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The Evolution of Automation and Communication Technology

Question:

Write a report about the Cloud Based Service for M2M Communication.
 

We have long since left behind the simplistic machines and tools that simply relied on human effort and amplified it. Instead, we are now looking forward to an era wherein humans increasingly move towards occupying a supervisory role only in our day-to-day activities, whereas the task of actually working falls on machines. Therefore, we are continually striving to make machines more intelligent, more autonomous, and more human-like. In this endeavour, we have achieved some measure of success as far as automation goes, and this is reliant on computer systems and information exchange – which is facilitated by the development of machine-to-machine communication technology. Just as a single human cannot ever hope to achieve what a large number of humans pooling together their knowledge and effort can, so does the same concept apply to machines. Computers can use pooling of resources such as processing power and share information amongst each other in exponentially increase their productivity. The Internet-of-Things, M2M communication, and Cloud Based Services in the context of these concepts, have been discussed further in this report.

Communication has always been an extremely important part of our lives. The exchange of ideas and information allows us to expand our knowledge, combine it, and accomplish much more than a single individual ever could. It can be said that the very fabric binding together human society is communication; from primitive and instinctual body language to modern, well defined spoken language, as well as other forms of communication adapted to serve different needs – everyone relies on exchanging information to go about their daily lives. But this is not limited to exchanging information between just humans. In the modern age, we rely heavily on machines. (Cackovic et al., 2012). Our application of science and technology to modify the world around us is what has allowed humanity to dominate all life on Earth and bend nature to our will. Our machines, in turn, also need to communicate. Thus arise the differentiation between Human-Human interaction, Human-Machine Interaction, and Machine-Machine Interaction. 

3.1 M2M Communication

Machine-to-machine (M2M) communication refers to any exchange of messages or data directly between two or more devices over any communication channel, wired or wireless, without involving human actions to facilitate or supervise the said interaction. The concept of M2M communication developed from telemetry – the practice of automating the transmission of recorded data from sensors via programmable computers installed at remote locations to central hubs of data analysis where the data collected from a large number of remote locations is stored, analysed and otherwise processed. While telemetry was initially used only in pure applications of science and engineering, it has rapidly expanded to be used in a variety of different applications, including such everyday appliances like remote controlled home heating systems and internet controlled household appliances. The Internet-of-Things is thus directly related to the development of M2M communication. (Wu et al, 2011). Therefore, we can say that despite there not existing any formal standards for M2M communication, it is still used extensively in a variety of applications and there is a significant potential for growth.

The Importance of Communication in Human Society

M2M communication was conceived during the mid-20th century in the form of early versions of the modern Caller ID system on landline telephone services, wherein a system was developed to transmit the caller’s identity to the receiver. It was then rapidly adopted by various telephone companies as well as other communications services. Towards the 21st century, M2M communication could be seen in technologies such as cell phone SIMs, global positioning system (GPS), embedded Java applications, and so on. In the 21st century, M2M communication is much more widespread, with its presence seen in fields such as manufacturing, robotics, computer networks, wireless tools and sensors, spacecraft, and grid based systems, in order to achieve efficient communication and exchange of information. The various end-user applications that rely on M2M communication now include logistics, car safety, smart metering, healthcare, fleet management, and so on, in addition to all previous applications. (Wang et al., 2012). Cloud applications and services are the latest adoptees of M2M communication technology and employ it to provide various remote machine management options in the form of the Platform-as-a-Service model.

The Internet of Things refers to a visionary concept wherein every conceivable object that humans interact with is connected to a network via a combination of electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity resources. The end result is that humans gain the capability to remotely monitor and control physical objects easily. Therefore, the Internet of Things allows the physical world to become highly interlinked with the digital world, leading to a greater degree of control and accessibility over it. This, in turn, is expected to lead to improvements in efficiency, accuracy and economy.

The effective range of objects covered by the word ‘things’ in Internet of Things is huge, encompassing everything from personal computing devices, biometric implants and healthcare services, and vehicles to household appliances such as lights, fans, heating systems, and washing machines, farm animals and crop monitoring systems, food pathogen sensors, and streetlights. Current M2M communication based systems are seen as a precursor to the envisioned level of device connectivity in the Internet of Things. (Rost et al., 2014). Examples of current applications of such technology and concepts are smart home appliances such as smart thermostats and Wi-Fi controlled washing machines, remote health monitoring devices, and smart security systems with Internet connectivity.

