In previous blog posts, I have spoken about what I perceived to be the difference between the terms IoT and M2M....namely that IoT was a term that had a better mass-market appeal and is better served to be used to promote our industry to consumers.

I had an interesting conversation with someone from the Oil and Gas space the other day, and they brought up an interesting M2M/IoT just another way to say SCADA, or is there an actual difference?

Ok, to start, some of you may not be very familiar with the term "SCADA"....actually, even people that know the term aren't always quite sure what it means, so here are my thoughts.  First, it is an acronym, standing for Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, does it?).   The "SC" part refers to being able to take action on remote locations through the use of various controls and mechanisms.....such as opening/closing a valve, changing temperatures on HVAC units and unlocking security doors.  The "DA" part covers the ability to get retrieve key pieces of information from remote devices....such as weather information from remote sensors, real-time traffic data and levels in a fuel tank.

So, is M2M just SCADA under a different name?  Well, in many ways, they are the same thing.  M2M solutions usually encompass doing one of the two things that is covered by SCADA term, so in that manner, both terms can be interchanged.  In my mind, the difference usually comes from what is done with information that is derived from the two different solutions.  SCADA solutions have traditionally been kept away from many areas of the company (such as IT and Finance), with the information primarily being used by Operations and Field Service.  "M2M" solutions have much of the same underpinnings, but are starting to find their data being further introduced into key systems, such as ERP and CRM systems.  However, even this slight difference is starting to disappear.

Another slight difference is that the term SCADA tends to be most used (and for that reason, linked mostly to) only a few key industries, such as Oil/Gas, Pipelines and Utilities.  It also tends to be heavily linked to connecting to devices using some unique protocols, such as ModBus, and it often uses ports that are not as common in other areas of the IT world (such as RS-485).  The term M2M finds its way into many more vertical markets such as Retail, Finance and Public Safety.

So, to recap, here is how I see it:


•  More technical-oriented solutions, often in the Industrial space.  It tends to be areas that use very industry-specific protocols/standards, and a lot of the information is simply processed/used locally (through HMIs).

•  Term is commonly used in conjunction with Automation solutions.

•  From what I can see, industries that heavily use the term SCADA don't tend to integrate this data into key Enterprise systems, at least not as often as those who use the M2M term.


•  M2M tends to find itself used in a wider manner than SCADA.

•  This term is used much more by Carriers and Systems integrators, as it covers a wider amount of verticals.

•  It tends to be easier to understand/explain than SCADA and the information is more commonly hosted in Cloud-based solutions.

•  The vast majority of M2M solutions use "SCADA" as the basis for their offerings.


•  This term provides an even greater ability to appeal to the consumer space than M2M, and as such, many industry experts tend to see it having the better overall appeal to the mass market.  However, it is still not a term used by most people who have been around this space for a while......I don't know any "10+ year M2M guy" who uses it, actually.

•  Like M2M, most solutions that people call "IoT" are just SCADA-based solutions with a less technical interface and/or explanation.

The Bottom Line

Like I have said a few times, I really don't care which term people want to use, as long as we are all advancing our space.  In reality, most people in our space never really understood what SCADA meant, so that term will lose its appeal as time goes on for most industries.  However, for those serious, hard-core SCADA people, it will always be their term of choice. 

In my mind, M2M and IoT solutions are really a less "nerdy" SCADA solutions......and, if this makes it easier for us to advance our industry, what is in a name, anyways?

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