Tuesday, July 3, 2012

An Introduction to M2M Technology : It’s Applications & Prospects in Bangladesh

Md. Shahinur Rahman*

Today, mobile operators in developed markets are actively seeking new avenues for revenue generation since the traditional sources such as voice are getting saturated. M2M communication is considered as one such opportunity. It's now possible for your refrigerator to talk to your stove and your alarm system to your car, and you could control and run initial machines, systems all on one network. This is a new networking trend known as machine-to-machine, or M2M. M2M leverages wireless networking technologies like sensing and MANET (Missings Are Now Equally Treated) to much wider applications leveraging also the internet.


The origin of M2M communications is cloudy because of the many different possibilities of its inception. It began around the year 2000, possibly earlier, when cellular technology first began to learn to connect directly to other computer systems. The year 2009 was important to the development of M2M technology, both in the U.S., and in Europe. In the United States, AT&T and Jasper Wireless entered into an agreement to both support the creation of M2M devices jointly. In conjunction, they have stated that they will be trying to further connections between consumer electronics and M2M wireless networks, which would create a boost in speed, connectivity, and overall power of such devices.
M2M: What does it mean?
M2M stands for machine-to-machine, mobile-to-machine, or man-to-machine communication. Generally stated, M2M is the connection and communication among all aspects of the physical enterprise: knowledge workers, business applications, and remotely dispersed assets and equipment.
Machine-to-machine (M2M) refers to technologies that allow both wireless and wired systems to communicate with other devices of the same ability. M2M uses a device (such as a sensor or meter) to capture an event (such as temperature, inventory level, etc.), which is relayed through a network (wireless, wired or hybrid) to an application (software program), that translates the captured event into meaningful information (for example, items need to be restocked). Such communication was originally accomplished by having a remote network of machines relay information back to a central hub for analysis, which would then be rerouted into a system like a personal computer.
Simple Architecture of M2M
M2M communication is the data flow among people, devices, and systems. The data will be interpreted as information for remote control and monitoring. Three basic elements for M2M are:
  • Embedded Processor for storing data.
  • Communication Technology for transfer of data.
  • Management Applications for monitoring and control.
A machine can be defined as anything with mechanical, electrical, electronic, or environmental properties. Examples include manufacturing machinery, refrigeration systems, telecommunications equipment, server cabinets, data centers, HVAC systems, storage tanks, and security equipment. Industry-specific assets like utility equipment, natural gas compressors and pipelines, traffic management systems, and restaurant and convenience store equipment can also be considered machines in the context of M2M.

* Divisional Engineer Phones, Basabo, Khilgaon, BTCL, Dhaka.


Figure-1: Simple Architecture of M2M

Modern machines increasingly contain computers that stores information. They may also have inbuilt radios to transmit/retrieve information that helps efficient and safer automatic operation of home/industrial/business/medical processes. The information can important for operator to act on it accordingly. Even if machines do not contain computers, they can be attached with sensor radio devices to provide physical information. Moreover, the devices may happen to be out of range of each other and there will be a need to route the information i.e. both point to point and point to multi-point communication is necessary for M2M.
In recent years, SMS has become an increasingly important transmission mechanism for M2M communication, with the ubiquity of GSM and the relatively low cost of SMS being cited as advantages. Concerns have been raised over the reliability of SMS as an M2M channel, however the rise of direct Signaling System 7 (SS7) connected SMS gateways, which can offer increased reliability and the ability to confirm delivery, have allayed many of these fears.
M2M Value Network
Value generation for an M2M solution is only possible with the confluence of multiple industries and their respective players. Hence, a value network approach would enable us to capture the reality in an M2M business. Figure-2 provides an overview of all the roles involved in an M2M business. The roles are described as follows:

Figure-2: M2M value Network

The end-user for the M2M application can be either a business firm or a consumer. These roles don’t have a major influence on the value network as they are mainly involved in the consumption of the service. However, one possible way of their influencing the net is in terms of the demand. Changes in demand would lead to different configurations among other players in the network, in order to generate economically viable business
Service operator provides the basic M2M service to the end-user. The service operator works in tandem with the network operator to provide M2M services. The service operator has a direct relationship with the end-user.
•  Network operator provides the basic
Communication transport network service to the service operator.Application provider develops M2M value-added services for a service operator to be consumed by the end-user.
Equipment vendor:
Ø  End-user equipment vendor provides M2M-enabled equipments. A player having this role would typically work with the systems integrator.
Ø  Mobile equipment vendor provides the necessary mobile infrastructure such as GSM-based modules for M2M communications. A player having this role works in cooperation with the network operator.
System integrator plays a major role in providing an end-to-end M2M solution. A player with this role would work together with the network operator, end-user and equipment vendors.

A player can assume one or more of these roles according to the business model. Assuming more than one role could provide additional power in the value network. For instance, a network operator can act as a service operator and systems integrator in order to get greater control over the value network.
M2M in Everyday Life: The Internet is now staple in everyday consumer life, enabling people to connect and share information with other people, and to stay connected to the world. Web-enabled devices (cellular phones, PDA’s, mini-computers, etc.) and communications services are introduced everyday that go beyond people-to-people connections to connect businesses, healthcare providers and others with individual consumers. They aren’t simply connecting with people. They are providing “smart consumer services” that ultimately improve and enhance individual quality of life. They enable consumers to protect and better manage their homes, cars, and other personal effects. They help them improve and maintain the condition of their health. And they provide conveniences never before dreamed of.

