M2M Now Magazine’s “Designing out M2M’s Financial and Strategic Uncertainties” features Mohsen Mohseninia, Aeris’ VP of Market Development for the European market. In the article, Mohsen makes a comparison between the North American and European M2M market, and presents some of the unique challenges in each sector.
If you are interested in learning more, click here to access this free article.
In my previous post, I talked about Disney’s home of the future from 1957 and the kitchen; now let’s talk about the rest of the house.
Control is an underlying theme of the future. Even in Disney’s 1957 home, residents had the ability to not only control the climate, but even the scent—imagine the small of sweet roses or fresh ocean breeze throughout the house. It is probably best for all of us that this idea never came to fruition.
Disney’s 1957 home was designed for the women of that era. The vanity had a laboratory at one end and a telephone system at the other with a hands free speaker. Disney imagined push buttons in place of a dial (that worked out pretty well!). No need for a handset either—just talk and listen while you get ready for your day.
Those ideas are still popular and you can soon have an “intelligent mirror” in your bathroom that updates you on current news, the weather, and plays your favorite music.
Sure, Disney’s future home from 1957 envisioned a lot of today’s technology (electric toothbrushes, electric razors, and a two-way communication system from the doorstep to any room in your home), but today we are thinking much more about the user, giving the individual ultimate and centralized control of the inside and outside of the house.
Before your ready for your shower, set the exact temperature from your bed and then work on your tan while you warm your towel on the modernized towel lamp. While you drink your coffee, your car can warm up. While you drive away, your house can arm itself.
Products like this are entering today’s home of the future, enabling individuals to operate beds, lights, TVs, doors, and more by tablet or voice-activation.
SimplyHome has devices like visual readers for the sight impaired; voice-activated environments and communications (phone calls, texts, emails, and web-surfing); touch screen tv’s; and a voice-activated drink dispenser.
Today’s home of the future is catering to the resident or end user, from sleek touch screen design, to automated sensors and voice command. Wireless M2M technologies, integrated with tablets, sensors, and alert notifications, make this possible.
And, then there is remote control.
I don’t just mean the hand-held device that people are so familiar with today … to control their television, home stereo system, Blu-ray players and the like. Instead, imagine controlling all the automation features in your home from your work or vacation spot. Or even when driving home—carefully and safely, of course!
Some of these remote control functions exist today and are being expanded as companies enable more and more features. It is already possible to use the Internet to monitor the video cameras inside your home, control the thermostat and heating system, arm and disarm your security system, etc. While driving home, the lights can be turned on remotely and messages from your refrigerator can be checked to see if a grocery stop is needed. As the functions in the home are automated, adding remote control to these functions becomes easier than ever.
What about behind the scenes?
It is interesting to see and watch the interaction between the resident and the house for the comfort functions that are enabled by the smart homes. But, increasing the automation of the home also lends itself to monitoring and diagnosis of systems that are not as visible.
Perhaps the heating system efficiency has degraded due to dust buildup inside the ducts. Or the gardening system has developed a water leak. Or a compressor inside a freezer unit has failed and the temperature is rising and food might spoil. These systems can report their failures to the resident for corrective action.
Predictive reports prior to complete failure can be even more useful—if a low-cost part starts to fails inside a more-expensive system, preventive measure to repair or replace the low-cost part could avoid more costly repairs to the entire system later.
And, yes, let’s not forget about self-diagnosis and self-repair of home systems. This may be science-fiction today since present day systems have not yet reached that level of capability. But, someday … just someday … we may well wonder how we did without it!
Regardless, with all these possibilities, the future for home automation and making our daily lives more comfortable, meets and even exceeds the vision demonstrated by Disney’ 1957 look at the House of the Future.
Disney’s 1957 House of the Future vs. Today’s House of the Future
“Imagine how wonderful it would be to live in a house like this,” says a woman viewing Monsanto’s House of the Future in Disney’s 1957 Tomorrowland video, “Maybe… someday.”
How far off were those ideas? What does a connected home look like today? What will it look like in the future?
In this blog series, I will discuss Disney’s vision of the future home and compare it to today’s technology.
To most people today, the kitchen is the heart of the home, and this was even more true in the 1950’s.
It was a dream to have a dishwasher with ultrasonic waves that also collapsed into storage for dishes; cupboards and refrigerator storage spaces that slid up and down from the ceiling; microwaves and oven spaces that popped up from the counter.
