A dozen years ago in a white paper on emerging technologies I included a section on machine-to-machine (M2M) technology, though at the time that nomenclature wasn’t generally accepted. My simple example of the power of M2M featured communications among a population of Coke machines in a large downtown area sharing real-time inventory data to allow any individual machine to direct a customer to the next closest machine should they be out of the carbonated beverage that customer desired at that particular time.
That example was fanciful at the time, but M2M has now gained traction as one of the “next big things” as hundreds of companies are combining wireless, Wi-Fi, mobile, web, and context technologies to offer information and convenience in innovative new ways. The escalating pace of adoption for smart devices – phones, tablets, home appliances, industrial equipment - is creating new demands on enterprises and consumers around the globe which requires new thinking about the connected environment.
M2M technologies allow wireless and wired systems to communicate with other devices possessing the same capability. M2M uses sensors, meters or like devices to capture event data (electricity usage, temperature, inventory) and share it via network with an application that translates the data into information that can be used by other devices, networks, applications and enterprises.
M2M is a critical platform for the enablement and maturation of the concept of the “internet of things” which includes everything from smartphone apps that control a home's living environment remotely to real-time analytics that help ease traffic congestion and city parking challenges.
The notion of an “internet of things” has been around for a while now. Kevin Ashton coined the term in 1999. Of course, a concept is never truly viable until it has its own consortium hence, the Internet of Things Consortium
The Internet of Things (IoT) represents the connection of all machines, devices, sensors, automobiles, cameras, and other "things" to help customers improve operations and save valuable time, money and even lives. The IoT connects places such as manufacturing floors, energy grids, healthcare facilities, and transportation systems.
With cloud infrastructure becoming more prominent, M2M applications have expanded beyond a one-to-one connection to become a system of networks that transmits data to personal appliances. This has made it far easier to effect M2M communication and lessened the amount of power and time necessary for information to be communicated between machines.
The critical dynamic here, and one that has been growing for at least 15 years, is that smart devices connected to the internet would eventually far outnumber the people that would be connected to the internet. Voila! We are there. Per Cisco, over 12.5 billion devices were connected in 2010 and Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) predicts some 25 billion devices will be connected by 2015, and 50 billion by 2020.
ERP solution provider SAP has begun to explore M2M and recently conducted a survey among IT decision makers on the impact, current and forecasted, of M2M. Some interesting data points that emerged from that survey included:
- 85 percent of IT decision makers (ITDMs) think that M2M is a natural technological evolution and will advance the "consumerization of IT" trend
- 82 percent think that M2M interaction enables businesses to respond to real-world events
- Sixty-five percent of ITDMs think increased workforce mobility is the biggest opportunity for M2M
- 65 percent think the major challenge in M2M is managing and analyzing the real-time data.
- By year's end:
- Mobile devices will outnumber the human population
- Data volume will reach 4 billion terabytes
- 90 percent of consumer-connected devices will have access to some personal cloud.
- SAP estimated that by the end of 2020, there will be 24 billion connected devices and by 2015, 35 percent of mid-to-large organizations will adopt in-memory computing
The possibilities for machine-to-machine in concert with other emerging technologies are extraordinary. Almost every machine or device has the potential to become connected, creating interactions with other technologies and services and bringing significant impacts to processes in and across all industries.
As the notion of an “Internet of things” becomes increasingly mainstream, businesses will incorporate machine-to-machine technology to gather and use information towards both strategic and tactical ends. The end result will be new products and services that will drive new revenue streams and reduce costs for businesses.