What is the difference between M2M and IoT?

What is the difference between M2M and IoT? In this introductory article we will take a high level look, and introduce the novice to some fundamental concepts.

First off, both M2M and IoT are acronyms. M2M stands Machine to Machine (communications) while IoT is the Internet of Things. The acronym M2M has been around for a while, and in fact Raveon Technologies has been involved in M2M solutions for a decade. At the same time IoT is generally speaking a much newer acronym. Some people may consider M2M and IoT as the same thing, while others will have a very different viewpoint. In our own view IoT includes M2M solutions, but more as well.

As we have already mentioned, machine to machine communications has been around for a while. M2M involves two or more machines in communications, either in one direction, or in both directions, with the general goal of automating some function or process, that otherwise would be perfumed by humans. A classic example of this is a water tower and water pump, communicating in some manner to keep the water in the tower between suitable level boundaries. Here is a picture:


Here the pump house or monitoring station received updates from the water tank on water levels. When the water level reaches a certain low point the water pump turns on, and when the water level reaches a certain high point the pump turns off.

The nature of blue line between the tower equipment and pump equipment represents the communications link for the machines to talk. In this particular example the communications link only needs to be one-way. Using Raveon wireless data radio modems the communications link would typically be a narrowband UHF or VHF radio frequency. However, a hard wire connection, a telephone lease line, a cellular modem, a satellite link, or multiple others forms of data communications could be used.

In the example above, what if the blue line was the public Internet, or even a private ‘Intranet’ owned by the water utility? Certainly two ‘machines’ are still in communication, but has this crossed over into the realm of an IoT example? This is up to the reader to decide.

Certainly the Internet in general connotes a certain level of presence, approaching ubiquity. For years the Internet has been used to communicate between two people and evolved to multiple people and multiple stores of information. Up to the present the Internet has been considered primarily an information communications network, but as more machines become Internet connected their M2M communications purpose begins to morph into an Internet of Things application.

What useful purpose might an IoT serve that an M2M application does not? Consider the same example above, but now with a great number of water towers and pumps.

In a complex system, spanning perhaps a city or region, it can become important to make management decisions over a much greater group of criteria. How do you provide reasonable water pressure to all users while demand may fluctuate greatly? How many pumps can run simultaneously? What are the pipeline capacities? What happens if a pipeline springs a leak? What is the demand on electricity? Do electricity prices vary during the day? Can we use weather forecast models to project temperatures, sunlight, and evaporative loss, and thus plan ahead for heavy demand? With the growth of devices and more complex decision making the ability for information of all sorts as well as pumps, valves, and sensors control and feedback to be available increases greatly in importance.

This is only a rudimentary example. Use your imagination to think of complex oil, gas, or electric distribution systems. How about traffic light control? How about vending machines which signal sales allowing restocking vehicles to be routed automatically, while tying into inventory control? Think about your own home, with ‘smart homes’ and ‘intelligent’ devices such as refrigerators and pantries keeping track of your grocery list and automatically ordering groceries to be delivered by drones, in a just-in-time delivery model, that notifies your phone via your Internet presence so you know what is happening and don’t need to stop at the store.

As more devices are imbedded with a level of artificial intelligence, and as more information is shared to make human life better, or at least human drudgery more automated, the ‘things’ that will connect to the Internet are projected to grow exponentially, and the Internet of Things will become more of a reality.

At Raveon Technologies Corporation we are working not only on improving communications, but allowing these complex communications networks to become more expandable and more efficient, while improving manageability as well as security. We welcome the reader to visit http://www.raveon.com/dart/ to learn more about what we are doing today to enhance your tomorrow.

Larry Top

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