Sprint requires its engineers to attend three one week intensive learning bootcamps a year, plus an additional two four-hour webinars a month, in order to ensure maximum knowledge development. The firm also puts a strong emphasis on knowledge transfer, with engineers asked to pass on what they know and what they’ve learned to colleagues.
In terms of types of projects Sprint’s M2M engineers are experimenting with, the firm can cite a reel of examples, though the quirkier assignments include a connected Keg (the Kegerator) as well as more sober and serious projects like a fully connected ambulance.
“It’s about what you can do with existing M2M puzzle pieces at the moment,” said Mosburg, noting that while more thought was being put into how to build connectivity into devices from the outset in the future, current projects centered mainly around how to add connectivity to already existing objects, even if those objects may seem somewhat trivial.
“You might think the connected keg is just a bit of fun, but it actually has real viability in the hospitality market,” said Mosburg.
“So much waste happens because of warm beer or improperly poured beer. Being able to get real-time data and information on what temperature the beer is at, and who is serving it, and how well they are pouring could mean big things for margins,” he added.
The possibilities range from snapping a photo of the bar staff pouring each pint, to sending notifications if a glass was improperly filled, or if a keg is running low. By adding an RFID to the keg, it’s also possible for event planners to set certain dollar limits on a keg for open-bar style occasions.
In terms of other near-term M2M projects Mosburg sees utility on the market for, wireless wearables for first responders and giving ATM capability to objects other than ATMs are top of Sprint’s list. The firm says it is also keen on hiring more software engineers to add that extra layer of functionality to up and coming wirelessly enabled machines.
“Apps are driving the industry and with so many new devices getting connected all the time we need to start optimizing data flow better,” he added.
Meanwhile, Sprint’s M2M program and approach is also winning the carrier high praise from market watchers like Frost & Sullivan and Analysys Mason.
“Sprint has successfully eliminated the complexity in M2M by providing customized, collaborative and open solutions that deliver the highest value for M2M customers,” said Vikrant Gandhi, a senior industry analyst at Frost & Sullivan, from which Sprint recently received the 2011 Customer Value Enhancement Award. “Our research indicates that Sprint’s M2M assets have delivered significant benefits to both large and small enterprises, many of which have turned into loyal Sprint M2M customers with long-term commitments,” he added.
“We were very impressed with Sprint’s network insights and the impacts of M2M on its network and business,” added Steve Hilton, head of Analysys Mason’s Enterprise Program, noting that Sprint’s hard work in M2M had been paying off.
@Frank Eory: I happen to catch some of the talk on M2M at the Sprint Developer's conference held at the beginning of Nov. I would say Sprint has done a better job of productizing M2M applications than all other mobile carriers combined!
Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the many incarnations for M2M; I strongly recommend engineers to visit Sprint's M2M Design center at Burlingame near SFO airport. They have some good use case demos and plenty of help to get started.
PS: Sprint didn't pay to me write this, I wish they had!! :-))
I would think for many things you'd get away with ZigBee or something similar, (maybe in 5GHz band), provided the machines are reasonably close together.
Obviously as range increases, cellular becomes the solution of choice, though it's rather fashion-driven, which can be a nuisance in M2M situations ... major change-outs as the technology heads towards obsolete. But so long as that's factored into the business, it should be manageable.
For very long range, you'll presumably be into satellite comms, though I guess things like marine oil rigs already have a suitable global infrastructure.
I have to say that strictly speaking, M2M mobile messaging is far from new .. I've was involved with it as an aside to mobile people messaging, H2M and M2H, between the early 70s and 2002, but the increasing availability of higher bandwidth infrastructure add much more 'power to the elbow' in the field.
It can indeed be a surprisingly interesting field.
I am very interested in developing M2M embedded computing applications.
Sprint may want Engineers, but their doesn't seem to be any JOBS listed for Engineers to develop M2M apps on their web site.
Something seems amiss ....
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.