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Advances in M2M communication for industrial automation

Posted: 03 Nov 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:wireless internet  machine to machine  M2M  6LoWPAN  IIoT 

In this day and age it's almost impossible to find a place in the world without a wireless internet connection. In fact, in 2010, Ncell (a Nepalese Telecommunications company) provided Mount Everest's peak with 3G data connection – perfect for posting that 8,848m high selfie.

The North Pole, the International Space Centre and even the Moon are amongst some of the world's most surprising Wi-Fi hotspots. While consumer technology is becoming increasingly wire-free can the same be said for industrial automation? Here is a short discussion on the latest developments in wireless machine to machine (M2M) technology, including 6LoWPAN.

According to a report by market analyst firm Berg Insight the number of installed and active wireless devices within industrial automation reached 10.3 million in 2014. With the estimated annual growth rate at 27.2 per cent, it is expected to reach 43.5 million by 2020.

Constant pressure to make industry more efficient means that manufacturers are using increasingly sophisticated applications for communication such as the industrial internet of things (IIoT) and wireless M2M technology.

M2M describes the technology used to enable industrial automation to connect and exchange information between devices of the same type—without the manual assistance of humans.

In the case of the manufacturing industry, M2M technology can capture data from the production line: such as temperature, inventory level or speed of performance through the use of sensors or meters. This information is relayed through either a wired or wireless network to industrial automation software that can then translate the data into meaningful information for the manufacturer to analyse.

Origins of M2M
The first real use of M2M technology dates back to the 1960s when the predecessor to Caller ID was first invented. During its development, the inventor, Theodore Paraskevakos, quickly realised that in order to recognise the calling number, the telephone must be able to process data. By understanding this, he successfully developed a method in which the caller's number was transmitted to the called receiver's device—this was the first introduction of the concepts of intelligence, data processing and visual display in technology.

Wireless connection is the most recent development of M2M technology, this allows companies to gather real-time data from the factory floor and to update and control automation equipment from anywhere in the facility, in temporary locations or even remotely.

Traditionally, M2M technology has used a wired infrastructure. So, why go wireless now?

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