Scenario 1: A freak snowstorm in Munich, Germany, in the month of December increases power loads as people switch on their heaters. Smart energy meters installed in user housesholds transfer power consumption to the local electricity company. This allows the utility to adjust supply while providing automated billing. Users benefit from real time billing information that allows them to get back to “save energy mode” as soon as the weather permits.
Scenario 2: John Kingara is recovering from a heart attack and is now back at work. But his job as a forest ranger in Kenya means he is miles away from a healthcare center. A remote monitoring service relays his blood pressure and heart rate to the nearest hospital. And is able to alert him when they detect an anomaly.
These are just two of the exciting possibilities of Machine to Machine or M2M applications over mobile networks that could transform telecommunications.
What is M2M?
In more technical terms, M2M refers to technologies that use a device to capture an event which is relayed by a network to an application that translates it into meaningful and useful information. The device could be a smart energy meter transferring power consumption patterns and trends to an energy supplier. This would allow the supplier to provide automated billing while adjusting supply to meet demand. A utility in the USA is, for instance, piloting an M2M-based billing model where consumers are informed in real time about tariffing changes. With tariffs being higher during peak hours, consumers can adapt their energy consumption based on the tariffing model and their specific needs. So people can save a buck or two, if they try and spend less energy during peak hours.
Other Applications include remote healthcare and intelligent transport. Remote medical monitoring services alert patients if there are changes to their vital signs and locate them in emergencies to provide timely medical assistance. Another example is a GPS-based taxi monitoring application for intelligent transport. The monitoring system can remotely manage, track and monitor taxis on the road to provide real-time information on vehicles’ operational status and traffic congestion.
1 billion M2M apps on GSM by 2015
For operators, GSM will continue to be the predominant technology for transmitting M2M-related information during the next few years. While eventually there would be an evolution to LTE, GSM subscriptions supporting M2M applications are expected to reach 1 billion by 2015.
This increase in the use of GSM networks to support automated communication between devices and applications will cause signaling capacity, traffic management and Quality of Service (QoS) to become significant operator issues. Nokia Siemens Networks’ M2M software suite for GSM, available for commercial use from August 2011, helps prevent the overloading of networks with traffic, avoiding network congestion and supporting M2M reliability and growth.
The Achilles heel of M2M traffic
When it comes to growing M2M traffic, the Achilles heel of an operator network is signaling. “M2M applications create both additional information and signaling load on the network,” said Thorsten Robrecht, head of Network Systems product management at Nokia Siemens Networks. “In mass-M2M applications, such as smart metering, the additional monthly payload is low, typically less than 1 Megabyte per subscriber. However, there will always be additional signaling load for every data transaction. Since M2M data transactions are expected to grow by ten times in the next few years, signaling will be a very relevant issue for operators.”
The good news is that the M2M suite for GSM reduces signaling by up to 70%, due to a precise paging feature, the company’s own invention. Precise paging efficiently reduces the amount of signaling data between M2M mobile stations and base transceiver stations. As a result, GSM operators with M2M service businesses don’t require additional base station sites to accommodate more M2M users.
As part of its suite, Nokia Siemens Networks also offers priority class based QoS, prioritizing urgent M2M transactions such as health and security related information. Moreover, operators are able to better manage less critical loads during peak hours, which adds to the network’s robustness. The suite also boasts a Smart Resource Adaptation feature, which enables up to five times more M2M subscriptions.
“We have been a pioneer in driving the adoption of M2M, providing advanced solutions for low cost operation and efficient delivery of multi-industry M2M services. In addition, our M2M application development follows an agile research and development approach – like that of a start-up company – so that we can meet market needs in a flexible way,” added Peter Zimmermann, head of Global Services M2M solution management at Nokia Siemens Networks. “Today, we are on the threshold of wide scale adoption of M2M across utilities; smart grid; transportation and automotive; logistics; security and surveillance as well as retail and vending. We have taken a defining step by addressing the impact of traffic on underlying networks to facilitate a smooth experience for users.”
 Nokia Siemens Networks estimate.
The blog post is by Ruth Lileg from the Network Systems team.