Differences between IoT and M2M

For many people, the terms “Internet of Things” (Iot) and “Machine to Machine” (M2M) are more or less interchangeable. Both of them  seem to relate to the way that devices in the real world are linked to the broader internet, and both involve wireless connectivity, sensors and data collection and analysis. So it’s easy to see why there is some confusion. However, if you unpack the two terms a little bit, some interesting differences emerge, which help to shed some light o what the IoT (and M2M) is all about. So, let’s have a look at what the 2 terms mean, and tease out some key points for makers to think about.

Defining the IoT and 2M2 systems

By “M2M” we simply mean systems that involve devices communicating with each other, usually via a wireless network. To achieve this, devices on the netowork tend to use embedded hardware components, which are specifically designed to interact  with each other, but have limited broader connectivity. In M2M systems, data collection is often limited as well, and generally won’t be made available to wider audiences, limiting the potential of society-wide M2M systems like health monitoring networks. Another common aspect if M2M-style installations is the they tend to use heavier, more cumbersome sensors. They use proprietary software and hardware that is set up for a single use, often un a single location, so they are marked by a lack of flexibility.

The “IoT” is similar in some respects. Most importantly, in the IoT, devices communicate with each other with wireless signals. But that similarity can mask some differences. For example, while M2M systems use embedded hardware, IoT systems will generally rely on IP addresses to connect devices together. And IoT based systems will also be hooked up to broader intranets (at least), and probably the wider internet. This allows IoT users to benefit form more in-depth data analysis tools, access a wider community of users, and generally be more flexible about how their systems are designed. Finally, IoT bases setups typically involve smaller sensors with Bluetooth technology. They don’t have to connect with specific hardware components, and can be much more agile and adaptable than M2M alternatives.

What does the IoT offers that M2M doesn’t?

So, given those differences, it’s clear that IoT architecture has some significant advantages. Flexibility is a crucial benefit. Because IoT sensors are smaller, and link up to a wider range of devices (such as laptops, payment terminals, smartphones, desktop PCs, routers, TVs, etc…) the potential for creating innovative new products and services is much greater. M2M remains a useful technology for industrial applications where security and physical resilience are priorities, but for applications line sensing temperatures i swimming pools or tracking the length of a runner’s stride across a 10 mile run, the IoT is more suitable.