Tagged: M2M

Improve security systems by supervising disconnections

Nowadays most security systems have sensors to detect events that would trigger alarms. Old security systems had all the elements wired, from sensors to the supervision centre. To disconnect a system, in most cases it would be as simple as cutting the wires in order to prevent the alarm signal to reach the supervisor. Some more advanced systems would detect if the connection was broken and that would be enough to trigger the alarm.

A few years back, M2M wireless connections where adopted by some security systems to replace the wired connections. That change reduced the deployment cost of these systems, as it was no longer needed to spend on wire installations. But this change from wire to radio also offers an extra layer of security because it is harder to jam a wireless connection than cutting a cable. The problem with IT systems using wireless connections is to know when the signal is lost. Perhaps the network elements know the end-device is no longer active but rarely they pass that event to the application, in this case the security system console.

At Carriots we thought on how to upgrade legacy security system into a modern alarm solution using the cloud under the IOT concept. We came up with an interesting feature that can be easily implemented using Carriots platform to avoid thieves from disconnecting alarms or replacing them.

Here is how: Imagine you design a brand new alarm system where every element, every few seconds, sends a “heart-beat” to your central alarm system on the cloud. If the alarm system is capable of controlling the absence of heart-beats it would detect that an element or the whole system is compromised. It would then trigger the alarm, no matter if the thieves would attack the local electronics.

To prevent the alarm from triggering they would have to hack the cloud or imitate the heart-beat of the elements. But how easy is to imitate such a heart-beat? Well, it can be almost impossible if the heart-beats are well designed using the latest IT security features. If each of the streams is unique and uses public key infrastructure (PKI) to cypher and authenticate the data, sender and receiver, then the solution is extremely secure.

In Carriots we already have two features implemented so you can use them to design this type of advanced security system:

  • We have a device supervision module capable of detecting changes in device status based on the absence of data (like missing heart-beats). We already talked about it on the blog. https://blog.carriots.com/status-device-supervision-for-better-iot-applications/ . With this feature you can trigger the alarm the minute after any of the elements is disconnected.
  • If the heart-beats of the security system use our HTTPS REST API and Checksum feature to authenticate the data streams then it is almost impossible to tamper the system.

Obviously these features are improvements to any type of application where it is important to track if the system is online and unaltered like GPS tracking devices, fire detection systems or many other uses.

Artwork © MySecuritySign.com

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Book Review – M2M for Dummies – Free ebook Download

For those of you that are new to the world of M2M and Internet of Things, a nice book to read is M2M for Dummies edited by Wiley. This ebook is sponsored by RACO wireless and that means you can freely download it here . The book is written by Brian Underdahl, an experienced and prolific writer of this type of manuals.

“M2M for Dummies” ® cover page edited by Wiley ©

The book starts with the basic of M2M technology written in plain English. Writing a dummies book for M2M is far more complex that explaining a software tool like excel. The focus of the book is then explaining the blocks a company will need to integrate to build a M2M solution. Some examples of these type solutions are given in very different sectors form e-health to industry automation. Some of these examples reflect how an exiting solution, like a home alarm system, can be improved by switching a landline connection to a wireless operator.

The second chapter covers very briefly the requirements and implications you must considering when you choose a hardware manufacture, a software application and a telecom operator. All of these arguments are very high level and most case obvious. But is a very good exercise to read them since the obvious is forgotten until problems arise. The arguments related to the IT part of the M2M solutions are correct although it would have been nice to go deeper on some concepts. In contrast the description of connectivity related topics are more detailed. Obviously this book has been advised by RACO, a telecom operator specialized in M2M, and the networking material is based on their expertise.

Chapter three covers all the topics you will have worry when you roll out a M2M solution to provide a service to you customers. Some advises are given on requirements to maintain devices, provide security and customer support. Like before it is a check-list of highly important matters that must care about.

Chapter four covers RACO wireless solutions and benefits as a connectivity provider. Nowadays telecom operators are more than data Carriers. RACO provides a lot of IT services to help you manage your connectivity in M2M projects. They were one first movers in that direction and now even the largest telecom operators follow that path.

