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October 04, 2010

M2M: What's in a Name?

By Bob Emmerson, TMC European Editor

M2M isn’t a term that is well known outside the industry; moreover it’s confusing. The first “M” used to be a machine on a factory floor, but nowadays it’s usually a device or a moving part, and the second “M” is a computer system. By the time you go through an explanation along these lines the other party will probably have lost interest. And that could be the reason why the majority of M2M vendors don’t use the term. 

A popular alternative is “The Internet of Things”. It has a nice marketing ring and I’ve used it in the past and may do again, but what are those “Things”. PCs connect to the Net but they are not part of a M2M value chain. And our hypothetical “other party” will get seriously bored if you start itemizing the various links. Moreover, in most cases traffic flows over a secure VPN, not the unsecure public Net.

The only thing that really matters to the market is the applications and they can all be positioned under this umbrella term because devices and parts are “things”. We’re simply talking about the ability to monitor and manage billions of devices. That’s the technology: the foundation on which a plethora of business and consumer applications are being created. The market doesn’t need to know more. Do you care about the way that cellular telephony works? Do you wonder how the network finds you in a few seconds, even when you’re on another continent? 

A smart meter is a thing that allows utilities to monitor usage and better manage value resources. Various healthcare products are things that monitor patients in their home and inform doctors and clinicians when there is a problem. The Internet Protocol (IP) is used to communicate the device data that applications convert into information. That isn’t a difficult concept to establish.

So why not go with the flow? The Internet of Things is a meaningful marketing term that encompasses the breadth and depth of the concept. My take-home messages are these: use M2M for convenience inside the industry; market under the umbrella term if necessary; but focus on the apps and the benefits. The ability to save energy, to manage fleets and provide mobile healthcare are great apps. The fact that they share common components and technologies is of little to no interest to the wider world.

For more, check out the M2M Evolution Conference, happening Oct. 4 to 6 in Los Angeles and collocated with ITEXPO (News - Alert) West 2010.  The M2M Evolution Conference is focusing on how telemetry has been changing to take advantage of the Internet, where WAN and LAN systems were points of aggregation in the past today’s machines benefit from the ability to connect worldwide. And as the machines continue to look to network the wireless world represents a large growth opportunity for data communication

Bob Emmerson is TMC's (News - Alert) European Editor. To stay abreast of the latest news affecting the European market, check out Bob's columnist page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi


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