The Beginner’s Guide To M2M Technology

M2M technology or machine-to-machine technology allows for devices to exchange information with one another through a communication system. There are several different ways in which M2M technology may be used: a common method is to have meters or sensors read and store data (details such as temperature, stocks, etc.) to transmit to a software program that can then interpret the information and use it to inform the next level of actions/ decisions (for instance, alerting management about undesirable onsite temperatures or restocking the inventory by calling for new supplies). In a nutshell, M2M technology allows devices linked via a network to communicate with one another, exchange information, analyze data and apply solutions without the need for human input.

The Origins Of M2M Technology

M2M systems were introduced in the early years of the 20th century when wired communication became a mainstream concept. As computer networks were developed, machine-to-machine systems advanced, eventually leading to cellular communications systems. Early M2M systems utilized a series of remotely-deployed machines which would communicate data to a central hub, where it would be evaluated and then transferred further to a machine like a personal computer, to be utilized or further applied by a person. Over time, the process has been modernized to utilize fewer machines and faster communications channels and with the advent of the Internet, ICT and TMT, this exchange has sped up considerably.

Modern day M2M technology traces its origins to the manufacturing industries where people first began to use remote control techniques and technologies to collect, monitor, analyze and apply data to run machinery. The goal, with much of modernization, was to minimize labor-intensive human input and maximize productivity and efficiency. Today, machine-to-machine technology is at the heart of a plethora of applications, ranging from automation and industrial engineering to SCADA and telemetry.

How M2M Technology Works

M2M technology essentially uses sensors to collect and record data, RFID systems to assign unique identities to the various components in an M2M network, Wi-Fi/cellular communications networks to transmit data to linked devices/ equipment and an autonomic computing software to interpret, analyze and apply the collected data. These software programs are typically designed to asses and categorize the analyzed data such that they can choose from preset program instructions and decide what instructions are to be given to the linked equipment and which actions must be enacted. The machines, devices and equipment linked to the M2M network are the end-level components of the M2M chain given that they are essentially data/instruction recipients that carry out the task.

A key characteristic that sets regular M2M networks apart from other remote monitoring and data collection systems is the fact that M2M systems typically function on public networks and access technologies such as Ethernet and cellular communications platforms. This makes M2M networks more affordable and accessible.

Telemetry is at the core of most machine-to-machine communication processes: it could be argued that telemetry is both an application and an aspect of M2M technology. Telemetry is best understood as the ‘language’ machines use to communicate with each other in a linked network. In the initial stages, telemetry involved using remote sensors to collect operational data and transmit the same to a central hub where it would typically be analyzed by human being, and at later stages, by computers. At first, telemetry used telephone lines to communicate information and with technological developments, radio waves became the medium of choice. Today, with the Internet in play and wireless technology revolutionizing just about every kind of device, program and system, telemetry has become infinitely faster, more cost-effective and usable. Its applications –and by extension, the applications of all kinds of M2M technology– now reach beyond the traditional engineering, manufacturing and sciences and can be observed in everyday life.

Applications of M2M Technology

Given that M2M technology can now be used not only for the industrial and scientific fields but also for all manner of personal devices in daily life, the applications of M2M technology are staggering. The universal growth of IP networks and Internet accessibility has facilitated a new generation of M2M communication that is faster, cheaper, requires less power and fewer components. Some applications of M2M networks are:

• Automotive: Building vehicles; enhanced in-vehicle applications and entertainment systems; remote owner-monitoring systems to track vehicle condition, location, charge; pre-cooling and heating functions; route-planning functions; identifying en-route fuel and charging stations; embedded in-vehicle secure Wi-Fi networks for travelers; and functions for smart cars and smart vehicles.
• Billing: Using smart meters to track usage, consumption, purchases to allow automated billing, payments and receipt systems, negating the need for human-manned stations. Especially useful for billing in large-scale setups such as industrial purchases.
• Fleet management & Logistics: Tracking, monitoring; deployment; maintenance, servicing & repairs; vehicle-driver ID details; and reviewing missing, damaged, compromised assets etc.
• Industrial & Manufacturing: Proactive monitoring and maintenance of equipment; repairs and servicing; tracking inventories; notifying distributors and stockists about low stocks; enhanced customer service through timely identification and intervention for problems; and speedier communication with all stakeholders.
• Remote Monitoring: Can be used across industries, sectors and applications wherever monitoring, tracking and timely action are vital.
• Robotics: Remote control of robotic equipment and machinery. A primary focal application would be the case for remote surgeries and medical procedures or the remote production of good and maintenance of assets across industries.
• Security: Real-time monitoring of assets; timely notification of potential/actual risks and threats; direct links with alarm and security systems; preset contingency instructions; and communication with approved security agencies/ forces/ authorities.
• Telemedicine: Tracking patients’ conditions in real-time; assigning prescriptions as needed; and monitoring healthcare resources.
• Traffic Control: Real-time communication between sensors, traffic signals and systems and on-road vehicles about conditions, risks, delays, congestion, traffic density, weather, emergency assistance etc.
• Utilities: Billing customers; monitoring worksite conditions; monitoring equipment; and conserving and harvesting energy resources.

Machine-to-machine technology has not only transformed the way the simplest and most complex equipment and processes work: it has also shown potential for identifying unique expansion opportunities and profit-increasing strategies for consumers and businesses alike. The potential of M2M networks and their applications in India is going to be one of the focus elements at the India Mobile Congress 2018. The international technology trade fair IMC 2018 is going to welcome Government officials, international delegations, national and international industry leaders and CEOs, investors and entrepreneurs, experts and enthusiasts.

Register for India Mobile Congress 2018.