The Internet of Things (IoT) has swept the world in the form of smart devices, smart homes, and even smart cities. Nearly 70% of households in the U.S. alone own at least one smart device, and experts expect the number of smart devices worldwide to more than double by 2027.

All of the different applications of smart technology have something in common: they rely on machine-to-machine (M2M) technology. What exactly is the relationship between M2M and IoT, and why does it matter? 

Context and History

M2M technology is simply anything that allows machines/devices to communicate with each other automatically, without a need for human interaction. M2M was the basis for early telemetry, or long-distance data transmission between machines. And telemetry in turn supported weather forecasting, wildlife monitoring, and much more. 

M2M has evolved quite a bit over the years. In the beginning, M2M only referred to devices that communicate directly with each other instead of through a server or central system. While initially M2M relied on purely wired technologies, it has since moved on to both cellular and wireless internet. Wireless M2M is the basis of communication between IoT devices, and the concept of M2M has come to include when devices communicate through a system or server, as long as no direct human interaction is required. 

The Internet of Things is a network of devices that connect to each other through internet protocols. These devices often transfer data through the cloud, though they can also transfer data directly from device to device through peer-to-peer (P2P) connectivity. In either case, IoT needs M2M communication technology in order to function. 

Relationship between IoT and M2M

If IoT needs M2M to work, what exactly is the relationship between the two? And what are the differences?

Let’s start by talking about the similarities between M2M and IoT. Since M2M is all about transferring data between machines, M2M systems need a method for collecting data. These could be sensors of any kind. Then an M2M system needs a way to send that information between devices. To make any use of that data, you need a way to analyze it or act upon it. 

In an IoT system, you need the exact same things. IoT devices contain sensors to collect data. Then the devices transfer that data through the cloud or through P2P connectivity, either to other devices or to a database for storage and analysis. Finally, the data gets sent to a device or system capable of acting on the data through something called an actuator. For example, an actuator could be a smart light switch that automatically turns off the lights after a certain time of day. 

So what’s the difference between the two? Basically, M2M encompasses much more than just the Internet of Things. M2M includes any machines/devices, wired or wireless, that transfer data automatically. But the smart devices that make up the Internet of Things only transfer data wirelessly through the internet. Plus, traditionally, M2M refers only to peer-to-peer communication between devices. In other words, devices communicate through P2P rather than through a server, while many IoT devices communicate through a central server. 

In this sense of M2M, an IoT system is only truly using M2M communication when relying on a P2P connectivity platform like the Nabto IoT connectivity platform. But since the term M2M has become a lot more inclusive today, it’s often used to refer to any communication between devices in an IoT system. 

Final Thoughts

It’s important for companies that use IoT to understand M2M because it ultimately helps you reap the benefits of your IoT system. Without M2M, you couldn’t have smart maintenance in a manufacturing building, wherein a system looks for areas that will soon need repairs and alerts you before a major problem occurs. You couldn’t have a smart home, where you can control everything from your smart TV to your smart coffee pot and smart alarm clock from your smartphone. 

And you certainly couldn’t have a low-latency, P2P IoT system in which devices communicate directly with each other, bypassing the cloud layer to provide a faster response from various systems and devices. But thanks to M2M, all those things are possible.

Read Our Other Resources

We’ve also published a range of IoT resources for our community, including: 

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