In the 50’s, these features were designed for convenience. Today’s innovators, inspired by these early ideas, have taken the smart home to unexpected places. We have already seen connected kitchens with refrigerators that warn us that the door has been open too long, dishwashers that can sense the shape and size of dishes, and ovens that refrigerate food until the appointed cooking time.
In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Evgeny Morozov asked, “Is Smart Making Us Dumb?”
While expressing legitimate concerns over individualism, creativity and privacy, there is no doubt that smart devices can help us be more productive, healthier, safer and even more environmentally aware.
All of this is possible of course because of M2M communication using Wireless IP data technologies. M2M communication has never been faster, or less power-intensive, and this creates new possibilities for the house of the future.
So what does the house of the future look like? We have all heard of smart appliances and many of us have refrigerators and ovens with touch screen features.
But what about controlling every aspect of the kitchen from just one screen? All you need in the kitchen to make your life easier: an entertainment system, cooking equipment, and even preset profiles for special occasions that control music, lighting, and other event preparations for you—all controlled by one touch screen. Running out of a key ingredient? Use the touch screen to review ingredients, health facts, and even purchase groceries.
Many of these ideas, and more, are now on display in the “Living Tomorrow” project. Researchers from the University of Washington and Kyoto Sangyo University in Japan have created similar concepts with smart counter spaces. Embedded with tiny robots, the countertops are designed to tell us what kinds of foods go together and what kinds don’t, so you can create the best possible meal just with the food in your pantry.
Once your meal is ready to be enjoyed, you can control your eating speed with the HAPIfork, a smart fork that can monitor how quickly you are eating and signal you to slow down using indicator lights.
Thinking about throwing out the leftovers in your “smart trash bin” at the end of your meal? The BinCam (an experimental project) takes a picture of what you throw out via a tiny camera on the inside of the lid, uploads the image to social media sites, such as Facebook, for you to compete with friends and earn points based on how well you practice recycling habits.
These inventions will not only revolutionize the kitchen, but also our habits and behavior!
“What about the rest of the house?” you might ask! Stay tuned for part 2 of this blog series.
Over the years, Aeris has pioneered many capabilities that M2M markets and Customers now take for granted.
As just one example: more than 16 years ago, we recognized that Provisioning and Activation needed to be separate functions. My blog post last year described why this was important for our Customers.
Combined with other pioneering solutions—such as rapid provisioning and automated billing activation—Aeris Customers are able to make excellent use of our services, and manage their costs prior to generating revenue from their own customers.
We continue to provide new solutions that will greatly enhance our M2M Network Services for our Customers, and I am pleased to report on these! Particularly on using Crowdsourcing for M2M Support … I believe that this is a capability that will be used for more than just M2M support in the future.
AerPort 3.0 Launches
This past week, Aeris launched AerPort 3.0, the newest version of our portal. In this blog, you will find an outline of new features and explanations for why they are useful to customers.
Crowdsourcing Your Devices
Faster troubleshooting will save you time and money
The new “Devices Nearby” tool available on AerPort 3.0 can assist you in diagnosing a troublesome Device. This feature identifies the status of other Devices on our network within a 500 meter radius.
Aeris Customers can determine if these other Devices in that area are also experiencing issues by simply checking the map. If they are having trouble, Customers know instantly that the network is the cause of the problem.
If not, it may be time to check on their troublesome Device!
Better reporting makes your job easier
We have always believed that complete transparency and information on network status is essential for our Customers. Right from the beginning, we provided timely e-mail notifications on network outages, service restorations and network status.
Today, AerPort 3.0 has simplified the interface of the Network Status dashboard to provide this information in a single location. Customers can now see all recent service impairment issues at a glance. As one Customer put it: “It is note-worthy that you feel comfortable providing this detailed information openly”!
On the same dashboard, Aeris provides downloadable root-cause analysis reports from the last 30 days.
Identify problems quickly and reduce downtime
Last, but not least, Aeris has improved the MyAlerts functionality and moved it to the dashboard on the home screen.
In addition to the maximum usage alerts, Customers can now set up alerts for:
Minimum threshold – Instantly notifying Customers when Devices are not sending an expected amount of data.
GSM and CDMA devices – Sending alerts for specific GSM and CDMA Devices with Aeris GSM extensions.
Grouping devices – Allowing Customers to customize and separate alerts into groups based on the Devices’ account, rate plan, pool name, report group, or Device list.
Time Period – Providing details to see if Device thresholds have been met per day or month to date.
