Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Keithley Sells RF Product Line to Agilent

Big news yesterday in the RF test and measurement world as Agilent agreed to purchase all of Keithley's RF test product line. It appears that these products were not profitable for Keithley in the short-term so they were turned into cash as they expect to receive proceeds of approximately $9 M and to realize a pre-tax gain in the range of $2.5 to $3.5 M during its first quarter (ending this year) as a result of the sale. It also seems that all workers at the Santa Rosa design center have been offered jobs with Agilent’s Santa Rosa-based Electronic Measurement Group as the Keithley location on Aviation Boulevard will become an Agilent facility next month which is good news for the employees. The official news item is linked above.
On the final day of the M2M Business Exchange in Brussels the issue of mHealth was brought into focus in a number of presentations (*listed below) covering issues such as standardisation, reimbursement, user acceptance, mHealth communities and aiding healthcare in developing countries.

At the end of the session Chair, Marc Sauter, director of strategy at Cinterion Wireless, summarised the key points that had been raised and highlighted the challenges that need to be addressed.

He began, “The sessions offered a comprehensive and detailed overview of the mHealth market from a number of different angles. What is clear is that we have a complex eco-system and value chain in the healthcare market, which, as has been demonstrated throughout this conference, is reflected throughout the entire M2M market.

“A key issue is the standardisation process, which is crucial for the success of mobile health. But since the official standardisation is struggling the likelihood is that standards will increasingly be developed by companies. As was mentioned[1] Microsoft, Intel, General Electric and others are active here.”

Another issue raised was the channels for reimbursement for mHealth services with the example given that if a patient receives a service via telemonitoring there can be a different means of reimbursement from the health service or insurance company than if that patient had visited the doctor in person, although the service was comparable.

Sauter then maintained that the ease of use and functionality of devices will determine user acceptance. He said, “This is particularly pertinent in the mHealth sector where often the users are elderly people or very young people who are not familiar with the latest technologies. We have to take that into consideration when designing devices. Also, as has been said several times during this conference, with regards to user acceptance a question that always has to be asked is: can you trust the system?

Also discussed was the creation of mHealth communities in cities, regions and provinces whereby all the players work together to share data, share information and their experiences and create a unique, tailored service.

With regards to the development and implementation of mHealth technology he referred to a presentation[2], which raised a number of issues. These included defining the set of data that needs to be monitored. In particular it is crucial at the beginning to get this definition right in order to get the right diagnosis. Then there has to be acceptance of the device and the system, alongside data security and privacy and the definition of guidelines and processes on how to use and implement the technology. And as commercial companies developing systems and providing services need to make money, business cases need to be developed.

Sauter commented, “The M2M technology is there. We have cellular/platforms, mobile operators[3] say they have services in place and we have service providers offering services today. But we have to be more informative so that the end users and doctors know what to do with it.”

With regards to implementation, specific mHealth projects[4] are already in operation with encouraging results. Sauter commented, “Such projects show just what the potential is for mHealth and I think it should encourage us to go further down the line.”

He continued, “It was made clear in presentations that the eco-system will develop. The younger generation of doctors and patients will emerge that are used to playing around with iPhones and other devices, that will enable them to better adopt new technologies. New healthcare patterns will emerge.

mHealth is not just about the health monitoring of patients but can also assist in healthier and more comfortable living[5]. It has a role to play in staying fit and can offer piece of mind too. Telemonitoring can also provide health information to doctors about patients in their own environment without the stress of travel, waiting in surgeries etc, and provide more accurate data, leading to better treatment.”

In a global context the issue of bringing better healthcare to developing countries was raised[6]. Examples were given whereby mobile phone services or applications of the phone can help to improve the healthcare situation. Here, GSM, GPRS and HSPA technologies are all being utilised for mHealth applications.

Summing up Sauter said, “The mHealth revolution is going to be very significant and a huge market. We all need to work hard to develop this market to its full potential.”

1. mHealth initiative – introducing the mHealth revolution and its impact on healthcare strategies, Peter Waegemann, executive director, mHealth Initiative
2. Examining the latest technology for monitoring the elderly, ill or disabled, Maurice Zembra, general manager, Medical Data Transfer
3. mHealth – new business perspectives for mobile operators, Marc Sauter, director of strategy, Cinterion Wireless
4. Understanding how Virga Jessa Hospital in Hasselt, in collaboration with Belgium Social Security has developed a monitoring strategy for patients with chronic diseases, Prof. Paul Dendale, cardiologist, Heart Centre Hasselt, Belgium
5. How can mobile technology support remote diagnostic measures and how can it support the boom of elders who want to prolong the good life at home?, Bjorn Tellefsen, director M2M, Devoteam Telecom
6. Examining Vodafone’s role in founding the mHealth initiative, Caroline Dewing, external relations, Vodafone Group

Richard Mumford

Monday, November 23, 2009

M2M Business Exchange – Smart Thinking For The Future

Smart meters and the home was a key topic at the M2M Business Exchange in Brussels with speakers covering such areas as the creation of revenue streams, the role of mobile operators, the use of integrated technology and how smart metering can help reduce carbon emissions.

