17 posts categorized "M2M"


CES 2016, Part 3: Wireless IoT Technologies Proliferate

Another of the trends that stood out most to VDC at this year’s CES was the ubiquity of wireless technologies. It was rare that any connected product on display did not include wireless, the most prevalent types being Bluetooth Smart, Wi-Fi, and ZigBee.

Bluetooth Smart, also known as Bluetooth Low Energy (LE), is ideal for many wearable devices that will communicate with the user’s nearby smartphone. Wi-Fi is best for IoT devices in a home or small business environment, leveraging existing routers and networking for other PC and Internet communications. ZigBee is a short range mesh network with a communications protocol adopted by numerous device makers, primarily in the smart home market. But none of these technologies is suited to longer range communications required in many industrial, commercial, and government IoT applications. Fortunately, there is no shortage of alternatives that are well-suited, the two most widely known being the Low-Power Wide-Area Networking (LPWAN) technologies Sigfox and LoRa.

Both Sigfox and LoRa send low bit-rate data (kilobits per second) over long distances (miles) from sensing devices to antennas and base stations which are often co-located with cell phone infrastructure. Sigfox has established nationwide public networks in its native France, as well as in Spain and Netherlands, with partial coverage in Denmark, Germany, Italy, UK, US, and other countries. Endpoint devices can run for years on battery power. Sigfox owns its infrastructure in France, but relies on partners elsewhere. The biggest knock against Sigfox has been the technology’s limited ability for bi-directional communications, so it is not suitable for sending over-the-air (OTA) firmware updates.

LoRa is similar to Sigfox, with the most notable difference being better bi-directional support, but it is based on patented technology controlled by semiconductor supplier Semtech. Both Sigfox and LoRa use unlicensed sub-gigahertz spectrum in the Industrial, Scientific, and Medical (ISM) bands with frequencies that vary by region (Europe vs. US vs. Asia).

(The finer points of these networks are beyond the scope of this blog post, but VDC Research will delve further into IoT wireless technologies in a forthcoming market research report.)

Here are some of the other IoT wireless technologies that we investigated at CES.

LTE-M – as the naming implies, LTE-M uses Long Term Evolution (LTE) cellular networks, but intended for M2M applications with lower cost chipsets, longer battery life, and reduced data throughput. Two “categories” of LTE-M have been defined, Cat 1 (10 megabits per second downlink, 5 mbps uplink) and Cat 0 (1 mpbs bi-directional). Service costs are lower than conventional LTE cellular data services, but still higher than for LPWAN and other options.

Ingenu (formerly called On-Ramp) – Another LPWAN, but running in the 2.4GHz frequency band worldwide, and therefore not in need of separate ISM frequencies for each major geographical region. The Ingenu company owns its own network infrastructure.

GreenWaves – Not a specific network, but a radio communications technology that can be applied to other LPWANs to reduce power consumption and increase efficiency of bandwidth use. It reduces the peak power required to distinguish signal from noise, and is suitable up to 1 mbps.

DecaWave – Small, battery-powered radio chips that can be embedded in devices to provide location information precise to within centimeters, as well as data throughput up to 6 mpbs. Location is measured via beacons, either indoors or outdoors, with range up to 300 meters (direct line-of-sight). The DecaWave company says it’s accurate enough to measure speed of moving objects, up to several hundred kilometers per hour. It's based on patented technology that DecaWave plans to license to other chipmakers.

And lastly,

enOcean – Energy-harvesting technology to communicate low data volumes (up to 32 bytes at a time) up to 1,000 feet with no battery or other external power source. Small amounts of electrical current are generated by the devices, using one of four methods:

  • Mechanical – the act of physical movement, such as pressing a button
  • Thermal – temperature differences between dissimilar semiconductors (Seebeck Effect)
  • Magnetic Field – energy radiated by electricity passing through other wires in close proximity
  • Solar – photo-voltaic cells which charge a super-capacitor

By completely eliminating batteries or wired power sources, enOcean has the potential to ease the burden of installing and maintaining IoT connectivity for many types of sensors and actuators. enOcean licenses its technologies to partners (the enOcean Alliance) who design and manufacture products such as those shown below.

