Machine to machine (M2M) communication has become a burgeoning market, thanks to the advances in device-level intelligence and the relentless drive towards the Internet of things. Today, connectivity from the Cloud all the way to the edge not only seems technically feasible, but also economically viable. The business drivers for M2M systems are numerous, but for end-users, all of them ultimately add up to cost savings (e.g., remote monitoring of equipment and predictive diagnostics reduces down time and truck rolls for field service), increased productivity (e.g., remote and real-time access to patient information can improve efficacy in healthcare), reduced revenue losses (e.g., lack of security in payment or transaction systems can lead to lost revenue due to cyber-attacks), and so on.
Typical M2M Network Infrastructure
M2M Area Networks
Historically, M2M systems have been implemented on leased lines with radio modems. These lines came into the facility and was routed to the edge devices through the traditional telephone switchboards in the back-office With the advent of cellular communications, Wide Area Networking (WAN) to bring connectivity to the facility has already been taken over by service providers such as Verizon and AT&T.
There is also a move now to push these services all the way to the edge to fully implement the LAN infrastructure between the WAN and edge devices. This has resulted in significant changes in the M2M area network requirements. Primary change drivers are:
Bandwidth: The computational power, as well as storage capacity of edge devices, is constantly on the rise. This has increased the amount of data transferred between devices and M2M core services. Further, to enable ease of deployment, there has been a push towards IP-enabled devices, and open standard IP M2M area networks. These, combined, have moved M2M area network bandwidth requirements to IP communication at data rates in excess of 1Mbps, which is beyond the capability of the narrowband serial modems used in the past;
Mobile Device Integration: M2M systems include the use of mobile devices within the M2M area network architecture. From a technical perspective, this is natural since mobile devices are machines. From the end-user perspective, this enables ubiquitous connectivity to the M2M system, and from the service providers perspective, it permits the access of services delivered on the M2M system on mobile devices. Legacy M2M systems with leased lines find the integration of mobile and other handheld devices into the LAN infrastructure difficult, if not impossible.
Security: Service and security are equally important to users. Without the former, none of the users data or transaction is protected from theft or abuse. Without security, it would not be possible for users to allow any M2M exchange of information. End to end security, from the edge, all the way to the M2M core services has therefore become a key consideration in the design and implementation of M2M systems. Although leased lines, by themselves, are secure physical infrastructure, serial communication elevates the risk of cyber-attacks and makes the implementation of network-level information security very difficult and expensive.
Current trend for M2M area network Infrastructure upgrades involves the extension of cellular services all the way to edge devices. While enjoying significant success in consumer environments, cellular networks would be challenged in industrial environments and exhibit connectivity and latency issues due RF or EM interference and electrical noise. Further, it would be difficult to support broadband applications requiring consistent or dedicated bandwidth over 1 Mbps. Maintaining security in M2M systems with a plethora of access points would also be challenging. And finally, the end-user would be required to pay to the service provider for the transfer of data within the M2M area network itself. We believe that the markets inclination towards cellular is more the result of a lack of other viable technology option for M2M area network infrastructure, than anything else.
IP-485® - Secure Broadband M2M Area Network on Existing Wires
IP-485® M2M Area Network Architecture
In 2010, PCN released a patented technology called IP-485® 1. The technology enables the deployment of Ethernet extension, IP Gateways and IP-enabled networks on any wiring infrastructure (RS 485, RS 422, co-ax, etc.), while preserving the serial data already operational on the infrastructure. Specifically, in the context of M2M area networks, it enables the deployment of secure, broadband IP networks on leased lines without impacting any of the existing legacy operations that need to be retained.
We refer to this as Ethernet-on-Demand (EoD), and Figure 2 shows a sample LAN that could be deployed in any facility to enable the M2M connections to new IP devices while maintaining the operations on legacy devices. It also shows the connection on the router side that can be established with the gateway/modem provided by service providers.
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