSI/SCP. Multi-carrier capabilities will provide industries such as automotive and smart grid with the ability to increase overall network coverage, reliability and equipment life.
The fragmentation of the M2M market has caused issues for OEMs wanting to better understand how to add cellular to new devices. One way Qualcomm is helping to address this challenge is through the creation of a free online tool located at www.m2msearch.com which lists M2M cellular-enabled modules and allows device OEMs to easily search, identify, and contact manufacturers with solutions. Additionally, it is enabling carriers to identify modules that could be further certified to operate on their networks.
With these M2M applications comes a certain requirement for data processing, both back-end as well as distributed processing. Collecting and processing data in the field enables some local control and alleviates the amount of traffic that needs to be sent to the back-end. Additionally, having some smarts in the field enables over-the-air downloading of new applications a possibility, while maintaining security and relevance.
With the alignment of cellular and non-cellular worlds, there is increasingly an opportunity for innovative devices to support a host of smart services. OEMs need to ensure that device fragmentation does not hamstring this area of growth.