EnOcean devices

enOcean wireless energy harvesting devices on display at CES, including rocker switches, window sensor, ampere meter, temperature/humidity/light sensor, radiator water valve, CO2/temperature/humidity sensor, occupancy sensor, and water sensor

None of the many wireless technologies shown at CES suits all applications, and they undoubtedly will co-exist. Nevertheless, we expect more to pop up in the coming year. As they say in the radio business, stay tuned.


IoT Market Complexity Demands Buyer Personas

The complexity of the market for IoT products and services creates enormous challenges for the IoT solution marketer. An unlimited set of applications, a complex ecosystem of partners and channels, a wide range of decision makers and influencers, and a continuously changing competitive set can leave the marketer forever chasing his tail. Critical decisions about the content, placement, and timing of marketing messages become extraordinarily difficult in the face of these complex and dynamic conditions. 

Observing these challenges, VDC undertook a disciplined search for tools and methods that could help IoT marketers think and act more strategically, and achieve better results. Given how critical content marketing is in the IoT space, we focused on identifying tools and methods that would improve digital marketing effectiveness, defined as improving lead generation in terms of both lead quantity and lead quality. The tool we identified as being the most valuable – when deployed correctly – was the buyer persona.

Download our new whitepaper on the benefit of buyer personas for IoT marketers to learn more about they can help your company supercharge its marketing, sales, product development, and customer service.



Community Development Critical for IoT Success

The IoT has democratized product engineering and innovation. Increasing device connectivity and open APIs are enabling new types of organizations and developers to innovate in a world previously confined to engineers with highly specialized skill sets. While the traditional embedded ecosystem and its engineers will remain at the heart of the IoT device movement, this new cadre of potential developers and entrepreneurs comprise an important part of the creative base designing future IoT systems.

And from giant conferences to local maker fairs, the technology ecosystem has recognized the importance fostering the growth of this “citizen developer” community. In fact, VDC is involved in an upcoming developer tournament focused catalyzing innovation for the IoT – the Global Mobile Innovators Tournament. I will be serving as one of the judges evaluating submissions.

What is the Global Mobile Innovators Tournament?

IBM, 4YFN (4 Years From Now) and four global telecommunications companies have joined forces to bring you the Global Mobile Innovators Tournament (www.glovators.io). In a worldwide global effort to foster innovation in technology, this tournament empowers developers and startups to create mobile and cloud applications that provide innovative solutions for how businesses and individuals operate and interact with the world around them.

Centered around three Internet of Things topics, the tournament includes fifteen virtual challenges and five regional demo days, culminating with a grand finale on stage at the 4YFN (“four years from now”) conference in Barcelona in February 2016 (http://www.4yfn.com/landing/attend.html). 4YFN, the global conference for mobile innovators, is affiliated with the Mobile World Congress, which takes places concurrently in Barcelona.

This tournament runs on Bluemix (https://console.ng.bluemix.net/home/), IBM’s platform as a service software. The tournament fosters industry innovation, world-class skill development, and mentorship programs for developers and entrepreneurs.

Registration opened on September 16 for the virtual challenges that kick off the Tournament. Demo days will happen December 9th – January 20th and winners will be announced February 22-24th at 4YFN 2016.

Please let me know if you have any questions about how to participate.


Lingering Thoughts from NIWeek 2015

VDC’s IoT and Embedded Technologies team recently attended NIWeek 2015 in Austin, TX. National Instruments (NI) put on an excellent conference and we had the opportunity to take in a great deal. There were inspiring and informative keynote presentations, great partner stories, the heat, interesting panel sessions, helpful one-on-one meetings with NI executives, the strange layout of the Austin Convention Center (it allegedly has a floor 2, but I’m not buying that), demos on the exhibit floor…and, well, did I mention the heat?

