M2M: It's a platform play

Staff Writer
01 Jul 2008
00:00

 

"For example a real-time unified view of how power is used will help safeguard this increasingly rare resource. And what can be measured can be controlled, and ultimately optimized."

To date however, growth has been restrained. M2M projects are notoriously long-term investments taking years to initiate, due to large budgets, the length of the decision-making process, and time needed to put together a custom solution from several supply chain players. Despite these hurdles, Cory insists the signs are positive.

Enel, the Italian energy company, has completed a $4.5 billion installation of 30 million smart electricity meters. The meters send their data through the existing electricity grid to the nearest substation. The substations then pass the data on to the centralized control rooms through GSM.

Others in Europe initiating AMR programs include Sweden, the Netherlands and the UK. Closer to home Australia has started a program in Victoria. Heavy summer time use of air conditioners was causing extra investment in low-use power plants. The Essential Services Commission of Victoria pushed for legislation, resulting in a program that will see about one million smart meters installed by 2013.

Malaysia's pilot projects used GPRS and mobile RF systems, but proved to be very expensive. Last year, Malaysia's largest electricity utility announced a contract to deploy AMR meters to commercial and industrial customers. The system will use GSM.

Frost & Sullivan reports that other Asian countries are looking at RF technology utilizing handheld, mobile, or fixed networks for their AMR systems. Thailand's Provincial Electricity Authority is following up on a 30,000-meter system. Indonesian and Vietnamese utilities are also testing pilot projects.


An IP address for every machine

Futurists envisioned M2M networks as having all their assets connected directly to the Internet. Set aside the cost issue of each asset needing a radio and also the protocol stack and hardware for TCP/IP, much less the problem of assigning IP addresses for all these assets and then providing DNS or some other means to find and use these assets. Today's reality is that there is not enough available addresses to go around.

IPv4, the current addressing scheme, allows for about a maximum of 4.3 billion addresses. However, this has proved to be not enough as more and more devices are hooked up to the Internet. Currently ISPs are using a work-around, Network Address Translation, while everyone waits for the new addressing scheme - IPv6 - to be implemented throughout the system.

To make sure that the net won't run out of addresses in the near future, IPv6 allows for about 3.4×1038 addresses. That's enough to place about 660,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 devices on each square meter of the earth's surface.

That should be enough for M2M.

- Chris Everett

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