The winter holidays are brought to us by more than just Santa and his sleigh. Today’s holidays are enabled by machine-to-machine communications. From the food on our table to the gifts under the tree, M2M communications are making our holidays warm and bright.
Holiday meals bring to mind red and green sugar cookies, cranberry glazed turkey and mom’s amazing cherry pie. However, not many people think about all the ingredients that go into a family meal. Farms all over America are preparing for holiday feasting months in advance, and much of the activity from farm to table is leveraging M2M technology for productivity enhancements. For example, connected farm equipment can cut the number of planting days by 50%, smart planting software increases yields per acre, and tractor telematics is increasing the efficiency of harvesting. Irrigation systems are monitored remotely to ensure the most efficient watering possible of crops. Fertilizer levels are tracked to make sure they are available when needed. The trucks that bring the food from the farm to the store are connected to reduce the number of miles driven and ensure food is delivered fresh. If you think about it, at nearly every phase of production, M2M is involved in making our holiday dinner fresher, more bountiful, and greener.
Putting gifts under the tree brings the warm spirit of giving. The holiday gift-giving season drives more shopping than any other time of the year. In fact, the holiday season can represent anywhere between 20–40% of annual sales. In 2011 alone, Americans totaled $563 billion in holiday spending. Behind the scenes of the long checkout lines, credit card swipes, and all of that holiday spending are wireless machines. Last year, there were 10.3 million connected payment systems and point of sale devices used is the retail industry worldwide. These range from wireless payment systems to point of sale displays and kiosks. In addition, innovative merchants like Apple are changing the game, using wireless connectivity for store attendants to process a sale anywhere in the store.
All these scrambling shoppers buying gifts for their long-distance loved ones bring in the most business for shipping companies during this time of year. UPS alone is expecting to deliver 25.9 million packages on its busiest day of the year – December 20th. This means hundreds of fleet trucks using up tons of fuel on the road. However, with M2M technology deployed in fleet trucks, they can reduce their operating costs and increase efficiency. In 2010, UPS was able to reduce total driving distance by 9.13 million miles with fleet telematics. More importantly, fleet applications can also keep drivers safe when traveling through harsher weather. M2M devices allow drivers to map best route options to avoid roads with heavy traffic, see reports about the vitals of your truck, monitor appropriate driving speed, and more.
Shipping trucks and packages aren’t the only ones on the road – 91.9 million Americans are expected to travel at least 50 miles between December 23 and January 2, and about 91% of this long-distance travel is in their personal vehicle. With so much time spent in the car, M2M technology can now help alleviate the stress of traveling and being stuck on the road. Today’s new cars are now “connected” and equipped with applications that provide automatic updates on gas mileage and vehicle diagnostics, as well as more detailed GPS mapping, Internet-streaming media services, voice-enabled commands, and rear-view cameras. This means more entertainment for your children and guaranteed safer travels.
Once you get off the road and into your house, M2M can help you reduce the stress from all that year-end party planning. With so many festivities going on during the holidays, the last thing you want to worry about is losing your electricity, especially during a time when energy consumption is expected to increase by 27%. Through the use of smart meters, M2M technology can help you reduce the dollar amount on your utility bills by providing you the visibility on cost. For example, upgrading to new LED lights can reduce your monthly energy bill by more than $50, and your smart meter can help you see that cost. Smart meters also help utility companies make sure your lights stay on this season.
And with all these celebrations going on, you don’t want to forget to protect the valuables in your home with a security system. Homes without an electronic security system increase their risk of being a victim to burglary by 300% but with M2M, you can stay safe and warm in your home during the holidays.
There are many other ways that M2M is involved in the holidays. Aeris Communications has put together an infographic, “Connected Holidays,” that you can download and share.
As you all probably know by now, the Apple iPhone 5 was introduced on September 12th. Many reviewers and sites have already commented extensively on the features of the new OS, the new large display, the “thinness”, etc.
However, there has been little discussion of the cellular bands and frequencies supported in the iPhone 5.
So, let’s spend some time on this topic.
Three iPhone 5 Models
As can be seen from the Apple iPhone 5 specifications, there are three models of the phone. Here are the cellular specifications under “Cellular and Wireless” for these models:
GSM model A1428
UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz)
GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
LTE (Bands 4 and 17)
CDMA model A1429
CDMA EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B (800, 1900, 2100 MHz)
UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz)
GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
LTE (Bands 1, 3, 5, 13 and 25)
GSM model A1429
UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz)
GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
LTE (Bands 1, 3 and 5)
Not surprisingly, the frequency bands supported for 2G and 3G are quite standard—this is not any different from Apple’s earlier products, or from products from other manufacturers.
