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Removing Barriers to an Embedded Wireless Future

| October 26, 2011

Author: Norbert Muhrer,
Cinterion Wireless Modules, A Gemalto Company

The wireless M2M industry is at a very exciting inflection point. There are tens of millions M2M connections today, with proven successes in POS, smart metering, fleet management, automotive and many other applications. The numbers may differ, but industry analysts agree we can expect strong growth in the coming years. Berg Insight [1] predicts that the number of cellular M2M connections will grow at a CAGR of 32% to reach 294.1 million in 2015. Analysys Mason’s [2] estimate is 2.1 billion device connections by 2020, with a comparable CAGR of 36%. And Ericsson estimates 50 billion connected devices by 2020, only nine years from now.

Historically M2M grew because it improves efficiency, productivity and profitability. Today businesses are discovering new business models enabled by embedding mobile and opening new channels to customers. The business case for adoption has never been stronger as the price of wireless technology has dropped while networks have evolved and expanded, bringing high speed, wireless voice and data communications to the farthest reaches of the earth. In addition, Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) have discovered the growth potential of M2M and are now offering competitive pricing and dedicated support for M2M solutions.

The future is certainly bright, yet new enterprises starting out in the booming M2M market must overcome several hurdles to successful adoption. Some of these, such as combining the required technology bricks and proving the business case, are barriers that have been overcome before and adopters can look to tried–and-tested solutions for answers. With the growing number of network technologies and frequency bands, deploying large scale global implementations can be challenging and with the increasing number of connected devices, safeguarding against security threats will become one of the key topics for the internet of the things.

Technical Design Realization

To first-time M2M integrators, cellular technology is often more complex than anticipated. Mobile networks have been optimized for person-to-person communications, with the selection of cell phone and carrier being a fairly simple task. In M2M, however, each solution brings together numerous components, which must be specially designed and integrated to meet specific business requirements, so there are few off-the-shelf solutions that work. For instance, in addition to specific sensors, each remote unit (vehicle, meter, health monitoring device, etc.) must be fitted with a cellular module and MIM (Machine Identity Module, a specialized machine SIM) with the best features and capabilities at the right price for the business case. A carrier and service plan must be selected that makes sense for the long haul. Determining the right connectivity configuration (carrier network, gateway, Internet web portal) is also a complex endeavor. Customized application software is necessary on the backend to connect the remote unit to the central server of business. Finally, a battery of certification and approvals must be achieved in order for a solution to operate on wireless networks. 

The good news is the M2M industry has matured. Companies such as Cinterion now offer more than just a piece of technology. Drawing on 15+ years of M2M expertise, Cinterion now adds SIM technology to the module and includes device management. Selecting an integration partner with applicable vertical market experience is the key to removing the technical barriers to implementing M2M.

Considering Total Cost of Ownership

M2M implementations cost money to design and implement and they only make sense when return on investment is achieved in a specific time frame. When considering the business case for implementing M2M, it’s not just about the cost of hardware, components and parts but the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of all elements involved in integration. Within each specific vertical market, TCO varies greatly among applications.  For instance in the automotive sector, applications include eCall, fleet management, in vehicle internet and other solutions.  The module is typically 1-13%, network traffic can range from 0-65% and design can range from 34-94%. The costs of hardware and network connectivity have come down considerably, but design and provisioning are still key cost drivers.

New M2M adopters need to carefully consider where cost cutting makes sense. Selecting a module with fewer features and pre-certifications to save money at the time of implementation might not make sense if a short time to market is needed, or even three years down the road, when business growth or technological evolution may demand greater hardware capabilities. Cinterion offers modules that provide a proven evolution path from one technology to another and simplifies integration and approval processes. Choosing the right partner is the key to smart design, lower design costs and reducing time to market.

Partnership for Success

A strong design partner with related vertical market experience will guide the entire integration process – from module selection to provisioning and connectivity management. The right integration partner will help achieve lower total cost of ownership and expedite the development timeline for a swift time to market and revenue!  In addition, they will ensure that component quality, capabilities and a smart migration path to next generation technologies are not sacrificed for a short term gain that will end up costing more in the end. And experienced partners can help manage the multitude of standards and technologies required when expanding large scale solutions globally. For instance, they can help identify which technology platforms are best suited for each region, whether CDMA, GSM, LTE or multimode.  In addition, the right partner can help identify the appropriate SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) or MIM technology along with a provisioning concept ideal for the implementer’s needs.

Securing the Internet of Things

Some of the same elements that have given rise to the M2M industry boom have also enabled a variety of new security threats. Technology advancements and increased computing power, plus declining hardware costs and the multitude of free software tools widely available on the Internet have contributed to an increased number of security risks.  Hackers and nefarious code can disrupt business operations and weaken competitive advantage in short span of time.  The recent hacking of GPRS shows that malicious attention is already shifting to mobile technology. The internet of things is believed to become larger than today’s internet and will certainly be widely attacked. As an example, Sony’s Playstation Network did not get hacked in the early days. A network of 77 million users attracted hackers for access to sensitive customer data. In addition to time and effort spent mitigating negative PR, Sony reported that it spent 14 billion yen ($170 million USD) to cover the costs of shoring up the breech.

M2M security measures must be considered at the onset of development, and only an integrated security approach will be effective to safeguard M2M solutions and ensure their success. Careful engineering of end-to-end security architecture is necessary to protect M2M implementations and leverage passive, reactive and active security measures for wireless M2M solutions. M2M solutions should be secure by design and not in hindsight.

Cinterion has been an industry pioneer for 15 years with a broad portfolio of cellular M2M communication modules. In tight collaboration with Gemalto, the world leader in digital security, the company provides a diversified offering of digital security related solutions – from end-to-end security consulting, cellular modules with embedded Java Security Framework and dedicated security features, embedded MIMs  to secure hardware elements for cellular M2M applications. The combination of Cinterion M2M modules and Gemalto MIMs provides a new breed of security and connected confidence for M2M solutions; one which has been field-proven in global solutions where security is paramount such as point-of-sale (POS), smart metering, banking, national ID cards and more.

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