Setting the scene as chair of the Smart Meters & Homes session, Gary Thomas, director of PracticaPro, referred to a recent report from Pike Research that estimated that there would be more than 250 million smart meters installed worldwide by 2010.

Thomas stated that, “The opportunity for consumers to take control of their energy usage, reduce their global footprint and therefore help achieve global emission reduction targets is the really exciting part of smart metering.”

He continued, “Things get even more interesting when you start to think about how smart meters might integrate into the wider smart grid. Potentially they have to communicate with network operators, a whole raft of consumer appliances, electric vehicles, microgeneration units etc., and that integration is where the power of smart meters is unleashed.

“But standing in the way of those benefits are a whole raft of technical, commercial and regulatory, social and data security issues, not to mention the small matter of how to engage consumers in the drive for better energy efficiency.”

In his presentation titled Creating additional revenue streams from smart metering, Rich Hampshire, UK utilities practice lead at Logica, maintained that we need smart metering because climate change, population growth and the availability of primary fuels mean that how we satisfy our energy needs is changing and that delivering sustainable, affordable, secure energy requires action.

He highlighted that today’s challenges were to match demand by increasing generating capacity, addressing the intermittency of renewables, local balancing for decentralised generation and infrastructure development to handle load.

Hampshire identified a key objective as being to engage customers through various approaches, including fiscal stimuli, environmental incentives and rewarding them for behavioural change. He also outlined the importance of utilising the multimedia world to engage consumers and simplify interaction.

Environmental issues came under the spotlight when Maher Chebbo, vice president utilities Europe, Middle East and Africa for SAP, and also chairman of the EU Smart Grids Demands & Smart Metering Group considered, How is Smart Metering ICT contributing to the 2020 goal of radically reducing carbon emissions.

He began by giving five ‘energy insight predictions’ – energy efficiency is the ‘first fuel’ choice, Distributed Energy Resources (DER) as a grid support tool, intelligent grid up to $70 billion in 2013, web portals key for active consumers and generators focused on CO2 reduction.

He stated, “The European Commission has fixed clear goals. In Kyoto in 2007 the different goals for energy reduction, for CO2 reduction and the introduction of new renewables were fixed, requiring 20 percent less energy consumption by 2020 compared to the level in 1990. On 7 December in Copenhagen a United Nations conference will again discuss these targets and need to be even more ambitious, not just thinking about objectives for 2020 but by 2050 having reductions of 80 percent compared to 1990.”

He continued, “These targets have to be reached. In Europe the market is open but is not in the US. Since July 1, 2007 every customer in Europe has had the choice to switch to another supplier. This has meant that utilities are having to reach environmental goals while opening up the market, selling some of their businesses and unbundling other businesses. This construct has meant that in recent years some of the investment has been spent on IT in order to get the IT platforms ready for market openness.”

Chebbo posed the question, “What does this mean with regards to Smart Grids?” He proffered, “If you look at the full package from power production to the customer today there is central production and transmission distribution but in the future there will be millions of distributed generators connected to the network. There will be a hub rather than central and linear distribution down to the customer.

“However, the ICT tools to deliver communication technology and services are not ready. We have some models and some experience regarding how to make customers more empowered? But all of these tools have to be revised when you are working in a situation which is not centralinear distribution but you are working in a hub. There has to be completely new thinking as there will be ten times the data that there is today. So, one major aspect of investment in Smart Grids is making these processes available to a wide range of consumers – mostly residential. Smart Grid and smart metering investments are required.

In the presentation, Determining the role of the mobile operator in delivering smart metering, Valerie Le Peltier, director machine to machine verticals for Orange Group, offered another perspective.

“Smart metering is a fantastic opportunity and for us as a telecommunication operator it is also the beginning of a new story. It is the opportunity for rolling out new infrastructures that could be used for other uses and in particular smart city use cases. In some instances new infrastructures will have to be rolled out which, of course, is very complicated, it varies from one country to the next and from one energy to the next.”

Le Peltier commented, “The telecommunication operators are usually called for with regards to the long distance part of the picture and we do want to be there and address the market properly. However, the other area where we think that telecommunications operators can add value is the local data collection network, in particular, rolling out new radio networks that collect such data.”

