IoT Blog

What is M2M? : The Evolution from M2M to IoT

Smart Cities, Public Lighting, Patient Monitoring, IoT, Connectivity Fleet Management, Pipeline Management

Sierra Wireless

Sierra Wireless

As you review proposals for company-wide tech upgrades, you keep hearing references to terms such as “M2M,” “IoT,” and “IoE.” It’s confusing because, in some cases, these acronyms are used interchangeably, while in others, they're referenced as different concepts. All this has you wondering: What is the difference when comparing M2M vs IoT vs IoE? What does it all mean for you as a business leader? And, most importantly, does your company need this technology? If so,  how  is it beneficial?

These are fairly common questions, and it's perhaps best to begin with an exploration of what these terms mean, how they're related, and what value this technology will bring to your business, regardless of your niche.

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What is M2M?

M2M is a rather general term that stands for machine-to-machine communications. This term references machines that are equipped with three basic traits:

  1. They have the ability to connect to a common network;
  2. The machines can communicate or exchange data with each other over this network; and
  3. These communications can occur without manual human input or interference.

The sky’s the limit when it comes to the types of devices or machines that can be equipped or retrofitted to leverage machine-to-machine communications. It ranges from in-office devices such as printers or scanners to heavy-duty manufacturing equipment or machinery.

M2M tends to have more of a commercial and industrial connotation, whereas the IoT or IoE typically refers to a broader range of connected equipment and devices—devices that may be situated in your home, vehicle or even wearable on your person.

What are the IoT and IoE?

The IoT—or Internet of Things—refers to a wider variety of devices and equipment, beyond what's encompassed within the realm of M2M. While M2M is primarily commercial/enterprise and industrial, the IoT is far broader, dealing with all forms of machinery, vehicles, electronic equipment, and a vast array of devices, including but not limited to:

  • Personal devices like smartphones, tablets and wearables such as smartwatches;
  • Consumer electronics like speakers, MP3 players, cameras, robotic vacuums, and appliances;
  • In-structure systems such as thermostats, security systems, plumbing monitoring sensors, HVAC systems, and air filtering systems;
  • Vehicles, such as cars, trucks, boats and aircraft, including drones.

Just as the name implies, the IoE—or Internet of Everything—literally encompasses any and all items that have the ability to connect to a common network and autonomously communicate with other connected devices and equipment. There is no hard distinction between the IoT and the IoE; they are essentially one and the same.

What Can the IoT Do for My Business?

IoT technology have been transformative for many industries, leading to significant savings in terms of both time and money. So how are companies using the IoT? Consider these scenarios:

  • A printing company connects its computer interface to its printing equipment using IoT technology. When an employee in location A enters specs for a printing project, that data is communicated to the equipment in location B, where the printing process is performed without any human intervention. The company even has connected pick-and-place robots that can be used to bring items like t-shirts and mugs to the equipment for screen printing. This technology results in greater efficiency, fewer errors, and cost savings, since fewer employees are required to operate the printing center.
  • A small city installs “smart” lighting, which can be programmed to illuminate during certain hours. The public works division can turn the lights on and off remotely. And when a light goes out, the public works staff receive a notification so they can replace the bulb in a timely manner. This results in a safer city and more efficient operations. The city's IoT technology even monitors how long each light bulb has been illuminated, so when a bulb nears the end of its projected lifespan, crews can be dispatched to replace the light just before it burns out. That's called preventative maintenance, and it's a big cost saver for municipalities and companies alike.
  • A hospital park, comprised of over 20 different buildings, invests in an IoT deployment for their security systems, HVAC systems, electrical systems and lighting. As a result, building managers are able to monitor these systems remotely. What’s more, each system or device can communicate with other systems, equipment or devices on the network.

●   If a security alarm is triggered at night, the system is configured so all of the lights in the affected area will immediately illuminate to allow for greater visibility. They have the flexibility to program the lights to remain on for a certain time frame following an alarm activation or until they’re manually turned off.

●   In-pipe sensors monitor water flow and alert service personnel if a leak arises. When a significant leak is detected, the in-pipe sensors will communicate with the electrical system—in some cases cutting power in the affected area to minimize the risk of electrocution.

●   Patient monitoring systems are integrated throughout many structures in the hospital park, making it easy for nurses and other healthcare professionals to remotely monitor patients. Those monitoring systems can even be configured to trigger alarms at the nurse’s station or throughout the entire structure in the event that a patient’s vital signs indicate an emergency, such as a cardiac arrest. For building-wide alerts, you can even program your IoT system to unlock interior doors that would normally require a key card. This allows for a faster emergency response time.

IoT technology also generates a lot of data; data that can be useful for establishing a baseline and identifying anomalies that may point to a piece of equipment that's in need of maintenance or replacement, for example. The hospital park's team can even perform preventative maintenance, since they can determine if a piece of equipment is seeing a gradual drop-off in efficiency. This spells greater overall efficiency and reduced repair costs, which is all good news for the park's bottom line.

Reliable Connectivity and Device Management Are Essential for IoT Deployments

Reliable connectivity is essential for the IoT. Many companies face challenges when they have connected products deployed in structures, vehicles and equipment spread over a wide geographical region. And that's where the ubiquity and reliability of cellular networks provide a major advantage.

As the number one cellular module vendor in the world, Sierra Wireless delivers standards-based wireless technologies and supports open source initiatives that help OEMs and system integrators get their products to market faster. We make it easy to embed cellular, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GNSS technologies, as well as manage your connectivity, devices, and data to build your future in the IoT. Start with Sierra to learn more about how M2M and IoT technology can transform both your business and your bottom line.

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