Besides Device Interoperability, What Else Should the M2M Industry Demand?
It’s not often that you get to present a topic you’re passionate about. However, I get to do just that at the M2M Evolution Conference  in Las Vegas, as a panelist during the oneM2M  General Session, August 28, 9:00am.
My company, B&B Electronics, is a machine-to-machine (M2M) device manufacturer, so I have first-hand experience 1) putting M2M devices through the North American cellular network certification process, and 2) helping customers provision and connect their M2M devices so they’re usable on cellular networks. And, I have some ideas to simplify these processes. In fact, this topic, which I discussed  at the TIA 2012 conference, prompted my nomination as a TIA delegate to bring this expertise to the oneM2M global partnership, which formed  just a few months later in July 2012.
What is oneM2M?
The first order of business for oneM2M is interoperability, with certification and provisioning being equally important topics. Committee work on the former is underway, with initial discussions about to begin on the latter.
oneM2M is addressing the need for a standardized approach to M2M connectivity, promoting interoperability across all industries and networks. To that end, oneM2M is working to create service layer optimizations to ensure the functionality and interoperability of M2M. This service layer has been proprietary to each manufacturer’s implementation, so that it is not interoperable with other manufacturers’ equipment. oneM2M’s goal is to enable M2M services to share the same service layer language globally so they can talk to each other.
Today, carriers provide and manage connectivity, hardware vendors build hardware and get it network ready and certified, and developers and integrators make sure the software works. But looking forward, the range of data streams in M2M combined with the legacy of carrier interfaces points to a need for carriers to provide interoperability and for systems that share information better and more efficiently. The complexity and related costs in certification and SKU management also needs to be addressed.
Four panelists provide insight into oneM2M’s work during M2M Evolution conference
Richard Brennan, oneM2M’s marketing chair, will overview oneM2M. Eshwar Pittampalli, market development director of Open Mobile Alliance (OMA), will discuss remote management of devices including OMA-DM, a client for device management. Adam Gould, CEO of Sensinode, will dig deeper into those topics. I will then discuss device certification and provisioning. Carl Ford, co-chair of the M2M Evolution conference, will moderate the session.
Industry collaboration needed to streamline cellular network certification & provisioning
First of all, what’s broken?
Let’s start with complexities for M2M device manufacturers.
North American cellular carriers, and standards bodies like CTIA/PTCRB, each have a different certification process and requirements. The process is costly ($40,000 to $100,000) and lengthy (up to 40 weeks or even more) for manufacturers, making it difficult to predict development costs and time to market.
Then there’s re-certification, or “re-branding.” Making minor, non-functional changes (model numbers, configuration options) to an already certified device currently requires a waiver and then reapplication for certification and hence additional costs and delays.
To simplify certification for manufacturers, what if….
- There was a central, industry-supported collaboration center with one certification process for all carriers?
- There was no charge for testing? Funding for, and access to the collaboration center, could potentially come from joining one of the North American standards bodies, such as the TIA and oneM2M.
- Manufacturers could design to a single standard, pass preliminary and final tests and go to market in only 4 – 6 weeks?
- There was an industry collaboration database and web portal that made it easier to submit waivers for already certified products when a manufacturer re-brands them for third party companies?
Let’s switch gears to industrial end users.
Unlike activating a consumer cellphone which has many voice/data plan options, it’s difficult to find data plans for M2M devices whose sole purpose is to transfer data. You’re not likely to find help at the local cellular store. Then provisioning those devices with working data connections often entails wading through proprietary systems and manuals. Finally, users need to be able to remotely manage devices, which, in industrial environments, are often numerous and located in remote or hazardous locations.
To simplify device provisioning for end users, what if…
- M2M devices were carrier agnostic (i.e. Gobi 3K), where you could simply purchase a device, select a carrier, turn it on and be done in less than an hour for $0?
- M2M cellular device manufacturers navigated the pain points of provisioning for their industrial customers, like the local cellular store does for consumers? For example, manufacturers could team up with mobile virtual network operators (MVNO), who bundle data in the form of SIM cards, so that M2M cellular routers could come equipped with pre-paid data plans, data billing, roaming and even virtual private networking (VPN), which is the key to provisioning devices with connectivity across carrier networks. B&B recently worked with Digi-Key and Jazz Wireless to develop such a 3G Router/SIM Card bundle .
And then there’s remote device management
It’s impossible to discuss device management without talking about the service layer. A service layer allows for edge-to-application data connectivity, and also for its management. Users ultimately need the ability to provide automated firmware updates to devices in the field, via the service layer.
As I mentioned before, oneM2M is working to enable M2M services to share the same service layer language globally so they can talk to each other – and be interoperable. My colleagues will discuss the service layer and remote device management extensively, so I won’t go into it here. I will say that there’s much progress being made, with prospects such as the OMA-DM  client for remote device management, and TIA’s TR-50 M2M protocol standards , which both make it easier for manufacturers to understand how to interface to the service layer, so they can implement connectivity to the devices they make. OMA-DM also enables MNOs (Mobile Network Operators) to leverage the management platforms that they already have in their network for managing mobile devices, to also manage M2M devices, with minimal further investments.
Have a voice in connecting M2M – join oneM2M
oneM2M wants to bring global M2M players to the collaboration table from verticals such as telematics, intelligent transportation, healthcare, utilities and industrial automation. Device manufacturers, software companies and technology leaders are welcome – anyone who wants to have a voice in how devices will communicate with each other globally.
Many forward-thinking standards bodies and manufacturers have already joined oneM2M, now with over 269 members (list at: http://www.onem2m.org/participants.cfm ). Information on how to join oneM2M is at: http://www.onem2m.org/join.cfm