M2M 2.0 Technologies Evolve

ARC Advisory Group shares its view on “M2M 2.0”

Machine-to-machine (M2M) is a collective term that addresses a variety of technologies that enable communications between machines and enable humans to visualize and support remote operations. Driven by industry’s continued deployment of new technologies, such as wireless communication and embedded systems, M2M’s domain is being extended.

Reductions in plant personnel place greater demands on architectures that utilize simplified decentralized intelligence. M2M 2.0 technology encompasses embedded intelligence that enables machines to function independently, while relying on the latest collaborative technologies, such as the Cloud, to communicate critical machine information to other machines that humans can use to visualize and support remote operations more effectively. Increasingly, emerging technology that is compact, intelligent, and relatively simple, makes M2M 2.0 solutions cost-effective for a broad range of new applications. Unlike the often-complicated M2M of the past, users can purchase these new M2M 2.0 solutions “off-the-shelf” and deploy them reliably with minimum time and effort.

M2M 2.0 Technology Creates New Opportunities

“M2M 2.0” refers to intelligent communication and operations support between remotely located machines and devices. Advances in embedded systems, small-footprint operating systems, the Cloud, networking, and wireless technologies all help drive the decentralization of intelligence in machine architectures.

As remote devices become smarter, intra-device communications increase at a rapid rate. The industrial world is taking notice of the potential of M2M 2.0, which enables a multitude of new products and services to be developed. These include M2M network centers to facilitate communication via mobile networks, new lines of mobile communication terminals for remote operations visualization and support, ASP hosting services for M2M applications, and data center services for M2M network users.

M2M 2.0 as an Enabler for Dynamic OEE
A major benefit that M2M 2.0 enables is the ability to provide a simplified method to monitor and manage overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) for both local- and remote-located equipment. This critical key performance indicator (KPI) considers three dynamic variables to create a metric that represents the overall performance of an asset: yield of a production run; rate of production; and availability to produce when scheduled. OEE helps determine the impact the current performance of any individual piece of equipment has on the overall efficiency of the plant. OEE enables management to compare actual performance versus targets and make the best decisions to maximize profitability. A consistent measure of asset performance enables a manufacturer to make intelligent decisions about capital investments.

Furthermore, M2M 2.0’s on-line data and computational capabilities can help move OEE from an historical reporting metric, to a real-time performance indicator. ARC has dubbed this “Dynamic OEE.” Dynamic OEE helps users determine, in real time, the impact the current performance of any individual piece of equipment is having on overall plant efficiency.

M2M 2.0 technologies provide the interoperability and connectivity required to enable users to visualize Dynamic OEE and other key KPIs from a single plant or across a global manufacturing enterprise from any location.

M2M 2.0 Focuses on Mobility and Smart Devices
Another major component of M2M 2.0 is the ability to bring additional, commercially available mobile technologies into manufacturing applications. These include laptop and tablet computers, handheld mobile computers, PDAs, mobile handsets, and smart phones. Human machine interfaces (HMI) for monitoring remote assets are moving away from devices that only support text, to smart devices that provide high resolution graphics. Real-time, M2M 2.0-enabled communications provide a simplified method for users to leverage mobile devices to monitor and manage remote assets.

By applying portable smart devices and wireless technologies, manufacturers can better manage their mobile assets and people. M2M 2.0 leverages wireless technologies to allow access to information from the assets in real time, rather than having to wait for an update at the end of a shift or via a periodic report.

With today’s dynamic global business conditions, no one can afford to be disconnected or isolated from their machines and assets. Real-time access to information from mobile resources enables users to make better decisions, and in less time. Equipment can be monitored remotely, and, in many cases, configurations or software can be updated remotely as well, eliminating many inefficient (and often dangerous) manual processes. In this manner, M2M 2.0 solutions can help the overall enterprise become more responsive and adaptable to changing conditions. Furthermore, ARC research indicates that M2M 2.0 solutions, which have been implemented in a number of industries and applications, typically provide quick ROI and ROA by helping to eliminate unscheduled downtime, minimizing risk of accidents, and maximizing production quality and OEE.

Mobile Enterprise Application Platforms Key for M2M 2.0
Available tools, such as mobile enterprise application platforms (MEAPs), can be used to improve the interaction between machines and operators, regardless of where each is located. Typically comprised of a both products and services, MEAPs can enable enterprises to design, build, deploy, and manage dynamic mobile applications. Here, M2M 2.0 can provide key enabling technology that can help simplify MEAP deployment.