Last chapter is a list of 10 facts about M2M. Probably you are already familiar with most of them, although some of them might surprise you like “95% of all M2M systems require just 2G speed”.

Our Conclusion: This book is very basic but only takes 30 minutes to read and you might learn some new concepts. We think that is the spirit of this “for CEOs” “for Dummies” series. Worth reading and sharing among your colleagues and top managers like this one:

Carriots CEO: This guy is far more dangerous than Dilbert’s ® boss!

Enjoy it!

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Status Device Supervision for better IoT applications

In this article we want to share with you our vision on how we can supervise the status of devices to create better IoT or M2M applications. This is a Best Practice that we recommend and it is based on our experience in developing large corporate M2M projects.

Normally M2M developers check the status of a device with only 2 possible Status: Disconnected or OK. They can do so by checking Data Streams and their expected frequency. Like in this diagram:

2 Status Device Supervision

You can also program your device to keep an open connection with the server to know if your device is connected or disconnected. But under the IOT paradigm where Internet and Energy resources need to be smart managed, this approach is highly dissuaded.

Lets take an example project where we need to supervise the status of a device:

Project Scenario:

Imagine a project where you build an RFID reader controlling a door opening. When a RFID tag is read, it sends a data stream to Carriots and if credentials are granted then Carriots sends an order to the PLC that opens the door. This door should be opened at least one time in a workday and exceptionally in a weekend. Imagine that as part of your project you need to monitor the status of the RFID reader to make sure it is OK. Carriots could check if a data stream has been received in a time range, a day and then check if the reader is working correctly.

Following this example, checking the RFID reader health is a matter of tracking data streams once a day. But if in a weekend the reader is not used, it seems that the reader is not working properly. So, for checking if RFID reader is alive its better done by sending status streams periodically and expect their reception in Carriots in a defined time range, independently from data streams.

So in order to help developers create better applications, Carriots has implemented some unique features, related to device supervision, that are optional to use. Lets review them and how you can take advantage of them.

Carriots features related to Device Status:

At Carriots we wanted to improve this basic functionality with the possibility of:

  • Having extra statuses based on information status information of the device and application data sent by the device.
  • Having the possibility to program actions based on status changes.

When a Carriots device is created there are two kinds of streams that can be sent associated to that device: data streams and status streams. Those streams can be controlled in order to expect the reception of one of them in a time range.

Carriots offers two device properties to check streams expected reception in a time range.

  • Data Stream Frequency – It is a number representing the time range in which a data stream should be received for that device. Expressed in minutes.
  • Status Stream Frequency – It is a number representing the time range in which a status stream should be received for that device. Expressed in minutes.

When a stream is not received within the expected time range, Carriots changes it’s inner status and fires an event.

Possible Device Statuses at Carriots:

These are the different inner device status in Carriots:

  • Disconnected – no status stream nor data stream received in the expected time range defined by “Status Stream Frequency” and “Data Stream Frequency” device’s properties.
  • No_data – no data stream received in the expected time range defined by “Data Stream Frequency” device’s property. Status stream received.
  • No_status – no status stream received in the expected time range defined by “Status Stream Frequency” device’s property. Data stream received.
  • OK – Data and status streams received in the expected time range defined by “Status Stream Frequency” and “Data Stream Frequency” device’s properties.

This diagrams shows how the flow of status change:

4 Status Device Supervision in Carriots

Programming actions on Status Change Event:

When Carriots detects stream absence within a defined time range the event “Event Device Change State” is fired. When a device changes its inner status, Carriots raise an event and injects the context to be used in listeners and rules scripts. A status change implies two statuses: one before the change takes place and the other when the change is done. For example, a device can be in a “no_data” status and may change to “disconnected” or from “OK” to “no_status” and so on.

With this feature you can program a Listener in Carriots with a Groovy scripts that can perform pretty much any action that you want, from activating a repair procedure to detect that an abnormal behaviour in the application.

You can get more information on this, by reading our documentation on Device Inner Status.

Please let us know what you think of these features by posting your comments to this post.

