M2M was once a scary term that IT managers and businesses avoided. The general feeling, by 2018, is that M2M is very much ready, already common in businesses, and definitely no longer scary. From home use, such as trusting Alexa to order your shopping when the fridge is low, to complex business examples like controlling the traffic to ease congestion, M2M communication is very much here to stay.
What is M2M?
M2M, or machine to machine, is quite simply a form of communication between two machines. Without human interaction, we are empowering – and trusting- machines to communicate and make decisions by themselves. Typically, this is achieved by networked devices and sensors exchanging information. The information exchange triggers actions without the need for human intervention.
The expansion of IP networks around the world has made machine to machine communication quicker and easier while using less power. If devices are running over secure, reliable connectivity then we can use machines to conduct more and more mundane and time consuming tasks, that are better served by a machine with access to infinite knowledge (the internet) and decision-making intelligence.
What does M2M do?
M2M communication can include industrial instrumentation or enabling a sensor or meter to communicate data. For example, if one machine knows the required stock level to fulfil a week’s worth of orders, the sensor will automatically send an alert to the machine when stock levels start to dip. This frees up time for humans to conduct value adding tasks like sales and customer service, as well as ensuring stock is always at optimal levels.
This form of communication was originally accomplished by having a remote network of machines relay information back to a central hub for analysis, which would then be rerouted back to a centralised PC. Through connectivity progression such as wireless and 4G, the transfer of data is quicker and no longer requires a dedicated network.
Who is using M2M today?
You might be using M2M at home. IoT (Internet of Things) devices such as sensors are commonplace in the home as we see a shift to smart homes. A smart home provides an accessible, more efficient way of going about day-to-day tasks by using M2M technology. When household appliances are connected, they can talk to each other – with no need for a human. Examples include centralised control of lighting, turning up or down the heating when a device registers a certain temperature, or setting your television or radio to come on during the day.
Business examples include utility companies, for the objective of bringing in power products and invoicing consumers. Power products are typically fuels such as gas and oil. You would usually see two or more devices communicating to provide information between each other. In oil boring sites, remote sensors spot important criteria which suggests the visibility of oil in a particular field. These remote sensors send information wirelessly to a remote computer monitoring flow rates, temperature and fuel levels. In return, the remote computer can make remote modifications to the devices to enhance performance.
What’s next for M2M?
M2M is currently in use in forward-thinking companies. Industries that wish to keep up with the pace of change (and some industries will have no choice) need to start planning for M2M communication in their business. Failure to adopt proven, reliable and productive technology will only result in competitors getting an advantage.
In his article for Forbes, Peter Kelly-Detwiler described a future where every device will be connected to the cloud. This doesn’t just mean every mobile device such as a laptop or mobile phone, but every device. In the home, washing machines, door answering systems and even your kitchen taps can be connected to the cloud through M2M communication. In the business world, devices can be made market aware and are able to predict changeable conditions.
Kelly-Detwiler notes that:
“Since there is potentially so much value to be gained (or cost to be avoided), such a movement is already beginning to gain traction.”
The upward curve of M2M communications will continue to grow exponentially as businesses learn the costs and productivity benefits of M2M communication. Ultimately, if it can change your home, it will change your business.