The B&B Insider

For almost 15 years, Mike Fahrion has been sharing his unique perspective on life, liberty and the pursuit of anything and everything of interest to an engineer. A master of M2M device connectivity, Mike has an insatiable curiosity in how everything is connected;  people and places, machines and man, politicians and reality. He loves left field (he spends a lot of time there) – but you’ll find him funny, irreverent, thought provoking and always connected.

> Find me on Google+

Sign up for email newsletters

An IoT-connected journey—the biggest mistake is not getting started

Mike shares his deep thoughts on an IoT connected journey and explains why the biggest mistake companies are making is not getting started. BBAdmin | 4/18/2017 12:01:58 PM | 7592 comments

Factory Buzz

Busy manufacturing plants have a great buzz about them. The hum and clatter of machinery is only one dimension of the full sensory experience.  It’s often accompanied by a pervasive sense of purpose and urgency by every operator, creating a sense of energy throughout the facility. BBAdmin | 12/1/2016 11:38:39 AM | 3145 comments

Moore, Metcalfe and Me

Moore and Metcalfe were both right, and it’s fun to be able to say that I was, too.  We are now living in a world where technologies are advancing so quickly that even the most change-resistant industries are taking notice and getting caught up in the movement. BBAdmin | 8/17/2016 3:18:15 PM | 816 comments

The Right Tool for the Job

Today’s suitcases come with extendable handles and quad, swivel, ball-bearing castors. They practically transport themselves. I’d completely forgotten how awkward their predecessors could be until I spotted one in the Las Vegas airport recently. Its owner was trying to navigate the security maze with the thing, and it was fighting him every step of the way. Each time he inched forward he had to drag the suitcase along as well. If he didn’t do it with perfect precision, the suitcase would promptly topple over on its side. It simply wasn’t the right tool for modern air travel. It looked like it belonged on the roof rack of a 1963 Rambler station wagon, back when blackjack dealers used a single deck and slot machines spat out real silver dollars. BBAdmin | 11/12/2015 7:54:55 AM | 795 comments

Opportunity is Knocking; It’s Time To Open the Door

IoT Opportunities are knocking. Will you open the door and adopt? Or do you need to see more proof? Are you a skeptic? BBAdmin | 10/1/2015 2:13:54 PM | 738 comments

The IT/OT Mashup

Somewhere around 50 A.D. Heron of Alexandria invented a working steam engine.  If industry had taken an interest, the Industrial Revolution might have gotten started a heck of a lot sooner.  Astronauts could have been playing golf on the Moon when Attila the Hun was still in diapers. BBAdmin | 8/6/2015 12:00:00 AM | 2457 comments

Wireless Tech and the Energy Harvesting Conundrum

I’ve been neck deep in wireless technologies for the last few months.  And because the world of wireless is changing pretty quickly, I thought I’d share some of the more interesting bits and pieces. 
BBAdmin | 6/24/2015 3:12:11 PM | 2035 comments

IoT Tech: The Universal Translator for the Industrial Tower of Babel

I attended the Automation Conference in Chicago today, where -- among other things --  I sat in the most uncomfortable chair that I have ever encountered.  Human beings are all pretty much the same shape, so I’m guessing that the venue accidentally ordered furniture that was designed to accommodate some other species. Baby giraffes, perhaps. BBAdmin | 5/21/2015 10:37:42 AM | 658 comments

Respect Your Elders – Even If They’re Machines

Last week I talked to a sharp kid named Kevin. He was pretty young -- early 20s – but you could tell he had a good head on his shoulders.  Like most engineers his age, I’m sure he grew up networking, hacking and coding.  And I’ll bet he was pretty good at it.  But his brain was hard-wired for TCP.
BBAdmin | 4/17/2015 11:18:14 AM | 445 comments