M2M Applications:                                               

  • Improved tire safety via tire pressure monitoring (TPM) - information is transmitted from auto tires to the auto computer that alerts owner.
  • Improved auto performance via in-car computer reporting operating condition data that tracks performance that notifies and coordinate warranty services and routine maintenance.
  • Reduced loss of auto via global positioning systems (GPS) that enable smart consumer services such as Vehicle location via SMS/Web, Nearest vehicle trace, Engine status, Movement status (standby/running), Hijack Vehicle Detection and Anti-theft system.
  • Lifestyle conveniences such as keyless entry for locking/unlocking doors and trunks, remote engine ignition, and anti-frost systems, "NO-GO" area,,Speed violation alert,  Battery tamper alert
Healthcare & Sports
  • Decreased recovery time and lowered health care costs via remote patient monitoring and management outpatient services
  • Improved qualify of life via pacemaker, insulin pumps, heart-related monitors, medical alert pendants, hearing aids, and other health-critical monitoring devices and services that are not only tied to managed care services, but also to emergency alert and messaging services to notify of device failure and patient incapacity
  • Lifestyle conveniences such as wireless heart-rate monitors, time/distance/speed monitors and receivers that transmit sport and exercise performance data to manage on-going fitness programs
Home Automation & Control
  • Improved security via home security systems that monitor and detect dangerous conditions from fire and other hazards, and intruders
  • Preserve energy through lighting, thermostat, irrigation and utility systems that not only enable remote controls, but also monitor operating condition of A/C units, pools, water heaters, and more in real time to detect potential over-consumption of utilities as well as forewarning potential failure
  • Lifestyle conveniences that include wireless speakers, entertainment controls, computer devices such as wireless keyboards, mouse’s, headsets, wireless game controllers

M2M in Public Services

Public services organizations are implementing M2M solutions to help them offer services and works within the most effective and sustainable use of both their natural resources available and their services infrastructures. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and solutions providers have begun providing wireless networking-enhanced products to public services organizations along with “smart services” to help them achieve their cost and resource conservation goals.

As a services provider, the pubic services organizations themselves have extended the M2M capabilities to their constituents and have begun providing “smart services” as well. Smart services offered by public services organizations ultimately improve and enhance individual quality of life while improving quality of life collectively for the communities they serve.

Water, Electricity, and Gas
  • Reduced overall costs and improved accuracy of collecting utility usage information for billing purposes through automatic meter reading (AMR) -- the remote collection of consumption data from electric, water and gas meters -- using wireless communications
  • Improved conservation via “time-of-use” metering / billing that ties pricing of power and water consumed based on time-of-day and adherence to usage allocations
Homeland security
  • Improved security in ports and transit systems via cargo container security systems and services that identify contents and monitor conditions of containers.
  • Secure public infrastructure (water, power and fuel supply chains) via asset tracking and monitoring using GPS / satellite and radio communications with ability for remote control monitor real-time conditions.

Prospects of M2M in Bangladesh:

At present, In our country the total number of Mobile Phone Active Subscribers has reached 89.457 million3 at the end of March 2012, the total number of PSTN Phone Subscribers has reached 1028.19 thousand3 at the end of May 2010 and the Internet subscribers has reached 31140.8043 thousand (mobile internet 29609.497 + PSTN 1208.000 + WiMAX 323.307) at the end of February 2012. However we stand on a low level of internet diffusion. The latest statistics revealed that internet penetration for PSTN is only 0.8 percent8 in Bangladesh. Though the PSTN internet penetration is very poor but the number of mobile internet subscribers is very high and we find one mobile phone in every two person9. So this huge number of mobile phones subscribers indicates a great opportunity for M2M Services in Bangladesh. We can also apply the services of M2M into our service type Organizations (like: DESA, DESCO, Railway, Telecom, BRTC, BIWTA, Port, Banks, WASA, TITAS, etc). Already some mobile operators & Financial Institutions are started a few M2M services like: Vehicle tracking, Buddy Tracker, e-bill (Electric Bill, Gas Bill etc), Railway Ticketing, e-care, Mobile banking, e-banking, electronic money transfer etc. So there is a huge prospect’s / opportunities both have in Public & Private sectors in Bangladesh.

Conclusion: Maturity in voice revenues and advancement in the mobile technologies have motivated operators to look at possibilities of providing value-added data services. In this regard, M2M services have attracted much attention recently from the mobile operators in Bangladesh. The current implementations are concentrated to individual users but it should be concentrated towards business users. They are as follows:
• Mobile operators need to interact and cooperate with industry players outside the mobile realm in order to provide innovative, cost-efficient and revenue generating M2M solutions. This would mean new relationships in the value network, which is no longer, same as visible in the mainstream mobile market.
• Major operators can gain greater control of the value network due to their financial power. However, smaller operators can also play a major role as service operators. There are numerous forecasts predicting an enormous increase in the number of M2M-enabled devices and an increase in the M2M-related revenue generation.