4Ging Ahead with Next Gen M2M

A couple of weeks back, Andrew Orlowski over at The Register gave us a healthy dose of British cynicism about the impending launch of Everything Everywhere’s 4G LTE cellular network in the UK. While his critique rings true for smartphone & tablet early adopters, 4G LTE will be a boon for M2M and remote infrastructure management (RIM), for several reasons:

London Bus with SIM inserted

London Bus with SIM inserted

1. 4G LTE enables content rich M2M – the current breed of M2M applications are designed for the paucity of 2G GPRS bandwidth and per-KB billing, and are largely about migrating old school telemetry (e.g. remote sensor monitoring) from radio to commodity cellular IP networks.

In particular, continuous audio and video streaming with enough resolution for biometrics, facial & voice recognition, has immediate applications in remote site security, and (combined with GPS) public transport security & telematics.

2. With HD video streaming over cellular now a possibility, 4G LTE will drive down the price of cellular data plans (the caveat being 4G LTE itself may be charged as a premium service in the short term, while it’s phased in). The proliferation of 3G tablets has already started the ball rolling, but nearly a decade of expensive data has caused the traditional M2M world to mostly leapfrog 3G, holding out for 4G.

3. Most of the focus has been on 4G LTE’s speed bump, but its improved latency also has big advantages for timing sensitive systems like SCADA & industrial control.

4. Whereas 2G M2M relies on carrier-level VPN for security, 4G LTE allows plenty of slack for the overhead of end-to-end encryption between devices, cutting out the MVNO middle man and cutting costs.

We’re already seeing next gen applications being deployed on the 3G network using Opengear cellular RIM appliances, in hard-to-get-to unmanned network installs on offshore oil platforms and roadside comms cabinets. RIM combines traditional M2M environmental & sensor monitoring with content rich video surveillance, on demand remote infrastructure control, and end-to-end encryption over the public cellular WWAN. Over the next couple of years, 4G LTE will help drive mainstream adoption of next gen M2M applications like RIM.