M2M Evolution magazine recently caught up with Robert Lutz (News - Alert), director of product management and business development at Systech Corp., who provided an update on the company and his thoughts on the machine-to-machine space.
For those not familiar with Systech, what does the company do?
For over 30 years, Systech has designed and manufactured communication gateways that connect ‘things’ to a network or to the Internet. This started with large scale multi-serial port solutions for minicomputers. This has now evolved to include the entire scope of connecting the Internet of Things to the cloud for remote access and intelligent control.
Who are Systech’s target customers?
The majority of Systech’s customers are OEMs, VARS, and integrators with well-established brands. For example, in the payment transaction and financial market side of the business, you will find a Systech gateway in a majority of ATM cash machines that have converted to cellular technology. But financial and point-of-sale are only a small part of the total machine-to-machine market. Our latest M2M gateways address the needs for a variety of markets including building automation, energy management, security/surveillance, and even mobile health.
Systech offers the SysLINK M2M Gateway (News - Alert). What kind of functionality does this product deliver?
The primary function of the SysLINK M2M Gateway is remote access for monitoring and control. At its core is a Linux operating system and processor that can handle a wide range of applications. It is a robust enterprise router designed for business applications. In addition, the SysLINK Gateway provides connectivity to a wide range of M2M communication technologies such as cellular, Wi-Fi, low-energy Bluetooth, ZigBee (News - Alert), and Z-Wave.
What makes it unique in the marketplace?
Modularity, security, and reliability. The IoT market includes a wide variety of communication protocols required to talk to the billions of ‘things’. To help bring these solutions to market quickly, the SysLINK M2M Gateway provides a flexible, modular approach. The SysLINK gateway contains open option slots that can accept a wide variety of interface option cards. This allows for creation of an off-the-shelf solution with the exact communication interface features that are desired. These option cards can even be added or swapped out in the field. For example, if a Z-Wave-based application requires the addition of a ZigBee energy meter, that can be accomplished by simply plugging in a new option card into the SysLINK gateway. Also unique to Systech is our manufacturing reliability that allows us to offer a standard 5-year warranty. Many M2M applications are in unattended environments. You do not want to send somebody out to maintain or manage a remote device. Systech’s reliability can provide that level of confidence.
In what kinds of applications is the SysLINK solution used?
The SysLINK M2M Gateway is designed to be adaptable to just about any M2M application. The modular interface option cards allow units to be configured to meet just about any need. For example, imagine a remote building or asset. The local processing power of the gateway can perform immediate decision making, such as adjusting the speed of a fan to react to a specific temperature threshold. In addition, the environment can be remotely monitored and controlled from any location.
Tell us about Systech’s other products and services.
Systech makes great hardware, but software is also a key component. Our SysMAP software can reside on the customer’s server or be hosted on our servers to run the remote monitoring and scripting control anywhere in the world. VARs may use our off-the-shelf software with their own branding for fast to market solutions. We also supply an SDK to allow VARs to create customized solutions via our API, or simply overlay their own software on our embedded Linux operating system.
Can you give us a sense of what’s in the pipeline from Systech in terms of products and initiatives?
Ever since the introduction of the core gateways last year, the focus of our development effort has been to address customer needs with new, and interesting option cards and software modules. For example, some of our customers are transitioning from Z-Wave to Z-Wave Plus. So we updated our hardware and software to accommodate this. Another customer recently encountered a need for an isolated RS-485 serial interface. We can support new interfaces easily by creating new option cards that plug into our gateway.
What is Systech’s go-to-market strategy?
Each individual M2M market has specific needs, and requirements. Our VARs specialize in these various markets, and are equipped to provide solutions in each of these areas. They require a complete M2M solution that can communicate with a wide range of devices and technologies. Our goal is to develop gateways ahead of the curve so they will have the tools to provide best-in-class solutions. Most of our gateways are white-labeled, and sold to VARs as part of a total product solution.
There’s been a fair amount of discussion in the M2M space about how the shutdown of 2G networks will impact machine-to-machine applications. Over what period of time is 2G sunsetting expected to happen, and how will that affect M2M users and ecosystem players?
Technologies come and go. This is a particular issue for M2M applications where deployed solutions are expected to last for 5 to 10 years, or more. And many applications are unattended, and would require a truck roll to access. Ideally, an M2M solution is architected to mitigate potential technology changes. Since it is difficult to predict the longevity of technology, you simply need to design for change. For example, regarding 2G cellular, solution providers have had three primary options. One, deploy a fixed 2G option, and simply replace the entire solution when required. Two, deploy a 4G LTE (News - Alert) solution, knowing that it is more expensive upfront, but eliminating future replacement costs. Or, three, select a modular solution (such as Systech), and simply replace the low-cost 2G cellular option card with another cellular option card when it becomes necessary. Usually, a modular solution makes the most business sense, as it minimizes upfront costs, and provides flexibility for future changes.
What are some of the most important and innovative things happening with M2M on the retail front?
The bridge between the customer, the product shelf, and the warehouse is increasingly being occupied by wireless technology. Point-of-sale equipment, couponing, digital displays, electronic price tags, price check scanners, customer behavior technology, and location-based services are constantly communicating. As manufactures push their brands outward, self-serve kiosks and intelligent vending machines provide enhanced shopping experiences. In addition, retail is especially sensitive to payment transaction security. Ideally, the communication gateway used in this harsh environment would be flexible enough to handle all these various needs over independent, isolated networks.
What is the most important lesson M2M users and ecosystem players have learned in the past year about what it takes to make a successful M2M deployment?
We have learned that a successful deployment requires more than solving a single problem. Single-point solutions are simple to define and deploy, but often quickly become obsolete. Most M2M solutions begin with a basic goal of reduction in cost – for example, reducing truck rolls, or identifying failing equipment prior to failure, etc. What we have found, however, is unexpected upsides due to improved customer service, better response time, and new opportunities to develop recurring revenue streams. The projects that extend beyond the initial scope are the ones that truly bring value to multiple touch-points of a solution. And implementing a flexible solution, one that can morph with these changing needs, has proven to be the most successful in projects.
What needs to happen in 2014 to keep M2M moving forward?
Several things could accelerate the adoption of M2M. One of the most significant will be the enhanced education of potential stakeholders regarding the benefits of M2M. Working with individuals who understand the value proposition has proven to be much quicker to move forward with implementation. Fortunately, the growing consumer awareness of home automation with marketing from AT&T (News - Alert) and Lowes is proving effective. Also, the growing use of standards-based or defacto-standard technologies helps streamline the development, and reduce the cost, of M2M solutions.
If there’s just one thing you want people to know about Systech, what is that one thing?
We are in the business of reducing costs and enhancing services with M2M solutions. Due to our 30-plus years of experience, we are able to provide modular, secure, and robust gateways and software that can truly connect just about anything.
For more information, visit systech.com/tmc
Edited by Stefania Viscusi