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m2m or m to m – two terms, one technology

When companies talk of m2m or m to m, they aren’t speaking of different topics; they are describing the technology of machine to machine communications. So far no one has agreed on a standard term but the two terms are appearing with increasing frequency in the media and on the boardroom agenda.

Along with cloud computing and virtualization, m2m has become of the high spots on the technology landscape. Companies recognise that machines can communicate with each other and transmit valuable data that humans can use to improve performance, efficiency and productivity.

The essential elements of m to m are the two machines and a network. One machine is a sensor that monitors factors such as location, temperature, performance and other criteria that can be programmed in. The other machine receives the data and makes it available to management and service teams so that they can make decisions based on real time information.

The machines communicate over different types of network, depending on location. In a factory or campus environment, the m2m network may be based on wireless LANs or WANs. To collect data from the field, companies use cellular networks which now cover much of the word. For data transmission at sea or in remote locations, satellite m2m networks provide an alternative where there is no cellular coverage.

The growing volume of m to m data traffic is a potential barrier to the growth of m to m communication in the future. Currently, service providers are facing an explosion of video traffic that will tie up network capacity. Adding further traffic will require careful planning. Multi-service networks can be used to prioritise traffic, using policy management and service level agreements to segregate different types of m to m data.