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Real-World M2M—and a Real-World Mobile Data Challenge

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.

Last month, Qualcomm Executive Vice President and CTO Matt Grob presented at Meeting of the Minds 2012 in San Francisco. His presentation, “Next Big Innovation: The Mobile Internet Transformation—Meeting Network Capacity Needs of Cities,” showed how wireless connectivity is revolutionizing the way people live and interact with each other in cities.

A few examples of Qualcomm tech in this arena:

  • 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.

Cisco IBSG is also engaged with the Internet of Everything in a variety of ways, such as through the Connected Vehicle.

I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on how M2M connections—and the Internet of Everything—can enable Smart Cities of the future.

 

 

 

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Internet of Everything

Do you remember the Internet coffee pot? Back in the earliest days of the Internet, researchers at the University of Cambridge put a constantly-updating image of their break-room coffee pot on the Internet. It had a utilitarian purpose – why go to the break room if the pot was empty? But it was also a bit of an Internet sensation. I still remember showing friends the coffee pot on the Mosaic browser and breathlessly exclaiming, “And this is all the way from England, and it’s live…”.  There really wasn’t a lot of content on the Internet in those days.

Compare then to this:  a coffee maker that tracks your usage, and wirelessly “phones home” to order refills when you’re close to using up all of your coffee pods. If you think this is unusual, then you better strap yourself in, because from here on, things will get faster. The next phase of the Internet is arriving sooner than you think with the Internet of Everything.

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In Europe, Grid 4EU Sets Foundation for the Smart Grid

Grid4EU is a four-year, multi-national project that comprises six smart grid projects by utilities in France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Sweden, and the Czech Republic. Together these projects cover more than half of Europe’s electricity supply. With an ecosystem of 27-partners, the project is focusing on smart grid solutions for renewable energy integration, grid automation and energy efficiency.  This will effectively lay the groundwork for future electrical grids, while empowering consumers as marketplace participants.  Ultimately, improving consumption management and cost-effectively achieving greater network reliability, flexibility, and resiliency.

According to Marco Cotti, Head of Smart Grids Development at Enel,

“The GRID4EU project represents the first important step in the implementation of the European Electricity Grid Initiative roadmap and we are convinced that it will become a reference for the development of Smart Grids in Europe and beyond”

Cisco is supporting two major project demos in Italy and the Czech Republic. Read More »

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IPv6: Enabling the Internet of Things and Smart Grids

The Internet of Things is a fast growing market where IPv6 will play a central role. Cisco has recently delivered a new series of products with very innovate technologies for the energy market with a number of new technologies, all IPv6 based!

Indeed, the new routing protocol for the Internet of Things, RPL, which has been adopted as an international standard by the IETF (RFC 6550) and CoAP, the lightweight resources management protocol specified by the IETF are both IPv6 protocols. With the increasing number of devices connected to IP networks, IPv6 is undoubtedly the protocol of choice for the Internet of things.

A key example of where this comes to play is in Smart Grids.

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Zigbee IP: Extending the Smart Grid to Consumers

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.

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