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What happens when all the things become part of mobile networks?

Christian WietfeldBy 2024, wireless networks are forecast to handle 2.3 billion M2M connections a year, generating 3.2 exabytes of data traffic. Are our current mobile networks prepared for this onslaught? All about M2M discussed this with Prof. Dr.-Ing. Christian Wietfeld, head of the Communications Networks Department at the TU Dortmund University.

 

Professor Wietfeld, which is the greater challenge for mobile networks at present: the constant increase in data volumes or the rising number of connected devices?

They go hand in hand. In recent years the mobile networks have coped very well with the increase in data volumes. The challenge now is more that of improving the quality and thereby ensuring that critical services function reliably.

What does that mean specifically?

In today’s networks data-intensive and time-critical applications are competing with each other. From the viewpoint of the operators of critical infrastructures data-intensive applications such as video streaming are less important than time-critical applications like those that are used to control system-critical plant and machinery in, for example, power technology or transportation systems. A quality of service differentiation within the networks can ensure that system-critical applications enjoy preferential treatment. That doesn’t exist yet in wireless networks even though it would be technically feasible. In years to come, however, mobile wireless networks are sure to need to differentiate more between applications.

What might a differentiation of this kind be like?

There are different approaches. The network components might, for example, decide by means of a set of rules how to handle certain data packages and services. In this connection network virtualization by means of technologies such as Software Defined Networking (SDN) plays an important role. In this way network operators can configure the rulebook for network components centrally. While SDN is already widespread in the fixed-line network, in mobile networks the technology is still in a transitional phase between research and implementation. We will shortly be launching a project in which we will be looking into how SDN concepts can support safety-critical applications in mobile network traffic.

An alternative to differentiating between quality classes is, however, to reserve frequencies for critical services. That is currently under discussion in Europe for networking energy networks. If the politicians reach an agreement, parts of the frequency range might in the future be reserved for these applications.

Does this approach not exist already in the railroad network?

Exactly. The International Union of Railways (UIC) created a specific form of GSM system when it adopted GSM-R (short for GSM-Railway). Today it would have to be done on the basis of LTE to ensure that cyber-physical systems, meaning all systems that serve long-distance traffic communication with a critical character, function smoothly.

That also applies, for example, to similarly system-critical applications such as connected driving. Frequencies in the 5.9-GHz range have already been reserved for vehicle-to-vehicle communication. They are less suitable for classical mobile wireless communication, however. The lower frequencies that have been used until now by classical mobile networks are much more interesting. Parts of the LTE network could be operated in a reserved area there.

What benefits does extending LTE for connected applications offer?

Quite a few. An especially exciting aspect for time-critical applications is, along with higher data rates, the reduction in latencies. LTE, for example, has developed into an alternative to vehicle-to-vehicle communication because it can deliver response times of less than 100 milliseconds. GPRS, by comparison, took one or two seconds to respond. So today’s networks are so good that developers can now implement via the mobile network applications they would previously have connected via a direct communication channel.

The rising data volume of the growing number of connected devices remains a challenge even with QoS and LTE expansion, however. Are there any other approaches?

There are. I wouldn’t exactly recommend sending raw data via the net, for instance. If the application permits, the terminal devices should choose before transmission which data really needs to be transmitted and which does not.

In one project, for example, we are dealing with information from the CAN bus – a vehicle’s communication system. This system alone generates around 12 gigabytes of data per day. If this amount of data for every vehicle were to pass through the mobile network unfiltered the volume of data to be transmitted would naturally increase significantly. We aim by means of our research to make the process more efficient. That is why the data must be analyzed before transmission to choose which data is of relevance for the application.

Developers must, however, decide from case to case whether it makes sense to analyze the data locally or on the net. If the mobile network connection is very good it can make sense to transmit the raw data in its entirety and then to analyze it via a cloud platform. If, in contrast, the mobile network connection is poor a local analysis is better to ensure that at least the relevant data is transmitted.

How does the connected device know whether it is connected to a good network or a bad one?

