IBM Crunches Internet Of Things Data

IBM MessageSight appliance connects sensors, mobile devices for machine-to-machine data capture and real-time analysis.
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IBM Smarter Cities Challenge: 10 Towns Raise Tech IQs
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The biggest generators of big data won't be people chatting on social networks. No, the real challenge will be the millions of mobile and remote sensors out there monitoring everything from automobiles and traffic lights to oil refineries and manufacturing plants to in-home thermostats and appliances.

To help companies capture and analyze data from these machine-to-machine connections, IBM on Monday launched the IBM MessageSight appliance at the company's big annual Impact event in Las Vegas. News of the ready-to-run, real-time data-capture and analysis machine was accompanied by the introduction of mobile application development, process management, API connectivity and Web services capabilities also designed to better connect the so-called Internet of Things.

The underpinning of IBM MessageSight is the Message Queuing Telemetry Transport (MQTT) protocol, an open standard for machine-to-machine connectivity proposed by the OASIS technical standards body. MQTT is a lightweight protocol built for low-power sensors and mobile devices. All sorts of devices and vehicles are already communicating, of course, but the lack of standards is getting to be a problem, according to Mike Riegel, IBM's VP of MobileFirst and WebSphere Marketing.

[ Want more on Internet of Things analysis? Read Amazon's Vogels: Big Data Belongs In The Cloud. ]

"Everybody has a different method, whether they're trying to support smarter buildings, smarter traffic or smarter health care," Reigel told InformationWeek in a phone interview. "In the same way that HTTP is the format for how Web pages are coded, MQTT is a message format for how low-power messages are sent and received across mobile networks and the Internet."

MQTT was invented by an IBMer decades ago as a way to handle home networking and automation, but Riegel said the OASIS consortium's involvement and endorsement will ensure a broader set of standards spanning multiple industries. The gain for adopters is assurance of compatibility across equipment providers and constituents within an industry ecosystem. Ford, for example, was set to demonstrate its latest Ford Fusion at the Impact event. The vehicle's multiple onboard processors report a wealth of information every second, and that information might be used by the manufacturer, component suppliers, dealers and vehicle owners.

"The car can report its speed, whether the windshield wipers are on, engine performance, gas consumption, brake conditions and even the old-favorite check-engine light," Riegel said, noting that Ford is testing IBM MessageSight as the foundation for connected car services. "If you have a single car that has all these sensor data points and can report every second, multiply that through the course of a day across one million vehicles and you're talking about an enormous amount of data."

The OASIS MQTT technical committee is loaded with IBMers, but it also includes representatives from Cisco, RedHat, Software AG and Tibco, among others, so it looks like it will set machine-to-machine connection standards across many industries. IBM MessageSight is a "huge breakthrough" in scaling up MQTT communications, said Riegel, in that a single 1U-form-factor appliance can handle up to 1 million sensors and 13 million concurrent messages. Beyond sheer scale, the other advantage of the appliance it that it supports real-time analysis of event streams.

"Today companies tend to dump this information into a big data store and analyze it in batch mode," Riegel said. "Once they implement MessageSight, they'll be able to pass messages to the appropriate recipients in real time so they can take action."

Potential customers include vehicle manufacturers and fleet owners, operators of sprawling supply chains or manufacturing networks, utilities or cities looking to manage distribution networks or traffic, or health care organizations looking to better manage medical equipment or even patients. St. Jude Medical, for example, is exploring the possibility of monitoring connected pacemakers in real time, according to IBM.

In other news from the Impact event, IBM introduced Worklight 6.0, the latest version of its mobile application development platform. Worklight lets developers build core mobile apps once and then quickly spin off native iOS, Android, Windows and HTML5 versions of that app as needed. The 6.0 release has been integrated with IBM's TeaLeaf analytics platform, so mobile apps can be quickly instrumented for analytics. The new release also includes a new toolkit for geolocation services and new server-side services supporting Apple Passbook.

In an update to IBM's Business Process Management platform, the core process server is now available on IBM's (public or private) SmartCloud as Software as a Service, so organizations can spin up and scale out process services on demand for rapidly scaling and quickly changing mobile and machine-to-machine process deployments.

Cloud and mobile connectivity are fast becoming the norm, so IBM is introducing an API Management solution, integrated with the latest release of the IBM WebSphere app server, to make it easier to build APIs and connect to enterprise assets via REST and Web services interfaces.

In the big picture, all of these updates fall under the umbrella of IBM's Smarter Planet initiative, which was launched nearly five years ago as the company envisioned a world becoming more instrumented, interconnected and intelligent. With five years of progress and technology giants including General Electric and Cisco joining the chorus, the prospect of a smarter planet seems like a reality at hand rather than a distant vision of the future.