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Business Intelligence Reports for IOT or M2M, Why, Who, What and How

0. Introduction:

If you use IOT or M2M in corporate projects, sooner or later, you will need to implement a tool to build reports. There is no way you can escape it. Having a graphical visualization of data is just the top of the iceberg. Believe us, Business Intelligence is a huge iceberg you don’t to crash into. In this post we want to share with you our knowledge and experience developing M2M projects for large companies. In all of these projects there is always a reporting tool for business management. In this post we will also present you a real example of one of customers and how they use reports.

About Carriots and BI Reports: Carriots does not have report features,although we have just released a feature to create graphs from your data. Why? Because we think it is better to use an external report tool.

1. Why you should care about BI Reports?

It is all about the difference between Data and Information.

In the bubble of engineers and developers you mainly use Raw Data (readings from sensors or applications variables) and transform it into Processed Data (like events, alarms, actions) or simply Structured Data (like historical databases). Then you build your application.

In the bubble of Business Management the key element is useful information for business purposes. In fact all the information should be aimed to support decision making. BI uses technologies, processes, and applications to analyse mostly internal, structured data and business processes. IOT business projects are very often involved in business processes, either for automating or to supervise them. That’s why your IOT devices will become an additional source of data and will require integration with BI tools. At the end of the day, corporate IOT projects are developed because, somewhere on a report their Return Over Investment is positive.

Reports are only a small part of BI. But it is the basic tool managers use to handle and analyse data to extract information.

2. Who would be the users of these reports?

There are many types of users that will require a reporting tool. It all depends on the processes related (technical or business) and the hierarchical level of the user (from supervisor to the CEO). Some users will require a tool to handle the data and create reports. The C-level users will only require a dashboard and some key indicators.

So these are some types of users (although we are certain to forget some):

  • Internal Technical users: Technicians involved in product design, manufacturing, or maintenance.
  • External Technical users: Especially manufactures of supplies used, involved in QA or maintenance.
  • Internal Business users: all levels of management. Some managers produce reports while others read them.
  • External Business users: Mainly customers that use report as part of the service.
  • External users non related to the project: Your IOT devices can capture valuable data for users you don’t know, like Smart City information for citizens (see the example below).

Take for example a tool called Zoho Reports. These are the types of reports you can have:

Types of Reports in Zoho Reports

This picture is taken from a project of Wairbut , one of customers. Wairbut is developing a prototype of intelligent pedestrian crossing and uses Carriots as a Backend solution to speed up the development of the IT system. In this project the device that controls the crossing is a lightweight industrial PC. The engineers of Wairbut want to monitor and analyse some status data of the device with Zoho Reports while device management is done completely using Carriots device management module. The engineers and technical managers developing the project use these reports. But since the device is used to detect risk situations where pedestrian can be hit by a car, under a Smart City concept, this device can provide useful information to citizens or city managers. A report tool for these types of users is the best way to embrace open data of cities.

3. What type of information do you want to integrate with BI?

All the information you can capture can be very useful if you are capable or processing it or at least structure it. This statement is so generic that we think it is better to go deeper into the previous example and check what was done.

Wairbut used Carriots Status Steam feature to send some operating values of the device, like memory used and disk space used. They also used some listeners in Carriots to set alarms in case any of these parameters could cause a problem. Having alarms and graphs was not enough. They need to track how these values evolved on different versions of the embedded software. Therefore they decided to “push” this information into Zoho Reports to log it and analyse it there. These are some of the reports they got:

Zoho graphics
Data table

4. How you can do it?

The Carriots Way (Easy and Fast Integration): If you want to do an easy and fast setup to have a report tool in less than 1 hour, we recommend you to use Zoho Reports and follow our tutorial to integrate data in Carriots with Zoho Reports .

Start creating reports in less than 1 hour with Carriots and Zoho

But you can also integrate a full BI suite like any of these (to name a few):

In theses case the integration will be very similar to the integration with Zoho Reports although you will need to adapt to their APIs.

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Small entrepreneurs empowered by M2M and the CloudSmall entrepreneurs empowered by M2M and the Cloud

 

As this company blog starts, I feel the need to explain the vision that motivated us to create Carriots. Reading Google’s blog I found the right example on how the Cloud and M2M are revolutionary technologies for small entrepreneurs to create new businesses and new products.

