If we make a list of the most buzzing technologies in recent years, IoT would definitely find its place somewhere at the top with names like AI and Blockchain. And though IoT isn’t exactly new technology- it’s been progressing for over half a decade, the imminent rollout of 5G has spurred unprecedented interest in the segment. Be it driverless cars, smart home appliances, industrial equipment, and beyond, they are expected to bring a paradigm shift in man-machine interface. But in such excitement, it’s easy to get ahead of ourselves and make misplaced assumptions. Such is the case with IoT and M2M
M2M (Machine-to-Machine) isn’t as popular or exciting as IoT despite having an almost similar set of capabilities. It is, in fact, a precursor to IoT- before wireless broadband was widely available. Basically, M2M systems are used by enterprises to remotely control or access their hardware resources. The bank ATMs you often use or the POS machines are some of the most widely used examples of M2M.
The reason people often use M2M and IoT interchangeably is that they are strikingly similar in the tasks they perform. Fundamentally, both are systems where two or more devices work in conjunction with a common goal without much manual interference. Traffic light sensors that continuously transmit data to a central control room is an M2M interface while if there is also a camera that reads and transmits license plates of each vehicle is an IoT system. So where exactly is the line?
While both M2M and IoT systems perform a similar set of tasks, the difference lies in how they do it. M2M conventionally use private networks and are designed to interface with devices of only that network. IoT, on the other hand, relies on common web protocols and there no such interface constraints. Also, M2M devices generally interface with one or a cluster of central devices and not within themselves. That is ATM machines can communicate with bank serves but not within themselves. IoT devices, on the other hand, are decentralized so all driverless cars in an area do communicate with each other.
This means M2M systems have a dual layer of security- the network and the device, thus making it popular for internal operations of enterprises.
A second difference between these systems is what they do with the data. Generally speaking, M2M systems collect and transmit data for predetermined actions. Be it remote access, shutting down or booting up the system, the variety of actions is limited. IoT systems make use of AI, ML and other data processing techniques to construct actions independent from centralized instructions.
At its core, both M2M and IoT systems are the same because the latter is actually a derivative of the former. M2M systems are older than the internet itself and their applications remained strictly limited to business purposes only. Then came the Internet and the same concept was replicated for the consumer market rebranded as the IoT.
Now even businesses rely on such systems for their enterprise mobile applications and thus need a uniform platform for all their operational needs.
As you may have figured by now, the matter isn’t about M2M vs. IoT but rather M2M evolving into IoT. As the IoT gets more reliable, robust, and most importantly secure, enterprises won’t really have any strong reason to continue using M2M systems. IoT would eventually emerge as the de facto means of communications between machines.
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