Magazine Article | June 23, 2008

M2M: It's A Matter Of Trust

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

Growth in today’s machine-to-machine (M2M) market is built on cooperation between man, machine, and network.

Integrated Solutions, July 2008

On June 30, 1948, New York-based Bell Labs announced the invention of a revolutionary, solid-state device, which was named the 'transistor' by electrical engineer John Pierce. That same year, a provocative book triggered controversy. Cybernetics: or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine, by Norbert Wiener, brought to science what had once been the exclusive realm of science fiction — the possibility of merging machine and man.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of these two congruent milestones that forever changed the way we think about machines. We're still grappling with the implications. For example, advances in biomechanics and neuroscience have progressed to the point that, in order to alleviate physical disability, technology and human functions have become intertwined — so much so that it has prompted MIT Robotics Lab Director Rodney Brooks to declare, "We're going to become partially robotic. What's a robot, what's us is starting to get a bit messy." Even as scientists and philosophers wrestle with the moral and ethical dimensions of such a trend, we in the machine-to-machine (M2M) market, which is focused on practical, bottom-line implications, cannot avoid being struck by the parallel evolution in our own industry where such technology is now monitoring, tracking, and automating company and service processes globally.

A pervasive web of connections between machines has grown into a huge organism that is predicated upon these seamless and harmless insertions of M2M technologies that span a host of industries, including medicine, energy, security, agriculture, and petroleum. In short, our concern centers on keeping these connections clean. It is not hyperbole to contend that when everything is said and done, machines, whatever their function and wherever they are, must 'accept' this technology without running the risk of getting 'sick' or 'dirty' or 'polluted' through acts of mass or targeted malevolence. We take great care to mitigate such threats, but they are real, and they bring up significant and new issues surrounding business integrity and trust that extend beyond the human realm.

In an era replete with impressive computing and storage capabilities and evolving automated processes, a new level of partnerships between humans and machines has emerged. Just prior to the recent turn of the century, trust in machines was considered a prerequisite for the development of e-commerce — they had to be trusted for the sake of progress. By the same token, with the rise of social engineering — or individuals acting as poseurs to steal assets or intelligence through lies and deceit — it has been often argued that the human was the 'weakest link' in the human-machine interaction. Therefore, trust now cuts both ways on the human-machine continuum.

Accordingly, 'enabling trust between humans and machines' is no longer a topic for academic and think-tank discussions, but a very important business issue. The ever-growing sophistication of computer networking coupled with increasing automation of business processes, whether internal or market-facing, demand connections be made in the safest and smoothest manner possible. Trust is a crucial element of networking — personal or machine-based. M2M growth is contingent upon the acceptance by the machines of the hardware and software implants.

Trust zeroes in on what makes today's M2M different from yesterday's. The frame of reference has changed, and machines are no longer viewed in this new M2M world as the passive, queried devices that are the targets of the M2M service. Instead, they are the starting point of a long chain of interactions culminating in intelligent support to decision making. This 'next-level' M2M is probably best described as Business Intelligence 2.0, a.k.a. Real-Time Business Intelligence.

Efforts to ensure information security, as exemplified by ISO/IEC 27001:2005 certification, demonstrates commitment in this regard. This commitment goes beyond information security, and the word 'trust' connotes more than a mechanical symbiosis. It also serves as a 'mark' that cues the enterprisewide integrity and reliability of the M2M network solutions and service provider itself.

Trust underlines a mutual relationship between a company's customers and partners that bespeaks mutual respect, depth, and the promise of a superior experience, that, in the parlance of Pine and Gilmore's Experience Economy, lifts M2M solutions and services out of the realm of commoditization. Establishing a bond and loyalty between a company's assets and its network is essential for successful M2M operations. While it may provoke a cognitive shock to assert that machines can trust, it unambiguously charts the path that M2M companies need to take: developing an optimal intimate relationship with their customer networks and host systems through the provision of secure services.