In the months since I attended the Smart Cities event organized by Qualcomm and CommNexus in San Diego, the buzz about “Smart Cities” and the use of machine-to-machine (M2M) wireless technologies has only grown louder and more intense. Which Smart City-relevant innovations are under development inside Qualcomm?
Known primarily for mobile chipset technologies, Qualcomm is working to optimize wireless networks and sensors that support M2M solutions and, ultimately, Smart Cities of the future. An often-overlooked part of this initiative is the company’s work in preparing the wireless industry for the imminent tsunami of data that will come when countless “things” equipped with M2M wireless sensors—part of the “Internet of Everything”—hit wireless networks. Qualcomm calls it the 1000x Challenge, referring to wireless industry predictions about a 1000x increase in mobile data usage between 2010 and 2020.
From Qualcomm’s perspective, a “smarter grid“ employs digital wireless technologies that allow utility companies to safely and securely deliver prepaid electric services that save homes and businesses money through real-time monitoring of power usage over existing cell networks, thus reducing deployment costs for the utility and saving energy for the planet. At the same time, smarter grids enable customers to better manage their own energy usage.
One recent Smart Grid example is Qualcomm’s work with Duke Energy, the largest electric power holding company in the United States. The success of this collaboration has enabled Duke Energy to install hundreds of thousands of communications nodes, which interface with electric and gas meters, line sensors, transformers, and other end points, meters, sensors, and distribution automation equipment, and optimize energy usage in five states.
Working with ECOtality, a maker of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, Qualcomm participated in The EV Project, the largest deployment of electric vehicles and charge infrastructure in history. The project, now in nine states plus the District of Columbia, leverages cellular technology incorporated into charging stations, enabling EV car drivers to easily find charging stations with their smartphones. Moreover, the solution allows users to reserve stations as well as receive alerts users when the charge is finished or if it the charge has been interrupted.
Another exciting development, also involving EVs, is Qualcomm Halo’s teaming with Renault and Delta Motorsport in London. Qualcomm Halo, a subsidiary of Qualcomm, produces wireless charging mats that enable EV drivers to simply drive up and park over the charging mat—no exact alignment necessary (e.g., you have to line up your electric toothbrush perfectly on the charger in order for it to charge). Initially, the benefit is no longer having to deal with tangled charging cables. But looking beyond that, Qualcomm Halo envisions embedded chargers in the roadway. Even further out is the idea that these mats could be built into the road and connected to the overall Smart Grid. Depending on the time of the day, more or less energy resources could be devoted to that specific roadway, effectively channeling energy to where it’s needed most.
You hear the term “M2M” a lot these days in the tech industry, and it means different things for different people. Broadly, machine-to-machine communications is about connecting devices — virtually any kind of devices — to network applications.
But for me, one of the most interesting aspects of M2M is the ability to improve the lives of people with disabilities or impairments by bringing them network-based tools that were previously inconceivable.
I videoed a few of the demos and will talk about them in future blogs, but I wanted to share some great images from the booth, and also from the ‘Table-Topics’ I helped moderate on Tuesday and Wednesday. Some delegates really get the trends and are on their way to implemented open standards networks throughout their organizations. During the Table topics a pharmaceutical company and a utilities company talked about ‘Wireless in Manufacturing’ and the direction they were taking. There are challenges ahead and we talked about how Cisco was helping to tackle some of the key ones -- security and manageability came out tops, so Cisco’s Secure-X architecture advances were appreciated.
Table Topics provides a relaxed discussion
The Rockwell Robot, the OSIsoft PI software, the Panduit solutions and the Emerson and Honeywell sensor networks booths (Wireless Hart and ISA100 respectively) were all big draws, as were the new IE2000 hardened switches from Cisco. There was huge interest in the M2M demonstrations and the way the ‘Internet of Things’ is becoming as huge as the 2008 forecasts predicted.
The Cisco Live event is a mixture of learning, networking and discussion. If you get a chance to attend you’ll meet folks from all over the world and see that the challenges and solutions are often not that different between countries or organizations.
Watch out for my next blogs where I go into more depth on the demonstrations and messaging from Cisco.
The largest gathering of Cisco customers takes place this week in San Diego, California. Taking place from the 10th to the 14th of June, Cisco Live 2012 is a great venue to see some of the latest technologies and solutions for the manufacturing and industrial sectors.
You can get education and training on the latest technologies and trends, and get tested and certified on Cisco products. One of the best benefits is mingling with like-minded colleagues, Cisco professional, and Cisco Partners.
For companies attending who are in the manufacturing, oil and gas, mining, transportation, and energy industries, we invite you to stop by the Connected Industries booth, #2934.Read More »
Enabling commercial, industrial and residential customers to better monitor and manage their energy consumption is a key benefit of a Smart Grid. As part of their grid modernization initiatives, utilities are providing information and incentives to end consumers. These include visibility to real-time energy consumption, as well as variable price and demand response signals that communicate with energy management devices and smart appliances.
This will drive more low power, often battery powered, wireless and wired energy sensors and actuators in the consumer premises. To date, this space is populated with several PHY/MAC specific, non-standardized protocol stacks which do not interoperate. To avoid multiple separate consumer networks a PHY/MAC agnostic solution is needed and this solution is best based upon open IP standards.
The ZigBee Alliance’s ZigBee IP (ZIP) standard is a first definition of an open standards based IPv6 stack for smart objects. The effort has made significant progress to bring IPv6 network protocols over 802.15.4 wireless mesh networks to reality.