Increasingly, the industrial world looks to developments in commercial and consumer technology for its future technologies. In the past, industrial suppliers waited years – sometimes decades – for technologies to mature to the point where it could be implemented in a demanding industrial environment. ARC expects this trend to continue as emerging technologies and platforms (such as M2M 2.0 and MEAPS) accelerate information access, while blurring the line between industrial and commercial applications.

ILS Technology’s M2M 2.0 Solutions
ILS Technology (ILST) recently briefed ARC on the company’s deviceWISE M2M Application Platform (dMAP), which appears to be an excellent example of a modern M2M 2.0 solution for remote operations visualization and support. The modular platform allows users or OEMs/VARs to enable additional features over time. The company also offers its solution in a “cloud-based” subscription service, further simplifying deployment costs by enabling OEMs/VARs to deliver services without an upfront investment in operations center hardware, back-end application/license costs, and ongoing infrastructure maintenance.

These solutions can enable OEMs/VARs to offer M2M-based remote product services that minimize user resistance typically associated with remote network access via VPNs. The ILST platform incorporates three components: Remote Monitoring, Remote Access, and Advanced Remote Access.

M2M 2.0 Remote Access via Remote Product Services
ILST’s deviceWISE M2M 2.0 Application Platform can help simplify deployment of M2M-based solutions for OEMs and VARs by eliminating the need for custom development. Offered as both a standalone and hosted cloud-based subscription service, the ILST MAP enables OEMs/VARs to create virtual networks over wired, wireless, and cellular infrastructures. According to the company, these provide secure and controlled monitoring, data collection, and on-demand connectivity into any end user’s network regardless of complexity or type of equipment. The basic remote product services feature is designed to provide a single world, virtualized view of the services delivery network.

Data and information are transported securely for monitoring and remote access between the service provider and the end user’s network. According to the company, the ILST virtual network can provide bidirectional interaction with existing service provider applications or enable expedited service delivery for managed applications, such as ERP, CRM, databases, and proprietary applications without disrupting existing service processes and procedures. In addition to integrating these back office applications, data from existing IP-enabled equipment that support industry-standard protocols can be integrated without requiring software agents to be installed. The technology used to implement the virtual network requires no firewall modifications and works with standards-based network equipment.

Advanced Remote Access via Remote Product Services
For highly security-sensitive end users, ILST’s dMAP portfolio includes Advanced Remote Access. While the company’s standard remote product services solutions are designed to provide secure connectivity from one IP to another, ILST designed Advanced Remote Access to go beyond standard IP- and port-level security to control and protect access to application-level data without having to modify the application itself. Securing access at layers above the IP address is crucial in high-value/mission-critical applications, particularly those where intellectual property is involved. Also offered via its cloud subscription service, the ILSTd MAP advanced RPS option creates a virtual private network with a multi-level, defense in depth, design approach to protect against unauthorized remote access to sensitive assets.

The company designed both the basic and advanced RPS options to offer a detailed audit trail for forensics of who, where, when, and what was performed during remote access and provide a watchdog for all remote access. This can provide detailed traceability to meet the OEM/VARs’ needs for reporting/billing, along with the end users’ needs for forensics and government compliances, such as HIPAA and SOX.

Deployment Options
ILST provides a number of different deployment options. These include hosting the solution in either the OEM’s/VAR’s or the end user’s remote server, or an easily deployable cloud-based M2M solution hosted by ILST.

In most cases, the ILST dMAP delivered via the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model should provide customers with the most flexibility and the quickest time to market. Cloud-based applications can be hosted by the OEM/VAR, the end user, or in turnkey fashion by ILST. In the OEM/VAR model, the OEMs/VARs host the back-end applications/databases and utilize the service for end-device data extraction, collection, alerting, and remote product services via the OEMs/VARs operations center. In ILST-hosted model, ILST maintains the required back-end applications. In all cases, each OEM/VAR or end user has its own virtual instance of RPS tools.

ARC believes that, increasingly, manufacturers and processors will embrace M2M 2.0 for remote operations visualization and support because it is a technology can enable them to monitor and control their far-flung assets from anywhere in the world. In this manner, the technology can help put them in a better position to achieve future growth and profitability.

While decentralized architectures don’t fit every company’s or machine’s needs, OEMs can realize potentially large cost savings by deploying M2M 2.0 technologies. ARC believes that many companies will find ILST’s combination of remote operations visualization and support services with a variety of deployment options (in packages that appear to be relatively quick and simple to deploy) appealing.

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