An ongoing project to develop common protocols for machine-to-machine (M2M) communication will create new business opportunities and bring added value to commercial robotics solutions, according to its lead researchers. The $29.16 million A2Nets project (which is scheduled to run until 2014) is designed to help sensors, actuators, machines and electronic devices communicate with each other more effectively. If successful, the project could drive down development costs for robotics companies and improve interoperability across the machine world. Further, standardization supports the market take-up of innovation, by acting as a bridge between research, innovation, and market. In the latest phase of the project, new M2M solutions are being tested in four different business cases: car sharing telematics, industrial production, smart metering for green energy, and wellbeing. ?Companies are wasting money and effort not as much due to ineffective [M2M] communication, but more by designing vendor or domain specific closed systems with only a very narrow and strict field of applicability, with no concern for interoperability,? Johanna Kallio, senior scientist and administrative coordinator on the A2Nets project, tells Robotics Business Review. The result is higher development costs as separate solutions are developed even within specific business cases ?a situation Kallio characterizes as ?inventing the wheel over and over again in different contexts.?
The technologies developed by the A2Nets team could bring added value to the robotics industry by enabling them to communicate and interact with users, services, and devices operating in entirely different domains, such as smart metering, vehicular telematics and security, says Antti Iivari, system architect for the A2Nets project. ?This will also create new business opportunities that have not been possible before. The robotics systems can be made parts of a larger whole by the application of core M2M technologies developed in A2Nets, such as secure overlay communication, dynamic distributed client-server architecture with federated M2M Back-ends and the flexible gateway framework providing building blocks for case-specific customizable interoperability,? says Iivari. If successful, A2Nets will see the creation of ?horizontal, universally applicable building blocks? that can be used to enable M2M communication across a wide range of environments and domains, explains Jani Koivusaari, A2Nets’ services expert. Rather than force a technology push on specific industries, the A2Nets team aims to be as ?application domain agnostic as possible,? adds Koivusaari. ?How things are done specifically within a certain industrial environment [such as robotics] is not within the scope of A2Nets, as we’re looking at the bigger picture and are therefore more concerned with how to make everything interact and work together in new and exciting ways, without assuming to change or rebuild everything that is already there and works,? says Koivusaari. Nevertheless, a well-designed set of M2M communication tools and technologies will boost the technological competences and potential of domestic businesses, says senior scientist Kallio. ?The resulting M2M system concepts widen business possibilities and offer novel advantages for companies. Consequently, companies will be able to increase their service quality, reduce costs and increase customer satisfaction,? adds Kallio. In January, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), revealed that seven standards developments organizations had reached agreement to cooperate on the development of common global standards for machine-to-machine (M2M) communications.
?The robotics systems can be made parts of a larger whole by the application of core M2M technologies developed in A2Nets…providing building blocks for case-specific customizable interoperability.?Antti Iivari, system architect for the A2Nets project
The seven organizations involved are the Association of Radio Industries and Businesses (ARIB) and the Telecommunication Technology Committee (Japan); the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions and the Telecommunications Industry Association (USA); the China Communications Standards Association (China); ETSI (Europe); and the Telecommunications Technology Association (Korea). In February, ETSI published its first set of M2M standards, outlining standards across requirements, functional architecture, and interface descriptions. However, the purpose of A2Nets is not to compete with other M2M communication initiatives, but to bring existing standards together by harnessing and enhancing existing technologies to serve M2M in novel and useful ways, says Iivari. ?Various M2M standardization efforts are taken into account and reflected upon the work carried out within A2Nets. The goal is not to force every industry actor in the world into using some specific protocol or technology, but to develop architectural building blocks –related to communication, security, and gateway functionalities for example– and service capabilities that are flexible and general enough to be relevant and applicable in any application domain,? explains Iivari. A2Nets is led by researchers at VTT, Finland. Other members of the 24-strong consortium include Spanish IT services giant Atos, French digital security specialists Gemalto, and Turkish IT specialists iNNOVA. To read more on the paradigm shift occurring in robot communication, read Facebook for Robots? Why Not?Read More