M2M quite simply stands for machine to machine, and is a relatively straightforward concept, though one that can be everything from very simple to extremely complex when it comes to its implementation. In short, M2M is about how machines can communicate with one another, without necessarily requiring a human middleman to relay the information. It’s a hugely important technology that’s now ubiquitous and can be seen in any home or office.
M2M is not a new technology, primarily because it doesn’t actually require any wireless technologies or complex digital devices. A wired connection between two machines can still be considered an M2M connection, and indeed the very first iterations of this technology used phone lines to communicate. However, in the modern world, M2M usually refers to machines that communicate using things like WiFi or mobile networks. In this article, we’re going to take a look at what technology underpins M2M, and how it’s applied in the real world.
M2M generally centers around the concept of telemetry. This is simply where sensors of varying types will collect information, and then relay it to a central point of some description. In the past, this central point may have been a person or a personal computer. The data would be interpreted and then used. This is still often the case today. However, modern M2M systems allow for far more complexity, allowing machines to communicate with one another and make decisions quickly.
In older M2M systems, wired connections might have been the method of choice or direct radio signals between two machines. Now however it’s more common that machines will use wireless networks such as WiFi or mobile networks to communicate. This allows far fewer limitations when it comes to distance, giving system designers huge flexibility in collecting information and allowing various machines to communicate with one another.
Is M2M the same as the IoT?
If you’re familiar with the concept of the Internet of Things, which is something that will often come up when searching for ‘what is M2M?’, then you may well see some significant similarities between M2M and IoT. While they are certainly similar, it’s worth noting that they are two different concepts that shouldn’t be thought of interchangeably.
This is because IoT is in many ways a broader term. While M2M is specifically about machines communicating with one another, the IoT refers to how any two things can connect over any distance, whether these things are physical objects, pieces of software, animals, people, or anything else.
In some ways, M2M can be seen as a small part of the overall concept of IoT, and indeed M2M technologies are the things that allow the IoT to exist. It can be helpful to think about M2M being more about the technology of the communication between two machines, whereas the IoT is more about the broader impact of what this can achieve.
There are lots of places where M2M can be used that you’re probably already very familiar with. Let’s take a look at an example with domestic and commercial implications here.
Utility meters, also known in the UK as smart meters, are devices that measure the use of energy or water. They can be installed in domestic and commercial premises, and offer an almost real-time observation of how much of a utility is being used, as well as the cost associated with it. This is only possible with M2M technology. Using a mobile network or even the home’s WiFi network, the smart meter can read the information about energy use, and then communicate it to a database owned by the utility company.
This compares with older systems, whereby the utility company would have to collect the meter reading at various intervals and predict billing in between those periods. As a result, it’s very easy to see where the benefits lie for businesses and individuals.
For individuals, smart meters give them the power to fully understand their own energy or water use, and crucially they know that this is being communicated to the provider. This means they can decide how much or little to use, and they can be confident of receiving the bill that they expect. There’s also no need to try and find and take the reading to send to the utility company – it’s all automated.
For business, big data is one of the main attractions. Smart meters allow utility companies to see exactly what is used and when, which gives them valuable insight into how people use energy, and how they can structure pricing to best accommodate this. There’s also the fact that billing can be made far easier – it doesn’t require telephone calls to collect meter readings, or engineers to regularly visit to look at a reading.
To find out more about how M2M can be implemented in a business, and how we can help ensure global connectivity for your machines and devices, get in touch with us.