Mobile phone users are not, as a rule, at the North Pole, in a sandstorm, or under water. Mobile devices that facilitate Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communications, on the other hand, often need to function in extreme conditions: on oil pipelines and platforms; in refrigerated trucks; on freighter ships. Even in extremes of heat, cold, or humidity, these devices must be failsafe on a long-term basis and transmit data without interruption.
Mobile M2M communication offers developers a basis for countless new applications for all manner of industries. Approximately 81 million machines are already connected in wireless networks globally, but that is only the beginning when considering the rapid growth that market researchers forecast for the M2M market. According to market analysts at Berg Insight, the number of communicating machines is set to rise to around 270 million by 2015.
The booming M2M market is due to unlimited uses for M2M communications, including vehicles in a car-sharing pool relaying their location, mileage, and fuel level; freight cars that send their position autonomously to a tracking service and vehicles that warn of dangers ahead and automatically call out the emergency services if an accident occurs. The more areas of life and work that rely on M2M, the more important fail-safe and reliable data transmission becomes.
Operability in all conditions
A typical smartphone is designed for use in temperatures between -10°C and +40°C (14°F to 104°F). But in humidity, dust, or dirt, most devices quickly cease to function. Extreme M2M solutions must withstand much more.
For example, the automotive industry demands more rugged requirements for automatic emergency call systems. These are based on fixed M2M solutions installed in vehicles, which must be resistant to both extreme fluctuations in temperature, shocks or severe changes in speed. The device must not fail in the event of an accident and should be able to make an emergency call automatically.
Many designs, one function: the SIM card
The core of every wireless M2M solution is a subscriber identity module (SIM) card. The SIM handles network allocation and authentication and is the switchboard for security and access control in connecting to the mobile network. While the other electronic components of an M2M solution can be made suitably robust, the contact between the chip card and the circuit board electronics is the real challenge in extreme conditions.