Polytechnic of Milan
M2M APPS: What is the focus of University research in general and, more specifically, to the M2M world today?
MAURIZIO DECINA: "Machine-to-machine - M2M" is an alternative term to "Internet of things" (Internet of Things - IoT). Whatever acronym you use, IoT indicates the evolution for systems of communication for people, to networks that connect "smart objects" across all environments that surround us - from the house, the city, the territory, even the entire planet. It is estimated that for every person on the planet we will have approximately 1,000 "objects" between personal and private ones (clothes, wallets, furniture, etc.) and public (products in stores, billboards, benches, etc.). Thanks to nanotechnology, computers and radio communication devices have become very small and very cheap to the point where it can be embedded in all types of objects, which then become "intelligent." The focus of the research, both academic and industrial, is now heavily biased towards the future of the Internet and the ubiquity of the IoT. In fact, the Internet evolves from the web to three major axes. The first is the director of Web 2.0 (the Social Web), which already involves 50% of surfers (over one billion people) with the IPOs of Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter, social networks are entering by force. The other two are the Semantic Web and the Ubiquitous or Pervasive Web (IoT/M2M). These last two objectives have grown over the years and will dominate the Internet market in the next 10-20 years. The academy and industry are preparing to implement the next wave of Internet technology to reap the benefits that lie ahead.
M2M APPS: What kind of interest inspires your students in the world of '"Internet of things"?
MAURIZIO DECINA: The Internet of Things allows direct interaction between objects in order to create a virtualization of the real world. This pervasive use of intelligent objects allows interaction between the virtual and the real - the Internet of things will be governed by the web of things and enabled software applications. The paradigm of intelligent objects was created when so-called "smart labels" or RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification), which are passive electronic devices introduced to the market, were designed to replace the traditional barcodes of consumer products. In addition to storage capacity, computing and wireless communications, smart objects will be equipped with "sensors" to measure a variety of variables, such as temperature, pressure, smoke, explosiveness, humidity, heart rate, absolute and relative positioning (via GPS), etc. Thus we have enabled an endless menu of applications to monitor and control environments, logistics and people. Engineering students are absolutely fascinated by the Internet of Things and we have started a special course at the Polytechnic of Milan for the last two years.
M2M APPS: What are the main drivers of M2M growth? And what are the areas that you think will benefit most from the spread of this technology?
MAURIZIO DECINA: M2M networks are also called Wireless Sensor Networks - WSN. Today, the standard communication of the sensor networks are quite advanced and are called ZigBee and 6LoWPAN. A major problem for the development of smart objects is the collection and storage of energy necessary for their operation: the life cycle of pervasive applications is determined by the duration of energy sensors. The most advanced sectors are those related to energy conservation at all levels: smart home, smart buildings, smart cities, smart grid, and smart planet are the key words to indicate the use of sensors and M2M to reduce CO2 emissions and enable sustainable development of our planet. In addition, some other sectors that are emerging include e-health (monitoring of health and wellbeing - telemedicine), intelligent transport systems (vehicle traffic control, mobility, parking, transportation, etc.), logistics (warehousing, storage, etc.) and environmental control (air quality monitoring, flood, earthquakes, etc.). Additionally, there are over 5 billion users of cellular mobile systems. Ericsson estimates that there will be around 50 million smart connected objects in 2020. The challenge for telecom operators is to intercept most of the sensors using mobile phones and smartphones. For example, this can be done in the field of mobile applications for NFC (Near Field Communications), mobile payments, transit lanes, transport tickets, mobile marketing campaigns, loyalty campaigns and much more.
M2M APPS: How could NGN or LTE change the M2M industry?
MAURIZIO DECINA: Sensor networks are inherently "local" - meaning they extend up to one hundred meters, with modest speeds within the network: a maximum of 1 Mbit / sec. The sensor networks are governed by a "gateway server" that provides interconnection with the Internet. This interconnection can be either wireless, with the current systems of third generation (UMTS and HSPA) and with those of the fourth generation (LTE), or wireline, with broadband systems currents (ADSL) and with those of future generations like fiber optics (FTTH) or high-speed copper (50-100 Mbit / sec). The availability of Internet access capabilities grow from a few tens of Mbit / sec offered by ADSL and HSPA towards the 100 Mbit / sec and above (1 Gbit / sec) offered by LTE and FTTH in the future will expand the capabilities of developing new services and applications; in particular the services of "virtual reality" or "augmented reality", which may require higher transmission rates.
M2M APPS: To what extent do you think M2M will change the lives of people in the coming years?
MAURIZIO DECINA: The IoT will fundamentally change every single person’s life. With the internet there are two levels of life: the real world and cyberspace. If you are not connected to the internet via PC / smartphone / tablet the two worlds are detached and independent. With the IoT, cyberspace and the real world are combined in a pervasive way in a world composed of both reality and virtuality. And this will mean radical changes to our lives and great benefits for the development of our society; however, this could also bring big problems regarding security and privacy. But the importance of IoT in each country, as a factor of growth of GDP, is now recognized by many nations, especially those emerging high-growth economies like China. In the summer of 2009, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to the city of Wuxi quoted the following equation: Internet + Internet of Things = Earth’s Wisdom In 2010, the District of Wuxi City was dedicated by the Chinese government to the Internet of Things, with the creation of new laboratories, universities and companies for research and development of new products and applications. China has launched a strategic plan to take the technological lead for the planet by dedicating entire districts to the great innovations of the coming 30 years, from cloud computing to the Internet of Things.