M2M communications is quickly evolving into the Internet of Things.
It’s set to be the perfect combination for the IoT (Internet of Things): the rapid growth of high-speed cellular networks, short-range wireless communications such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and the introduction of IPv6, which has enough IP addresses for every grain of sand on Earth.
Add to this mix the virtually limitless computing and storage capacity of today’s cloud-based computing, which has made extremely powerful applications available to the even the most modest end-devices.
The result is a perfect ecosystem for the rise of the IoT, a world where every car, phone, sensor, meter, machine, sales terminal, sign, toy, camera, and healthcare device is wirelessly connected to the Internet via high-speed connection. Add a global positioning receiver, and you have a compact, always-connected, location-aware Internet “Thing” that possesses the computing power of a server farm with low-power consumption, small size, and the complete freedom of mobility.
The IoT, Home to 50 Billion Devices by 2020
This so-called Internet of Things is projected to reach 50 billion connections by 2020, according to Cisco Systems.
As was the case with human-operated devices such as notebooks and smartphones, all machines that can benefit from intelligence delivered by the Internet will ultimately be connected in the future.
The IoT will consist of vehicle sensors, health monitoring devices, remote video cameras, intrusion detectors, electricity and gas meters, home appliances, traffic sensors, streetlights, etc. All these devices and more will be wirelessly connected via long-range (HSPA, LTE) and short-range (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi) communications to the “cloud” in the future.
What Does the IoT Look Like?
In the IoT, a vast amount of information or “Big Data” will be collected by millions of end-devices and processed by limitless computing and storage resources to deliver new and attractive services, or simply to reduce costs and increase efficiency. With the availability of small, low-cost global positioning, high-speed cellular and short-range wireless communication devices, the hardware technology is available today to enable a whole new breed of valuable services that will reduce the costs and increase the efficiency of business processes, and provide improved healthcare, security, information, navigation, shopping, and convenience to consumers.
The potential for new attractive applications is huge. Here are just three examples:
Remote Monitoring, Security and Metering
The Internet of Things will enable cost-effective and covert installation of web-connected devices that will wirelessly report the location of pets and people, transmit electricity, water and gas usage data, and provide 24/7 video monitoring of homes, vehicles, warehouses, shops, and public facilities. Cloud-computing will allow storage of video streams, as well as provide powerful capabilities such as vehicle and facial recognition services.
Predictive Vehicle Navigation
Very soon smart-navigation systems connected to the IoT via low-latency LTE (long-term evolution) will provide an improved route based on actual and predicted traffic conditions derived from information that is actually collected from thousands of vehicles and processed in the cloud. With this, cloud-applications will provide automated collision avoidance and heads-up driver displays with recommended lane based on the location and speed of the surrounding vehicles.
Automated Industrial Processes
Supply-chain management, just-in-time delivery, and optimized storage of goods and components will benefit from the IoT. This is an example of a complex process that requires location tracking of millions of components (thanks to IPv6!), plus long-range and short-range wireless communications combined with considerable cloud-computing and storage capacity to answer the three questions: How much of a component is on stock? Where is the stock located? When can the components be delivered to the factory location?
Tomorrow’s IoT M2M Applications
Next generation IoT M2M applications will depend on high-speed, low-latency cellular communications (LTE, HSPA), short-range radio (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi) for the last hundreds of meters of connectivity to billions of devices. Cloud computing and open standards will deliver computing power to the edge of the Internet and allow sharing of data between platforms.
The IoT is now essentially ready on the hardware level to host an unimaginable variety of applications that are able to communicate with, monitor, and control every electronic device on Earth. The next step is to “get things connected.”
Getting Connected to the IoT
To help engineers jumpstart the design of applications, u-blox and ARM have developed the C027 ARM mbed-enabled IoT starter kit providing out-of-the-box cellular Internet connectivity based on a compact u-blox 2G GSM, 3G UMTS/HSPA, or CDMA cellular modem (LTE coming soon) plus global positioning module.
The IoT starter kit is powered by an ARM Cortex-M3 32-bit processor and provides simple USB drag-n-drop programming and debugging.
The C027 is supported by cost-free access to the resources of the ARM mbed development platform, which includes a cookbook of tested APIs for Web, wireless, audio, sensor, and peripheral interfacing, visit https://mbed.org/platforms/u-blox-C027 for details.
To provide the last few hundred meters of wireless connectivity, the u-blox ODN-W160 is a ready-to-embed IoT short-range communications module designed for industrial, vehicle, medical, and other demanding applications. The module offers multiradio capability across Bluetooth v2.1+EDR, Bluetooth v4.0, and Wi-Fi 802.11 a, b, g, n. The module is a Bluetooth “dual-mode” module (Bluetooth Smart Ready) that supports both classic Bluetooth and Bluetooth low energy.
Herbert Blaser is vice president and Carl Fenger is communications manager of u-blox. Contact u-blox for any questions about connectivity and positioning modules for the IoT.
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