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M2M Spectrum Launches Nationwide Wireless Machine-to-Machine Network

The new company intends to deploy its network in 194 cities this year, to enable data from RFID readers and other types of devices to be sent to Internet-based servers without requiring a cellular or Wi-Fi connection.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 14, 2014

M2M Spectrum Networks has launched plans for a nationwide machine-to-machine (M2M) communications network that would enable a variety of electronic devices, including RFID systems, to send data to a server without requiring a cellular or Wi-Fi connection. The company is initially setting up its network in Jacksonville, Fla., and expects it to be ready for use in a pilot by June of this year. The firm is partnering with RFID company GlobeRanger, which will provide its iMotion Edgeware platform to link RFID data to the M2M network, says George Brody, GlobeRanger's founder, CEO and president. Although initial piloting is taking place in Florida, Barclay Knapp, M2M's CEO and co-founder, says the network will be installed within 194 cities by the end of 2014.

Funding for the project comes from individual investors and family offices, Knapp says, adding, "We are also approaching selected larger, institutional investors, as well as potential strategic partners." The company has funding in hand for the initial rollout of nearly 200 cities, he reports.

M2M's Barclay Knapp
Knapp, whose personal background is in cellular networks, says he conceived of the M2M network as an alternative to a cellular one, to enable the transmission of small pieces of data (as opposed to the large volume of information transferred via cellular connections). Initially, he had considered launching a system that would include GPS sensors in E-ZPass RFID transponders, in order to send not only a vehicle's ID but also its location to a server that would—for a fee to a user—identify data for the vehicle operator, such as parking details specific to that location. However, he says, he discovered several connectivity obstacles. RFID would not work, he explains, since RFID readers have not been installed all over cities, and he also learned that a connection with a cellular carrier would cost a monthly fee of about $8 per device, which was twice the cost for the service he wanted to charge customers. Therefore, he began considering a different type of network that could send data to radios installed on towers. "I decided to build my own network," he states.

M2M Spectrum Networks will deploy three different sizes of what Knapp calls "cognitive radios" that send and receive data via 800, 900 or 200 MHz signals. M2M's system is designed to be used with data culled from a variety of devices, not exclusively RFID. In fact, he expects the largest usage to come from 2G devices (predecessors to 3G- and 4G-capable devices) that are being decommissioned by cellular carriers. GlobeRanger's software will be used exclusively at this point for RFID systems, but not for other technologies, such as 2G.

The largest version of the cognitive radio acts as the network's gateway, receives signals from M2M Spectrum's two other types of radios, and forwards the collected data to servers via the Internet. The device, the size of a traditional stereo receiver, can transmit a signal up to about 35 miles. The gateway radio could be installed at locations such as on cell towers, while a midsize cognitive radio, about the size of two stacked cell phones, could be mounted within a building indoors, or on a post or utility pole outdoors, and transmit up to five miles. The smallest radio, about half the size of a credit card, has a transmission range of a half-mile and can be connected to an electronic device, such as an RFID reader, or a phone or computer that collects RFID data from that device via GlobeRanger's iMotion middleware. All three types of radios form a mesh network so that cognitive radios in more remote locations can pass data from one radio to another until it reaches a gateway device. The cognitive radios are made by Raveon.

Some potential users, Brody says, would include GlobeRanger's existing customers that have RFID systems in place at multiple locations, but that do not have a simple source of connectivity that would link data from the multiple locations or provide location data when a tagged item was beyond the reach of the readers.

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