However, the number of LTE bands supported in the iPhone 5 has increased from the iPad—this is definitely good news for customers!
Yet, there are some confusing decisions by Apple in regard to the LTE bands that were included, and using these phones in LTE mode in some non-US countries and Carriers may be difficult … or impossible.
Let’s summarize the cellular specifications of the three iPhone 5 models:
iPhone 5 Model
UMTS / HSPA/
Rev. A &
GSM model A1428
850, 900, 1900, 2100
850, 900, 1800, 1900
Bell, Rogers, Telus (Canada)
CDMA model A1429
850, 900, 1900, 2100
850, 900, 1800, 1900
800, 1900, 2100
1, 3, 5, 13, 25
GSM model A1429
850, 900, 1900, 2100
850, 900, 1800, 1900
1, 3, 5
A table at the end of this post shows the LTE bands of interest for the rest of this discussion (for a full list, see my earlier posts here and here).
Good World-wide 2G and 3G Support
The 3G UMTS/HSPA/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA and 2G GSM/EDGE spectrum and protocol support is identical in all three models. These frequencies are supported by Carriers in most countries, so these three iPhone models should operate quite well in 2G and 3G mode everywhere.
The CDMA model A1429 also includes 2G/3G GSM protocols and frequencies—both Verizon and Sprint provide “World-Phone” capability in many of their handsets. So, no surprise here.
Different LTE Bands in the Two GSM Models
The two GSM models A1428 and A1429 support different LTE bands. The AT&T model A1428 supports LTE in Bands 4 and 17, and the International model A1429 supports LTE in Bands 1, 3 and 5.
I am a bit surprised that LTE support in Bands 1, 3 and 5 was not provided in the GSM model A1428, since that would have eliminated the need for the GSM model A1429.
This limits the countries where these two models can be deployed as LTE phones … the AT&T model A1428 can operate in LTE mode in Canada and some South American countries, but it cannot use LTE in Europe or Asia (where Band 4 is not yet deployed, and Band 17 is not possible). So, AT&T may not be able to offer LTE roaming to countries in Europe.
Why LTE in Band 1?
Most European Carriers have deployed 3G fairly extensively in Band 1, so this is not currently available for LTE, and may not be available for quite a while. This “future use” thinking by Apple seems unusual, particularly given the more likely (and sooner) deployments by Verizon in Band 4 (the FCC has approved their acquisition of the SpectrumCO AWS licenses) and Sprint in Band 26 (the ITU and FCC have approved the re-farmed iDEN spectrum for LTE and 1X Advanced). These are not supported in the CDMA model A1429.
Band 3 Advantage for some Carriers
In some European countries, only one or two carriers have Band 3 DCS licenses at 1800MHz—they get an advantage. They can provide the iPhone 5 to their customer … their competition cannot.
There is a clear example of this issue in the UK. Vodafone and O2 do not have any DCS 1800MHz spectrum, since almost all the 1800MHz spectrum in the UK is owned by EverythingEverywhere. Thus Vodafone and O2 cannot offer the iPhone 5 to their customers as a 4G LTE handset.
Band 5 For Asian Carriers
Providing LTE support in Band 5 in the CDMA model A1429 was not strictly necessary—the US Carriers are not likely to free that old “Cellular” spectrum use with ANSI-2000 CDMA for quite a while. AT&T could free that spectrum from their 2G GSM use soon perhaps, but this band is not included in the GSM model A1428 for use with LTE.
However, there are some Asian Carriers who could deploy LTE in Band 5. In Japan, KDDI also offers CDMA service, so the inclusion of Band 5 in the CDMA model A1429 may be for that Carrier.
Missing LTE Bands in iPhone 5
What about Band 2 PCS at 1900MHz (blocks A through F)? This is not supported in any of the iPhone 5 models for LTE. AT&T has started harvesting spectrum in the PCS bands, presumably for LTE, but none of the three iPhone 5 models support LTE in Band 2.
Since it is likely that this band will be cleared of 2G GSM by AT&T in major cities within the next two to three years, and certainly by January 1, 2017 in their entire footprint (as announced by AT&T), it would have seemed a prime candidate for LTE in any new handset design.
Sprint is likely to deploy LTE in unused PCS bands in some markets, and Verizon is also likely to free up EV-DO usage in their PCS bands in a few years after the 2G GSM shutdown.