Many of the technologies that have led to the growth of the concept of Internet of Things are closely associated with M2M Communication, and in the present context, M2M Communication is seen as the vanguard for development of Internet of Things. That is to say that it is expected that as devices and applications relying on M2M communication develop, and as standardization and improvements in M2M communication come into place, it will slowly develop closer and closer to the vision of Internet of Things, gradually transitioning from M2M communication to a detailed, intelligent connectivity of devices. (Elmangoush et al., 2013). Such technologies as are propelling this though include RFID, Near Field Communication (NFC), Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), ZigBee, IPv6, Wireless LAN and Wi-Fi, and LTE-Advanced. 

Introduction to Machine-to-Machine (M2M) Communication

IPv6 or Internet Protocol version 6 is the latest version of the Internet Protocol that performs the task of identification and location of computer systems in the Internet. IPv6 was developed specifically in order to replace the older version of the Internet Protocol, IPv4. The main cause of taking this measure is the issue of IP Address exhaustion in IPv4 which started off during the explosive popularity of internet commercialization in the 1980s, was delayed by the development of new address space optimization technologies during the 1990s, and has again resurged in the face of the staggering growth of devices capable of internet connectivity. Adoption of IPv6 is especially seen as a necessity for achieving the aims of the Internet of Things. (Wan et al., 2012).

The original IPv4 protocol contains about 4.3 billion addresses and allocation of the addresses is managed by Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) globally, which in turn sub-sets the address space into distinct blocks assigned to five regional internet registries (RIR) over the world. Network Address Translation (NAT) and Classless Inter-Domain Routing (CIDR) were developed in the year 1993 in order to delay the onset of address space exhaustion. IPv6 was developed in 1998 and has since been undergoing a process of slow adoption and integration. In the case of IPv6, nearly 3.4 x 1038 addresses are supported by it, which is much more than the capacity of IPv4 by several orders of magnitude (nearly 1029 times greater).

The envisioned Internet of Things involves connecting a huge number of devices to the internet, which includes many devices which currently do not even carry any on-board computer systems or network connectivity, not to mention the proposed development of such technology as on-body micro or nano devices for health monitoring and other similar devices which would purportedly improve quality of human life. (Foschini et al., 2011). All devices connected to the internet will require a unique address, and since the IPv4 address space has already approached exhaustion, it is inevitable that without IPv6, achieving such wide-spread internet connectivity will be impossible.

Cloud based services have very rapidly emerged as the leading technology and service market in the field of Information Technology over the past decade. Cloud services rely heavily on M2M communication and can be considered the vanguard of breakthroughs in corporate and industry level M2M communication applications. A Cloud-based service works on the concept of making a remotely located software, infrastructure or platform accessible to clients on their local computing devices in the form of a subscription based service. The client is able to use the service to perform any and all operations related to the underlying software, infrastructure or platform as if the client actually owned that technology and it were present locally. In reality, the client is only presented with a control interface using which the client interacts with the service provider’s servers and all actual processing occurs on the server side. (Chen12 et al., 2012). The service providers employ very heavy duty computer hardware in conjunction with latest networking and virtualizing technology, including both software and hardware, to deliver these services to their clients, generally over the Internet.

The Internet of Things and M2M Communication

M2M communication is intrinsically tied to cloud based services in that all cloud based services depend heavily on networking services. Modern computer networks, in turn, rely on protocols, hardware, firmware, and software that facilitates transmission of data from one end to the other without any supervision from humans – which is the very definition of M2M communication.

Many leading information technology service providers as well as newly established companies have launched a variety of cloud based tools using which users can create their own cloud-based service applications. These tools provide a large number of independent functionalities that are supported by the service provider’s back-end infrastructure which can be combined by developers into various packages and integrated into other software technologies to create a new, unique cloud-based service. A leading example of this is the Google App Engine. 

The Google App Engine (GAE) is a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) cloud computing platform by Google. It is used for designing, developing and hosting cloud service web applications. The applications themselves are hosted on Google managed data centres and operate using resources provided by Google’s servers. The platform adopts a sandboxing approach to allow applications to run independently and securely, while allocating resources dynamically to meet demand. Hence, as the demand on resources by an application increases, so do the allocated resources. (Chin et al., 2014).

GAE supports the programming languages Python, Java, Go, PHP, and other JVM languages such as Groovy, Scala, Clojure, JRuby, etc. A number of Python web frameworks work using the GAE, such as Django, Pyramid, web2py, CherryPy, and so on. GAE is notable for providing more infrastructure than comparable platforms for designing and hosting web services, but it places more limitations on the applications thus resulting in a smaller subset of applications being supported for an equivalent framework.