The Journey of 1000 Miles Begins With Locating Your Car Keys

Temporarily escaping another interminable Midwestern winter was a treat by itself, and the 2015 M2M Evolution conference in Miami was icing on the cake.  B+B SmartWorx, using our new company name and brand identity, had a large presence as a sponsor and an exhibitor, while also filling three speaking slots.  I spent a sizeable portion of my own time delivering a keynote and presenting at tech sessions, describing the ways in which the publish/subscribe MQTT protocol can be leveraged in IoT systems as well as discussing the migration from SCADA to industrial IoT. But I also got to spend a lot of time mixing it up with thought leaders from every aspect of industrial IoT.  And I didn’t have to wear a parka to do it.  
Mike Fahrion | 3/12/2015 12:00:00 AM | 476 comments


Just a few years ago I gave a number of talks that analyzed ideas put first put forward by Gordon E. Moore and Robert Metcalf, and I discussed what would happen when these ideas converged.  Moore, a co-founder of Intel, observed that the number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit doubles roughly every two years.  Metcalfe, often called the “Father of Ethernet,” stated that the value of a network increases proportionally with the square of the number of compatibly communicating devices.  It’s tempting to say that as these trends worked in tandem, the inevitable end result could only have been what we are now calling “The Internet of Things”. Mike Fahrion | 1/29/2015 12:00:00 PM | 303 comments

Prioritizing My Projects for 2015

The calendar will flip over to the year 2015 in just a couple of weeks, and if B&B’s resolutions for the new year are as successful as they were in 2014, it’s going to be a wonderful ride. Mike Fahrion | 12/18/2014 7:00:00 AM | 1075 comments

Feeling Thankful for the IoT Macro Trend

Back when the Pilgrims of Massachusetts and the Wampanoag tribe got together for the first Thanksgiving dinner, the only way to invite someone to a party was to tramp through the woods to his house and bang on his door.  Four centuries later we’ve invented the Post Office, email, Twitter, Facebook, text messaging, voice mail and a zillion other communications options, and yet there’s still always one person who swears that he or she never got the invitation.  Some things never change. Mike Fahrion | 11/26/2014 12:00:00 AM | 613 comments

Nightmares from the Network Edge

It’s Halloween season in Illinois.  We start by decorating our yards with ghosts, gremlins, goblins and ghouls; the scarier the better.  We put illuminated pumpkins on our porches and trust our teenage neighbors not to smash them until Halloween night.  When the great day comes, the kids troop from house to house dressed up as miniature witches, super heroes, pirates and zombies.  Some costumes are scary; some are funny.
Mike Fahrion | 10/31/2014 12:00:00 AM | 255 comments


We’re well into autumn in Illinois. Leaves are changing their colors and Halloween decorations are springing up around the neighborhood. The often-quipped  - yet seldom followed - edict of “no furnace until Thanksgiving” has already been broken at the Fahrion homestead. It won’t be long before I’m packing away the summer toys and contemplating taking up cross-country skiing. Autumn is a time of transition.  
Mike Fahrion | 10/8/2014 1:00:00 PM | 969 comments

Sensors on the Internet of Things

You’re rarely more than a few feet away from a sensor these days.  There’s a sensor in your smoke detector that tells it to shriek at you when it wants a fresh battery.  There’s a sensor in your HVAC system that tells the unit when to cycle itself on and off, thus ensuring that men will always be too hot and women will always be too cold.  When you’re perusing the headlines on your Samsung Galaxy Tab, there’s a sensor that makes sure the tablet always knows which way is up.  (Even if the babbling political pundits don’t.)  Your car has somewhere between 50 and 100 onboard sensors, depending upon the make and model, and even your trusty old washing machine contains a few. Mike Fahrion | 7/23/2014 12:00:00 AM | 1291 comments

A Second Warm Welcome to Wireless Mesh Networking

Remember low power wireless mesh networks? A decade ago they were the cover story in virtually every technical magazine.  Industry analysts were raving about them.  They were spawning one new startup after another.  Folks everywhere were dazzled by promises of ultra-resilient, micro powered, wireless networks that would have more than enough bandwidth to handle sensor and I/O data traffic.  
I was no exception.  They had me at “hello”.
Vic Young | 5/5/2014 11:10:05 AM | 494 comments

