Cloud computing, Internet of Things, Machine to Machine – what’s with all the new terms? The same way that corduroy pants and bell bottom jeans come back into mainstream fashion every few years under a new name, so does technology. Cloud computing is a fancy term that was created to make the adoption and understanding of existing hosted IP based applications like remote storage, web services, store fronts and other new hosted services seem simple and more palatable under one friendly non-threatening term – the cloud. Who’s afraid of a cloud?
In a similar vein, Machine to Machine, written as M2M, is a term which seems confusing at first, but in reality it simply describes a low cost radio that can connect to any device that has serial, Ethernet or other similar interface enabling direct communications to it. What makes this possible is that over the years technology has continually improved and costs have been driven down to the point where it has become economically feasible to enable more devices in your operations with communication.
When these devices are enabled with communication capabilities, the machinery can be actively monitored or controlled via remote computers. Imagine having communication and near real-time control and visibility into almost every aspect of your operations. For example, if a shut-off valve on a pipe in your facility has been left open for an extended period of time, you will have insight into how long it’s been open and send maintenance staff to assess and alleviate the situation before it becomes a potentially detrimental issue.
In addition to being aware of the current state of your organization’s operations, the remote devices which are connected to M2M modems can equip operators with valuable diagnostic information. Armed with this information, operators can take proactive steps if and when a device fails. Companies can maximize their uptime by scheduling planned downtime to replace devices that may be starting to have issues before they fail and shut down their operations.
In wired networking, enterprise customers typically have separate networks, physical or virtual, separating their enterprise systems from their operational systems. Similarly, as M2M devices start proliferating your operations they will create their own network, a so-called “Internet of Things.” Today, the Internet as we know it is used by people for traditional web surfing, email, games, watching videos and other similar business, personal and entertainment activities. However, it’s been estimated that the number of “things” in the world that can be monitored via communication outnumber people by anywhere from 10:1 to 1000:1 thus giving credibility that the “things” of the world may need their own Internet.
Mike Koch is an Energy & Utility Principal for Motorola Solutions, Inc. Learn more about what Motorola Solutions has to offer Utilities.