M2M and Cloud-based Platforms
The importance of cloud-based M2M platforms cannot be overstated. The "Internet of Things" (IOT) will be comprised of billions of connected devices across numerous verticals. Cellular wide-area networks (WAN) will play an important role in providing connectivity "either directly or indirectly" to a good portion of the devices that make up the IOT. The IOT itself will be designed as a Network of Networks. Various short- and long-range technologies have to co-exist in order to facilitate data communication between these connected devices and the enterprise backend. The current IOT environment is in a state of near chaotic change, with new hardware, interfaces, network access technologies, application protocols and technologies, and other individual components added or deleted quite regularly. This creates massive complexities for the M2M solution providers, who have to take all this fragmentation into account when designing, implementing, and upgrading their solutions. Adding large amount of connected devices will also result in significant amount of data ("Big Data") that needs to be stored, analyzed, reported, and archived. The current state of the industry is comparable to the early days of the Smartphone revolution, where hundreds of thousands of application developers are testing new ideas to develop the next big application for the connected world. However, many of these efforts run the risk of not achieving commercial fruition, largely because of the fact the early innovators do not have the required expertise, resources, or time to address the industry fragmentation. Unlike the Smartphone or other types of connected display devices that have standardized around a few main operating platforms, the M2M space continues to grow rapidly, with each vertical having its own set of platforms and pre-defined (and sometimes rigid) way of implementing M2M solutions. However, all M2M deployments send data either proactively or in response to a specific command to an application over a public or a private network. Exceptional growth in M2M will lead to exponential increase in the amount of computing power required to effectively manage all that transactional data coming in from connected devices. These are some of the reasons why the M2M cloud providers - that can provide the necessary resources to application developers to help them get started with M2M application development and deployments with relative ease - are expected to see significant adoption for their services. A well-designed and appropriately priced M2M cloud platform can certainly provide a cost-effective way to introduce new M2M applications to the market. In the past, M2M application providers have had little choice but to develop and manage the entire communication system on their own. This was a very costly affair, and clearly was not a very scalable approach. Cross-vertical communication between M2M applications (such as an electric vehicle and the Smart Grid) is important to help derive maximum benefits from the connected devices revolution. Security and compliance requirement are also evolving rapidly, and this places an additional burden on M2M solution providers who have to ensure that their deployments are in line with the key expectations of their customer and the regulatory authorities. In many cases, ongoing audits and certification requirements can place additional economic burden on M2M deployments, especially those that are custom built to serve the need of a one particular customer, industry, or a vertical.
The application layer and the Infrastructure (or the platform) layer are the two main high-level components of M2M cloud platform deployments. M2M application developers should be able to focus on application development without having to spend too many resources on infrastructure. That is where the cloud-based M2M platforms come in. In many cases, M2M cloud platforms are designed to support hardware deployments of a particular module vendor (that may have a client agent pre-installed on M2M endpoints). However, in the long run, M2M cloud platform providers will have to extend their services to both in-house as well as to other industry participants’ modules by providing access to the necessary interfaces and on-device client software (if implemented as part of the connectivity architecture).
Here is a profile of a company (Axeda) that has been a pioneer in M2M and has helped address many of the M2M application development and deployment challenges.
Axeda provides the leading cloud-based service and software for managing connected products and implementing innovative M2M applications — taking the cost and complexity out of connecting and remotely servicing the products of the world’s leading companies. Axeda customers use its M2M cloud service to deliver innovative M2M solutions and optimize their business processes with data from their connected products. By relying on the Axeda M2M Cloud Service to power their connected products, companies are literally transforming their business by improving customer satisfaction, reducing costs, and generating new sources of revenue. The M2M solutions behind these connected products range from remote service, fleet management, usage-based insurance, asset tracking, mHealth, and more.
Key Offerings and Value Proposition
The Axeda M2M Cloud Service provides an advanced cloud-based software for managing connected products and assets and implementing innovative M2M applications. The service provides companies with a secure and scalable M2M data integration and application development platform, connectivity over wired or wireless networks, and out-of-the-box device and asset management applications to reduce the cost and complexity of implementing M2M solutions.
The Axeda M2M Cloud Service includes:
- Axeda® Platform, a secure and scalable data integration and application development platform with M2M application services and data management features for building and managing an M2M solution.
- Axeda M2M Connectivity, a family of software agents, libraries, toolkits and services for establishing connectivity between assets and the Axeda Platform, using a variety of communication methods (Internet, WiFi, satellite, and the AT&T network).
- Axeda Connected Product Management Applications, a suite of out-of-the-box web-based applications spanning remote service, remote access, and software and content distribution that enable companies to manage connected products and remotely identify, diagnose, and repair issues.
