What is telemetry?
The term telemetry comes from surveying technology and summarizes measurement and transmission. In software development, however, such measurements and surveys are also critical factors.
The word telemetry comes from the Greek and literally means remote measurement. This means that the recorded data does not necessarily have to be collected and processed at the measuring location – instead, a more or less large spatial separation is possible.
Various measurement methods can be used here and, in addition to dimensions and weights, statistical values can also be recorded. The latter is crucial in software development and management in order to record usage data and to be able to improve your own software even after the release .
Far-field and near-field telemetry – the main differences
General differences between telemetric methods can be found primarily in the distance between the transmitter and receiver. Transmission over longer distances is called far-field telemetry and is used, for example, when collecting weather data, recording wildlife movements, tracking vehicles or collecting decentralized measured traffic movements.
The measurement can – depending on the strength of the transmitter – take place over any large distance, and the data transmission from a Mars rover to the NASA ground station is also a case of far-field telemetry. Often there are several transmitters on one receiver or one evaluation point in order to convert larger data sets into meaningful information. The information from several spatially separated weather stations can, for example, trace a more precise picture of cloud and wind movements. Such scenarios can also be found in shrunken form in the IoT.
In contrast, near-field telemetry is the recording of data over short distances using a wireless measuring device and a nearby receiving device. Such technologies can be found in automotive workshops, for example, and combine the advantages of small mobile sensors and larger, more powerful evaluation technology.
Telemetry in IT data acquisition and software development
Collected measurement data do not have to be temperature, distance or weight values and transmitters do not necessarily have to be their own devices. Telemetry processes are also used in the quality control of hardware and software. In this way, user data can be collected, transmitted and processed (with consent), for example to collect data on system crashes, crashes or the use of the software.
Gaps, which were also overlooked in extensive beta tests, sometimes only become apparent through public use and a larger number of users. This enables developers to recognize whether and how features are being used, what discrepancies there may be with hardware configurations and how stable systems are.
From a data protection perspective, it is of course necessary to obtain permission and to request the release of the data. The data that has not been recorded can no longer be used for software updates and bug fixes, which leads to an interesting dilemma for programmers: users who do not consent to the collection of data are more interested in technology, which in the long term leads to a “Software dumbing” can result.
There are no clear solutions for this, but it should be clearly communicated that the telemetric recording of the data is anonymized. Software usage data should be decoupled from all advertising purposes and should only be used to improve the product.
In the microservices environment, metrics in connection with logging and tracing also play a major role. They form the three big pillars of observability , which, in addition to classic monitoring, tries to use external factors to draw conclusions about the internal processes of distributed systems.
Accordingly, telemetric processes must be distinguished from logging, even if both terms are often (incorrectly) used synonymously with one another. Logging describes the local collection of data, so a computer can very well create a log that is then used for telemetry – however, both methods must be differentiated and are subject to other technological challenges.
Different purposes of telemetry in software development and management
Business metrics : Telemetric methods can be used for business metrics, for example, to have a better overview of the use of individual products over a certain period of time and to better plan investments in further development, patches or successor products.
Troubleshooting and diagnostics: Usage data can also provide information about frequently occurring problems and connections with the configurations used in software and hardware.
Validation of human users: Telemetry can also be used as a replacement for the currently common Captcha procedures by measuring and evaluating cursor movements and text input speeds. This enables an efficient distinction to be made between humans and bots.
Modern applications of telemetry in the IoT
Telemetry is used in many industries and is used in repair shops as well as in agriculture, in landscape and building surveying or in competitive sports. This creates more precise images of the irrigation on various fields, heat maps of footballers or live data from various vehicle parts in Formula 1 cars. Telemetry technology is also becoming more and more common in home use, because it is precisely this technology that is behind the IoT and the smart home.
The Internet of Things makes use of the advantages of near-field telemetry in that the sensors and transmitters only have to use extremely little electricity, since the receiver (in this case the hub) is so close. Even devices that are not connected to the power grid, such as intelligent thermostats or window sensors, can reliably supply data to the hub for years.
The sensors can also be extremely small, which is used, for example, for smaller tags to help users find their keys. Internet of Things and modern telemetry are therefore inextricably linked, even if telemetry is more reminiscent of road surveys.