The Sprint iDEN Band 26 at 800MHz is not supported in any of the iPhone 5 models. This was a recent entry to the band plans for LTE, and probably did not get approved in time for this new design (or its chipset).
Of course, Sprint has not yet deployed LTE in Band 26, but they will do so soon, since the 800MHz in Band 26 is an excellent low-frequency competitor to the 700MHz bands deployed by Verizon, AT&T and others.
The Clearwire planned deployment of LTE in Band 41 at 2.5GHz is not supported in any of the iPhone 5 models, although this may be moot since Clearwire has not yet deployed any LTE in that spectrum.
Furthermore, Clearwire is planning to deploy TDD LTE in that band. Although QUALCOMM and Clearwire have announced an agreement to support TDD LTE, this probably has not yet been added to current-generation LTE chipsets for handsets.
The numerous small US Carriers who bought much of the 700MHz Lower A/B/C spectrum remain shut out from offering the iPhone 5 as an LTE handset—this Band 12 is not available in any of these models.
Since AT&T was successful in getting Band 17 (a subset of Band 12) separately approved by the ITU and the FCC, the lack of 700MHz interoperability makes it tough for small carriers to get sufficient attention from handset manufacturers.
A Few Final Observations
There are still two versions of the iPhone 5 for the US market—one for use on AT&T and one for use on Verizon/Sprint.
Thus, in the US, it is still not possible for a Verizon or Sprint customer to roam on AT&T, or for an AT&T customer to roam on Verizon or Sprint, regardless of whether they want to roam in LTE mode or 2G/3G modes (in the case of an AT&T customer wanting to roam on Verizon or Sprint).
And, if you want to change Carriers from AT&T to Verizon or Sprint, or vice-versa, you still need to change out the iPhone 5 device due to the separate LTE bands.
Maybe Apple should consider offering a trade-in plan on the iPhone 5 to allow moving from one Carrier to another! But given handset subsidy economics, this is very unlikely.
Ultimately, this lack of roaming between the major US Carriers is a disservice to consumers.
By the way, adding support for LTE in Bands 4 and 17 in the CDMA model A1429 would have made this roaming possible and potentially even simplified the number of Apple iPhone 5 models down to one! Yes, the CDMA and EV-DO support in the CDMA model A1429 would not have been used by AT&T customers, but the slight added cost for this would have have been accepted as a reasonable trade-off, if it enabled LTE roaming within the US.
For now, the Grand Unification of LTE as a common cellular protocol for handsets for all Carriers has yet to occur in the US—let alone the rest of the world. In my opinion, this may not happen till handset manufacturers make LTE-only cellular phones in the future.
Maybe the Apple iPhone 6 or iPhone 7 will get it right! Isn’t waiting for the next Apple product a popular national—perhaps global—pastime for everybody?
What About M2M and LTE?
What has been released with multiple LTE band support in the iPhone 5 is an expensive smartphone for the consumer market. Radio modules with multiple bands for LTE are still a few years from production.
And, the radio module costs would be too high for any large-scale M2M application deployment. Ultimately this will change, but not for the next few years.
In my opinion, using LTE radio modules for most M2M Applications is still a number of years away from being a good decision.
What are your LTE plans for M2M deployments? I’d love to receive comments from people who are reading this post!
As always, although I don’t specifically identify Trademarks in my posts, they are implied. For example, Apple, iPad, and iPhone are trademarks of Apple, Inc., registered in the US and other countries.
Relevant LTE Bands
The LTE bands of interest to the iPhone 5 discussion above (for a full list of all 35 bands, see my earlier posts here and here).
Summer is the perfect time to pack up and get away for a fun family vacation, or a trip to the beach, and more people leave their homes during the summer than any other time of the year. Allianz Global Assistance USA notes that 57% of Americans will take a summer vacation this year—up 3% points from last year—and travel at least 100 miles away from home for more than a week.
But before families say Bon Voyage, they should be aware that summer is the optimal time for burglars to break into their homes—being away for an extended period provides ample opportunity for an empty home to be burglarized. According to the FBI, home break-ins are the most common threat to our homes, occurring in the US every 15.4 seconds, and burglary rates overall increase about 10% in the summer.
What can people do to stop the invasions? Of course, they can lock their doors and windows and ask their neighbors to keep an eye out for them. Unfortunately, common strategies such as Neighborhood Watch and target-hardening have had limited success in reducing these crimes.
