What's the difference between IoT and M2M communications?
Many experts in the automation industry have discussed the potential benefits, drawbacks, and similarities between the Internet of Things (IoT) and its riival, machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. Both solutions offer remote device access, and many are questioning how to distinguish between the two. However, the similarity between the IoT and M2M communications ends there; they differ greatly in how they achieve remote access. Traditional machine-to-machine solutions usually rely on embedded hardware modules and cellular or wired networks for point-to-point communications. IoT solutions use IP-based networks to interface device data to a cloud or other platform.
While M2M solutions provide remote access to machine data, the data are usually targeted at point solutions in service management applications. The data are rarely ever integrated with enterprise applications to improve overall performance. Integration of device and sensor data with big data and other applications is a core concept behind the Internet of Things. This integration is vital in achieving several benefits throughout the manufacturing enterprise and growth in the marketplace.
M2M and IoT solutions both provide access to remote devices, machines, and other applications. M2M are usually composed of hardware modules embedded in a machine at a customer site that communicate using cellular or wired networks to a specific software application, usually at the supplier's service operation. This allows the supplier to reduce service management costs through remote diagnostics, troubleshooting, updates, and other capabilities that reduce the need for field service personnel.
As for industrial IoT solutions, they accomodate all the same devices as M2M applications, but also devices that might not be able to justify a dedicated M2M hardware module, such as low-power or passive sensors and inexpensive devices. IoT applications communicate via standards-based IP networks, and the data are incorporated into enterprise applications to enable improved service, operational improvement, and even new business models.
M2M and IoT have mistakenly become synonymous in many industries, but it is important to know the differences between the two and make sure you choose a solution that meets your specific needs. Recognize first whether you are seeking a point solution for simple remote machine access, or look to drive business across the enterprise through software-oriented performance tools. Enterprise integration, scalability, software/hardware, and the use of standard vs. prorprietary device connections are key in whether you need an IoT or M2M application.