Technology, m2m, IoT, Comparisons

How M2M Differs from IoT & Why It Matters [vs Comparison]

Technology buzzwords can be confusing if you're starting out. Today, many people are discussing ‘IOT’ and ‘M2M’. More often than not, they use these terms interchangeably when in fact, they refer to different things.

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This blog post will discuss  the two technologies and compare them head-to-head so you can decide which one works better for your particular application.

Comparing IoT and M2M

The terms IoT and M2M are not interchangeable. These two technologies differ in many ways, making it vital to differentiate between them. While they may share the same end goal, to enable connectivity, they are different in how they go about achieving that goal.

Internet of Things (IoT) defines the network environment consisting of consumer and industrial products. It contains embedded electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity, enabling these objects to collect and exchange data.

Machine-to-Machine (M2M) messaging refers to the process by which remote devices communicate with one another. The devices often use specific information or terms located on a specifically-designed device attached to one particular marketplace.

IoT and M2M have leveraged digital technology to create new business models that are advancing today’s infrastructure.

What Is M2M?

M2M communication is the transfer of data (including instructions) between two or more devices without human intervention. These instructions may be exchanged through wired or wireless communication using an intelligent software agent.

Thus, equipment utilizing M2M innovation can communicate without the need for the Internet.

From ordering supplies and logistics to payments and delivery, M2M technology ensures seamless and effortless communication, especially in banking systems and facility management.

What Is IoT?

IoT is a set of technologies that enables a range of devices to be connected to other devices over the Internet. It builds on the principles of machine-to-machine communication and extends them dramatically.

The concept of using the Internet to connect objects has existed for almost two decades, but IoT represents a significant increase in overall communication speeds and networking capabilities.

IoT encompasses many different technologies, but it's best to think about it using mobile devices. For example, your phone can tell your car to turn on its lights because it has wireless connectivity with the car's Bluetooth system.

In the middle is a wifi symbol with arrows towards different devices with the Internet of Things title

Likewise, your smartwatch can communicate with your Fitbit device if it has Bluetooth 4.1 enabled, and beeps when you're close enough to an appointment with your doctor.

IoT features aren't necessarily tied to these specific platforms but can be applied to different types of devices regardless of their connection to the Internet.

For years, people have thought about IoT simply as the ‘Internet of things’.  To be clear: the Internet is merely a tiny component in the vast array of techno-components. Traditional IoT networks often suffer from high latency (slow response) and connectivity issues.

The cloud helps solve these problems by aggregating traffic and routing it to better paths. As a result, users enjoy improved performance and response time.

Key Differences between IoT & M2M

Key Difference #1: Definition

IoT stands for “Internet of Things” while M2M refers to “machine-to-machine communication”, essentially without human input. It's also vital to understand that M2M has been around longer than IoT. We could say that M2M only defines a subset of what IoT is about. As the possibilities of connected objects grew over time, so did the term “IoT”, surpassing it’s antecessor “M2M”:

Key Difference #2: Connectivity

M2M solutions require a direct connection between any two devices (point-to-point).

In comparison, an IoT system typically connects to a more extensive network that can give devices more power and sophistication (cloud-networking).

IoT relies more on connecting physical objects to the network, while M2M is primarily a devices cross-connecting platform.

IoT applications are designed to be closed systems that only interact with the designated hardware. With M2M, applications are designed to communicate with one another actively.

Key Difference #3: Components

The IoT is a network infrastructure by which advanced tools and sensors collect data from various sources to make your life easier.

In contrast, M2M networks primarily target single devices using short-range communication.

Key Difference #4: Scalability

The two networks also differ in their scalability. Since IoT is designed to connect "things," it's scaled with greater agility than M2M. This is because individual devices are often integrated into pre-existing systems.

M2M networks are normally designed for small-scale projects. They don't scale quickly and—since they lack Internet connectivity—can be challenging to integrate into existing systems.

Key Difference #5: Communication

Machine-to-machine (M2M) communication doesn't share data with applications. It just takes measurements and collects data. However, IoT devices collect data from multiple machines, apps, and systems to share with other methods for a more efficient overall experience.

Many devices connect to networks via cellular or cable connections. The data delivered is through a cloud-based intermediary layer.

Ubidots Plugins is the simplest way to connect apps and services to the Internet of Things. Plugins aim to help IoT integrators and entrepreneours into isolate data sources.

While an "Internet of Things" device has internet capabilities, M2M does not always need to be connected. This depends on the device and its usage (e.g., a refrigerator doesn’t  connect to the Internet because it doesn’t require it ).

In most circumstances, devices necessitate continuous internet access. That’s because they must adhere to the same communication protocols, and at the same time, integration choices are limited.

There are, however, endless integration possibilities, but you'll need a platform that can handle all of your communications.

Table comparing IoT and M2M

Make the Best of Both IoT & M2M

You might wonder what your current project requires—IoT or M2M. After the brief comparison between the two, let’s have a look at where you can apply these technologies.

Ramping up production

From healthcare to manufacturing, high-tech sensors and advanced IT solutions make the environment safer and more efficient. Economies of scale enable mass customization, while data collection from IoT vs. M2M devices enables productivity analysis for decision-making.

New manufacturing solutions are now on the horizon because of M2M and IoT; among them is an algorithmic process for predicting equipment failures based on sensor data collected from multiple interconnected devices.

Alerting these failures allows operators to more efficiently deal with production disruptions by identifying technical issues before they turn into significant losses.

Internet-connected smart objects may even order replacement parts regularly if they're advanced enough.

Home Equipment

Home equipment is the future of residential devices. Two-way connections in M2M help homeowners experience a better standard of living.

IoT-ready appliances, such as smart fridges and washing machines, could enable homeowners to monitor their possessions via a smartphone app remotely.

Different home equipment such as fridge, ac, laptop and so on connected to the Internet of Things

Management of Healthcare Tools

Healthcare is rapidly evolving, and it's more important than ever for physicians to be able to use  these  technologies to provide the best possible care.

IOT offers online documentation, after-hours of patient access, and better communications across departments, all of which will make it easier for physicians to deliver high-quality care while reducing costs.

The market for M2M technologies in the healthcare sector is expected to show stellar growth—especially in electronic medical equipment such as sensors embedded in diagnostic equipment, automated regulation of machinery, automatic medication dispensation, and many more; the possibilities are endless.

» FREE TRIAL: Launch Your IoT Application To Market in Less Than 30 Days with Ubidots Drag-n-Drop IoT Dashboards

Originally published Sep 2021

Frequently Asked Questions

What are IoT and M2M?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of computing devices and machines that relies on the internet to connect and communicate with each other. Some good examples include Smart grid technology, smart classrooms, intelligent street lighting, and otherwise known as intelligent technology.

Machine-to-Machine communication (M2M) is a process where machines instantly communicate without any human intervention. For example, vending machines transmitting inventory details and Automatic Teller Machines receiving permission to disburse cash are M2M connections in this scenario.

What is the difference and similarity between IoT and M2M networks?

The difference lies in their network architectures. While IoT networks are commonly used on the server or cell phone, M2M networks employ more on specialized devices. The network connects machines using wired or wireless systems using different protocols, in the case of M2M. However, IoT integrates devices with the cloud. When it comes to applications, it also allows devices to connect via IP networks instead of cellular or wired modes.

The similarity is that both M2M and IOT applications incorporate the ability to use wireless communication, and simulate an active human-to-machine model. The IoT technology base expands the M2M network technology based on the existing transmission, control, and power modules.

How does M2M relate to IoT?

They're both built to gather, store, and communicate information between devices with little to no human intervention.

While the two branches of IoT and M2M may be distinct in implementation, there's still a lot that unites them. New solutions—such as Coyote—integrate IoT and M2M, bringing every aspect of device management under a single umbrella.

And  the result? A seemless integration of  IoT and M2M device management is seen here.

Is IoT a subset of M2M?

It's common to hear IoT described as a subset of M2M, but it's more helpful to think of it as two separate layers. An old-school way to describe the relationship between machine-to-machine communication and the Internet of things is to lump them together under the blanket term M2M.

But it's more helpful to use a two-layer model in which M2M is represented by the lower layer of communication, known as machine-to-machine. In contrast, the top layer represents communication between machines and humans (IoT communication). The difference between "old school" M2M and IoT is that IoT is inherently designed for human interaction.

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About Cristina Botero

Every IoT project is different, and Cristi knows it. She’s in charge of prospecting new market opportunities enabled by IoT and working hand-in-hand with partners to make the projects come true.