M2M FEATURE

January 02, 2013

M2M Communications will Herald a New Savvier World


Machine-to-Machine, or M2M communication, is expected to transform the world in the next 10 years. It is known as the industrial Internet where machines will be able to communicate and exchange data, sometimes also called the “Internet of things” or the “Internet of everything.”

Machines will request maintenance themselves and even send alerts when on the verge of some crisis or breakdown. It would also allow jet engines to monitor themselves and trains to pick up speed for a cross-country journey.

The industrial Internet, with centrally located controllers, has a large volume of data collected by machines that have the ability to transfer it. It also has the ability to process it too. This ability distinguishes the industrial Internet from the more-familiar consumer Internet. Companies are sitting on the treasure trove of information trying to figure out the best way to use all that information.

This technology can save trillions of dollars. According to General Electric, one of the world‘s largest manufacturers, the efficiencies resulting from M2M communications would be immense. The savings resulting from the effectiveness and efficiency of the industrial Internet could be worth as much as $15 trillion to the global economy. It is about as much as the gross domestic product of the United States.

“The music industry, the book industry, retail have been foundationally changed because of the Internet and software,” said Bill Ruh, vice president of GE‘s software division. “What we see happening now is those Internet-based technologies are having the same disruptive effect on industry.”

Fix me before I break – that is what the machines will communicate. M2M communication has changed the way one North Fayette manufacturer does business already. Industrial Scientific, a company that made gas detectors in 1985, established iNet in 1999. This computer system helped its customers maintain the detectors with the use of calibration. The experiment then became a business model. Customers buying gas detectors subscribe to iNet. Workers charge the detectors by putting them into docks at the end of the day and the connecting data and relevant information is sent to a data center. At  the data center a software division analyses the data, runs diagnostic checks on gas detectors and can predict when something will go wrong for a customer.

“We now have about 70,000 instruments in 21 countries on the iNet platform,” said Justin McElhattan, the company‘s chief executive officer. “We‘ve basically turned our company inside-out. We’re dedicating our careers to eliminating death on the job this century,” McElhattan said, by flagging companies when something could cause an injury.

The industrial Internet system can be put to good use by connecting trains to a rail system network. Computers onboard will analyze GPS data about terrain, direction, location and speed of other trains. The analysis would help the train in using the downhill stretches to accelerate. It can plan its cruising speed so as the other trains can also continue toward their journeys without stopping.

“We could end up saving anywhere from 2 (percent) to 10 percent of fuel ... on that locomotive,” said Bill Ruh, the vice president of GE‘s software division.

It is being used in wind turbines as well, allowing embedded computers to measure wind speed and direction. The computer then shares that information. The windmills change the direction to use the speed of the wind in the best possible manner. The windmills then work together. By sharing data, power generation in some wind farms increased as much as 10 percent, Ruh said. Accordingly, airlines could save fuel through more efficient operations too.

Healthcare can use the industrial Internet too. San Francisco-based Fitbit and Oakland-based PHRQL have enabled monitoring, transmission and analysis of data concerning people’s health through watch-size devices and mobile phones. Diabetics, for example, use PHRQL‘s software to send healthcare providers periodic information about meals or trips to the gym, which enabling real-time monitoring of health. Access to a social network of people with diabetes is also a big benefit, according to Jeevan Pendli, one of PHRQL‘s founders.

 “People connect with each other and make friends with each other and share their pains, and share how they‘ve overcome some situations,” Pendli said. “The country spends $2.8 trillion on health care, a figure that could double in five years. Manageable, preventable chronic diseases drive that increase more than anything else,” he said.

There are security concerns too. Unscrupulous people could mine data for their benefit or sabotage the units. But such concerns need to be managed according to Ruh because the marriage of the industrial and Internet revolution is inevitable, it cannot be stopped and it will benefit humanity.




Edited by Brooke Neuman


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