"Machine to Machine" or "Internet of Things"... or even "Machine to Application"

When I first started in this space in the late 1990's, neither one of those terms were remotely close to being thought up.  The industry of using cellular networks to transmit non-voice traffic was really in its infancy (yes, teenagers, this means that there was no SMS back then) and it was pretty much limited to non-traditional networks such as ARDIS and Mobitex, as well as control channel/analog data transmissions.  The first time that I recall hearing the term "M2M" was actually not in reference to a cellular connection at all but was actually in reference to a landline based solution.

Wow, how things have changed!


The term "M2M" really started to gain its momentum a few years back, but not everyone thinks that it accurately reflects the real nature of the communication that is taking place.  While it is true that the communication is taking place between two machines (such as a piece of equipment in the field reporting that is having an issue to a server at the head office), the purpose of this communication is to allow this information to be used by someone who can take action based on it.  Since this is done by sending this information into an application that is then presented to a user (whether via an SMS, a flashing icon on a screen or any other method), some people claim that it makes more sense to refer to M2M as "M2A", or Machine to Application.

The Internet of Things

When big companies, such as IBM and Cisco, move into an industry, so do their marketing teams.  As such, their goal when entering into the M2M space was likely to find a way to make the concept of "machine communicating" both less intimidating and to take some of the "nerdiness" out of it.  For a more consumer-friendly term, they created the "Internet of things" thinking it would allow for faster adoption/acceptance among the general population (and likely to get any thoughts of machines taking over in movies like the Terminator series out of our heads!).  Like the term M2M, there are some slight inaccuracies to the IoT term. 

First, the term "Internet" (with a capital I) refers to the Internet that we all know (as opposed to an "internet", which is any network where devices are linked), where everyone is provided easy access to communicate with billions of other devices.  In reality, the majority of devices will be in closed off private networks and they will only have access to communicate with as little as one other device (their main server).  It will only be in some consumer applications where multiple devices will truly communicate.  As well, the term "things" makes it seem that there will be many more low cost devices on this "Internet" than what will likely happen.  For the time being, most monitoring will be done on somewhat higher cost devices (such as automobiles and furnaces), so it might be more appropriate to have used the term "devices" instead of things.  Nevertheless, I applaud their efforts to help simplify and bring our Industry out to a much bigger audience.

So, which is the better term: "M2M or "IoT"?  I think it really depends on whom you are talking to.  I think for business users, using the IoT term may not be the best choice, as the word "things" may be perceived as being gimmicky and not something that has the seriousness that many businesses would like.  However, IoT is likely an appropriate term when dealing with the consumer or SOHO marketplace, where they are not as interested in the technical side of the solution (or the Terminator references).

Whatever you call it, I think it is great to see the continued growth and interest in our industry and I look forward to seeing both terms become more commonplace.

As always, let Novotech know how we can help with your M2M needs, such as antenna selection.  You can visit our web page @ www.novotech.com.  As well, feel free to reach out to me directly ....larry(@)novotech.com.  You can also follow us on Twitter (@NovotechM2M) and you can follow me personally as well (@LBNovotechM2M)