The IoT / IIoT Centric Focus of NIWeek

Regardless of the format – keynote, panels, demos, 1:1’s – much of the discussion tied into the Internet of Things, or the Industrial Internet of Things in NI parlance. This focus is well justified; with all due respect to Marc Andreessen, it is time to update his famous quote. Today, “IoT is eating the world.” In fact, a majority of engineers surveyed by VDC in 2014 were already leveraging the IoT. By 2017, 81% expect to use the IoT in their projects, which represents a truly remarkable shift in the engineering world!

Iot eating the word

National Instruments’ Position within the IoT

NI’s IIoT focus, and I believe it to be the right one for the company, is to provide their customers with distributed compute intelligence that would sit between the data generating nodes and the cloud or legacy enterprise systems in the IIoT architecture.

To date, media attention has focused disproportionally on greenfield IoT applications serving the home, business, and building automation. There’s a lot of innovation to be excited about in these devices, but they represent only a slice of the total available market for the IoT. NI is aiming at this broader IoT picture that includes countless applications in all of the traditionally embedded industries, like automotive, energy, medical, industrial, and others. Deployments into these markets will be brownfield opportunities needing to traverse complex environments and interact with a host of existing devices that vary in age and capability. Moreover, any new equipment will need to connect or integrate with numerous earlier M2M systems.

At NIWeek 2015, National Instruments demonstrated that their modular, platform-based portfolio has the functional capabilities, flexibility, and strong hardware/software integration necessary to support engineering organizations as they deploy the next generation of intelligent IIoT systems. The challenge however, is for NI to broaden the mindset held by many traditional customers. Engineers will need to more often consider their platforms as appropriate for deployed systems rather than only for development and test & measurement if NI is to advance their positioning in the IIoT ecosystem.


PubNub Taps IoT Niche with Real Time Data Streams

The tremendous growth potential of the IoT has created a market battle between many large, well-known companies such as Amazon, Cisco, Google, IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle. But how do smaller companies and startups become competitive in the race for IoT success? One answer: create or exploit a niche within the IoT. PubNub is a notable entrant in this respect.
Pubnub logoStreaming of real time data is useful in a variety of IoT applications, including finance, weather, traffic, communication, E-commerce, security, systems control, home and vehicle automation, advertising, and gaming. Since PubNub's founding in 2009, the company has firmly established itself in the market and claims to be the only global-scale network for real time data streaming for web, mobile, and IoT devices.
PubNub founder and CEO Todd Greene told VDC that the company uses 14 datacenters worldwide, connecting nearly 300 million devices, and processing over 350 billion messages per month at 1/4 second or less latency. Over 2,000 customers are responsible for that immense amount of data traffic. Greene said that PubNub has been able acquire an abundance of customers because it supplies consistent solutions to overcome some of the IoT’s most daunting obstacles: lack of security/privacy, demanding resource requirements, and complexity of use.
Though the IoT is growing rapidly, some customers are still hesitant to adopt connected products and solutions because of recent concerns about cyber security (or lack thereof). In addition, developers struggle to design and maintain secure systems while being fully transparent with their customers about the security measures that they are taking. PubNub reduces security risks by eliminating open network ports (by tunneling data through HTTPS), supplying authentication and access to data at a granular level (from both the server and user sides), and encrypting data with AES 256.
Developers often have limited resources and are constrained in the amounts of data that they can use. Energy saving is also a necessity as portable and mobile devices and communications services expand their capabilities. The desire to maintain an open connection for data streaming may lead developers to expect that considerable bandwidth and energy are required, however, PubNub is optimized for low bandwidth usage and low battery drain. For example, only 15 to 17 kilobytes of data per day are needed for a device to maintain a persistent two-way network connection. To conserve battery power, PubNub has a keep-alive verification that only occurs every 5 minutes. A typical 60 second ping notification, commonly used by Apple (APNS) and Android (GCM) devices, causes heavier battery drain. PubNub can further reduce its energy use via multiplexing, which allows data to be aggregated and streamed from multiple PubNub channels simultaneously over one TCP socket connection.
Similar to data streaming services such as Pusher, PubNub lets developers easily create apps through APIs. Greene said that PubNub sets itself apart by supporting over 70 SDKs which allows it to handle almost every type of connected device and protocol, and cater to a broad range of users. And because it keeps a persistent socket connection, users do not have to hassle with configuring firewalls, proxy servers, antivirus, or resolving double NAT. This significantly reduces the cost and complexity of building and maintaining infrastructure for products and services while also offering easy scalability.
In a broad sense, PubNub’s services are similar to content delivery networks such as Akamai and Limelight, but PubNub focuses on real time IoT data streams with device presence detection. PubNub’s Greene summarizes the service with the term RAFTA, short for routing, augmentation, filtration, transportation and aggregation.
PubNub’s unique position and foothold in the IoT market give it the potential to expand and further monetize its business (which is based 100% on recurring revenues). The company has already developed services targeted at vertical market applications, such as fleet vehicle dispatch and home automation, and will be adding more soon. For OEMs or prospective business partners seeking IoT services, PubNub is a company to keep in mind.
This article was written by Rodshell Fleurinord, VDC Research Assistant, with Steve Hoffenberg, Director.


