Many operations can be improved by enabling the world’s billions of industrial devices to communicate directly. Occurring either autonomously, without human intervention, or as part of an Internet of Things (IoT) network, this machine-to-machine (M2M) communications is an Echelon specialty.

The Challenge

Whether it’s synchronizing the manufacturing steps of a complex product, keeping track of hospital patients or the cars in a rental fleet, or coordinating elaborate displays of fountains or fireworks, it’s crucial that certain devices be able to communicate with and directly control the actions of other devices. This communication and control needs to happen fast—sometimes in real time—as well as reliably and with appropriate safeguards for safety and security.

Some M2M situations call for wired network communications; in other instances, only wireless communications makes sense. The technology behind any M2M solution must be robust, accurate, and flexible.

The Echelon Solution

Echelon’s technology base lies in control networking for industrial applications, which is the essence of M2M solutions. Now that industrial control networking is evolving into the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Echelon is at the forefront of the increasingly sophisticated communications and control among both existing and new devices.

Echelon’s open, multiprotocol, multi-application, industrial-grade solutions for M2M markets include integrated circuits (ICs), modules, network interfaces and gateways, routers, software, and development and integration tools.

The Results

For both traditional M2M and more advanced IIoT applications, Echelon technologies are helping companies to:

  • Integrate devices from multiple vendors into a single, extensible architecture
  • Improve operational efficiencies
  • Quickly detect problems and fix them proactively
  • Reduce development, deployment, and maintenance costs
  • Gather large amounts of data, even across diverse geographical areas, so it can be analyzed to boost efficiencies, performance, or other results
  • Implement just-in-time systems
  • Achieve industrial-grade reliability

"A machine in a production line, for instance, could send a message automatically to a particular forklift, instructing the driver to bring a specific quantity of a particular raw material to the machine for just-in-time replenishment. This type of direct asset-to-asset communication speeds up operational processes, increases efficiencies, and reduces cost.”

Real-World Examples

The Wireless Asset Net wireless asset tracking management product from New Jersey-based I.D. Systems uses Echelon technology to provide reliable, two-way wireless communications among network-connected devices—including entire rental car fleets and the devices on manufacturing lines.

Maryland-based Minibar Systems provides asset tracking for a very specific market: hotel minibars. Echelon M2M technology lets the company provide automated solutions that help hotel owners significantly cut labor time, track and restock minibars more efficiently, and provide a more consistent and responsive system for hotel guests.

Hospital patient tracking systems represent a specialized approach to asset tracking, where the ‘asset’ could be a newborn baby or a patient with dementia. Echelon’s M2M technology provides the reliable, industrial-strength, and HIPAA-compliant communications needed to ensure that each baby goes home with the right mother and that patients with dementia or other neurocognitive disorders don’t get lost or wander away from the facility.

A leading U.S. grocery chain relies on Echelon technology to monitor gas, electricity, water, heat, and cooling usage, minute by minute, across all the grocery’s stores, throughout the country. Individual store managers can better manage their energy usage, and the grocery chain executives can analyze the data across any or all of the stores, which leads to direct cost savings.

Also in the U.S., a major gasoline-pump dispenser company uses Echelon’s M2M control networking technology to monitor and control gasoline dispensers for better efficiency, safety, and security. The system integrates a number of smart technologies, including financial (PIN entries, credit card information), safety (anti-tampering device locks, built-in alarms), and performance (flow control, metering accuracy) systems. Gas station owners can also use a Web interface to connect to the whole system, to increase control over each station’s operations.

The U.S. Navy incorporated Echelon technology into its DDG 1000 naval destroyer, a 600-foot-long, 14,500-ton ship that took four years to build. Working in conjunction with other cutting-edge technologies, Echelon M2M communications and control technologies are used in the ship’s fire suppression and autonomous damage control systems: areas where instantaneous, accurate response to complex, potentially life-threatening events is vital.

Emerging from a university setting, Advanced Marine Systems’ autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) uses Echelon technology for distance control and autonomous operation of its untethered, remote-controlled AUV, which is designed to explore the shallow ocean floor under the direction of university students and researchers. Echelon’s distributed control network connects with each sensor-linked component of the AUV to gather live data about the vehicle’s functioning as it navigates the coastal waters.

Meyer Sound, located in Berkeley, California, incorporates Echelon technology into its self-powered speaker systems used for concerts, so the sound systems can be easily monitored and adjusted for optimal performance. Communications among speakers in a sound system also enable a high degree of self-checking and self-maintenance.

It’s said that fire and water don’t mix, but Echelon technology is at the heart of two complex entertainment systems that take advantage of those two extreme elements. The iconic Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas—1,175 jet heads and 6,200 light fixtures drawing on 27 million gallons of water to create complex, carefully synchronized aquatic choreographies that can reach up to 80 feet in the air—depend on Echelon chips to make sure each component performs flawlessly, day after day.

Similarly, Sonning Fireworks in the U.K. has based its LONFire portable fireworks firing system on Echelon control networking technology, which provides the robust, automated, and flexible framework the company needs to ensure a safe, trouble-free show, every time. Complex fireworks displays, typically synchronized to music, can also incorporate lights, video, lasers, and flames to dazzle audiences. In addition, the open standards-based Echelon technology allows Sonning to develop its product at nearly half the cost of a proprietary system, and they can expand it with virtually limitless capacity.