Telecom Targets Sensing

Have you noticed that telecommunications providers have begun entering the sensors arena? I first became aware of this when Aeris.Net, a forward-thinking service provider based in Silicon Valley, showed up at Sensors Expo a few years ago, having seen the potential in emerging area of wireless sensor data communications. Since then Aeris.Net has introduced MicroBurst technology to provide "reliable, low-latency" service (words that will resonate with people building sensor networks) and I've seen other telecom companies working to serve sensor data needs.

Here's an interesting one: BellSouth provided a communications system for the brand-new Georgia Aquarium—the world's largest—which opened in November in Atlanta. The system supports not only voice and Internet, but also a data network for the facility's advanced life support and security systems.

The BellSouth network connects sensors that allow biologists, researchers and veterinarians to constantly monitor both animals and the environment. It also connects 99 surveillance cameras, 97 proximity card readers with integrated photo ID recognition and a sophisticated monitoring system.

Sensor Data a Savior?
In case you hadn't noticed, telecom service providers are struggling to survive in their traditional space given competition from cable TV and satellite companies. Could sensor data and M2M—machine to machine—communications be telecom's life boat? Last week, Deloitte released its 2006 predictions for the telecom industry. Among discussion of convergence (that is, voice, internet and entertainment services in one package), and content (delivery of sports scores via cell phone, for instance) was this note:

The telecom industry will capitalize on maturing machine-generated communications to build connectivity inside machines and devices, resulting in remote process monitoring, asset tracking, traffic flow monitoring and more."
"Connectivity inside everything" the report calls this opportunity for telecom providers. The telecommunications industry has many hurdles to overcome in handling sensor data effectively, but I'll sure be interested to see how they approach this opportunity. It is a huge one, and telecom seems in many ways well suited to serve the growing need.