Samsung Invests in Sigfox. Is the Race Over for Long-Range Low-Power Wireless Competitors?

A preliminary market battle has been brewing over the past year between technologies to connect IoT devices via wireless wide area networks. These cellular-type networks allow very low power battery devices to transmit small amounts of data over several miles, a solution highly suitable to many types of IoT devices such weather sensors and smart meters. Entrants in this market include Sigfox, LoRa, and Neul. (In addition, standards organization IEEE is developing the 802.11ah wireless networking protocol for distances up to a kilometer.)

Logo-sigfoxSigfox announced on June 15 that Samsung’s Artik IoT platform would integrate Sigfox support. Also, noted in the press release, but given less attention, was that Samsung’s venture capital arm is investing in Sigfox. The size of the investment was not disclosed. (See Sigfox press release here.) In February of 2015, Sigfox announced that it had secured from a variety of venture capital firms an investment round totaling $115M, reportedly the largest single VC investment round ever in France, Sigfox’s home country. (See Sigfox press release here .)

Thus far, Sigfox has been the only long-range low-power wireless solution already deployed in commercial operations, with several hundred thousand devices connected. It has networks in place in France, as well as in Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, parts of the UK, and a number of cities around the world, most recently, in the San Francisco Bay area of the US.

Lora logoLoRa—developed by Semtech—has the backing of IBM, Cisco, and Microchip among the members of the LoRa Alliance, and its initial deployments are imminent.

Neul-logoUK-based Neul is still in its demonstration phase, but the company was acquired for 15M British Pounds in September 2014 by Chinese telecommunications equipment giant Huawei.

VDC won’t attempt here to compare the relative technical merits of these long-range low-power wireless systems, but from a market standpoint, it is clear that Sigfox is leading the pack. And it’s tempting to think that an investment by Samsung will propel Sigfox into an insurmountable lead. But we’re not yet ready to draw that conclusion. Some points for consideration:

  • Although the Samsung name will undoubtedly give a significant shot in the arm to Sigfox’s marketing efforts, without knowing the size of Samsung’s investment, we can’t assess the extent of its impact on the ability of Sigfox to get its networks deployed more broadly.
  • Long-range wireless solutions face the chicken-and-egg problem of needing the network infrastructure (antennas and backhaul) in place to persuade manufacturers to develop products using the technology, while needing products coming to market to warrant investment in the infrastructure.
  • As one of the world’s largest makers of electronic products, Samsung has the potential to dramatically increase availability of Sigfox-compatible devices if it so chooses. Thus far, however, Samsung hasn’t committed to using Sigfox in anything other than its Artik IoT platform.
  • Samsung also makes cellular networking equipment, although that represents a relatively small part of its overall business. (Samsung does not publicly disclose revenue for the segment.) By contrast, two-thirds of Huawei’s entire business ($31B out of $46B in 2014) is derived from cellular networking equipment, mostly sold in China and the EMEA region. While either company could conceivably foster widespread installation of long-range low-power networks through technological investment and pricing strategies, it’s unclear which would have greater motivation to do so.
  • LoRa has some heavyweight backers as members of its Alliance, but such membership has not yet yielded investment that will produce meaningful numbers of either chickens or eggs. [Note: the day after this blog was posted, the competition has ramped up, as LoRa startup Actility announced that it had received a $25M round of VC funding led by Ginko Ventures, with participants including telcos KPN, Orange, and Swisscom, as well as Foxconn, the world's largest contract manufacturer. See Actility press release here.]

