Things move very fast in machine-to-machine (M2M) technology innovation and implementation. They are moving just as fast if not faster in cloud computing and in all aspects of using mobile services in conjunction with the cloud to enable the M2M revolution. In July, TMCnet highlighted how and why Digi International’s capabilities and its partnership with Sprint (News - Alert) are providing comprehensive solutions for a broad number of applications that have captured the market’s attention and helped drive the M2M revolution.
In August, Digi upped the ante with announcement of its iDigi Gateway (News - Alert) development kit with 3G cellular that highlighted the ease of seamless connectivity to the iDigi Device Cloud for Web services integration to standard business applications over the Internet.
With the pace of industry activity accelerating, TMCnet asked Cary Stronach, director iDigi Product Management, to give us an update on how Digi sees the emerging importance of the cloud and what it and customers should be doing to take advantage of the capabilities the cloud and various wireless networking options in managing their remote devices.
Why the cloud, why now and is it secure?
We asked Stronach to discuss why customers should be asking their suppliers to think about using the cloud in managing remote devices, why now and whether the cloud is reliable and secure for such business critical activities.
Why the cloud
“The cloud, or more specifically a cloud designed to support embedded M2M device networks, is the most cost-effective way to release end user customer applications,” he said. “The beauty of the cloud is solution providers can integrate device data without having to modify their application. Plus, the cloud architecture allows developers to focus on building great software, as opposed to building and supporting network infrastructure.”
Given that network-enabled devices are becoming ubiquitous, there is an accompanying exponential growth in the amount of important data that is being generated that requires storage, analysis and distribution. Stronach points out that as a result, “A device cloud such as Digi’s uses a common platform where analytics can be applied for integration to business and consumer applications.” In other words, just from the perspective of ingesting more information and being able to make it actionable for driving business results moving to the cloud makes sense.
Plus, not to be over-looked is the scalability of cloud solutions. Stronach focused in on the benefits, “Scalability means being able to increase the amount of cloud resources nearly instantly, without prior resource planning or up-front investment. To the user it appears the resources are infinite and available on–demand.” He emphasized that going forward the population of embedded M2M devices will grow very fast. The need for organizations to connect/enable, remotely manage and make the information generated by these devices actionable for better loss protection, more efficient resource management, risk management and mitigation, etc., will be an imperative. Scalability is the answer.
Reliable and secure
As importantly for customers whose real-time and highly sensitive information is being generated and transmitted by remote devices that can be local or widely geographically dispersed, Stronach feels (especially when the connectivity is over a highly reliable and secure wireless network) that the cloud is as if not more secure and reliable than existing solutions.
He stated that: “The cloud enables organizations to more easily access and control large-scale device deployments. The inherent value of the Cloud is the ability to meet the rigorous requirements of scale, service availability and security…As an example, consumer-based applications for home energy management must be compliant with the national security standard for critical infrastructure protection (CIP). Because the Cloud must meet the high security standard for CIP, all other applications hosted within the Cloud gain the advantage of this security standard - without having to invest in the adherence to it themselves.”
Tools you can use
Given the scale and scope of embedded M2M solutions, TMCnet was curious how iDigi Web services and the Digi development tools could be used for connecting devices over cellular networks and integrated into a cloud environment with ease. In addition to noting that partner Sprint is using the iDigi Gateway Development Kit for training its own filed engineers and technical sales people
Stronach provided an insightful example. “In a utility scenario, data needs to be managed centrally and remotely. Network operations teams are required to see, access and control device equipment. Our application allows organizations to remotely conduct a variety of management functions such as change configuration settings, download software, diagnose problems through device log files, etc.,” he said. “Plus, the operations team may also want to analyze device performance, settings and variables via reporting and alerting,” he noted.
Going back to the issue of scalability, Stronach explained that doing all of this becomes increasingly complex as the population of devices grows. In the example above, when the number of devices under management reaches the 1,000s, other capabilities must be in place to sufficiently manage the network. For example, operations teams will need alarm systems that can announce or push alerts and groups functions that will enable large numbers of devices to be organized into smaller more manageable sub-groups.
Finally, with all of the buzz about the move from 3G to 4G, we were curious what if any impact this has on embedded M2M solutions. Stronach made two very important points. First he noted that typically M2M solutions do not require the full bandwidth of 4G. “However, more and more M2M solutions are starting incorporate larger content where 4G would be of value. The cloud provides the ability to cost effectively scale infrastructure in support of this increased bandwidth and the associated larger volume of data,” He stated.
When asked if those thinking about whether they should wait on a cloud solution until 4G was more widely available, Stronach said there is no need to wait. “The majority of M2M solutions are easily handled in a 2G or 3G wireless environment due to the low data requirements. As digital content and video streaming impacts certain verticals the need to consider upgrading to 4G should be considered. However, A cloud environment does not care whether the wireless network collecting data is 2G, 3G or 4G.”
Digi, the cloud and Sprint make up a combination that enables organizations of any size and geographic distribution to deploy embedded M2M devices and use the power of the cloud and ubiquity, security and reliability of the cloud and today’s wireless networks to manage risks and drive business results. It is clearly not a bad day if a cloud is in your way.
Peter Bernstein is a technology industry veteran, having worked in multiple capacities with several of the industry's biggest brands, including Avaya, Alcatel-Lucent, Telcordia, HP, Siemens, Nortel (News - Alert), France Telecom, and others, and having served on the Advisory Boards of 15 technology startups. To read more of Peter's work, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Carrie Schmelkin