Over the course of preparing this report, a number of interesting concepts were studied in detail. The detailed history of the emergence of M2M communication, how it first started developing as a means of identifying transmission sources in telephonic applications, the development of more sophisticate M2M communication applications, development of the Internet and expansion of M2M communication into the Internet of Things, were studied in great detail. This shed light on how many technologies that have become commonplace today, such as computer networks, cloud based services, and the internet itself, came to be and the direction of development they may take in the future. It was a novel experience to uncover the roots of such well known terms.

On the other hand, cloud based services are often discussed in daily life, but their true usage has remained obscured. While studying for and collecting information for this report, many of these obscurities were cleared away. (Hu et al., 2012). The underlying market models and service technologies used by cloud service providers, and the reason why cloud services have jumped up into such a gigantic market force, were revealed. By studying Google Cloud Engine, a cloud-based service application development platform, many intricacies of actually implementing a cloud-based service were understood.

Current and Potential Applications of M2M Communication

While this report covered a general overview of the various background details and technologies involved and associated with M2M communication, this field is quite broad. It is, moreover, one of the few fields related to science and technology that, though conceived so long ago, still lack standardization and mass awareness. This represents that there is a lot of scope for work to be done in this field. The reason why research in this field has remained rather slow is probably because our level of technology has thus far been placing limitations on the practical applications of M2M communication. This can either be a lack of sufficiently advanced hardware or software, or perhaps the lack of a market for such applications. However, it can also be observed that recent developments in automation and computer networking seem to indicate that the status quo is changing. M2M communication may well become the hottest topic of research soon enough. (Chin et al., 2014). The rapidly emerging face of cloud-based services has already propelled interest in M2M communication to a new height. This report has only been able to cover a part of the whole picture. For future such research work, it may be a good idea to explore a multitude of cloud service providers and cloud based applications, and dig into concepts such as the Internet of Things itself, smart security and housing systems, automated traffic control systems, remote medical assistance systems, and so on, as these are all potential markets for M2M based communication applications. 

6 Conclusion

Regardless of whether we speak about humans or machines, communication occupies a position of unshakable importance. Communication controls the exchange of information, ideas, and knowledge, and is necessary to establish any form of cooperation. This cooperation can extend to connect workers on a very large scale, who can mutually assist each other in accomplishing targets much beyond the scope of a single worker. These workers, in turn, can also be either humans or machines. In the approaching era of widespread automation and heavy reliance on information sharing, our machines must be improved to become better able to handle tasks that involve such cooperation. The ultimate goal of advancement in science and technology is to improve the quality of human life, and as this quality of life improves, humans will inevitably move to occupy roles which are more creative, abstract, and supervisory in nature, while delegating the lower order tasks to their machines. M2M communication is vital to the efforts of achieving this aim, and the time is ripe to delve into improving our current standards of technology in this field. 

7 References

Cackovic, V., & Popovic, Z. (2012, October). Cloud based service for M2M communication. In Telecommunications (BIHTEL), 2012 IX International Symposium on (pp. 1-6). IEEE.

Wu, G., Talwar, S., Johnsson, K., Himayat, N., & Johnson, K. D. (2011). M2M: From mobile to embedded internet. Communications Magazine, IEEE,49(4), 36-43.

Wang, X., Vasilakos, A. V., Chen, M., Liu, Y., & Kwon, T. T. (2012). A survey of green mobile networks: Opportunities and challenges. Mobile Networks and Applications, 17(1), 4-20.

Rost, P., Bernardos, C., Domenico, A., Girolamo, M., Lalam, M., Maeder, A., & Sabella, D. (2014). Cloud technologies for flexible 5G radio access networks. Communications Magazine, IEEE, 52(5), 68-76.

Elmangoush, A., Coskun, H., Wahle, S., & Magedanz, T. (2013, March). Design aspects for a reference M2M communication platform for Smart Cities. In Innovations in Information Technology (IIT), 2013 9th International Conference on (pp. 204-209). IEEE.

Wan, J., Li, D., Zou, C., & Zhou, K. (2012, October). M2M communications for smart city: an event-based architecture. In Computer and Information Technology (CIT), 2012 IEEE 12th International Conference on (pp. 895-900). IEEE.

Foschini, L., Taleb, T., Corradi, A., & Bottazzi, D. (2011). M2M-based metropolitan platform for IMS-enabled road traffic management in IoT.Communications Magazine, IEEE, 49(11), 50-57.

Chen12, M., Wan, J., & Li, F. (2012). Machine-to-machine communications: Architectures, standards and applications.

Chin, W. H., Fan, Z., & Haines, R. (2014). Emerging technologies and research challenges for 5G wireless networks. Wireless Communications, IEEE, 21(2), 106-112.

Hu, G., Tay, W. P., & Wen, Y. (2012). Cloud robotics: architecture, challenges and applications. Network, IEEE, 26(3), 21-28.

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