That is an exciting question. With special applications differences of quality between networks – between two countries, for example – can lead to problems. Let us assume that an autonomous vehicle enters a network where the quality is inadequate. That could jeopardize the safety of both the vehicle and the people in it. That is why we in research are working on methods by which a terminal device can check whether the network provides sufficient quality. If it were not to do so, an autonomous vehicle would simply stand still. There are two approaches here. In Active Probing the terminal device sends small test probes to find out whether the network quality is sufficient to meet the application’s requirements. In Passive Probing, in contrast, the terminal device analyzes the network quality by means of performance parameters that it can read from the network.

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GMA bursts boundaries on the Internet of Things

Developing M2M solutions works best when they leave neither the provider’s network nor its country during application. If they need to leave either or if the solution ought to be easily deployed for the world market, that’s when it gets more complicated for M2M and IoT solution providers as well as original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). The Global M2M Association aims to change that with a new offering.

Buying a car these days is about more than horsepower or miles per gallon. Cars are increasingly developing into mobile infotainment centers. In addition more and more carmakers are collecting vehicle data in order to offer improved service models to their customers. Both infotainment and vehicle data are transmitted via integrated M2M modules.

But how do you ensure that streaming of video or audio content via 4G-connectivity is technically working and commercially viable? With the classical M2M roaming approach, mainly developed for small amounts of diagnostic data in a B2B business model, this is hardly feasible. One network operator alone can hardly provide a solution to these customer requirements.  Fitting out every car with different SIM cards would be too expensive and complex for a car manufacturer. But using only one SIM card raises another problem: Carmakers need to ensure that a car for the Spanish market gets a Spanish SIM card as well. Up to now, this was a complex, time consuming and expensive challenge for them. That is why network providers have joined forces to enhance global M2M services.

Net coverage in 33 countries

Six leading international network operators – Deutsche Telekom, Orange, TeliaSonera, Telecom Italia Mobile, Bell Canada, and Softbank – cooperate in the Global M2M Association (GMA), for example. Between them they cover 33 countries in Europe (coverage of GMA in that very fragmented market is about 97%), the Americas, and Asia.

In spite of existing roaming agreements, implementing and managing international M2M and IoT solutions has so far proven rather difficult. Identifying the cause of faults and rectifying them, for example, is expensive and time-consuming. A service unveiled by the GMA at the Mobile World Congress 2015 is designed to remedy this state of affairs. The nucleus of the new offering is the integration of the Multi-Domestic Service platform provided by Ericsson and a eSIM subscription management solution by Gemalto. M2M and IoT solution providers as well as OEMs can thereby customize their products easily to suit the world market’s needs.

One platform for all network operators

The platform serves as the interface between the local GMA network operators on one hand and M2M and IoT solution providers as well as OEMs on the other hand:

MDS-Platform
As with most network providers’ platforms, solution providers can, for instance, manage on the platform the SIM cards that they use or run their fault management processes on it. On the MDS platform provided by Ericsson, however, companies can use these functions across countries and networks. In fragmented markets such as Europe, where there are both different network operators and many different technologies in use, the platform helps lower the barriers to the development of international solutions. TeliaSonera, Orange, and Bell Canada have already launched it. The other GMA members will follow suit step by step.

SIM card adjusts its life cycle

Along with the Multi-Domestic Service offering the GMA partners are adopting GSMA-compliant embedded SIM cards (eUICC) and a Gemalto subscription management platform. The advantage is that the eUICC supports remote profile management. Carmakers can easily adopt and automatize the life cycle of the SIM Card to that of the networked product – from production via deployment by the driver to decommissioning of the vehicle. The new offering also enables customers to localize SIM cards and transfer them virtually to a GMA partner’s local network.

That also makes new billing models possible. Instead of roaming the GMA can provide SIM cards with a local business profile for use within network operators’ own footprints. This makes the solution more favorable than roaming. Companies can in this way develop location-independent M2M solutions for the global market compliant with local laws and regulations and that that users can nearly utilize on the basis of local conditions.

The benefits of the new GMA solutions are likely to be of interest mainly for the automobile industry. With eCall (Emergency Call) integration soon to become mandatory for cars that are built in the EU, carmakers have a window of opportunity in which to implement additional applications, and with the GMA’s Multi-Domestic Service offering they are well equipped to do so. So in the near future cars with  rearseat-entertainment systems that keep the children quiet during the ride will no longer be with high priced limousines but affordable in every car.