So, how can home-owners be absolutely sure that their residences will be safe and secure while they are away? Or if an event does occur, how can the response to it be quick and effective? Since less than 15% of burglaries are ever cleared, returning home after a vacation to discover a home has been broken into—perhaps days earlier!—greatly reduces the chances of ever recovering any stolen items.
M2M Security Solutions
Machine-to-Machine (“M2M”) communications based security solutions can ease consumers’ worries about the safety of their homes. Indeed, wireless security Devices are an example of one of the earliest large-scale deployments of cellular M2M applications—Aeris’s very first Customer was an alarm Device manufacturer.
M2M security Devices capture the event, and transmit the data through the cellular network to an application server that can interpret the data into meaningful, actionable information.
For example, a home security device can detect a break-in (using door and window sensors), transmit that data using a wireless network to a remote server. The security application on the server can notify the home-owner, or provide the event information to monitoring service personnel who can contact police on behalf of the home-owner.
Many newer security Devices include video feeds to allow the home-owner or monitoring service to verify the break-in event. Due to a large increase in false alarms, and a reduction in the numbers of police officers due to the economy, such event verification is required by some cities and communities before police will be dispatched. These video images do not require high-resolution images, or high frame rates … as long as the event is verifiable (visible intruder, etc.), the dispatch is authorized.
M2M services can enable a wide range of monitoring and alarm notification options, enabling home-owners to check the status of their home via their smartphones while sunning on a beach.
Wireless Security Is Becoming The Norm
Older security systems relied on the availability of a traditional land-line telephone service to communicate alarms. However, there is an ever-increasing trend for people to only have cellular phones, without any Plain Old Telephone Service (“POTS”) in their homes. Today, an estimated 35% of cellular users in the USA do not have any land-line telephones in their homes, and this percentage is expected to increase.
Thus, wireless cellular M2M services are well suited for home security applications. The security Device can utilize a cellular radio that uses these M2M network services, independently from the service provider of the home-owner’s cellular handsets.
Aeris’s secure M2M network helps give homeowners peace of mind while on vacation. Because Aeris’s network was designed exclusively for machines, it does not carry consumer handset traffic, therefore delivering more predictable, reliable and secure communications. Not only is the Aeris network optimized for machine performance, it also offers the most robust set of APIs in the industry for guaranteed reliability in communication with remote Devices.
With connected home security devices and a secure M2M network, there is no reason for people to be concerned about leaving home to go on vacation or a special trip. They can stop worrying and get outside—summer is waiting!
Last week, I continued a series on the best practices for M2M data transports and posted Part 1 on Wireless IP practices. Earlier posts have covered best practices for SMS.
This week is Part 2 in the series on Wireless IP best practices.
Best Practices for Wireless IP in M2M
This section continues the outline of practices that will maximize the benefits of using Wireless IP as an M2M data transport—for detailed assistance, please contact Aeris Sales Engineering.
UDP or TCP?
We are often asked whether a Device should transmit User Datagram Protocol (“UDP”) packets or use Transmission Control Protocol (“TCP”) streaming sessions for M2M data transport.
The answer, not surprisingly, is: “It depends!”
From the Internet Engineering Task Force (“IETF”) detailed definitions, let’s briefly describe these two protocols to understand why one may be better than the other for certain M2M data transmissions.
First, it is important to note that both UDP and TCP are used over an underlying IP connection.
User Datagram Protocol (“UDP”)
The UDP format was first defined in an IETF Request For Comment (“RFC”) specification, specifically RFC 768.
This protocol provides a procedure for applications programs to send messages to other programs with a minimum of protocol mechanism. This protocol is transaction-oriented, and delivery and duplicate protection are not guaranteed.
If an Application requires ordered, reliable delivery of streams of data, UDP is not the preferred protocol.
The format has lower overhead than TCP—i.e., fewer bytes are sent in the headers of the packets in UDP than TCP.
Transmission Control Protocol (“TCP”)
The TCP format was first defined in an IETF RFC specification, specifically RFC 761.
TCP is a connection-oriented, end-to-end reliable protocol and is intended for use as a highly reliable host-to-host protocol between hosts in IP networks, and especially in interconnected systems of such networks.
TCP requires that a connection be opened and managed for the duration of the IP data transmission. Within the protocol, transmitted and received packets are acknowledged by the Device and the servers.
The format has more overhead than UDP—i.e., more bytes are sent in the headers of the packets in TCP than UDP.
Which Protocol to Use?
