What’s the Difference Between IoT and M2M?

Did you know that the search ‘What’s the difference between IoT and M2M?’ yields some 12,200,000 results? This question is commonly asked as searchers grapple between the two similar concepts and look to understand what exactly sets them apart. Read on to learn more about the similarities and distinctions between Machine to Machine (M2M) technology and the Internet of Things (IoT).

What is M2M?

Quick definition: The automatic communications between devices without any or with very little human intervention. It often refers to a system of remote sensors that is continuously transmitting data to a central system.

To simplify, M2M is where two or more machines directly communicate and exchange information to each other through either a wired or a wireless connection. This cellular communication works for embedded devices like Burkard’s innovative agricultural product which monitors airborne pathogen spores for M2M disease forecasting.

M2M systems use proprietary networks as well as 2G cellular transmission; however, 3G, 4G and LTE are also increasingly being utilised too. What’s important to note is that M2M devices don’t necessarily rely on internet connection making them perfect for objects like vending machines which cannot move and often are positioned in areas of low mobile network signal.

This predominantly hardware-based technology has similar goals to IoT, namely, to increase communications and automate the collection and distribution of information. The grey area prompting a high volume of internet searches roots from the fact that M2M has evolved and taken on a new name: IoT. More on that next.

What is IoT?

Quick definition: The interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data.

As we write this in 2020, some 21 billion connected devices are collecting data and performing tasks according to Gartner. Yes, you read that right: 21 billion.

IoT is, in short, a gigantic network of connected “things”. When we say “things” we are referring to unique hardware devices. Anything that can be connected from your toothbrush, your phone, right down to your lawnmower. IoT can be applied to any industry, any vertical and is enabling us to lead smarter lives.

It’s powered by wireless communications and cellular connectivity which allows multiple devices to communicate with each other at any one time. Sensors collect and communicate information and respond to changes in the device’s environment – all enabling in-depth data analysis and the ability to make better business decisions.

One main differentiation from IoT to M2M is that IoT is a software and hardware-based technology. Devices are activated by an embedded SIM soldered to the hardware and utilise software to retrieve and share data to cloud storage.

Vast amounts of data are collected in real-time and this information, in turn, can be accessed from multiple locations. IoT allows businesses access to rich insights which improve efficiency, process, time, money and responsiveness.

With the support of Eseye’s connectivity, Haltian realised the Lindström Group’s IoT vision. This leading textile rental service company wanted to provide outstanding washroom experiences and thanks to highly-available cellular connectivity their cleaners have 17% more-time, reduced steps by 30% and increased sales by 1.3%.

M2M and IoT differences explained

M2M means direct machine-to-machine communication. IoT means Internet of Things – a network of internet-connected devices able to sensor, collect and exchange information.
Created for businesses to connect with machines Evolved from M2M and created for both businesses and consumers
Hardware based Hardware and software-based
Usually wired connection Wireless connection
Does not require internet connection Requires internet connection
2+ machines communicating Network with thousands of devices communicating
Supports point-to-point communication Supports Cloud communication
Communicates through proprietary cellular or wired network Communicates on standards-based IP networks
Best for small-scale applications Easy to large-scale applications
M2M applications include vending machines, ATMs and smart meters IoT applications include smart cities, offices and homes, telehealth, connected cars and EV charging networks, wearables

Eseye harbours a wealth of knowledge on both M2M and IoT since its founders, Ian Marsden and Paul Marshall, delivered the world’s first ZigBee design in the 1990s – the wireless mesh network standard technology which you’ll find in battery-powered devices everywhere, including your TV remote. Today, Eseye is the leading global provider of M2M cellular connectivity for the Internet of Things (IoT) after inventing the intelligent multi-IMSI network switching as a service in 2007. Eseye has to date delivered services to over 2,000 customers and connected more than 2 million devices across 190 countries.

We hope this article has helped to explain the main differentiators between M2M and IoT. Both technologies are capable of powerful device-to-device communication, data harvesting and collection, yet differ deeply on how they are connected, deployed, and utilised. IoT stems from M2M’s foundation and emerged before the turn of the century in 1999. Despite being only a few decades old this ground-breaking innovation is transforming the way we live, delivering rich data and empowering us to make insight-driven decisions.

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