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M2M Forum CEE on June 9 in Vienna showed what the ‘Internet of Things’ can do

When a stolen bicycle reveals its location. When a fabric bag takes delivery of a parcel even if the recipient is not at home. That is when M2M is involved. Automated communication between devices makes many innovations possible and changes work and daily life, the economy and society.

 

All the areas where M2M and the Internet of Things (IoT) are deployed, which technical innovations lie ahead and which trends are taking shape was the subject of this year’s M2M Forum CEE. On June 9, 45 speakers from 12 countries said what they had to say about M2M at the Tech Gate Vienna. Around 250 people from 40 countries attended the Forum to learn about the latest trends in M2M and to find out how they can best make use of the Internet of Things.

The 5 Subject Blocks at the M2M Forum

  • Smart City: The cities of the future are to be greener, more socially integrated and more advanced. IoT and M2M solutions have an important contribution to make toward achieving this objective.
  • Industrie 4.0: In manufacturing M2M and IoT enable resources to be deployed more efficiently, production to be made more flexibly, and even customers and business partners to be integrated into the manufacturing process.
  • Connected Future: All “things” can be connected, be it a smart watch, a toothbrush, a car or an airplane. Speeches and discussions on this issue made it clear what challenges the economy faces and what opportunities this development offers.
  • Transport & Logistics: M2M solutions enable logistics service providers to ship goods faster and more safely, and machine-to-machine communication provides any number of opportunities to offer the customer additional services.
  • Future Banking: Money is a very special good – and M2M and IoT are very special technologies. Mixing the two provides the financial services sector with ample scope for innovation.

T-Mobile Austria was one of the Forum’s lead partners. The mobile network operator supported the platform in order to take M2M forward. Together with its parent company Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile Austria and its partners provide M2M and IoT solutions for many industries and market segments.

Taking IoT and M2M further forward

Just like the partnership with the M2M Forum CEE, the Business Wall of Fame is for T-Mobile Austria a key tool with which to take M2M further forward in Austria. A competition held in eight countries, the Business Wall of Fame shows how varied the uses of M2M and IoT are. You can choose your favorite until June 22.
Nearly every enterprise, regardless of size, can benefit from M2M and IoT. For one, costs can be saved; for another, new products or even entirely new lines of business can be developed.

Solution business corners the largest slice of the cake

The CEOs in the platform debate were all well aware that a larger slice of the IoT cake can be earned with services and integrated solutions. Dr. Alexander Lautz, Senior Vice President, Deutsche Telekom, said: “Connectivity business is not so bad. Today it is the telcos’ main source of revenue and that will continue to be the case for some time to come.”

Logistics industry is one of the drivers of M2M and IoT

Which industries and areas of the economy are important for companies’ current IoT business evidently differs from country to country and depends on their economic structure, Dr. Lautz confirmed. In Germany, he said, the automotive sector and thus connected cars plays a central role. For Deutsche Telekom’s IoT and M2M business logistics, B2B solutions and manufacturing were currently the most important areas. In Hungary Tibor Rékasi, CEO T-Systems Hungary, anticipates stimuli from Smart City business.

‘Partnering’ in demand

Nevertheless, telcos themselves were not able to offer all-inclusive Internet of Things solutions for all the different industries. In the solutions business in particular, cooperation with other firms was indispensable as they had the necessary industry knowhow. Cooperation should not be a major obstacle for telcos, however. “Partnering,” Dr. Lautz said, “is embedded in Deutsche Telekom’s DNA and has been since roaming began.”

View the picture gallery of the event here.

This post originally appeared at the T-Mobile Austria Business Blog in German language.

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From machine to machine: Five facts about connectivity

Reliable, large-scale communication networks are the basis of successful machine-to-machine (M2M) communication. All about M2M has compiled five interesting facts about connectivity.

 

1. Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) are growing more popular:

At first glance LPWAN wireless modules are far from impressive. Their data throughput, subject to application, is in the region of just a few hundred bits per second. For most sensor data, however, that is sufficient. The strong points of LPWAN wireless modules are in other areas. In open country they have a range of up to 40 km and they are capable of a ten-year battery life. Furthermore, they are relatively inexpensive. They are no substitute for other wireless technologies such as mobile networks, ZigBee, RFID, BlueTooth or WiFi, but they complement the existing range of choices and enable developers to gear products and solutions more closely to the application scenario.

