Farewell to the Wild West of M2M

Farewell to the Wild West of M2M

| 10/29/2013 3:30:37 PM

Farewell to the Wild West of M2MAlthough immortalized by Hollywood, the fabled American Wild West didn’t actually last very long.  General Custer lost his scalp at Little Big Horn the same year that Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone.  Wyatt Earp earned undying fame at a horse corral in Arizona, but spent his golden years driving around L.A. in an automobile.  And a person who was born in a westbound Conestoga wagon could easily have lived long enough to make the return trip in a Douglas DC-3 commercial airliner, complete with stewardesses and an in-flight snack.  We aren’t the first generation to experience rapid change.

Even so, 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. 

What’s emerging now, even if some of it is still a little difficult to see through the haze, is a world of standards.  I’ve seen it called Industrial Ethernet, Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things.  But whatever we ultimately decide to name it, you can’t deny that it’s getting a lot easier to accomplish tasks that used to be frighteningly complex. 

For example, I’ve been playing with some fun things here in the lab this week.  I can now monitor some of our factory production equipment right from my cell phone.  And if parameters like environmental conditions are incorrect I’ll automatically receive text alerts.  To be sure, I could have figured out how to accomplish something similar 10 years ago – but only if you’d put Wyatt Earp’s gun to my head.   I would have needed to invest 50 or 100 times the cost and effort, and I would have required a very good reason to do so.

Nowadays it’s easy.  Done in a single afternoon.

The secret is interoperability.  When we make it easy to talk to our stuff, via new technology and new products, we reap big rewards. Instead of spending our time and energy figuring out how to communicate with our equipment, we can spend it thinking of useful things to do when communications have already been established. 

Many of my customers have remote equipment that they’d like to be able to talk to directly. But if that capability isn’t built-in from the start it can still require a confusing array of equipment and software to get the job done.  So here at B&B we work on making the process easier.  Our SPECTRE3G-W cellular router, for example, is a single-box solution equipped with connections for Ethernet, Wi-Fi, RS-232/422/485 and I/O.  It uses the cellular telephone network to provide Internet access for local area networks or individual devices, and it supports multiple protocols at the same time – anywhere there’s cellular coverage.  If you like, you can even get it bundled with a prepaid data plan.  We think that connecting to your remote equipment ought to be as easy as possible.

Control Engineering agrees.  For the fourth year in a row they’ve named multiple new B&B Electronics products as finalists in the Engineers’ Choice Awards. For 2014 it’s the SPECTRE3G-W and the iMcV-Giga FiberLinX-III.  I’ve already mentioned the SPECTRE3G-W, so let’s talk about the iMcV-Giga FiberLinX-III.

The iMcV-Giga FiberLinX-III is an intelligent, gigabit Ethernet media converter that combines media conversion and fiber switch functionality in a single device.  Interoperability is important, so it supports both multi-mode and single-mode fiber as well as single-strand fiber, which can effectively double the capacity of your installed fiber. It provides remote management and monitoring features to ensure bandwidth delivery and reduce onsite visits for network troubleshooting.  And its single-wide form factor allows it to occupy just one slot in a multi-port chassis.  As I’ve said before, we’re partial to easy, single-box solutions.  

If applications like security and digital signage are driving up your need for bandwidth, speed and reliability, or if your network has to cover a lot of terrain, you’ll definitely want to take a look at this little beauty.  

Come to think of it, don’t just look.  Give the iMcV-Giga FiberLinX-III and SPECTRE3G-W your votes over at Control Engineering.  We’re not just partial to easy, single-box solutions.  We like collecting the trophies, too.

As always, I’d love to hear from you.  If I’ve sparked any thoughts about interoperability and the future of M2M networking, talk back. 

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