The term M2M (Machine to Machine), also commonly known as Ubiquitous or Pervasive Computing refers to what is essentially a four-step process: data is generated, data is transmitted, data is analysed, and data acted upon.
Other names that define M2M or its subsets include the ‘Internet of Things’, ‘Connected Devices’, ‘Remote Monitoring and Diagnostics’, ‘Smart Computing’, ‘Smart Metering’ and ‘Extended Internet’.
M2M leverages innovations in micro computing and wireless technology that allow embedded devices to collect and distribute real-time data and has the potential to connect millions of machines today, and even more in the near future. In simple terms, M2M is defined as a technology that enables electronic and mechanical devices to communicate with each other seamlessly and perform actions without human intervention.
The M2M System
The M2M system uses device (sensor, meter, etc.) to capture ‘event’ (temperature, inventory level, etc.), relayed through a communication network (wireless, wired or hybrid) to an application (software program) that translates the captured event into meaningful information (E.g. items need to be restocked) that can be actioned subsequently.
M2M works on four basic principles:
• Acquiring data through sensors, RFID and related devices
• Transmitting the data through the network channel
• Making decisions via intelligent application solutions
• Triggering an action, based on pre-determined rule-sets and analysed data.
The M2M Ecosystem
Telcos have taken the lead in building M2M networks that deliver granular device data to centralised applications that turn it into meaningful information. However, the M2M business is in its nascent stage and business models are evolving, driven by various value propositions for the players in the ecosystem. The four key categories in the M2M ecosystem are as follows:
• Hardware and semiconductor company: These provide the end-point devices from where data is acquired (sensors, GPS units, smart meters, RFID tags, video cameras, and smartcards).
• Communication service provider: These enable the transmission of data between machines.
• M2M service provider: These are vertical niche players providing specific M2M application solutions for data analysis for decision-making.
• System integrator: This is the technical domain expertise to bind all systems together.
The roles of these players may overlap in various business models that will evolve depending on the positioning created by each individual player and specific market opportunities.
Application of M2M
M2M provides benefits to individuals, companies, communities and organisations in the public and private sectors across industries. Some of them are:
M2M Service Expansion
Even though the growth potential for M2M is big, it is essentially a long tail business. In addition, long tail characteristics; the M2M average revenue per connection (ARPC) is typically only a fraction of human average revenue per user (ARPU), but the volumes are expected to compensate for the same. On the technology side, the cost of sensors and meters are expected to fall to levels that will spark widespread use. Efforts are on by governments and industry groups to work together to standardise networking interfaces and technologies and help evolve to the point where data can flow freely among sensors, computers, and actuators.
Consequently, in the recent past, M2M services uptake is picking up globally especially in sectors like security, automotive, transport and logistics, utilities, retail and financial services, etc.
The fourth stage of the Industrial Revolution is upon us due to the far-reaching integration, accelerated by the Internet of Things, of Operational Technology (OT) and Information Technology (IT). This creates completely new opportunities as a result of new combinations of mental, physical and mechanical work by integrating the internet, sensors and embedded systems.