The market researchers at Machina Research expect the number of LPWAN connections to increase to more than three billion by 2023. “[This] will be a remarkable feat for a set of technologies that did not even have a collective name until 2013,” said Chief Research Officer Jim Morrish in a Press release.

 

2. Automobile industry relies on mobile networks:

LPWANs are not suitable for every industry. Temperature, humidity and light sensors in a field can be connected via a wireless LPWA network to a central gateway and thereby linked to the Internet. A connected car, in contrast, needs a mobile wireless network connection. In the connected car several transmission technologies are used to communicate, for example, with other vehicles or construction sites. But to implement an automatic emergency call system or to relay vehicle data on the move every car needs a reliable connection to the mobile wireless network.

The experts at GSMA Intelligence expect mobile network operators to be involved in 81 percent of automatic applications. The corresponding figure in agriculture is a mere 17 percent.

 

3. Mobile wireless connections on the increase:

Countrywide network expansion, reliable availability and falling connection costs are making machine-to-machine communication via mobile networks increasingly attractive. Furthermore, in addition to ordinary data traffic manufacturers of connected products and solutions can send an automatic text or phone call to trigger human-machine interaction. Many mobile network operators can also comfortably manage SIM cards and connections via a Web portal.

According to forecasts by GSMA Intelligence the proportion of mobile network connections as a percentage of all M2M connections could increase from 7 percent in 2014 to 14 percent in 2020.

 

4. More and more connected devices:

The number of M2M connections via mobile wireless networks is set to increase in the years ahead in absolute as well as in percentage terms. That is clear from a simple glance at the motor vehicle market. In 2014 nearly 90 million cars and commercial vehicles were manufactured around the world – and numbers are on the increase. If all new vehicles that roll off the assembly line are connected cars, the number of M2M connections will rise accordingly – and rise steeply.

The market researchers at Machina Research expect the number of M2M connections via mobile networks around the world to increase from 250 million in 2014 to 2.3 billion in 2024.

 

5. Rising data volume via mobile wireless networks:

With more and more devices connected to the mobile wireless network, data volumes are also set to increase. Along with the rising number and heterogeneity of devices this growth is seen as the crucial challenge for the development and expansion of future mobile wireless networks. What that means in detail and which approaches to a solution exist are aspects we at All about M2M will be looking at in a future article.

Machina Research expects that from 2024 mobile wireless networks will be handling an annual 3.2 exabytes of M2M data. By comparison, the annual data volume is currently in the region of 0.2 exabytes, or 200 petabytes.

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How to find the best IoT solutions for business purposes

T_BWF_PR_01
The Internet of Things is growing fast. Depending on who you ask, there are expected to be up to 100 billion connected devices
by 2020, ranging from smartphones and tablets to manufacturing equipment and vending machines. Deutsche Telekom aims to support them with the “Business Wall of Fame” contest in order to find the best IoT solutions for their customers.

Increasingly, the things around us – be it machines, vehicles or even buildings – are connected and exchange data. This can help businesses to become more efficient and it also opens the door to many new business opportunities entrepreneurs can seize upon.
Undecided executives now face a growing number of small and midrange enterprises with innovative business solutions. The problem is that executives lack an overview and providers lack the selling power they need if they want to stand out among the multitude of solutions.

Deutsche Telekom aims to change this state of affairs. The company is currently calling on startups and developers in Austria, Croatia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Macedonia, Romania, and Slovakia to enter their M2M and IoT solutions for this year’s Business Wall of Fame contest.

Advertising campaigns worth up to €30,000 to be won

A community vote on wallofbusiness.com will determine the best IoT solutions. Out of those, an expert jury will select the winning national solution for each market, plus the best international solution.

The best national IoT solutions will have the chance to become Deutsche Telekom’s affiliate and win an advertising campaign worth up to €30.000. Furthermore, the best international solution will be offered a partnership in all eight countries and can reach out to a potential of 10.8 million business customers.

However, not only the participating solutions will have a chance to win big: (Potential) business customers, who engage in the voting process, can also win an advertising campaign worth up to €20,000 Euro.

The schedule at a glance

Interested startups and developers can submit their solution to wallofbusiness.com by May 25. Voting will take place between May 11 and June 22. We will, of course, be presenting the winners to you here on All about M2M.

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