The Axeda Platform
The Axeda Platform is a complete M2M data integration and application development platform with infrastructure delivered as a cloud-based service. With the highest levels of scalability and security as well as powerful development tools and flexible APIs, companies can quickly build and deliver custom M2M applications for the most demanding requirements and integrate M2M data into key enterprise applications and systems.
The Axeda Platform includes:
- M2M Application Services – Allows developers to extend and customize the core platform functionality via a powerful embedded scripting engine and a rich set of Web Services for both SOAP and REST consumption.
- M2M Integration Framework – Accelerates integration with the Axeda Platform and enterprise systems with standards-based message queue technology.
- M2M Data Management – Processes and stores incoming M2M data; manages device and asset types, data items, locations, alarms, and files; and includes built-in security for managing users, roles, user groups, and device groups.
Axeda M2M Connectivity
The Axeda M2M Cloud Service includes M2M connectivity services, software agents, and toolkits that enable companies to establish connectivity between their devices or assets and the Axeda Platform, while allowing them to choose the communication method and hardware that best suits their needs. As a result, companies can connect to any product using any device, over any communication channel (cellular networks, the Internet, WiFi, or satellite), for any application.
Axeda M2M Connectivity Services includes three types of solutions depending on the class of device or asset that needs to be connected.
- Firewall-Friendly Agents - Software agents that run on Linux or Windows and install directly on assets or a networked gateway computer, connected to corporate assets.
- Wireless Agent Toolkits - A Java or ANSI C library for embedding Axeda connectivity into devices that can be compiled into a company’s own software and executed on a wide array of computing hardware and platforms.
- Device Protocol Adapter - A device communication server that connects to any M2M message protocol and can be extended with custom CODECs (coder/decoders) that translate the device’s native communication format into a form that the Axeda Platform can understand and process.
- Policy Server - A server-based software application residing on the customer’s network, Axeda Policy Server provides a comprehensive and granular set of permission settings that continuously governs Axeda Agent behavior for all devices at the customer location.
Axeda Cloud Service
As an advanced cloud-based software for managing connected products, the Axeda M2M Cloud Service is delivered as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) via its ISO 27001: 2005-certified data centers, backed by complete security, scalability and infrastructure, and first-class operations and customer support.
With Axeda’s on-demand service, enterprises enjoy all the benefits of the Axeda M2M Cloud Service without the challenges and overhead of administering and implementing the technology and infrastructure.
Axeda’s on-demand service provides customers with a pay-as-you-go model that minimizes risk, and enables rapid deployment for faster ROI. Additional benefits include:
- Rapid and easy implementation - Reduce initial project implementation requirements as well as the struggle in gaining IT approval and ongoing support.
- Lower up-front costs and minimized risks - Take advantage of much lower upfront capital investment. An annual subscription fee enables companies to easily incorporate the on-going annual expense into planned budgets.
- Focused on the business, not IT infrastructure - Free organizations from supporting high-cost, time-consuming IT functions. These include purchasing, supporting, and maintaining the server infrastructure, equipment redundancy and housing, and the labor-intensive patch and upgrade process.
- Faster time-to-value - Reduce the time required to install licensed software and instead use Axeda’s first-class on-demand center that undergoes an annual SAS 70 examination to accelerate the solution deployment time.
- Greater end-customer acceptance - Enable end customers to preserve their own security policies and network protection. Security certified by a trusted third party, Axeda's cloud service gives the assurance needed to ease adoption of the solution by even the most security-focused customers.
- Enterprise security, availability, and scalability - Rely on Axeda’s secure and scalable infrastructure built on state-of-the-art hardware and software investments with its operational expertise. Ongoing management is performed by experts in the Axeda application, networking, security, hosting, data protection, and database administration.
- Custom application hosting – Companies can host the custom applications that they build and deploy on the Axeda Platform at Axeda’s on-demand center, simplifying the maintenance and administration of complete M2M solutions.
Key Customers and Partnerships
More than 150 of the world’s leading companies, including Abbott, Diebold, and EMC, rely on Axeda to get to market fast with their connected product solutions at the lowest total cost of ownership. A partial list of Axeda customers is available at http://www.axeda.com/community/customers/all/a
The Axeda Partner Ecosystem includes a wide range of device/module OEMs, Mobile Network Operators, System Integrators, Enterprise Application Providers, Logistics Solution Providers, and others. A partial list of Axeda’s partners is available at http://www.axeda.com/community/partners/find-partner
In January 2012 Axeda announced an exclusive multi-year U.S. reseller agreement with AT&T, which delivers the AT&T M2M Application Platform Powered by Axeda -- designed to help businesses and organizations get to market faster with innovative M2M applications.
By providing end-to-end application development, connectivity, and service and support capabilities, Axeda has emerged as a major industry participant. There is tremendous opportunity in M2M, and companies such as Axeda will continue to see good traction for their offerings.