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Machine-to-Machine Communications as a Subset of Internet of Things

- August 12, 2011 - 4 Comments

As I have blogged on the Internet of Things and Web of things in the past, I would like to focus my forthcoming blogs on Machine-to-Machine communications and its implications to the network, to protocols and security.

Let’s set the foundation:

Imagine a world where billions of objects have sensors to detect, measure, and assess their status, all connected over public or private IP (Internet Protocol) networks.  This world of interconnected objects would have its data regularly collected, analyzed, and used to initiate an action. It would provide a wealth of intelligence for planning, management, policy and decision-making.

Important information is pushed out to machines, to individuals, and to organizations of every type anywhere in the world. The term that characterizes this world of interconnected objects, is the Internet of Things or IoT.

The term Machine to Machine communications (M2M) describes devices that, using a variety of fixed and wireless network constructs to communicate with each other. They are active communication devices. We therefore consider M2M a subset of IoT.

For enterprise backbone networks such as Cisco, we assume for example that:

  • The “to be managed” object/machine may be a router, switch, network management appliance/server (e.g. call manager, Telepresence manager) or the collection system at the network site.
  • The “manager” object/machine may be the network management system, Network Operations Center management system, router/ blade at operation center, etc.

Finally, M2M standards are very important for service providers, vendors and 3rd party solution integrators / partners to permit a standard interface and data to flow between devices/networks.

The following diagram summarizes an enterprise view of M2M requirements:

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  1. Differences of resources (cpu, memory) and protocols in wireless devices are a big problem for standards. It is not always (almost never) convenient to force a device to use a standard and not its own protocol. Develop a standard is also very time consuming and as far as I know standards for M2M are not available, despite some efforts. Can you please address me to the most active and advanced standards for M2M, which have a high potential to get into the main stream soon? Thank you very much. Filippo

  2. Fillipo There is a fine balance between assessing scaling properties in protocols for M2M; delivering the solution to the market and agreeing what needs to be standardized. As to the various standards bodies, the answer depends on which M2M segment one is speaking about, e.g Mobile; Utilities [Smart Grid]; Tele-health; transportation and so on. Some examples: IETF, e.g. ROLL WG ; ETSI-3GPP Mobile; TIA TR-50 Smart Device Communications is responsible for the development and maintenance of access agnostic interface standards for the monitoring and bi-directional communication of events and information between smart devices and other devices, applications or networks. ITU-T SG-13; ATIS and recently formed Focus Group on M2M .

  3. Hi Monique Thank you very much for your quick reply. We were already looking into some of this efforts, and in particular ETSI working on defining new M2M standard (look in ETSI Technologies + M2M. What the commitee proposes is "a standard interface", a functional architecture and a bunch of requirements for gas metering (which is the area where one of my teams is working at the moment). I will look into the others you mention, though I knew TIA for smart devices. Here in Europe we have the ARTEMIS 7 project, whose most interesting part is the Sophia project and the M3 framework where integration is achieved through the use of ontologies. At the moment we are concentrating in that, trusting we can achieve more in the short term with integration/interoperability among eterogeneous devices. We operate at the "edge gateway" level and consequently we starve to adopt a "standard" to integrate into service providers platforms (if dont succeed to sell our Service Middleware). If you work for Cisco in San Jose you should know Mahbubul Alam; he knows me from the last IWPC in Stocholm where we exchanged ideas. Cisco's vision of service middleware is very similar if identic to our Plat-One middleware. If you are interested in more, do not hesitate to email me directly and ask for anything you'd like to read or see. I am often out in the US by the way and Cisco is an important part of my 25 years of work. Thank you again for sharing. Filippo

  4. Hi Filippo, Yes Artemis 7 is very very interesting indeed and yes I do know Mahbubul Alam very well. I look very forward to meeting you Filippo! Best always, Monique