M2M needs new performance parameters, references

Lack of reference architecture for M2M-based applications and inadequate performance parameters for existing communications networks hinder realization of "Internet of things", experts observe.

SINGAPORE--Existing networks architected based on human interactions which are not efficient enough for machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, as well as the lack of a reference architecture that will provide a common lexicon and taxonomy, are obstacles that need to be addressed before the "Internet of things" era can be realized.

Tadao Saito, chief scientist and CTO at Toyota's InfoTechnology Center in Japan, said existing communications networks--both fixed and wireless--were architected for human-to-human interactions so performance parameters such as network latency and technology lifespan were based on how people made use of communications technology to share information online and keep in touch with each other.

However, these performance indicators are not effective for M2M communications as their interactions are different from humans, said Saito, who was in town Wednesday for the Infocomm and Media Horizons conference organized by Singapore's Institute for Infocomm Research.

Explaining further, he noted that within the automobile industry, while telematics continues to be an important service for vehicles, its performance does not assist drivers in areas such as safety and accident prevention due to the difference in performance parameters.

For instance, while the network latency parameter is set at 1 second for humans, a machine's latency ranges from 0.1 millisecond to 10 milliseconds. Similarly, the technology lifespan for consumer devices is about five years while M2M devices last anything from 20 to 100 years, Saito pointed out.

"There needs to be a different framework for M2M performance considerations," he asserted.

Technical references needed
Another keynote speaker, Stephan Haller, development architect at SAP Research, pointed out the lack of a reference architecture as another obstacle holding back the development of the machine-to-machine industry. He noted that while there are "a lot of technology around" touting M2M capabilities, these continue to be in silos, lack interoperability and resemble a "handicraft industry".

"What is needed is a common reference architecture that would provide a common lexicon, taxonomy, architecture and best practices for companies looking to develop M2M-based technologies," Haller noted.

To this end, he said the European Union last year instituted a consortium, the Internet of Things-Architecture (IoT-A), and set a three-year timeframe to deliver an architecture reference from which others can springboard.

"IoT-A's overall technical objective is to create the architectural foundations of the future Internet of Things, allowing seamless integration of heterogeneous IoT technologies into a coherent architecture and its federation with other systems of the future Internet," the consortium stated on its Web site.

Elaborating on the lack of interoperability between different M2M platforms, Haller noted that "semantic interoperability" has yet to be resolved primarily because machines based on different language systems would not be able to comprehend the interactions. This is similar to people and language barriers in society, he said.

Despite these challenges, an earlier report stated that clamor for smart cities and intelligent utility grids was boosting future prospects of the M2M industry. According to a 2008 prediction by Berg Insight, global mobile network connections used for M2M communications would reach 186 million in 2012, with more than half dedicated to vehicle telematics.

Last December, the analyst firm estimated that the number of cellular network connections used for M2M communication worldwide would grow at a compound annual growth rate of 32 percent between 2010 and 2015, reaching 294.1 million connections by the end of the forecast period.