Machine-to-machine (M2M) refers to technologies that allow both wireless and wired systems to communicate with other devices of the same ability. M2M uses a device (such as a sensor or meter) to capture an event (such as temperature, inventory level, etc.), which is relayed through a network (wireless, wired, or hybrid) to an application (software program), that translates the captured event into meaningful information (for example, ‘items need to be restocked’).
Such communication was originally accomplished by having a remote network of machines relay information back to a central hub for analysis, which would then be rerouted into a system like a personal computer. However, modern M2M communication has expanded beyond a one-to-one connection and changed into a system of networks that transmits data to personal appliances.
The expansion of IP networks across the world has made it far easier for M2M communication to take place and has lessened the amount of power and time necessary for information to be communicated between machines. These networks also allow an array of new business opportunities and connections between consumers and producers in terms of the products being sold.
M2M predates Cellular communication. It has been around and referred to as Telemetry (measurements from a distance), Industrial Automation, and Scada (supervisory control and data acquisition), among other terms. Cellular M2M emerged around 2000 (an early example is GM’s OnStar system). In Norway, Telenor concluded ten years of M2M research by setting up two entities serving the upper (services) and lower (connectivity) parts of the value-chain. Drawing on that experience, they became a market leader in Europe for logistics, fleet management, car safety, healthcare, and smart metering of electricity consumption.
Another application of M2M technology is the use of wireless networks to update digital billboards. This allows advertisers to display different messages based on time of day or day-of-week, and allows quick global changes for messages, such as pricing changes for gasoline. Telematics and in-vehicle entertainment is another area of focus for M2M developers. Recent examples include Ford Motor Company, which has teamed with AT&T to wirelessly connect the Ford Focus Electric to a dedicated app that includes the ability for the owner to monitor and control vehicle charge settings, plan single- or multiple-stop journeys, locate charging stations, pre-heat or cool the car.