How M2M Is Driving the IoT Revolution

Many believe machine to machine technology (M2M) is outdated and is being replaced by Internet of Things (IoT), but nothing could be further from the truth. All IoT devices engage in some form of M2M communication through intelligent sensors and connectivity platforms. This article will explore how M2M has evolved and why it is a key driver of the IoT revolution.

The Definition of M2M

M2M means machine to machine communication, or interactions that take place between machines without human involvement. As IoT pervades more of our lives, millions, even billions, of connected devices or machines are communicating with each other and making decisions without consulting us humans.

Is M2M Technology Irrelevant?

Many people believe that M2M is an outdated technology that is being replaced by IoT. However, M2M is a key driver in the IoT revolution. Much of the functionality of IoT comes from machines communicating with each other in the background.

According to researchers at SiliconRepublic, the number of M2M connections will be more than 360 million by 2018. Far from irrelevant, machine to machine communication lies at the heart of the IoT.

A typical IoT deployment uses sensors to send data to gateways that aggregate and convey the data to a repository, either in the cloud or a local database. The data stream is monitored by a cognitive system that looks for anomalies. This simple configuration can be applied to many different types of IoT use cases.

Here are a few examples of use cases that illustrate the close relationship between M2M and IoT:

Herd Management and Agriculture

RFID tags have been used for animal tracking and management since the late 1960s. Today, there are many possible animal-tracking applications for M2M communication, such as those that record herd health, wild animal population size, or migration patterns. For example, a Nebraska startup has created an ear tag that can detect sick cows and alert ranch managers.

Environmental Monitoring

Due to the realm of current environmental concerns, IoT and M2M communication is opening new, low-cost options for water conservation, water measurement, and land conservation. For example, a smart rain gauge could report rainfall measurements that could be relayed to community decision-makers to create water restriction and management policies.

Smart Cities

IoT enables smart city management with sensors measuring and reporting indicators, like pollution, parking, and energy usage. For instance, a smart lighting system using IoT sensors and a LoRa network for communication could result in a 30 percent reduction in management costs. In another use case, a smart electricity meter is being tested for improved account management, including better billing accuracy and reduced missed meter readings.

Emergency Response

The community of Calderdale in England used IoT sensors, a LoRa gateway, and a LoRa network to create a flood-detection system. Sensors were placed at strategic points along the river to feed data into 1 of 2 local gateways. The system’s developers believe the system will enable the community to respond more quickly to flood events in the future.

How M2M Drives IoT

The above use cases rely on machine to machine interactions to drive their IoT projects. Most of these projects take advantage of LoRaWANs for connectivity. In these use cases, networks of sensors report data to gateways, which aggregate the data and pass it along to the cloud.

The Evolution of M2M

The foundation for modern M2M communication was laid in the 1930s when the British military invented radar, which could be used by machines to detect the presence of other machines. By the 1940s, radarhad morphed into sonar, which allowed machines to detect the presence of other machines under water.

Around the same time, Decca and LORAN, both early forms of GPS were developed by the British Navy. 
 They were used as navigational systems for ships. In the 1950s researchers in Minnesota used simple radio transmitters to track 700 wolves. By the late 1960s, the M2M concept was created by caller-ID inventor Theodore Praskevakos. The invention of TCP/IP by Bob Kahn and Vint Cerf in the 1970s led to the creation of the internet.

In the 1980s, the city of New York used RFID to scan buses as they went through the Lincoln Tunnel and Norway used RFID to collect motorway tolls. Bluetooth was invented in 1994 by Ericsson, and Siemens created the first industrial M2M model in 1995. By 2014, Intel had selected Dublin to be the world’s first IoT-driven smart city.

The perception that M2M has disappeared or is outdated is likely caused by the fact that most machine to machine communication happens behind the scenes in IoT deployments. Sensors, gateways, and relays all work together to transmit, aggregate, and interpret data to determine the fastest route to work, notify the ranch manager when an animal in their herd is unwell, or let a community know when the river starts to rise.

Does your company want to use the power of M2M and IoT to boost productivity, manage assets, or lower costs? Speak with an IoT expert from IBM Journal today.

Originally published at

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