From The Editor | October 23, 2008

What's M2M Mean To You?

M2M (machine-to-machine) communication is an enigma to many, but it can play a significant role in connecting you to data that can improve business operations.

Integrated Solutions, November 2008

M2M is an acronym with many possible meanings. Google it, and you'll be bombarded with websites for everything from a Norwegian female pop duo to a brand of ERP (enterprise resource planning) software. Even as it relates to the technologies and topics Integrated Solutions typically covers, M2M can stand for mobile-to-mobile, mobile-to-machine, machine-to-mobile, man-to-machine, and machine-to-man. You've probably seen the M2M acronym pop up in recent Integrated Solutions' article headlines and asked yourself, "What the heck is M2M?" Well, within the next few paragraphs I hope to clarify what M2M means to our publication and why it is an important concept with which you should become familiar.

From our perspective, M2M is an abbreviation for machine-to-machine and refers to wireless data communication between machines. While the technology continues to evolve, it generally refers to telemetry or telematics that is accomplished using networks, especially public wireless networks. The term can also be used to refer to the family of modules, middleware, software, and applications that help improve data efficiency and quality by tying together a myriad of sensors with mission-critical applications such as asset management, CRM (customer relationship management), and ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems.

The key pieces of a typical M2M system include:
n Wireless modules or sensors embedded in a device or group of devices. These sensors enable devices to transmit the data contained within each device autonomously or as requested by other applications.
n A communications link that connects the device or group of devices to a computer server or other device.
n A software program or interface that allows users to analyze and/or act upon the data.
Okay, okay, this is great technical information, but why should you care? What possible benefits can this technology have on your business? The best way for me to illustrate the benefits is to provide some real-world applications of M2M in use today. For example, many oil and gas meter manufacturers currently use M2M technologies to enable utilities to remotely collect real-time data (e.g. flow rates, pressure, temperature, tank levels, etc.) from a meter. If you're a utility company, this means you would no longer need to send a technician from house to house to collect meter readings manually, which would reduce your labor and transportation expenditures. Another example of M2M in action is manufacturers of medical devices, heavy machinery, and even office equipment are embedding their devices with M2M capabilities for remote diagnostic purposes. M2M allows these companies to wirelessly monitor the status of the equipment to detect and correct problems with devices before they result in failures. This capability improves the quality of customer care and helps increase the longevity of customer investments.

This is just a small sample of the current M2M applications in use today, and the possibilities of the technology are limitless. In short, as a business interested in wireless technologies, it's vital for you to stay abreast of how M2M solutions are being adopted, so you can assess how you may be able to leverage the technology to positively impact your own business operations.