Du beats drum for M2M
Dubai-based telco says demand for machine-to-machine solutions on the rise
UAE telco du, today hosted a roundtable focused on the emerging machine-to-machine (M2M) trend, which the operator feels will play a major part in what is now being called the "industrial Internet".
The operator drew attention to its whitepaper titled "Machine-to-Machine: next-generation communications for business", which outlined the trend and its implications for a full range of industrial sectors.
"After several years of promise, M2M has now become a hot topic for business because of a number of trends in the market," the whitepaper said.
"Falling hardware costs, cheap and reliable mobile communications networks, new regulations, innovative applications and solutions, and technological developments are behind the latest uptake of M2M."
Guru Padmanabhan, director, business solutions, enterprise marketing, du, highlighted a range of applications of M2M, including financial transactions; medical information relay from accident sites; and the preservation of the Brazilian rain forests. Padmanabhan explained how intelligent sensors implanted in the trees themselves had acted as a deterrent to lumber thieves. The sensors would not only notify a central station of detected environmental changes, but would track the timber so the thieves could be apprehended.
The M2M model starts with a sensor device that collects information from the physical environment. A module of software or firmware transmits that data through a wireless medium, which could involve a number of networks including satellite systems and standard Wi-Fi. A combination of software and hardware at the other end of this network cycle, translates the data into a production task.
Padmanabhan listed many other examples of M2M applications from industries as diverse as oil & gas and healthcare.
"It could be a simple case of a biometric sensor that contacts your primary health provider's system and transmits your critical data or it could be a sensor in a school bus that tracks that bus and makes sure the driver is doing the right things," said Padmanabhan.
For the delivery of the school bus solution, Padmanabhan confirmed du had partnered with SamTech Middle East, interviewed by ITP.net at Intersec 2013.
"Each child is given an RFID [radio frequency identification] so their progress can be monitored," explained Wedad Abdulhadi, projects manager, SamTech Middle East, when speaking with ITP.net at Intersec. The device tag becomes the sensor in the M2M setup, allowing a central control hub to maintain a live online tracking feed that is viewable by parents or to automatically notify parents of the status of their children, from the boarding of the bus to the child's proximity to their destination.
Padmanabhan also mentioned other partners, such as Ericsson and Vodafone, which had helped to deliver other M2M solutions.
The major problem du is likely to face with adoption of such systems is that of security. The concern has been raised in the industry (for example by Kaspersky Lab) about industrial control systems being compromised to an extent that cyber attacks could affect real-world critical infrastructure. This threat, coupled with the ever-increasing realisation by security analysts that protection-only strategies are insufficient, calls for more mature policies on detection and response. ITP.net asked Padmanabhan what du's approach was to this problem.
"We will soon announce advanced managed services for security that will enable us to provide 24-7 proactive monitoring, incident response and advanced threat mitigation capabilities," he responded.