Machine to Machine (M2M) Basics

November 25, 2014 Timothy Internet of Things

Last month we introduced readers to the concept of the Internet of Things (IoT). A big part of IoT is machine to machine (M2M) communications. The ability of one machine to exchange data with another machine and triggering one or more reactions is key to increasing modern productivity.

M2M Uses

M2M technology has been around for years, but only recently with the development of a national wireless system and small, powerful, low cost computers has M@M been able to take flight and grow. An early example of M2M is the caller ID in your telephone. Your telephone, a machine, communicates with an exchange and retrieves and displays the identity of a caller without human intervention or prompting.

A more recent example is vending machines that report their status to a service center. Initially, these connections used plain old telephone (POTS) lines, but many recent machines take advantage of wireless telephone networks. Humans are only involved in monitoring and ensuring replacements and parts are dispatched.

Similarly, truck fleets use GPS positioning to track and report the locations and status of their hundreds of trucks and trailers.

Now, as a small business you’re likely thinking this is all well and fine, but I can’t afford this technology. That’s true, but also its true that this technology will be available to you in just a few years.

M2M Barriers

Wireless costs. The primary barrier to further widespread adoption is the cost of wireless connections. Large mega-million dollar companies can afford the current high cost of wireless data. For M2M to truly take off, wireless providers will need to either lower costs or develop special low cost M2M plans.

M2M Devices. Currently M2M devices and applications are limited. However, as more and more developers use M2M technologies more and more creative applications will be developed. So pay attention. The announcements of FitBit wrist bands, watches and tiny racking devices are all early steps to the coming M2M future.

Software. A recent article on Google Glass mentioned the poor adoption rate among businesses. The reason was the lack of a “killer application.” Example of killer applications would be word processing and spreadsheets which encouraged the adoption of small computers by much of the world. Businesses seldom adopt technology for technology’s sake alone. The bottom line is always omnipresent. How can we apply M2M to lower business costs and increase profitability? The most successful M2M companies will be those that create solutions and efficiencies in specific industries. Software to capture, store, analyze and react to the tremendous inflow of data will be critical. You might call this the analytics of everything. Until useful, low cost, easy to use analytical software is created, it won’t matter about how many devices or how cheaply they can interconnect. M2M has to solve real problems and alleviate real business pain.

For now, understand that M2M is a subset of IoT. Start thinking how your business could use M2M to reduce costs or solve a chronic problem. When attending networking events, inquire about others’ use of wearable technologies and how they are planning to use M2M. Finally, read articles on M2M as they appear in your day to day news and information sources.

Feel free to share your M2M thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

For further reading: Why Cell Providers Need to Prepare for M2M, Gary Audin,


About Timothy Lee

Tim, the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center's webmaster and technical training specialist, has been with ASBTDC since 1995. He retired from the U.S. Air Force with the rank of master sergeant. He's a bit gung-ho, turns cat food cans into cook stoves, and keeps packing ASBTDC equipment for rapid worldwide deployment, but he's your "go to" guy for technical solutions and full-scale disasters.


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