We're all more connected to the Internet than ever before. The telecommunications giant Cisco estimated that in 2012 over 100 million smartphone users will each consume over 1 GB per month and that global data traffic will increase 18 fold between 2011 and 2016. That's a 78 percent CAGR topping out at 10.8 exabytes (10E18) per month by 2016. [February 2012 "Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, 2011-2016"]
But here's the killer stat: M2M traffic will grow faster (22-fold) than human-initiated data during that timeframe, representing 5 percent of the total. Analyst firm IDC drills down even further: 1.8 billion intelligent systems (not smartphones or tablets) in 2010 doubles to 4 billion by 2015, representing trillions of intelligent connections, many autonomous M2M transactions created without human intervention via the Internet cloud. The point: M2M represents the next wave in embedded systems, with machines talking to machines more often than to humans. [IDC, "Intelligent Systems: The Next Big Opportunity", August 2011.]
Yet despite the tendency to focus on the design task of connecting all those machines and intelligent systems, the real challenge -- and business opportunity -- rests with harnessing the value the M2M data flowing across the Internet. Digi International, a member of the Intel Intelligent Systems Alliance, is a systems integrator focused on providing hardware, software and services designed to connect these systems. Digi recently started shipping (December 2012) the Digi M2M Solution Builder Kit based upon Intel's Intelligent Systems Framework (ISF) and an Intel Atom processor running Wind River Workbench and Wind River Linux.
The Kit provides a comprehensive out-of-the-box cloud-enabled solution to help M2M developers rapidly get their hardware connected to the cloud by "Making Wireless M2M Easy" (Figure 1). But most importantly, the kit focuses on what developers are going to do with their machine's data before it hits the cloud, how the machine is remotely managed, and what options are available to secure the machine and its data. Not coincidentally, these are all core tenets of Intel's Intelligent Systems Framework.
Figure 1: Digi's M2M Solution Builder Kit makes "Wireless M2M Easy". It includes hardware, software and connectivity to the iDigi Device Cloud. It also supports Intel's Intelligent Systems Framework and is interoperable with other ISF solutions.
Digi International and Intel's ISF
The emphasis on services and systems is what sets Digi apart from most integrators and is why Intel's Intelligent Systems Framework is so appealing. ISF is a "set of recipes" for connected devices, solving the problem of connectivity -- that is, how devices attach to the cloud -- and so much more. The framework brings together hardware, operating systems, tools and more with a focus on: connectivity, security and manageability.
The key ingredients, according to Intel, are:
- Processor platforms (including Intel® Atom™, Intel® Core™ and Intel® Xeon® ) and related tech like Intel® vPro and Intel® TXT, as well as a range of I/O for flexible communications
- OSs including Microsoft* Windows*, Wind River* Linux*, and Wind River* VxWorks*
- Security including McAfee Embedded Control and McAfee Deep Defender
- Remote manageability capabilities that support third-party management consoles
More importantly, Intel is assuring compatibility between compliant solutions between suppliers. That means Digi's M2M Solution Builder Kit and the iDigi Device Cloud are compatible with ISF compliant products from other Intel Intelligent Systems Alliance partners like Eurotech, McAfee, Wind River and others. In fact, the Builder Kit itself is composed of Alliance member components: the hardware is Kontron's M2M Smart Services Developer Kit, which when sold by Digi uses a module from Telit Wireless that's based upon an Intel RF component.
Intel's plan with ISF is to take the focus off of the computers that make up M2M and shift it to the task of intelligent computing. For example, previously a DVD rental vending machine designer might've focused exclusively on connecting their machine to the Internet and creating a rudimentary data exchange protocol. The data gathered by the machine is essential for billing and in-machine inventory management.
But there's no reason the video rental machine can't also communicate with other close-by rental machines or even retail stores, advising the customer where to locate an out-of-stock DVD and the best route to get there. Taken further, why not have all similarly branded DVD vending machines share data with close-by soda machines or fast food restaurants to offer customers incentives for food and drinks to go with their movie? Databases of renters' habits could make intelligent suggestions, increasing the revenue per transaction for the cooperative retailers, in this example.
For this to become reality, it's essential that the machines interoperate, for sure. But the future of M2M is monetizing the data flowing into the cloud by parsing it in new ways: aggregating machine- and human-generated data to create new services and increase productivity. Intel's goal with ISF focuses on connectivity, manageability, and security with an emphasis on off-the-shelf hardware, software, and services from ISF-compatible vendors like Digi.
Next time, in part 2, we’ll look under the hood of Digi’s kit to see how they achieve this goal.
For more on extending the Internet to embedded devices, see intel.com/go/embedded-connectivity
Kontron is a Premier member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance. Eurotech, Digi International, McAfee, Microsoft, and Wind River are Associate members of the Alliance.
Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance