Last Updated on December 21, 2019
M2M is an acronym of the term Machine to Machine, which designates any system where machines communicate without human input, regardless of the device or communication medium.
More generally, M2M systems subscribe to an architecture that allows data to reach a hub from which decisions can be made in terms of supervision, management, control or to administer many types of equipment, mobile or stationary.
More and more machines rely on communication networks to interact over long distances, exchanging information to provide more technologically advanced services.
So, what is M2M architecture, exactly?
Let us take a look at some applications of M2M technologies to better understand why they are so useful before diving into how they work from a technical perspective.
M2M technologies: a wide array of applications
When wondering “what is M2M architecture?”, no amount of explanation sounds concrete until we are given some practical examples of M2M applications.
In everyday occurrences, the Internet of Things (IoT) is often more widely represented than M2M architectures. The main difference between the two concepts resides in how the data is transferred between machines and what this data is used for. An M2M device aims to serve a very specific purpose and constitutes a part of a well-defined whole.
In such systems, the information doesn’t ever leave the silo. With IoT, the information is gathered from an unlimited number of entry points and distributed to an unlimited number of endpoints, making the applications broader but also less secure. IoT is a less private but broader version of M2M.
“What can M2M do?” is perhaps even more relevant than “What is M2M architecture?” in a context where everyone needs to know exactly how technology applies to them directly. Home appliances are a good example to illustrate how machine to machine communication can make our lives so much easier.
M2M and IoT are the brilliant concepts behind Smart Homes: houses equipped with highly advanced automatic systems in control of lighting, temperature, multimedia functionalities, security, maintenance, and even groceries!
No longer does a fridge that orders your favorite beverage before you even run out belong to the realm of dreams. Because M2M communication happens in real-time, a machine connected to the Internet can automatically place an order.
The same goes for washing machines before they run out of washing powder, or for a coffee machine programmed to make fresh coffee for breakfast time without your input.
These particular uses may seem a little excessive to some, but they hold great promises for people with disabilities or for the elderly.
There are also more basic uses this system can lend itself to, such as a sprinkler system that only comes on when insufficient levels of moisture in the ground are registered or a security system that automatically calls the authorities when it detects an intruder.
Entertainment is one of IoT’s strongest suits. The technology is capable of switching your entertainment systems at a particular time so you can watch your favorite show.
The system’s interface can be accessed from a dedicated panel, a TV or home computer and even a smartphone thanks to long-range connectivity.
It is, therefore, possible to configure the various settings at any given time and, most important of all, the user can be the prime authority in the whole M2M architecture and access every functionality on demand.
Connected devices can also help to save energy by turning appliances on and off as efficiently as possible, particularly heating or air-conditioning systems.
Who has never forgotten to turn the heater off before heading to work or regretted doing so when coming home to a freezing house? Smart home systems can simply turn off these power greedy appliances when you leave and turn them back on just long enough before your return, so your home is always perfectly comfortable.
In the home of the future described above, smart meters contribute to the overall experience and allow the user to monitor their energy or water consumption highly effectively and perhaps to configure their smart home accordingly.
When a meter is connected to the Internet, it can not only give the user invaluable information, but it also constitutes an incredible asset for the energy or electricity provider.
No need to send a technician out for a simple reading: the meter sends the information straight to the company. This reduces the number of mistakes that come with manual meter reading and reporting and automatizes the issuing of power or water bills.
When fully integrated within an M2M architecture, a smart meter can send relevant data that will allow other connected devices to make decisions based on power consumption.
A smart home within a smart world
Naturally, the services an individual can expect from an M2M architecture go far beyond a home-bound experience. These capabilities take basic IoT to the next level and guarantee a flawless supply chain in many everyday interactions for end consumers.
Another place where m2m projects are particularly relevant is cities. Transport, for instance, can be facilitated thanks to the principles of M2M architecture. By simply carrying a smartphone, users can be granted access to public transportation based on their respective subscriptions.
They can also know at any given moment and in real-time when the next train or bus is due to arrive or how long it will take to get to their destination. Parking accounts for a large amount of traffic in any city, from people driving around until they can find a spot.
Thanks to M2M, a smart vehicle could receive relevant information and inform the driver of the closest suitable location, thus eliminating the need to keep driving until they finally find one.
Another example of consumer-friendly applications of M2M is connected vending machines. Vending machines may have completely taken over Japan, but they are not as widely used in the western world. The promises of M2M, however, are about to make vending machines much more relevant by turning them into smart corner shops.
With real-time data being sent to the warehouse on a constant basis, re-stocking is highly efficient. Additionally, users can interact with the machine from their smartphone and pick up their order at a later time, making automatic shops a very convenient option for those who work more unusual hours or for very remote locations.
M2M architecture: telecommunications at their most impressive
“What is M2M architecture?” is also a question that requires a few explanations as to how it works technically.
M2M and IoT are two systems that, while they have their differences, both operate in a similar fashion: by gathering data and by sending the appropriate information to another entity within the architecture.
In order to collect the data that will then be processed and allow the system to “make decisions”, the bottom part IoT and M2M architectures are made up of a network of connected sensors. In the case of M2M, these sensors send their information within a dedicated silo-type system, whereas IoT data has no distinct destination and can potentially be used by any object with an Internet connection.
What is M2M architecture data?
M2M sensors can gather information about ambient light, moisture levels, temperature, sound, elevation, pressure, but also magnetic or electric charges, movement, the position of people or objects and much, much more.
All the data collected by sensor-equipped machines then needs to be transferred to machines that will know how to read it, interpret it and act on it or to people who will find it useful, thanks to an appropriate piece of software that will translate it into a format a person can understand.
What is M2M architecture? Certainly nothing without an M2M network!
There exist several types of wired or wireless networking systems. For M2M, wired systems can be sufficient if data is collected and used within the same facility and privacy is of the essence. For broader uses, wireless communications are preferred.
For IoT, cellular communications can be a good option for a global Internet connection. Cellular networks include 2, 3, 4 and now 5G for long-range communication and NFC and Bluetooth for shorter range signals. For flawless coverage, wired Internet solutions such as ethernet are preferred, while Wi-Fi can provide an interesting middle ground.
The nature of the data and the type of architecture will determine the best networking solution to ensure adequate levels of efficiency and privacy.
Next time someone asks: “What is M2M architecture?” you will be in the know! This ever-growing technology is becoming more and more ubiquitous worldwide and even though most people don’t know it, they are actively using it every single day.
Every time you look at the weather app on your phone, you look up traffic conditions or you get a location-based notification, you are in fact using M2M and IoT in one form or another.
In as many important fields as health, safety, transport, manufacturing or even entertainment, M2M is here to stay and to give us a bright, technologically superior future to look forward to.