Consumer Tech is Fun, But M2M Networking is Still the Top Banana

Consumer Internet of Things technologies are generating a lot of excitement.  Some are clearly going to be big hits.  Others, like the Internet-enabled crockpots that I’ve seen for sale, may turn out to be as pointless as a dedicated banana slicer. (There are already 50 things in your kitchen that will slice a banana.  But if you need yet another one, dedicated banana slicers are currently just $2.92 on Amazon, with free shipping for Amazon Prime members.)  We’ll see how it all plays out. Vic Young | 3/28/2014 2:33:18 PM | 447 comments

It's Always Time for Breakfast When You're Time Traveling

I don’t usually sit down and start writing at 3:45 a.m. on a Monday morning, but I’ve just returned from a trip to Europe.  Now my internal clock is confused about which time zone we’re supposed to be in.  As a result -- having decided that I’d better get up and get moving before they stop serving breakfast in Prague -- my internal clock has roused me up and kicked me out of bed in Illinois.  So here I sit, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and all set to have breakfast on another continent. 
In Hawaii it’s still Sunday right now.  In 15 minutes, it will already be Tuesday in Samoa.  That is, unless you’re 80 miles east in American Samoa, where it’s currently Sunday and they haven’t even started Monday yet.  So what the heck.  If my internal clock thinks it’s time for breakfast, hey, it’s always time for breakfast somewhere. 
For the first day or two, jet lag always makes me feel like I’ve traveled through time as well as space.  And in a way, we really do.  Just compare the world you’re traveling through today with the one you lived in when you were a kid.  It’s not the same place, is it?
Vic Young | 2/24/2014 3:59:41 AM | 449 comments

The Internet of Things

When people talk about the Internet of Things, consumer products like smart refrigerators always seem to be at the top of the list.  The idea is that your autonomous, connected refrigerator of the future will be will be able to inventory your supply of strawberry Greek yogurt and order up a fresh stash when stocks run low.  It’s an interesting idea, but I don’t plan to be an early adopter.  Hackers have already broken into one smart refrigerator.  They hooked it up to a botnet and used it to send out Spam.
BBAdmin | 1/31/2014 10:00:00 AM | 306 comments

Ipads from Heaven

Its 5:30 in the morning here at Chicago’s Midway airport, it’s still dark outside, and I’m not at my best.  I had to get up early enough to make time for a 90 minute drive from my home base, plus showering, shaving and grumbling my way through all that Homeland Security rigamarole.  An hour ago I was wondering if it was worth having gone to bed at all. BBAdmin | 12/20/2013 9:00:00 AM | 523 comments

Upgrading the Local Intelligence on the Internet of Things

As I write this I’m cruising at 32,000 feet and sharing a Wi-Fi Internet connection with 168 other passengers.  I don’t know how many handheld wireless devices we’ve got between us, but the Candy Crush addict sitting next to me has already switched between a laptop, a Nexus 7 and a smartphone. Mike Fahrion | 11/26/2013 9:00:00 AM | 429 comments

Farewell to the Wild West of M2M

I still can’t help being impressed by how quickly the changes have come in my own lifetime.  Not so long ago we lived in a chaotic world where data communications seemed to have no rules or standards.  Proprietary systems were everywhere and betting on the wrong one led to dreaded “rip and replace” scenarios.  It was the Wild West of data networking.  Mike Fahrion | 10/29/2013 3:30:37 PM | 203 comments

Keeping the Bugs Out of Your Belfry

From time to time I find myself in Europe, sometimes for conferences or onsite data networking projects, and sometimes to visit our offices in Ireland and the Czech Republic. And I've noticed that you'll still see a lot of thatch roofs over there, particularly in the U.K. The Internet says that a properly installed thatch roof can last 50 years, provided that it's installed by an expert, and that some thatch roofs have base layers that are five hundred years old. Mike Fahrion | 9/27/2013 11:47:39 AM | 660 comments