In the meantime, Samsung’s investment positions Sigfox with a larger lead in the race for long-range low-power wireless networks. But it’s a long way to the finish line.


Where To Next For PTC After ColdLight Analytics Acquisition?

PTC logoAt this month’s LiveWorx event put on by PTC (formerly known as Parametric Technology Corp.), the news highlight was the company’s acquisition of IoT analytics firm ColdLight. (See press release here.) ColdLight’s Neuron software for cloud or on-premise datacenters applies machine learning technology to M2M and IoT data, automating predictive analytics tasks. The ColdLight acquisition was a logical extension to PTC’s prior acquisition of ThingWorx and Axeda in the IoT space.

At the front end of the product development process, PTC has assembled software offerings for product lifecycle management (Windchill), computer-aided design (Creo), application lifecycle management and systems engineering (Integrity). Combined with service lifecycle management and the IoT pieces, PTC has essentially created a set of end-to-end solutions for IoT product development and deployment. However, VDC believes that PTC could do more to fill out the middle of its end-to-end portfolio.

Design of embedded devices generally consists of three major areas: mechanical engineering, electronic engineering, and software development. PTC has the first and last of those well covered, but it offers little in the way of electronic engineering tools, save for electronic design automation software for circuit boards, acquired with the company OHIO Design Automation back in 2004 (and since integrated into Windchill).

There are many types of electronic hardware system development tools, and it may be challenging for PTC to dip another toe into that market without diving in completely. Nevertheless, VDC believes that one particular type of electronic design tool would dovetail nicely with PTC’s software development offerings without necessarily getting the company in over its head in electronic design:  virtual prototyping/simulation. Such tools enable the simulation of electronic hardware systems. Although virtual prototyping is often used by semiconductor makers to simulate the behavior of their own chips prior to fabrication, a growing market for virtual prototyping is as a tool for software developers to get a head start on their development work prior to the existence of physical prototypes of the electronic hardware.

PTC already offers mechanical/CAD simulation for Creo. An electronic hardware simulation tool could enable earlier software development for customers using PTC’s Integrity, acting as a bridge between hardware and software development.

Wherever PTC chooses to aim next, its acquisition days aren't over.


IBM’s $3 Billion Stake into IoT: A Low-Risk Gamble

IBM has announced it is establishing a new Internet of Things business unit with more than 2,000 consultants, researchers, and developers, and will invest $3 billion in it over the next four years. Three business areas are being highlighted:

  • IoT Open Cloud Platform for Industries – vertical market oriented big data analytics services
  • Bluemix IoT Zone – expansion of IBM’s platform-as-a-service to improve development and deployment of IoT apps
  • IoT Ecosystem – additional partners for secure integration of IoT data and services (existing partners include AT&T and ARM)

(We won’t rehash all the details of the announcement, which you can read here.) Ibm_logo

VDC finds this IBM initiative particularly noteworthy, for several reasons:

