What are some of the challenges of building massive-scale machine to machine (M2M) networks and how should we think about them?
"The networks we at Silver Spring have been deploying are unlike any others in the world.  These are not raised-floor, air-cooled, easily accessible environments; nor are they networks for consumer devices that can move about freely and be swapped out every couple of years.  Rather, we have been networking millions and millions of devices fixed in some of the world's harshest locations.  These large-scale outdoor networks span vast geographies and varied topographies covering thousands of square miles, and yet must provide the high reliability and low-latency peer to peer performance required by mission-critical M2M communications, such as those in the Industrial Internet.  The devices involved are often physically difficult to access, therefore often have in-the-field lifespans of 20 years or more, and must be protected despite the lack of physical security. And all this must be supported cost-effectively, matched to customer business needs.  The good news is that we have been addressing these requirements with customers for a decade now —the challenges are daunting, but over the years we have proven out technology that shows they can be overcome.

What role do standards play in building out the Industrial Internet?
For these M2M networks to yield their full potential they must be based on open standards. Standards enable interoperability, which in turn ensures that the broadest possible set of technologies work together. And customers benefit from greater choice because of heightened competition, which delivers more rapid innovation, higher quality, lower costs, and reduced risk by avoiding vendor lock in. Standards have been at the heart of every great technological revolution – from transportation to telecommunications to industrial manufacturing and, especially, the Internet — to the great benefit of consumers and to the growth and health of commercial industry.  For more than a decade Silver Spring has been a leader in establishing open, standards-based communications and software platforms for M2M systems. And we look forward to continuing our focus and leadership in this area.

What are some of the first real-world M2M applications Silver Spring sees rolling out in the market?
The M2M market, like any other, will roll out in stages driven by urgent business needs.  The first urgent need we saw was in the energy and utility sector — Silver Spring's IPv6 network today connects more than 16.5 million energy grid devices across 5 continents. These Smart Grid networks are helping utilities to be much more efficient, and consumers to save money and become more empowered in managing their energy use. There is certainly lots more work to do for Smart Grids, but the key to M2M network platforms is the ability to support adding that work – i.e., more applications – as and when they are needed.  And what we are now seeing is that extensibility, and many of the engineering challenges we've solved in the Smart Grid space, apply directly to the larger Smart City opportunity.

Beyond energy, municipal service providers around the world are looking to connect an even broader array of municipal assets, leverage a network platform upon which they can deploy innovative future services, and enhance the safety, quality of life, and economic opportunity for their citizens.  Under this broad umbrella category of Smart Cities, we are seeing the greatest interest in networking streetlights, traffic signals and control systems, parking meters, electric vehicle charging stations, and environmental sensors such as CO2 and air pollution monitors … with many, many other areas being explored as well.

The social and economic potential of M2M market and Industrial Internet is enormous — I think that we aren't even yet in the first inning, we’re still singing the national anthem.

About the author

Raj Vaswani