Venturing Out to the Edge

In 1675 Frenchmen Louis Joliet and Pere Marquette paddled and portaged from Canada to Arkansas and back, a journey of 2500 miles. In 1804, Lewis and Clark left St. Louis, MO, and paddled and portaged all the way to the Pacific Ocean. By comparison, my upcoming paddling and portaging vacation in the Boundary Waters will be pretty small potatoes. Mike Fahrion | 8/28/2013 11:16:45 AM | 780 comments

Who Says You Have to Let Sleeping Dogs Lie?

Somewhere around GPS coordinates N41° 19’/W88° 50’ there’s a white farmhouse with a big wraparound porch. I often pass it when I’m cycling out in the country, as the trip is just the right length, the scenery is nice, and the road loops around. It’s a very pleasant excursion. The only tricky part is the road in front of that farmhouse. Lurking up on the porch, like some ferocious monster from ancient mythology, lies Angel, a mongrel dog. As monsters go, she’s not particularly large. But she guards her little stretch of road like a dragon guarding its hoard of gold. And she does her level best to catch and devour me every time I dare to intrude upon her domain. Mike Fahrion | 7/31/2013 10:36:39 AM | 281 comments

It's Only Loony If It Doesn't Work

Just a few days ago Google started experimenting with a new aerial wireless network that will be able to provide Internet connections in areas that have no Ethernet infrastructure. Mike Fahrion | 6/26/2013 9:08:30 AM | 402 comments

Some Things Never Change

It’s commencement season again. The grads will be listening to lofty, cliché-ridden speeches.  They’ll be told that the future belongs to them.  (Along with the national debt.)  They’ll be told to follow their passions.  (Perfectly reasonable advice, provided that your passion involves something that comes with a steady paycheck and a reliable automobile.)  And they’ll be told that their freshly minted diplomas have prepared them to step bravely out into the world and “start making a difference”. Mike Fahrion | 5/31/2013 1:00:00 PM | 5554 comments

The Glories of Information Overload

When I was a kid, the first thing little boys did after we learned how to read was open the encyclopedia and look up everything that was poisonous, carnivorous, had a stinger or was just downright mean.  And it was a great relief to find out that most of these critters just wanted to be left alone.  They wouldn’t bother us if we didn’t bother them.  I can’t say that this knowledge ever stopped me from heaving a tennis ball at a wasp’s nest.  But it was comforting to know, after I’d been stung by half a dozen angry wasps, that at least I’d had a choice. 

Mike Fahrion | 4/30/2013 8:30:00 AM | 1038 comments

IP Cameras Aren’t Just for Security

When the loot from King Tut’s tomb goes on tour it sets museum attendance records wherever it goes, deriving its rock star status from the fact that it’s the only large stash of ancient pharaoh-swag that has ever been found.  It’s a miracle that it even exists.  According to the archaeologists, tomb robbers normally cleaned out Egypt’s tombs and pyramids just as fast the pharaohs tried to fill them up. (Thus proving the old adage, “You can’t take it with you.”)  The Egyptians did post guards, but that only works until you hire somebody with a taste for larceny.  It only takes one squirrel to raid the birdfeeder. Mike Fahrion | 3/28/2013 1:30:38 PM | 263 comments

Two Hoots and a Holler

“Competitor B’s product says it goes two hoots and holler. Will yours go that far?” Sometimes it feels like they’d like to be poking me in the sternum while they’re asking the question, just for emphasis. “How many hoots? Mmm? How many hollers? “ Mike Fahrion | 2/27/2013 8:00:00 AM | 388 comments

10 Commandments of Wireless Communication

Our 10 Commandments of Wireless Communication help you implement your wireless system more efficiently and with fewer headaches. Tracy Haas | 2/26/2013 3:25:54 PM | 499 comments