  • By establishing a dedicated IoT group, IBM is putting in place structures to speed both technical and business development targeting IoT. It will be interesting to see how the unit: a) navigates a complex weave of horizontal and vertical technologies and markets; and b) intersects and overlaps (and perhaps clashes or not) with IBM’s enterprise IT services.
  • By announcing the size of its investment up front, IBM is communicating the degree of its commitment to IoT. However, considering the amounts of money being spent collectively by other major companies claiming turf in the IoT (Cisco, GE, Google, Intel, etc.), significant mid-size participants (e.g. ARM, PTC), and hundreds of minor players and wannabees, $3 billion might only equate to table stakes necessary to reserve a seat at the high rollers’ table.
  • IBM’s announcement makes no mention of any external investments, i.e. acquisitions or startup funding. Since the year 2000, IBM has acquired more than 125 companies, including more than a dozen for which the price exceeded $1 billion, so we have little doubt that IoT-related acquisitions are in the offing.
  • Unlike Google’s $3.2 billion acquisition of Nest, which has modest short term but substantial long term potential, IBM’s $3 billion to scale up and expand its existing IoT capabilities can go a long way to generating real IoT revenue in the short term. While most consumers are yet to be convinced of the need for a “smart home” (unaware that their cable TV boxes and electric meters are already part of the IoT), enterprises are already seeing the benefits of the IoT on many levels, including customer satisfaction, recurring revenue, cost savings on service parts and labor, and product refinement. Considering IBM’s position in the IT industry, $3 billion seems like a low risk bet.

To look at it another way: as IoT becomes further integrated into day-to-day business IT and operations, what would have been IBM’s risk if it didn’t invest big money in IoT?


QNX Ex-Owner Harman International Acquires Red Bend Software


Harman International is best known as an audio electronics maker, owning numerous brand names targeting consumers and professionals, including AKG, Crown, dbx, Harman Kardon, Infinity, JBL, Lexicon, Mark Levinson, and Revel. As old-school “car stereos” have evolved in recent years into multifunction “infotainment systems,” Harman has also become a major player in automotive electronics.

Red_Bend_Logo_HorizontalOn January 22, Harman announced its acquisition for $170 million of Red Bend Software, which is the leading provider of software and services for Firmware Over The Air (FOTA) updating for mobile devices and automobiles. (See press release here.) Harman simultaneously announced its acquisition of software services firm Symphony Teleca, although Red Bend has more interesting implications for IoT.

QNXBack in 2004, Harman had acquired for $138 million QNX Software Systems, developer of the real-time operating system QNX Neutrino, as well as a number of other embedded software solutions which have since become especially popular in the automotive market. Fast forward to 2010 when Harman sold off QNX for $200 million to Research In Motion (RIM, since re-named Blackberry Limited for its line of mobile phones). At the time, Harman said about its sale of QNX, “This move allows Harman to continue its relationship with QNX and the advanced software solutions it provides to Harman and our customers. At the same time, this deal achieves value for all stakeholders and is an important step in a new strengthened relationship with RIM.”

Perhaps Harman’s sale of QNX was influenced by economic conditions during the Great Recession, but it leads us back to Harman’s acquisition of Red Bend, and it raises a few questions:

  • Would Harman have been able to leverage synergy between Red Bend and QNX in the automotive market if it had retained ownership of both? If not, why not? If so, might the value of such synergy have outweighed the gains realized by selling QNX?

  • What value does Harman now see in Red Bend that it no longer saw in QNX?

  • Considering that much of Red Bend’s current business is in the mobile phone industry, does Harman view Red Bend as a stepping stone into that market?

  • What would it take for Harman to believe that a potential future sale of Red Bend might “achieve value” for stakeholders and produce “a new strengthened relationship”?

We‘ll leave these questions for readers to ponder for themselves


VDC Research is attending Embedded World 2015!

Contact us ASAP to schedule a meeting

VDC will be making the trip across the Atlantic again this year to visit the largest embedded technology tradeshow of the year, Embedded World in Nuremberg, Germany. Last year, the conference boasted 26,700 visitors and 856 exhibiting companies!.

While we are at the conference, we welcome the opportunity to meet with attending vendors to learn more about their embedded solutions and any show-related (or other recent) announcements.

You can arrange a meeting time with VDC by contacting us directly.

For meetings contact:

André Girard, Senior Analyst, IoT & Embedded Technology, agirard@vdcresearch.com, 508.653.9000 x153; or
Steve Hoffenberg, Director, IoT & Embedded Technology, shoffenberg@vdcresearch.com, 508.653.9000 x143.

Haven't decided if you're attending Embedded World yet?

Please check out the Embedded World website for more information on the conference program as well as information on all of the companies that will be exhibiting.

We look forward to seeing you at the show!

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