In general, the choice of UDP vs. TCP must take into account:
The desired balance between the reliability of TCP and the lower cost of UDP, since UDP uses fewer bytes of overhead to transmit the same amount of application data.
The increased complexity of TCP, where the Module must open a data stream to a remote host where server programs await connections.
Careful design of TCP server programs to allow easy scaling as the number of deployed Devices is increased.
A desire for the acknowledgments provided by TCP sessions.
However, it is also important to note that using these two protocols is not mutually exclusive for a given M2M Application.
For some uses, a simple transmission of a UDP packet to a remote host may be quite sufficient—including using independent acknowledgment packets via UDP. If an acknowledgment is expected, but not received, either side can retry … intelligently (i.e., with limits on number of retries, variable delays between retries, etc.)
For other uses, even in the same Application, a Device may open a TCP connection to a server, and communicate with the higher reliability of a TCP streaming session to a program that accepts these connections and transmissions.
Often, the amount of data may require the use of TCP. For example, if an Application needs to transmit a large file (more than a few kilobytes), it is better to use TCP, since the consequences of an error during transmission via UDP could mean that the entire file might require a complete retransmission.
Should transmitted data from an M2M Device be encrypted to enhance security? Let’s examine the perceived need.
While it is true that the radios in wireless cellular systems can be overheard—it is “radio” after all—the ANSI-2000 CDMA radio protocol is secure to all but the most serious of listeners. The vast majority of individual and entities do not have the expensive equipment, and are not capable of overhearing the spread spectrum “noisy” CDMA transmissions.
Furthermore, the “cellular” nature of the system also ensures that any listening to the radio in the Device will necessarily be localized—radio frequency (“RF”) transmissions from a particular Module do not travel more than a few miles in dense urban areas.
In the Aeris CDMA network, the network transmission of data is very secure. Once the Device transmission and data “leaves” the radio network, it is “received” at Aeris via Virtual Private Network (“VPN”) connections from the Carrier networks, and “sent” to the Customers systems via other VPN connections.
These VPN network connections are already encrypted and provide secure access.
Finally, content data encryption may require significant processor performance in the Module or Device to encode and decode data. This process might be beyond the capability of many M2M Application Devices.
Based on these issues, our experiences, and use of VPN’s where appropriate, Aeris does not recommend, or require, Application-level encryption of IP data to and from the Modules.
Regardless, we do not prevent Customers from encrypting the data if they want to do so!
This week, I continue a series of posts on the best practices for M2M data transports (the previous post in this series was on SMS Data)—interspersed periodically with other topics.
Short Data Packets
Aeris’s original control channel MicroBurst® data transport was limited to 23 decimal digits (approximately 84 bits) of M2M Application data per packet transmission.
Today, SMS is limited to 140 eight-bit bytes (or 160 characters of seven-bits) of M2M Application data in every message packet transmission, in both GSM and CDMA cellular technologies.
While such short data packets are completely sufficient for many M2M Application data purposes, they may be limited for some use cases.
For example, after an alarm Device sends an SMS for a security event, it may need to open a video feed for alarm verification. Even if this is a slow frame-rate, black-and-white, and low-resolution video transmission, it may be too much data for SMS and needs another transport.
Wireless Internet Protocol (“IP”) data transports are used when the amount of data to be sent per “event” is larger than an SMS message can contain.
In 2G GSM and CDMA cellular, the IP data transport technologies are “GPRS” and “1xRTT”. While these have slow data throughput rates compared to 3G and 4G cellular, they are quite sufficient for the IP transmission needs for most M2M Applications.
For higher transmission rate M2M Applications, devices can use 3G CDMA and GSM protocols, such as EV-DO and HSPA. Today, HSPA geographic coverage in the US does not match the EV-DO coverage.
EV-DO and HSPA radio modules are more expensive than GPRS and 1xRTT Modules, so they are only used when the higher transmission rates are required for a particular M2M Application.
Best Practices for Wireless IP in M2M
This section outlines practices that will maximize the benefits of using Wireless IP for M2M data transport—for detailed assistance, please contact Aeris Sales Engineering.
Wireless IP is Not the Same as Wired IP
First, it is important to recognize that Wireless IP data technologies are not really the same as Wired IP technologies.
A recent generation of software developers, who are used to working with DSL, Fiber and Cable IP services (along with Local Area IP Networks), have begun working on Wireless IP Devices. They sometimes attempt to apply Wired IP learnings and practices to Wireless IP implementations, and often go unexpectedly awry.
The typical issues these developers encounter are described in more detail in this post.