Nomanini, the example of a social entrepreneur’s start up:

A small company in South Africa, Nomanini, has created a nice product with small resources by using the leverage of Cloud platforms and cheap electronics. This product also improves rural communities by helping local entrepreneurs to have an extra income.

Nomanini has created this portable sales terminal to sell vouchers for mobile services in Africa:

The Lula, Nomanini's portable voucher sales terminal
Source: Google App Engine Blog. http://googleappengine.blogspot.com.es/2012/12/developer-insights-mobile-voucher-sales.html

The application behind the device is running on Google AppEngine which is a powerful and general purpose Platform as a Service (PaaS). This is how the device integrates with the application over the cloud:

Nomanini uses Google App Engine to support the backend system
Source Google App Engine Blog. http://googleappengine.blogspot.com.es/2012/12/developer-insights-mobile-voucher-sales.html

Google’s approach and Carriots:

Certainly Google App Engine and Carriots M2M Application Platform can be seen as competitors. While Google App Engine has a broad approach, Carriots is more focused on M2M Apps and aims to help you build faster and easier applications for the Internet of Things. We designed Carriots with the same idea that applications should be built on the Cloud and integrated with cheap devices and other IT systems. Our approach is to help small entrepreneurs develop M2M applications faster and easier. We want developers to focus on their devices and their applications instead of writing a lot of code. The true winners of this competition in PaaS solutions are small entrepreneurs who can build lean start-ups, faster and with fewer resources.

Small Entrepreneurs can explore new ideas:

One of the keys of success in business is to experiment a lot and develop as many ideas as possible. Small entrepreneurs around the world have lots of ideas. Most of these ideas never become a new product because the cost of development is too high. Besides, when you develop new products, you have to accept failure as part of the creative process. Since resources are always scarce, entrepreneurs and companies have to prototype new products as cheap as the can. In M2M and IOT products, prototyping is now very cheap due to two factors:

1. Open Electronics Platforms for cheap and fast prototyping:

Platforms like Arduino, Raspberry-Pi or Souliss, just to name a few, help entrepreneurs transform a conceptual idea into a real working prototype. Certainly a prototype is not a product you can sell right away to a customer. But prototypes are extremely helpful to gather feedback from potential customers and test the idea behind your product. This open electronics platforms are the lean start of hardware IOT product design. The cost of hardware development in these platforms is very low and the knowledge of electronics you need is far simpler than developing a device from scratch.

2. M2M Applications Platforms to build applications for connected products:

IOT products and services depend on embedded software on the device and on backend applications. M2M Application Platforms, like Carriots, help developers build fast prototypes of that backend application without the cost of expending in IT infrastructure. Besides if the prototype is transformed into a product, scalability is not an issue. Application Platforms focused on M2M and IOT also provide simpler and proven solutions for issues like:

  • Device Management
  • Data Protocols implementation
  • Database management for Big Data
  • Rule Engine to build Apps
  • Integration with other Web Apps

Combining Open Electronics and M2M App Platforms:

When a Small Entrepreneurs combines these two emerging solutions, he is empowered to compete with large companies with higher resources because:

  • Fewer electronics and software knowledge is needed to develop a new product.
  • Product development is cheaper both in electronics and software
  • Faster the idea is transformed into a prototype to be tested.
  • Transforming a prototype into a product is cheaper and faster.

Besides, since the cost of product development is lower, failure is more acceptable and resources can be allocated into different product development.

The IOT revolution is a Blue Ocean for small entrepreneurs:

The revolution of Internet of Things has just started and the future is full of possibilities. In fact there are so many concept ideas to be tested, that small entrepreneurs have to face a Blue Ocean Strategy. At Carriots we are working hard to create a tool that small entrepreneurs can use to create new products and services.

Our platform is open to your product development. We welcome all kind of entrepreneurs to test Carriots and let us know what is your project about.

Regards,

Miguel.

(This post is written by Miguel Castillo, CEO of Carriots.com)

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