Mashups & Airport Delays

If Disney can figure it out, surely the airports could learn to do it, too. They already know how many airline tickets have been sold. They already know when the flights are – theoretically -- scheduled to depart. If they’d just mash that together with a bit more data, navigating your way through an airport wouldn’t have to be such an obnoxious experience. Mike Fahrion | 1/31/2013 1:00:00 PM | 390 comments

Christmas Shopping During the Apocalypse

Every year I promise myself that I’ll start my Christmas shopping early.  And every year, Christmas manages to sneak up on me anyway. It’s mid-December, my Santa sack is still practically empty, and it’s time to panic.  If the Mayan end of days arrives on Dec 21 I’m sure it will all be very unpleasant, but at least I’d be off the hook.
Mike Fahrion | 12/20/2012 10:58:29 AM | 2 comments

Trick or Treat in the Wireless Age

“Tis the season for ghosts, goblins, freaks and geeks, and although I’m not sure where I stand in that continuum, I do know a thing or two about the proper way to celebrate the holiday. For example, if you’re planning to hand out KitKats or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups you are a fine human being and a good neighbor. But if you’re planning to dispense anything that is even remotely healthy, like little bags of raisins or sunflower seeds, you might want to reconsider the matter. Kids only get to Trick or Treat once per year. If you can’t force yourself to get into the spirit of the thing and hand out some serious junk food, no one will object if you just turn off your lights and pretend that you’re not at home. Mike Fahrion | 10/31/2012 7:00:24 AM | 420 comments

The Tire Gauge Principle

Last Christmas a well-meaning friend gave me a digital tire gauge. It works exactly like a traditional tire gauge. But it requires a battery for the readout, you wouldn't want to get it wet, and I rather doubt that it could rattle around in my toolbox for a decade and keep on working. It's more complex than a traditional tire gauge, but it's not a superior product. Mike Fahrion | 9/21/2012 9:15:06 AM | 3 comments

URLs for Pocket Change

Wired telephone land lines may be on their way to obsolescence, but when you've crawled out of bed early to catch a flight and the caffeine has yet to kick in, punching the buttons on that old land line sure makes it easy to locate a missing smart phone. This morning, as my couch cushions emitted a very familiar cellular ringtone, it struck me that this trick is only in its infancy. It won't be long before you'll be able to communicate with just about anything you own, from lost car keys to that pair of glasses that might have slipped out of your pocket in the cab last week, somewhere between the hotel and the airport. Tracy Haas | 8/30/2012 11:07:32 AM | 3 comments

B&B Meets the Space Time Continuum

Everything's relative. This morning I spent two hours vigorously paddling the Illinois River, upstream and back again. I doubt that I was ever more than four or five miles from my starting point. But when you're traveling by muscle power alone, that's enough to make you feel like you've been somewhere. Tracy Haas | 6/29/2012 10:56:26 AM | 0 comments

New Approaches

As you know, B&B has been deeply involved in wireless for a long time.  Now we have expanded our expertise and capabilities even further through the acquisition of two companies that operate at the wireless cutting edge:  Quatech, with their focus on wireless, and Conel, with their focus on cellular communications
Test Administrator<script> | 5/31/2012 7:09:00 AM | 0 comments

The Peanut Butter Days

Choose your technology carefully. That's a challenge when you're deploying systems with an expected service life of five to ten years or more. Technology changes quickly. In electronic-years you could be talking about five generations, and that's far beyond the reach of anyone's crystal ball. Tracy Haas | 4/6/2012 10:19:23 AM | 815 comments

Re-Inventing the Radio

More than a century has passed since Maxwell, Tesla and Hertz got the ball rolling, and we’re still discovering new uses for wireless technology.  The last few years alone have produced dramatic progress in the most promising of today’s wireless technologies: Wi-Fi and cellular. It’s going to be exciting. Test Administrator<script> | 3/22/2012 1:23:04 PM | 1 comments