July 2010


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Connected World Conference Review

Steven E. Jones, Managing Partner, The S4 Group, Inc.

It was clear that the attendees were not the bits and bytes crowd. They were the middle to upper managers and were more interested in the results that a product or service could deliver.

I was invited to present a segment on ďStandardsĒ at the Connected World Conference on June 17th. The conference is a production of Connected World Magazine. Their focus is the Machine to Machine, MtoM industry. Having had no exposure to this show in the past I did some research before accepting the invitation. My first impression was that this was a consumer oriented show and probably not very relevant to the work that S4 does in building automation integration. Boy, was I wrong! I continued investigating and found out what was really going on in this segment and how relevant it is to our industry.

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I was partially right in that the history of MtoM is clearly rooted in hand held or intelligent mobile devices communicating to each other or to centralized services. A large portion of these are based on smart phones or PDA devices in the hands of consumers. Those consumers are demanding ever more sophisticated and media rich services. There is no doubt that this is a growth market. During one of the presentations I picked up the statistic that we currently have about 50 million connected devices with the potential for this to grow to 50 billion in the not too distant future.

Then, I found that a large and mature segment of the industry is providing various flavors of Telematics services. For instance, fleet management and tracking. These applications are saving transportation companies, and their customers, huge sums of money with the services that they provide. So MtoM is not limited to the consumer marketplace. It is quickly being deployed in mainstream corporations. There are also significant efforts to implement the Connected Car. This is rapidly gaining momentum.

Itís obvious why the major wireless and cellular carriers were at the show in force. All of this data has to be transported and services provided by someone. Their networks are already ubiquitous. Data and other broadband services mean big revenues. They saw the opportunity long ago and havenít looked back. In fact the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) is hard at work driving the standards process for MtoM with the TR-50 committee. They should be well positioned to do a great job on this as they have been instrumental in the definition of creating standards for Mobile and Personal Communications Systems, Vehicular Telematics, Healthcare ICT, and many other related initiatives. It turns out that a recurring theme with everyone I spoke with was that the lack of standards has hindered the growth of this industry and will continue to do so until solid standards are in place. Iíll go into more details on this later.

Intel and Tridium were both Conference Sponsors. Cisco was a Conference Partner. They clearly understand that MtoM is bringing many more things to connect, manage, monitor, and extract valuable information from. Intel has partnered with 4Home to offer the Intel Connected Service Gateway Reference Design to the community. They see this as an opportunity to put new and existing services under one umbrella for both homeowners and small businesses. This is quite a comprehensive offering and will be interesting to watch as they find partners to bring implementations to market.

It took me awhile to realize that MtoM is not new. In fact, once you understand the underlying concepts behind MtoM it becomes clear that it has been around for a very long time. Most building automation companies were using this approach to creating their systems for many years. The communications medium was over private and proprietary networks, and the terminology was all different, but the concepts are rooted in similar approaches to problem solving. Thatís why S4 was there and why Tridium was there in a big way. Tridium was one of the conference sponsors. Of course, the hit of the show was Scott Muenchís Sedona powered electric cooler. Everyone enjoyed that and learned a lot in the process.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] It was clear that the attendees were not the bits and bytes crowd. They were the middle to upper managers and were more interested in the results that a product or service could deliver. The topic of my segment was Evolving Standards in Wireless Building Automation. The session introduced the EnOcean wireless and battery free technology, the EnOcean Alliance and how they are promoting the technology as a standard. Then we discussed efforts underway within the BACnet Wireless working group. Its goal is to develop a standard for an EnOcean to BACnet gateway that will enable EnOcean zones of automation to participate in enterprise wide building management systems. Finally, we talked about how The S4 Group, Inc. is leveraging the existing core technology of our S4 Open Appliances to deliver this standards-based gateway. The presentation can be downloaded by visiting http://www.thes4group.com and navigating to Support and Downloads / The S4 Group Inc. / Conference Presentations.

Several session attendees and I had some very interesting follow-on discussions after I presented this segment. It turns out that in many ways the MtoM industry is paralleling the evolution of the building automation industry. Many of the offerings are now very application specific. Iím hoping that the TR-50 committee realizes this and comes up with a set of standards that provide APIs and services that are generalized for MtoM implementation and then can be successfully applied to the needs of almost any vertical application. Even though the wireless and broadband carriers play a very critical role in MtoM Iím also hoping that the standards come out being transport agnostic. There are plenty of in-building, or stationary, MtoM applications where local wireless communications will fit the bill just fine. In fact, I hope that they take a close look at the work done by ASHRAE, BACnet International, and the EnOcean Alliance and take advantage of the lessons learned by these organizations. There are so many similarities that there should be plenty of ideas and concepts that can be adopted rather than starting from scratch. BACnet anyone?

For more information about Connected World Magazine and the Connected World Conference contact:
Mike Carrozzo, Chief Editor, Connected World magazine/Constructech magazine
135 E. St. Charles Rd. Suite D, Carol Stream, IL 60188, 630.933.0844 ext.257, www.facebook.com/connectedworldmag
For more information about The S4 Group, Inc contact:
Steve Jones, Managing Partner, The S4 Group, Inc., 585 - 24th Street, Suite 106 Ogden, UT 84401
(801) 621 1970, http://www.thes4group.com
For more information about the EnOcean Alliance contact:
Graham Martin, Chairman & CEO, EnOcean Alliance, Kolpingring 18a, 82041 Oberhaching, Germany
+49.89. 67 34 689-646, +49.89. 67 34 689-55, +49.151. 12 52 55 76
graham.martin@enocean-alliance.org, www.enocean-alliance.org


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