Tuesday, September 7, 2021

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In today's IT world, two different approaches to connected devices are making headlines. The internet of things (IoT), a much broader term for a new reality in which nearly everything we use has a chip inside it connecting it to the global internet, and machine-to-machine (M2M) processes, which focuses on connecting manufacturing devices and equipment in a physical production space.


Because of its vast, nearly infinite set of applications, the internet of things is obviously much more attention-grabbing and popular. Machine-to-machine technology is still primarily discussed in trade journals and in meeting rooms where executives discuss ways to improve industry processes. (Read 10 Steps to Strengthen Your IoT Security for more information on IoT security.)


With that in mind, there are some key similarities and differences between M2M and IoT. Both will play important roles in the future development of device connectivity services. They will all have an impact on the development of mobile apps, the ubiquitous carriers of wireless functionality.


What is Machine-to-Machine (M2M) and how will it affect mobile apps?


Machine-to-machine communications is based on the concept of making manufacturing processes and assemblies smarter by doing more with the machines and equipment that assist in production or monitoring on an assembly line or elsewhere in industry.


This method of industrial control has been around for a while, and while it has seen a lot of innovation, it still lags behind what the internet of things is doing in many ways, simply because its applications are limited.


"While it's unclear who coined the term, the origins of M2M communication can be traced back to the early 1970s, when Theodore Paraskevakos invented and patented "an apparatus for use in a telephone system" that "automatically transmits information from a calling telephone to a called telephone," writes Brian Ray of LinkLabs. "To put it another way, Paraskevakos was the first to invent Caller ID."


Rather than sending along bits of internet-connected data, machine to machine has been seen to use the network's control plane, where routing tables and other tools address network topology. In industry, this is demonstrated by the use of programmable logic controllers, or PLCs.


So, how does this affect mobile applications? M2M will be a guiding design metric for all of those apps that have users tapping, typing, and texting equipment, facilities, or environmental controls in industrial settings. M2M will almost certainly apply if you have a clean room app that requires blowers, heaters, and other equipment to work in unison.


What Is IoT and How Will It Affect Mobile Apps?


Although IoT is newer, there is a significant difference between M2M and IoT connectivity. The internet of things is powered by the data plane of a network's connected global internet over IP protocols. (Learn more about working with the Internet of Things in Job Role: IoT Solutions Architect.)


It's more difficult to describe how the Internet of Things works as a whole. The term "internet of things" is a bit of a misnomer. What is the internet of things, and how does it work? Some people mention OEM manufacturers and how they want to build internet connectivity into their products. Consider how smart your refrigerator, smartwatch, smart toaster, and smart dishwasher are. Consider your Fitbit and all of the other wearables that are connected to the Internet of Things.


The vast majority of these IoT devices have nothing to do with industrial or manufacturing processes. They're either consumer goods or items that aid in government or corporate administration. So, while machine-to-machine technologies connect machines that make machines, the Internet of Things connects the products of those assembly lines and, in general, creates a more connected world.


In terms of consumer mobile apps, the Internet

 of Things will assist us in unlocking tremendous power. All of these apps that previously only worked on smartphones will now be able to connect to smart refrigerators, dishwashers, and other appliances. As a result of this massive innovation, "seamless device following" will be possible, in which data tracks a user's physical movement to provide more personalised results.


What Does the Future Hold for M2M and IoT?


We can anticipate that both M2M and IoT will continue to evolve in the future. We can also anticipate M2M moving toward an IoT model, which will increase the versatility of these systems.


Traditionally, M2M systems were not frequently connected to the internet. They were very isolated and walled off from the global internet, and as a result, they were somewhat ossified. Companies can talk about security concerns, but as we see all of these other processes moving toward the global internet, there's really no reason why M2M wouldn't go along.


There's another key trend that we're likely to see, particularly in M2M technologies. That's the decoupling of the control plane from the data plane by utilizing software-defined networking approaches. Software-defined networking takes the control from the hardware and puts it in a software component on its own, so that the networks of the future can operate with more transparency and flexibility.


For instance, think about a wastewater treatment plant that uses specific M2M workflows from a proprietary vendor to manage grinder pumps, treatment stations and all sorts of other equipment and assemblies. The plant operators may be happy with their M2M infrastructure – but as time goes on, public planners will evaluate what's available and probably gravitate toward an IoT model that makes it easier to come in and change equipment processes as needed. If, on the other hand, a company sticks with specific M2M technologies, those technologies will get smarter and more automated to allow machines to do more. With sensor fusion and either modern M2M or IoT, new factory machines will be able to spot defects in products. They'll be able to move items according to very specific needs. They'll probably be able to manage inventories and even control facilities environments in very particular ways, all without human intervention. Our machines are getting smarter – and how we handle that evolution will be a defining characteristic of tomorrow's business world.


Again, M2M and IoT will both inform mobile apps, in their respective ways. M2M will move the mobile app in enterprise facilities use cases, and IoT will move it in most consumer-facing cases. Look for both of these trends to happen rather quickly as new connective technologies come online.

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