Wireless IP Radio Modules Are Modems
It is better to consider Wireless IP Radio Modules (“Modules”) as similar to old dial-up modems that used traditional telephone lines, rather than continuously-connected devices, used in DSL and Cable IP services for example.
(Note: even DSL and Cable units also perform the functional equivalent of “dial-up”, but these are usually set to “dial” immediately after power-on, and stay connected till power-off—acting as if they were connected via a physical wire to the Internet.)
To establish a session, the M2M firmware must initiate the cellular transmission from the Module using a “dial-string” … very similar to making a phone call with dial-up modems. The controller running the M2M Application code sends an AT command (for example, “ATDT #777”) to the Module over a serial or USB port.
Indeed, using “AT” commands with Modules is very similar to using AT commands (originally developed by Hayes Corporation) for traditional dial-up modems.
After receiving the “ATDT #777” command, the Module originates a call using the dialed digits “#777” to the Mobile Switching Center (“MSC”) that is serving the Device in the local cellular network. The MSC interprets the digits “#777” as a request to establish a data session and allows the process to continue.
The detailed mechanisms of establishing an IP session in Wireless IP technologies is unnecessary to describe here. Suffice it to say that the cellular systems have the necessary equipment, protocols, and communication mechanisms to make it all happen using the relevant cellular data standards.
Dueling PPP Stacks
Using a PPP session for IP data transmissions after “dialing in” using a Module, is just like using PPP on traditional dial-up modems on dial-up telephone lines!
In traditional dial-up modem connections, the computer that is connected to the modem uses a PPP stack to establish an IP session to the network and remote server. This is generally under the control of the computer, since the user can choose whether the dial-up modem connection is used for an IP data session or with a terminal emulation program for accessing the server.
Similarly, the Wireless Device must use a PPP stack for the IP data session to the cellular network. And, here is one potential source of trouble!
Many manufacturers provide an IP stack in the Module. However, Developers writing code for their M2M Applications sometimes add a separate IP stack to the firmware of their Devices.
When the Module establishes a cellular data session with the network, both stacks may attempt to set up PPP sessions!
This causes problems for Device operation on the network. The systems providing the end-point of the IP session may get confused and assign multiple IP addresses; they may disconnect only one session when the Module eventually terminates the session; the systems may reject both session attempts; etc.
Thus, if there are two IP stacks in the Device, software developers must cleanly ensure that only one attempts to establish the PPP session—the choice of whether the IP stack in the Module or the Application is used, is up to the developer.
IP Session Started by the Device
In cellular data technologies, the session is always initiated by the Module (of course, under control of the external M2M Application code)—the analogy to dial-up modem service holds true.
Thus, until such an IP session is started and connected, there isn’t any IP data path for a network system or server to send IP data to the Device. M2M Applications are generally designed with this concept in mind.
However, if the network or server needs to initiate the transmission of IP data to a Device, mechanisms called “Shoulder-Taps” must be used to cause the Device to start the actual session if it is not in a session. Typically, these shoulder-taps are Mobile-Terminated SMS (“MT-SMS”) messages sent to the Device.
(Aeris has alternative shoulder-tap mechanisms that reduce the cost of using SMS for shoulder taps by more than 67%—please contact Aeris for more information.)
Send Content in MT-SMS Shoulder Taps
When an MT-SMS is used to “shoulder tap” a Device to initiate an IP data session, it is useful to send information to the Device in the SMS fields, rather than simply sending an empty MT-SMS (since the length of the SMS content generally does not change its cost).
For example, consider sending Absolute Time (perhaps the server time in “seconds past midnight UTC”) for the remote Device programming to make decisions about the time-validity of a command to take action.
Of course, remember to compensate for the [current] 15 second difference between Absolute Time UTC and CDMA time—the latter is based on Global Positioning System (“GPS”) time and, hence, does not correct for leap-seconds. This is even more relevant if the Device has an on-board GPS system from which it receives time data.
It may be useful to send the URL for the radio to connect to, or IP port number to use, or the protocol (such as whether the Device should open a TCP session, or send data via a UDP packet, or use an HTTP session).
Indeed, since the SMS capacity is 140 eight-bit bytes, or 160 seven-bit characters, all of the above content (including other information that is unique to the M2M Application) can be sent in a single MT-SMS shoulder tap.
Next Post In the Series
In the next post on this topic, I will cover UDP or TCP, data encryption, and other best practices for using Wireless IP for M2M Applications.