Machine communications does not yet have the standard it needs
Machine communications, often termed M2M, has long been forecast to be a sector with massive growth. Over the last few decades many have noted that the installation of a wireless connection into myriad devices would bring a range of benefits. An enormous range of examples have been suggested, from cars to sensors to traffic lights to healthcare applications and much more. More recent forecasts of 50 billion connected devices by 2020 do not sound so incredible when it is realised that this is only ten devices per person – many people already have more than ten wirelessly enabled devices in their home.
However, the market for machine communications to-date has been weak. There are some cars with embedded cellular modems and some relatively high-value items such as vending machines are equipped with cellular packet-data modems. But the market today is only a tiny fraction of the size it has long been predicted to grow to. This is predominantly due to the lack of a ubiquitous wireless standard that meets the needs of the vast majority of the machine market.
With its enormous variety, the machine market has an equally wide range of requirements. The most important include:
- Low cost, both of the hardware and the service. Many machines are individually relatively low value – imagine for example a temperature sensor. Chipset costs need to be in the region $1-$2 and annual service charges less than $10 to make it worth embedding wireless technology.
- Excellent coverage. To make applications such as smart metering viable there needs to be coverage of near 100% of all meters. With many meters deep within the home or even in basements this implies vastly better coverage than achieved with today’s cellular networks.
- Ultra low-power operations. Many machines are not connected to the mains and so have to operate on batteries. Having to change the battery is at best an annoyance and at worst a significant expense. Battery life of ten years or more is essential.
- Secure and guaranteed message delivery. While machines rarely need ultra-rapid transmission, they do need to be certain that messages have been received and that security of the system has not been compromised in any way.
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