She added, “As has been mentioned in an earlier presentation GSM might not be appropriate in all cases to connect the meter up to the information system of the utility and also it might not be economically viable to roll out based on GPRS. So, we think there is a business case for advanced radio technologies – mesh networks.

Richard Mumford

Analysts At Dawn – Challenges Facing M2M

Fragmentation, the development of the mass market and standards were key issues raised by the panel, Robin Duke Woolley, Emil Berthelsen and Dave Birch at the Analyst Dawn Briefing held at the M2M Business Exchange in Brussels.

Robin Duke Woolley, founder and CEO of Beecham Research, identified the fragmented nature of the M2M market as being a key issue. He stated. “What’s different about M2M is that it is very fragmented. Due to the broad range of applications there is a broad range of different technologies that can be used to find solutions in the M2M space. So, what tends to happen is that suppliers focus on technology areas that they are familiar with and therefore they only see a very small part of the overall picture.

“Cellular operators and hardware suppliers operate in one part of the market, the Ethernet and broadband suppliers operate in a different part, as do ZigBee, Bluetooth and RFID providers. However, when you put them all together it is quite a substantial area of activity. Add to that the end user and what he is using this stuff for and it is a very significant market.”

That significant market is growing apace and Dave Birch, director of Consult Hyperion, commented, “What is interesting at the moment is the emergence of a mass market and I believe there are four characteristics of a mass market. It has to be accessible, automatic, authorised and authentic. All of those four factors have to be in place.”

Of the four he identified authorisation as being, “the real problem and that is where there are some cracks in the foundations.” He continued, “There is danger that some of the basic security standards don’t get added on until afterwards.”

“Also, I think that how devices search and whether they are allowed to talk to each other is problematical. We know about the problem of authenticity. We understand how to put signatures etc and we tend to focus on the easy things but have probably put off some of the more difficult issues for too long and need to be tackling them.”

Robin Duke Woolley raised the issue of standards saying, “One of the problems with standards in the M2M space isn’t helped by the fact that there are so many different sectors and so many different devices involved in the market, each within a different industrial sector.” He added, “Attempts to achieve interoperability across industry sectors have not moved very far.”

Berthelsen, manager at Analysys Mason observed, “There is an analogy between mobile applications enterprises and M2M. In mobile enterprises one of the focus areas was creating a platform onto which the applications could be launched with the remote devices. The important element here is the ability of the middleware platform to allow people to link to any device across any network at any time. And that is pretty much an ideal scenario that needs to be transferred to the M2M sector.”
During the session there was only time to touch briefly on key issues, so Berthelsen posed the question, “The M2M market in Europe may be growing by 25 to 30 percent per annum but how do we support the market and help it evolve in the coming years?”

Richard Mumford

M2M Business Exchange – Providing Services

Our International Editor, Richard Mumford, visited the M2M Business Exchange in Brussels, Belgium and had the following review with additional posts following this one.

At the opening of the M2M Business Exchange, the conference chairman for the first day, Robin Duke Woolley, founder and CEO of Beecham Research, offered a perspective of the M2M sector when he commented, “The M2M market is all about connected services. It is not about devices. It is not about technology. It is not about infrastructure. It is a means to the end of providing end user services.”

He added, “We are talking about a change in the business of the supply of the devices and the services that surround those devices. We are talking about a change for the end suppliers of those devices in the marketplace.”

He also emphasized that such issues would be under discussion during the two-day conference, which followed on from the one-day pre-conference workshops. He referred to a chart titled: M2M World of Connected Systems, which segmented the market into the nine sectors – Building, Energy, Consumer & Home, Healthcare & Life Sciences, Industrial, Transportation, Retail, Security/Public Safety and IT & Networks – that are key areas of activity, almost all of which are topics of the M2M Business Exchange.

This prompted Robin Duke Woolley to state, “One of the things that is impressive about this conference is its depth of coverage with presentations related to buildings, a number of papers covering energy, consumer and home is a theme that runs through the conference and healthcare will also be discussed. Industrial topics will be covered, alongside transportation and telematics and security and public safety.”

The conference is designed to bring together the entire M2M business chain and aims to address the business models and strategies relating to wireless connected devices. Its scope means that it has attracted 130 registered attendees made up of M2M developers, M2M adopters and end users, wireless module providers, sensor equipment providers, systems integrators, sensor equipment providers, SIM card manufacturers and technology partners.

Throughout the two days there are keynote presentations, tracts dedicated to specific topics, exclusive discussion sessions, analyst briefings and interactive debates. To offer a technological perspective a small showcase exhibition has attracted key players including Cinterion Wireless Modules, Belgacom, Devoteam Telecom, and Tridium.

Richard Mumford