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An Introduction to Machine-to-Machine Communications

Posted by Ho Nguyen

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The efforts of enhancing machines and devices are changing the entire world we live in. Along with IoT, Machine-to-Machine communication holds great promise in helping us to connect, automate and improve our lives from business, government to private individuals.

Installing microchips into cars to track and utilise fuel cost, different production plants are linked together to simplify remote monitoring and maximise production - these are the examples of some applications of Machine-to-Machine communication. So what are M2M communications? What are the various applications for M2M communications? How is it different from IoT? This article will answer all the questions for you.

Read more: Challenges in Selecting ERP Solutions for Manufacturing

An Introduction to Machine-to-Machine Communications

What is Machine-to-Machine?

Initially, M2M is a closed, point-to-point communication of physical objects to speed up the production and save time for the more important tasks. Today, Machine-to-Machine or M2M is a broad term that covers the technologies that connect “machines”, devices or objects; allowing them to exchange information and perform actions without the need for human interaction or intervention.

In other words, M2M is basically the communication between a machine or a device and a remote computer. M2M is a cellular communication for embedded devices. With a significant potential of connecting a very large number of communicating terminals, M2M can be developed to boost the organisation’s growth, reduce expenses, enhance business efficiency, internal communication and so on.

Read more: [Infographic] 4 Signs that It’s Time to Upgrade Your ERP System

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How M2M Works

Originally, M2M communications are based on the “telemetry” concept - remote machines and sensors collecting and sending data to a central point for analysis. Over the time, instead of using radio signal, M2M communication today use public networks to transmit the data and reduce overall costs.

The application of wireless sensors is one of the key aspects of M2M communications in delivering the telemetry data. Sensors installation, a wireless network and a connected computer are the main tools of M2M that help to make centralising and analysing data possible. Then, the system translates the data, which trigger preprogrammed, automated actions to deal with the situation.

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M2M communications help enterprises to reduce the equipment downtime, thus minimising the costs for maintenance. Moreover, production duration can be shortened with M2M deployment as it automates the operational alteration and maximises efficiency.

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Applications of M2M Communications

M2M communications can be applied in a few different sectors – from our daily lives to daily business operations. Its asset tracking and monitoring features made it a vital tool in warehouse management and supply chain management. For example, M2M tracking made vending machine restocking effortless even though the number of them to keep track of is enormous.

Besides, M2M communications can be deployed in utility companies because it can be installed in multiple locations, plus its support tracking and condition monitoring functions. For instance, oil and gas providers can leverage M2M to detect worksite factors, such as pressure, temperature, equipment status... In general, the applications of M2M are unlimited. M2M is a flexible technology that helps transform “dumb” machines into “smart” ones, that is, taking the next step of M2M: Internet of Things.

Read more: How will the Internet of Things (IoT) Impact Manufacturing?

M2M and IoT: Same but different

M2M creates a system where the machines are connected, allowing the users to monitor the performance with ease. Yet, M2M open ups new possibilities where the interconnection between devices becomes a system of smart devices and gather operational insights to further improve the production.

This explains the foundation of the Internet of Things – connecting the physical world with the digital one. In fact, IoT is broader compared to M2M communications even though it is developed from the idea of M2M communication.

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Although the two terms share the characteristic of supporting the exchange and transmission of information within a network, they are not the same thing.

As mentioned before, M2M communication is usually isolated communication between devices that are developed upon point-to-point communication. On the other hand, IoT can be integrated into a grander scale to improve the flexibility of response actions, IoT’s multi-level communication can refine the operation and gather valuable insights.

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In addition, while M2M is mostly used by enterprises to update and manage the devices internally, IoT applications tend to be applied for both organisations and customers, helping customers to connect easily with the service provider. M2M is a business-driven technology that assists in operational improvements, whilst IoT allows businesses to personalise customer experience by facilitating asset tracking and insightful analysis.

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