We often hear about M2M communication or technology in various contexts these days. From industrial uses to smart appliances. They indeed seem to be more and more present in our lives.
But do you really know how M2M communication works?
M2M, IoT: Which Is Which?
M2M and IoT are two acronyms that many people seem to use interchangeably. Yet, they are not quite synonymous.
The confusion comes from the fact that both of these technologies involve gathering data. This happens through connected sensors and sending it up an architecture of networks and hubs all the way to a machine. Then the machine interprets the signal or a person who will find it useful.
M2M (Machine to Machine Technology)
The main difference between M2M communication and IoT resides in the architecture itself. In M2M systems (or Machine to Machine technology), the communication happens in a silo-type system with no additional input or output.
These self-contained architectures are perfect for industrial uses. There data gathering and transfer need to be as quick, efficient and secure as possible.
IoT (Internet of Things)
Internet of Things (IoT), on the other hand, relies on a much wider network of connected items. This includes private users’ cell phones.
For instance, to gather and transfer data to a potentially unlimited number of endpoints via the Internet. These terminals can then opt in and out of data feeds. It will make IoT a much wider but also less secure architecture than M2M.
How Does M2M Communication Work and What Does It Do?
Let`s try to understand how M2M communication works. Imagine the machine to machine communications as many dialogues singular entities within a network are having at the same time.
The main hub sends orders to machines, sensors, and controllers. They are based on the information it received from:
- the same actors
- from other machines operating within the same network
Say, an end-user asks the system to turn the ventilation on if a certain concentration of gas is reached inside a space.
- An order is sent to the sensors present inside that space.
- Then it continuously sends the information regarding gas concentration.
- The main hub receives the information that the maximum reading has been reached
- Tt automatically sends the order to the machine that controls the ventilation system to turn the fan on.
That way, there is no need for a person to listen out for an alarm to go off when a level is critical and to manually activate the release. Instead, everything is done automatically, making the process more reliable.
How Does M2M Achieve This?
This example of how M2M communication works illustrates the potential of remote monitoring. And that is one of the most amazing apps of this technology.
For the connected machines to use the network and issue orders, the information can travel within a wired or a wireless system.
Wireless networks are typically used in IoT. Their cellular communication is particularly relevant.
Over long distances, 3G, 4G, and 5G networks also allow any device equipped with an m2m sim card to transfer data securely.
For on-site uses where portability is not an issue, nothing beats the reliability of wired solutions. They are ethernet, MAN, PAN, LAN or WAN networks. They allow data to circulate extremely fast and securely.
Finally, for very short-range communication needs that must absolutely be wireless, Bluetooth and NFC are the most interesting methods.
What Are the Applications of M2M?
Machine to Machine (M2M) technology offers an ever-expanding quantity of applications in many areas. Discussing these applications is very helpful in order to understand how M2M communication works as concrete examples show just how much our day-to-day life is already impacted by it.
Most people in the western world personally own more than one connected device. Smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, computers and on-board navigation systems in personal vehicles are among the most common objects. Thanks to that we can access real-time information.
Whether it is to look up the weather, traffic conditions, or for slightly more complex uses such as checking how many steps we’ve taken today. Thanks to an application that can interpret this particular data from a phone or smartwatch, M2M applications are becoming an integral part of our lives.
Connected devices make our world more convenient, but also safer. M2M applications are particularly numerous in the field of medicine, where efficient data-collecting methods coupled with fast data transfer solutions can save patients’ lives.
This is particularly true in the case of people suffering from heart conditions or diabetes and for whom round the clock monitoring can make all the difference. More and more devices offer M2M or IoT capabilities and contribute to the improvement of health care practices.
Smart homes are another example of how M2M communication works and can benefit individuals. Connected home appliances may be all the rage at the moment, but the phenomenon is certainly not a fad.
While connected washing machines may feel a little gimmicky, some real benefits can be found in such modern solutions as smart meters.
Smart Meters for Regular Homes
Thanks to these highly advanced devices, both clients and energy or water providers can enjoy a more seamless experience. Instead of requiring technicians to perform manual readings, smart meters collect all the necessary data by themselves. Then it sends the information to the company’s servers in real-time.
This allows individuals to have access to an up-to-date account of their consumption and to adapt their habits accordingly.
Smart Meters for Homes with Sophisticated Equipment
Naturally, these meters also offer similar performances for homes equipped with solar panels, keeping track of energy production in real-time.
Other smart home appliances include advanced security systems, which are an interesting example of how M2M communication works. This allows users access to a live video feed of their home. They can also use their smartphone as a virtual intercom whether they are home or not and configure their alarms remotely.
A World of Smart Devices
Smart homes do not operate as stand-alone entities. Instead, they are inscribed in a smart world, where many everyday services are interconnected to offer a streamlined experience to individuals and companies alike.
Connected vending machines constitute a good example of how M2M communication works to create optimized processes in the most unexpected ways.
These connected machines are typically much bigger than standard vending machines and allow users to have access to a fully stocked corner shop, regardless of the time or date or of how remote their location is. The most advanced models can even offer refrigerated goods or fresh produce.
Similar solutions can also be put in place for 24/7 pharmacies or fast-food machines. The possibilities are endless.
Thanks to how M2M communication works, the applications of this technology are continuously improving and offering professional and individual users incredibly convenient and cost-effective options in many different areas.
We should, therefore, expect more and more services to become available to us straight from our smartphones, connected vehicles, smart meters and from the equipment available around us on the roads, in cities, airports, hospitals, schools and more.
Big data has some people worried, but when it is handled responsibly by relying on secure technologies, the advantages far outweigh the reservations one may have. Machine to machine communication is paving the way for the integrated solutions of tomorrow.
Petr is a serial tech entrepreneur and the CEO of Apro Software, a machine learning company. Whenever he’s not blogging about technology for itechgyan.com or softwarebattle.com, Petr enjoys playing sports and going to the movies. He’s also deeply interested in mediation, Buddhism and biohacking.