Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

IBM Tackles Machine-to-Machine Data Deluge

eyebeeem-featureWhen you hear the word “message” in relation to the Internet, you probably think of a person sending a message to another person or perhaps a group of people. But the fact is that messages are increasingly being sent from one machine to another without a human being in the chain of communication.

Factory equipment is reporting operational data to some server somewhere. Utility stations report their operating conditions or send notifications of repairs that might be needed. Weather stations constantly report temperature and wind speed and so on. You get the idea. When you hear the phrase “Internet of Things,” this is part of what it means. But in this case it’s often referred to as “machine-to-machine” communications, or M2M for short.

The flow of all this messaging data is quickly turning into a deluge. Consider that there may be as many as 22 billion devices connected to the Internet by the end of the decade, and that they’ll be generating 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day, and it’s a pretty sure bet that big tech companies are going to throw a lot of computing power into new efforts to handle it all.

Today IBM announced a new appliance that’s intended to help companies sort through that deluge. It’s called MessageSight, and it’s an appliance that gets installed in a typical server rack. It takes advantage of a new industry standard technology called MQTT or Message Queuing Telemetry Transport.

MQTT is important because it’s a standard that everyone can work with, said Michael Riegel, an IBM VP. “It’s significant because buildings and traffic lights and mobile phones all have different protocols,” he said. “Having a common standard enables a whole lot of innovation.”

The biggest problem is sorting messages quickly, which the MessageSight can do. It has the capability to process 13 million messages every second, and can route them to the proper place. Once they’re sorted and collected, they can be analyzed for patterns. If you’re seeing a certain kind of equipment failing at a regular interval, you can order more preventative maintenance or track down a faulty component. IBM has long been making the case that this kind of analysis — “analytics” is one of Big Blues favorite words these days — can lead to important insights that can help pretty much any business operate more efficiently and save costs.

And the idea isn’t just about industrial gear but pretty much anything that can be measured. Health care data is always considered a target for this kind of measurement and analysis. The automotive industry is also getting hip to it, and indeed Ford took part in IBM’s announcement today. Some cars are basically turning into rolling sensor platforms, generating truckloads of wireless data.

As it happens, IBM isn’t the only one seeing a big opportunity around M2M communications. SAP, the German software giant, put out a survey today of 751 IT decision makers in six countries that concluded companies in China, Brazil, Germany and India appear to be the “most ready” to embrace the possibilities of M2M. (The value of that finding, however, appears to pivot on whether or not those surveyed actually knew what M2M stood for. Respondents in China and Germany scored highest, while more than half of those surveyed in the U.S. got it wrong, thinking it meant “mobile to mobile.”)

My conclusion: Get ready to hear a lot more about this in the next year or two.


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There’s a lot of attention and PR around Marissa, but their product lineup just kind of blows.

— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google