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The “Internet of Things (IoT)” and M2M: Wireless Sensors to Boom, Aided by Nanotechnology, Business and Industry Trends Analysis

The phrase “Internet of Things” or “IoT” will become increasingly commonplace.  It refers to wireless communications known as M2M or machine-to-machine.  M2M can be as simple as a refrigerator that lets a smartphone app know when you are running low on milk (via Wi-Fi) to a vast, exceedingly complex network of wireless devices connecting all of the devices in a massive factory.  Analysts at network device giant Cisco expected M2M connections to grow dramatically and rapidly, to 14.7 billion by 2023.
A Wireless Sensor Network (WSN) consists of a grouping of remote sensors that transmit data wirelessly to a receiver that is collecting information into a database.  Special controls may alert the network’s manager to changes in the environment, traffic or hazardous conditions within the vicinity of the sensors.  Long-term collection of data from remote sensors can be used to establish patterns and make predictions, as well as to manage surveillance in real time.  Another term that is coming into wide use is M2M2P or machine-to-machine-to-people.  The “to-people” part refers to the fact that consumers, workers and professionals will increasingly be actively involved in the gathering of data, its analysis and its usage.  For example, M2M2P systems that automatically collect data from patients’ bedsides; analyze, chart and store that data; and make the data available to doctors or nurses so that they may take any necessary actions are becoming increasingly powerful.  Such systems, part of the growing trend of electronic health records (EHR), can also include bedside comments spoken into tablet computers by physicians that are transcribed automatically by voice recognition software and then stored into EHR.

Connected Devices are a Notorious Channel for Hackers’ Entry into Networks and Data
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a vital component of machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and will become even more important with the rollout of fast, urban 5G wireless networks.  IoT sensors, monitors and cameras can gather the types of data that can make cities more efficient (in a wide range of areas, from traffic flow to lighting efficiency); make agricultural technology advance (such as better efficiency in irrigation and fertilization) and enhance operations in manufacturing and distribution facilities of all types.  However, connected devices such as these are notorious nodes through which hackers have had stunning and costly success at taking over networks and stealing data.  There is a massive need, and an accompanying business opportunity, to make M2M networks as cybersafe as possible.

     The long-term trend of miniaturization is playing a vital role in M2M.  Intel and other firms are working on convergence of MEMS (microelectromechanical systems—tiny devices or switches that can measure changes such as acceleration or vibration), RFID (wireless radio frequency identification devices) and sometimes tiny computer processors (microprocessors embedded with software).  In a small but powerful package, such remote sensors can monitor and transmit the stress level or metal fatigue in a highway bridge or an aircraft wing or monitor manufacturing processes and product quality in a factory.  In our age of growing focus on environmental quality, they can be designed to analyze surrounding air for chemicals, pollutants or particles, using lab on a chip technology that already largely exists.  Some observers have referred to these wireless sensors as “smart dust,” expecting vast quantities of them to be scattered about the Earth as the sensors become smaller and less expensive over the near future.  Energy efficiency is going to benefit greatly, particularly in newly built offices and factories.  An important use of advanced sensors will be to monitor and control energy efficiency on a room-by-room, or even square meter-by-square meter, basis in large buildings.  Turntide Technologies (, a California company offers systems comprised of electric motors and small computers that analyze building occupant patterns and then more efficiently manage heating and cooling systems.  German firm Envio Systems, now a unit of JLL, has similar technology to adjust lighting, heating and cooling.
In an almost infinite variety of possible, efficiency-enhancing applications, artificial intelligence (AI) software can use data gathered from smart dust to forecast needed changes, and robotics or microswitches can then act upon that data, making adjustments in processes automatically.  For example, such a system of sensors and controls could make adjustments to the amount of an ingredient being added to the assembly line in a paint factory or food processing plant; increase fresh air flow to a factory room; or adjust air conditioning output in one room while leaving a nearby hallway as is.  The ability to monitor conditions such as these 24/7, and provide instant analysis and reporting to engineers, means that potential problems can be deterred, manufacturing defects can be avoided, and energy efficiency can be enhanced dramatically.  Virtually all industry sectors and processes will benefit.
Look for data sensors in homes to proliferate over the mid-term.  In the insurance business, live data emanating from sensors in homes could lead to more intelligent policies.  Monitoring data via smartphone could be a significant opportunity for companies in the senior care, childcare and pet care sectors.

Internet Research Tip: The Internet of Things Infographic:

     Meanwhile, French technology firm SigFox offers a simple, inexpensive wireless network, designed specifically for M2M needs.  The network transmits data at a rate of 100 bits per second, which is slower by a factor of 1,000 than most smartphone networks but does so cheaply while it fills simple transmission needs such as those from many wireless sensors (such as Whistle, a clip-on collar sensor that tracks dog activity levels).  Base stations use a wireless chip that costs only $1 to $2, and customers pay modest service charges per year per device.  As of early-2023, SigFox had deployed its technology in about 70 countries, covering more than 1 billion people within its network range.
Intel and other firms have developed methods that enable such remote sensors to bypass the need for internal batteries.  Instead, they can run on “power harvesting circuits” that are able to reap power from nearby television signals, FM radio signals, Wi-Fi networks or RFID readers.
Memory chips used in sensors are much smaller than those in smartphones and laptops, opening a major opportunity for manufacturers such as Adesto Technologies.  The firm makes chips that store between 32 kilobits and one megabit of data, making them a good fit for small monitors such as fitness data tracking wristbands.  Meanwhile, Wiliot (, a supply chain technology firm in Israel, has developed a combination sensor and mini-computer tag for use by retailers desiring to track merchandise in the supply chain.  The tags do not require batteries and promise to ultimately cost a few pennies each.  Future applications might include location-based beacons in retail stores that alert nearby customers to selected items by cellphone.  Smoke detectors with small memory chips could sense battery life, while blood transfusion bags could track their locations, ages and content viability.
Amazon offers a variety of IoT devices, including the Astro robot for home monitoring and Halo Rise for tracking sleep patterns.  Both communicate with Amazon’s Alexa personal assistant.  In the fall of 2022, the Connectivity Standards Alliance launched Matter, an interoperability standard that specifies how smart devices talk to each other.  Many platforms have embraced Matter, including Amazon Alexa, Apple Home, Google Home and Samsung SmartThings.

Internet Research Tip: Internet of Things (IoT) Networks:
For more information on wireless network systems and remote sensors, see:

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