The energy sector was among the first industries to embrace machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, and utilities worldwide continue to adopt smart metering solutions. A recent report commissioned by Telefonica Digital predicts that 800 million electric smart meters will be installed worldwide by 2020. In todays competitive energy markets, M2M can be an essential business differentiator by bringing value-added services to the home or business through new information collection and management opportunities that are much more involved than simply collecting usage data.
Utilities and OEMs can use smart meters as a hub to aggregate information from multiple services (water, gas, etc.) and support advanced customer-facing applications for monitoring energy usage, integrating home appliances and more. However, these applications require more intelligence and greater processing capabilities in the connected meter than previously needed. High-speed cellular networks and more powerful M2M modules mean hardware technology is no longer a barrier. Yet, a big hurdle remains and that is the complexity involved when developing connected energy applications.
Until now, most connected energy applications have been custom-built and designed for a specific hardware vendor and chipset, with the limitation being the inability to port from one platform or network technology to another. This has led to OEMs treating each customer and project as a standalone solution, even for basic M2M applications, and, in effect, building the entire application, integrating all hardware components, assembling the software and operating system, and testing and validating the solution entirely from scratch.
Clearly OEMs needed a better option to quickly build and scale embedded energy solutions worldwide, and utilizing an open-source M2M platform is a sound strategy for advancing M2M applications and giving embedded M2M developers a head start. Key points of consideration are:
An open M2M development platform allows OEMs to focus more resources on developing innovative energy applications, since much of the effort to deploy and scale the communications components to be integrated in those solutions is already done. It also means that OEMs are no longer locked into proprietary solutions they would have long-term flexibility with the ability to easily change hardware components and vendors without re-architecting the entire solution.
By simplifying the development of smart metering solutions and deploying them anywhere, utilities are also empowered to exploit the smart meter to support more advanced applications and services.
Using standardized drivers and APIs for ZigBee, WiFi, and other technologies, a utility can use its smart meter to collect and process information from other services in the home, and re-sell those capabilities to other utilities serving that customer.
They can also support more advanced applications, linking smart meters with appliances and sensors throughout a home network to provide real-time energy monitoring information for home display panels and smartphone applications. The smart meter can now even serve as a foundation for home monitoring, security, and other connected applications.
OEMs can expect the market for smart meters to continue to grow. With an open-source M2M platform and pre-integrated device-to-cloud capabilities, they can capitalize on this opportunity easily and cost-effectively. And, as OEMs draw on the innovation and expertise of Linux developers worldwide, they can extend the smart meter beyond basic data collection to enable a new generation of connected in-home solutions that benefit their utility customers and consumers alike.
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