Remote M2M Device Management on Mars

Remote M2M Device Management on Mars

| 4/16/2013 1:00:00 PM

Problem: What Happens When You Can’t Physically Touch a Device?
When designing remote machine-to-machine (M2M) wireless systems it’s important to consider the methods you’ll use to manage your devices when they’re not right in front of you.  Perhaps they’ll be in another room, or another city, or if you’re NASA, on Mars. The more devices you have, and the farther away they are, the worse the problem becomes.

Imagine a scenario in which you’ve got 100 wireless cellular routers scattered around several square miles, and a problem arises that will require a firmware update in every single one of them.  The time, manpower and money involved in physically accessing all 100 routers would be staggering.  And firmware updates are just the tip of the iceberg. Device attributes like router parameters and IP addresses all have to be managed too, and probably a lot more often than the firmware.

Now imagine this scenario: You have tens of thousands of cellular devices scattered all over the world. Manual management would be impossible.

Whether your device is in another building, on the other side of town, or roaming around on Mars and nibbling on rocks, you’ll want the ability to perform all device management functions just as if the device was sitting on your workbench

Solution: Deploy Intelligent M2M Devices Based on Open Standards
The good news is that as the market matures, wireless M2M devices are becoming smarter and easier to use, including improved remote management capabilities. You can select devices that possess some local intelligence, for example, and that are capable of making some decisions on their own, like resetting themselves to regain connection to the cellular network.

Devices should also offer both manual and automatic, over-the-air remote management functions. You should be able to add new features and functions, update firmware, change device parameters like clock settings, security keys, administrative passwords, log-in permissions and IP addresses from anywhere on the network. Any feature that would be accessible if the device was on your desktop should also be accessible from anywhere in the world.

In addition to remote management of your M2M device itself, you also want to be able to access and manage any device that is connected it.  For example, if a data logger is connected to your cellular router via a serial port, you’ll want access to all parameters (clock, polling rates, engineering unit adjustments, etc.) within the data logger.

Interoperable M2M Devices Based on Open Standards – Not Too Far Off
My recommendation is to watch the development of open M2M device standards and choose devices that follow them.

I am a Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) delegate to the new oneM2M alliance (, launched in July 2012 by seven of the world’s leading standards bodies. The alliance is focusing on all the right things; standards-based hardware, software, protocols – basically anything touching the M2M space.

To date, a device’s management scheme and its service layer have been proprietary to that device’s manufacturer, so that it is not interoperable with other manufacturers’ devices.  oneM2M is developing technical specifications to address the need for a common M2M service layer that can be embedded within hardware and software, to connect devices in the field with M2M application servers worldwide. In other words, the goal is to enable devices to speak the same language globally so they can talk to each other – or be interoperable.

To that end, TIA, one of the seven founding members of oneM2M, just released updates to its TR-50 M2M protocol standards series (TR-50 TIA 4940.020 and TR-50 TIA 4940.000), which are designed to make it easy for device and sensor manufacturers to implement connectivity to the devices they make. The TR-50 makes it easier for manufacturers to know how to interface to the service layer, without having to be experts in telecommunications.

TR-50 is a great start for what I see as something bigger in the near future for remote management. It allows not only for edge-to-application data connectivity, but also for its management.

The TR-50 is a small piece of a bigger puzzle called “open M2M standards”, which the oneM2M organization is tackling. oneM2M welcomes device manufacturers, software companies and industry technology leaders – anyone who wants to have a voice in how devices will communicate with each other globally. If interested, please join the cause:

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