M2M Communication Technology: Cutting-Edge Solutions for the Modern Workplace
Machine-to-machine (M2M) communications are enjoying a massive presence throughout countless industries. Although the roots of this technology can be traced as far back as the early 20th century, recent advancements have enabled the sheer number of targeted M2M applications to take on a life of their own. Let us examine this concept in greater detail to fully appreciate the advantages that it has to offer.
- M2M technology allows two or more machines to communicate with one another.
- Machine-to-machine systems have had a massive impact upon countless industries.
- As M2M continues to advance, its presence will likely be felt even more throughout our daily lives.
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What Is M2M Communication Technology?
M2M technology involves the automatic and streamlined sharing of information between two or more separate devices. Common examples include smart home meters, vehicle telemetry services, asset tracking, wearable technologies, and automated supply chain management (SCM).
While M2M is generally meant to exclude the manual assistance of humans, real-time interventions may still occur from time to time. Machine intelligence enables a variety of mechanisms, such as wired or wireless tools, sensors, devices, server computers, robots, spacecraft, and network systems, to communicate and exchange information efficiently.
A Brief History of M2M Solutions
Some will argue that M2M technology first emerged with the introduction of telemetry during the 1920s. This technology allowed data to be sent from a remote sensor to a processing centre via the use of telephone lines, and later radio waves. However, its true impact began to be felt within manufacturing and production industries.
The SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems of the 1960s are perhaps the most well-known examples. Thanks to wireless technology, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), M2M services now enjoy a ubiquitous presence across countless different sectors.
Why Is M2M Utilized?
Efficiency and automation are the two primary intentions of M2M technology. It is used to streamline communications, to provide remote monitoring solutions and ultimately, to ensure that interconnected systems function as they should.
This results in higher levels of productivity, streamlined decision-making processes, and a higher return on investment (ROI). There are many times when the cost-effective advantages of machine-to-machine technology can be passed on to the end user.
Critical key benefits include:
- Reduced costs by minimizing maintenance and downtime.
- Increased revenue by opening up new business opportunities for on-site product maintenance.
- Improved customer service by real-time monitoring and maintaining equipment before it fails or only when it is needed.
Where Can M2M Connectivity be Employed?
There are countless real-world examples of M2M communication technology. Here are a handful of the most prominent:
- Supply chain and inventory management.
- Automated billing solutions.
- Remote healthcare monitoring.
- Electronic payment methods such as Skrill and PayPal.
- Algorithmic online marketing systems.
It is therefore clear to appreciate the importance of M2M in these modern times.
M2M Examples in Everyday Life
There are a number of surprising everyday applications directly associated with M2M connectivity. Let us highlight some key takeaway points.
In the event that a means of mass transit (such as a train) becomes delayed, a traveller will be made aware of the situation. He or she can change a reservation or choose a different route if required.
Wireless thermostats can now automatically adjust the temperature of a room if it falls below a certain threshold. Likewise, M2M may be employed in the security sector; automatically notifying the homeowner of a fault or allowing a door to be remotely unlocked if a guest happens to arrive.
Health and Fitness
Wearable devices such as smartwatches can proactively monitor metrics such as heart rate, blood pressure and sleep patterns. Not only will these provide valuable information to the consumer, but the use of M2M communications can allow healthcare professionals to remotely observe the health of a patient (such as an individual who may be at risk of a heart attack).
Location-based advertising and personalized marketing campaigns are both heavily influenced by the presence of M2M technology. Thus, consumers are presented with more relevant offers. These can help businesses target the right individuals at the appropriate times.
„Being able to combine equipment on one dashboard, where we have motorized and non-motorized equipment, is key for ABM. We currently have 5,000–6,000 non-motorized pieces of equipment out there in the field. Bringing that all together into one system is a big benefit.“
M2M Modern Business Solutions
While the machine-to-machine communication examples mentioned above are impressive, we also need to remember that this technology is present throughout the business sector. What purposes does it serve, and what benefits can stakeholders leverage?
- Smart Asset Tracking Software: M2M communication systems can be utilized to track product locations, to monitor shipping services and to predict when a customer is expected to receive a specific item.
- Supply Chain Management: SCM is another sector which has been massively transformed by the presence of M2M. Managers can track inventory, schedule delivery times, appreciate which items need to be restocked, and obtain insight in regard to which production facilities are functioning at capacity. These are only a handful of examples.
- Predictive Maintenance: Automated fault sensors can alert management in the event that maintenance is required. This will help to avoid costly downtime while guaranteeing higher levels of in-house productivity. High-level production facilities will therefore benefit from the presence of M2M.
