Machine-to-Machine Technology (M2M): Imperatives in Manufacturing Industry
Guest post by
Neha Barnawal, Senior Associate Consultant - Manufacturing vertical, Consulting & Systems Integration unit, Infosys
- Continental Airlines had started its flights through Polar Regions last year with Boeing 737-700/800 and Boeing 757. The technology used is Satellite Communication wherein communication is maintained between the plane and the Air Traffic Controller automatically without pilot getting involved. This set up is saving time and money both for the airlines and the passengers.
- The UK government is targeting to plant more than 50 million smart meters in homes and business set-ups by 2020. A smart meter can provide real time energy usage information to the owners for utilities like electricity and gas. It can also enable the users to pass back the excess energy to the utility provider and get the credit in the subsequent bill.
- With the On-Star service of General Motor, remote assistance is possible for a GM vehicle wherein an engine issue can be quick fixed remotely or any emergency services can be contacted in case of accidents or any kind of trouble.
- Peer-to-Peer car sharing company Relay Rides has got into a deal with GM to provide an option to the On-Star subscribers to rent out their vehicles. With a satellite connected unit and a mobile App, the car owners can track their car, unlock the locked door and locate where the car is parked. The owner can charge the rental based on the parking location of the vehicle.
All the cases mentioned above have one thing in common - application of Machine-to-Machine technology. As most of us are aware of M2M; its usage can be traced back to World War II where navigation sensors were used to establish communication between satellites and rocket engines to be fired and guided.
Talking about the future of M2M technology, below are some findings as per a latest research paper by Oracle on M2M solution market:
- M2M is seen by the organizations as an enabler of services rather than operational efficiency booster
- As a ramification of the above point; remote security management and Integration of M2M solutions with the existing IT system become the areas of utmost priority
- The complexity and cost involved in M2M solutions can be greatly optimized with cloud based services
So, how M2M adds value to manufacturing industry? It can enable information exchange between sensor and the controller, information gathering across the network channels and publication on mobile devices and over Internet. In the manufacturing eco system; below are few spheres impacted by M2M:
- Supply Chain Management: In the modern supply chain system, the manufacturer deals with multiple suppliers, contractors and outsourced manufacturing units spread across geographies. This set up enhances the use of technology and requires seamless communication between different entities. M2M system can be configured for remote monitoring of inventory, sending reports and notifying suppliers on their phone/over internet in order to maintain Economic Order Quantity. An M2M system, which can collect delivery information using the barcode reader, feeds the same in the ERP system; providing up-to-date information to the finance team for billing.
- In cases of globally distributed production facilities; M2M technology can monitor the status of the machines and readily provides real time information such as wear & tear, power on-off status, and usage of machines. A location information system can be used in informing service engineer quickly in case fault occurs in a remotely located machine.
- With the use of the information gathered, a predictive model can be applied to anticipate the possible faults and hence reduction of machine downtime. These information help in adherence to quality protocols and when fed to engineering team can provide insights for new product development
- With the use of technologies like M2M and Internet of Things (IoT), many OEMs like ABB, Siemens etc are drifting beyond the traditional product based sales strategy and looking for new revenue streams and customer centric positioning from post sales services with the help of smart post sale service solutions.
- With the help of component based, intelligent machines that have in built device level logic; safety can be ensured. Also, controllers can communicate among themselves and with the central controller to exchange the status and command signals.
So, how is M2M system designed? The players involved in the M2M ecosystem are:
- Vendors to create wireless modules and provide platform for deployment of the M2M application. These are Semiconductor/Electronic firms like Motorola, Sierra Wireless/Wavecom, Telit etc.
- Vendors to develop microprocessor Intellectual Properties, System on chips (SoCs) and silicon software like Intel, Texas Instruments
- Network Infrastructure providers to enable communication over wireless/internet/mobile phone. Some of the companies involved are AT&T, Orange, Verizon, etc.
- System Integrators to build the application integrating the M2M solution with the software component and customize based on the customer requirement. These firms bring domain, technology and process expertise for the customer.
Apart from the above listed parties, there are some players providing industry specific M2M solutions. Qualcomm is one such example that provides solution to capture real time machine data like performance over Internet.
Now what are the issues and challenges in M2M solution implementation? A critical one is security. The system gathering the information of machines and production facilities is exposed to a third party (the Communication Service Provider) and so is the central controller that provides command signals. A significant investment on network infrastructure and security causes the return to be realized very late. Absence of a standard technology framework also poses a challenge to M2M implementation.
With several complimentary developments like standards in Telecom (Open Telco API, Parlay X), LTE, Rich Communication Services, Security protocols (OAuth 2.0), smart devices, M2M is very much on the radar screen for manufacturers.