Important Components to Appreciate
Any M2M communications system relies upon a host of components found within a flexible framework. Some of the most pertinent include:
- Hardware components (including data endpoints, microprocessors, RFID and wireless sensors, any relevant machinery, and data integration point servers).
- Mobile and fixed network services (such as wireless routers, Bluetooth-compatible devices and hardwired in-house systems).
- System integration and consulting services (examples include computing wireless networks, digital pipeline management software, and third-party firms intended to provide higher levels of quality assurance).
- M2M applications (such as asset management software solutions offered by ToolSense).
Anonymity and Scalability
Anonymity is another core trait of M2M connectivity; particularly when referring to industries involved with the transmission of private data. This is why current M2M news has focused upon sectors such as:
- Financial payments and billing services.
- Remote monitoring.
- Domestic and commercial security networks.
End-to-end encryption, the use of SSL protocols and proactive resource management will all help to ensure that proprietary and potentially sensitive data will not inadvertently fall into the wrong hands. Furthermore, modern machine-to-machine communication examples must possess an innate sense of scalability.
Agile architecture can therefore be moulded around the needs of the organization in question. This is another massive benefit of contemporary M2M solutions, as end users can enjoy higher levels of efficiency and a robust ROI.
Quality control is yet another facet of M2M technology. In fact, it is one of the most important core tenets. Logging data and real-time information will enable users to better understand how a system is performing. Let us also remember that this is an excellent way to identify minor issues (such as a production bottleneck) before they develop into much more serious problems.
M2M systems must support the recording of important events, such as failed installation attempts, services not working, or the occurrence of erroneous information. The logs should be available on request.
Transmission Methods and Scheduling
Scheduling optimization is an additional concern in relation to M2M services. This is even more relevant in situations dealing with a considerable number of devices (such as within a large manufacturing facility). The main issue here is that pairing such devices together can cause delays in terms of data transmission.
One of the ways in which this can be overcome is to allocate different resource blocks to specific monitoring channels. This can help to reduce bandwidth usage and to mitigate any communications delays. Let’s also remember that larger facilities could require a bit of human oversight so that the entire system continues to run smoothly.
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The Selection of Communications Channels
What types of transmission methods are used when sending and receiving data within an M2M communications network? As mentioned previously, the most common methods include:
- Cellular networks.
- Wireless Internet.
- Hard-wired connections.
- Radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology.
- Near-field communication (NFC) systems.
- Bluetooth transmissions.
Each of these offers its own unique set of benefits, so careful research should normally be carried out in order to choose the most appropriate M2M communication application.
M2M vs. IoT
This final parameter deserves to be addressed before concluding. What are the primary differences between machine-to-machine technology and the internet of things (IoT)? Perhaps the most notable involves the fact that M2M communications rely upon point-to-point data transmissions. IoT-connected devices are instead typically situated within a cloud environment and more suitable for large-scale integration purposes.
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Another observation is that the cloud-based nature of IoT connectivity may be associated with a greater degree of scalability when compared to M2M technology. Having said this, one notable feature of M2M is that it can rely upon a host of communications methods. IoT connectivity is generally restricted to wireless options alone.
However, it must be stressed that IoT solutions are actually a subset of M2M communications as a whole. In other words, IoT also involves the transmission of data between two or more machines without the need for human intervention. The main difference is that IoT connectivity is used to represent a more specific term when compared to the decidedly broad nature of M2M systems.
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We can now fully appreciate why M2M communication systems have become such an important part of modern society. To review the points highlighted throughout this article, the core advantages of M2M include:
- Improved operational efficiency.
- Cost reductions and a higher return on investment.
- Quality assurance.
- A greater degree of oversight.
- M2M technology is scalable in nature and able to adapt to the specific needs of an organization.
- This method is often much more exacting when compared to human decision-making processes.
Whether referring to user-friendly smart homes, cutting-edge telemedicine or effectively managing an international production facility, the benefits of M2M cannot be denied. However, let us also remember that this technology is continuing to advance at a breakneck pace. It is fully reasonable to assume that we will witness even more extraordinary advancements in the near future.
M2M is a type of automated communication between two or more machines which does not require any direct human intervention.
One common example of machine-to-machine technology involves at-home smart meters, which take automatic energy consumption readings and subsequently send these measurements back to a central office for analysis.
While IoT and M2M share a number of factors in common, IoT is a subset of machine-to-machine communications, and it often relies solely upon cloud-based technology.