Logistics companies track the route of a container on the high seas in real time via a web portal. A stolen solar module is traced to within ten meters anywhere in the world. A Munich-based service engineer controls a machine located in India. These examples begin to illustrate the significance of machine-to-machine communications, or M2M.
Experts define M2M as the automatic exchange of information either between objects such as machines, vehicles and containers among themselves or between these devices and a central control base. M2M simplifies workflows, streamlines processes, and makes it possible to develop completely new business models in many industry sectors, from the logistics, automotive, energy, healthcare and retail industries, all the way up to the public sector.
A wide range of potential applications
The technology's range of potential applications is practically unlimited. We are seeing cars in a car sharing pool that can transmit not just their current position but communicate their mileage and fuel level as well. Or smoke alarms that alert the fire department automatically when a fire breaks out. And the technology also raises levels of safety and comfort in private homes, with M2M solutions making themselves useful in remote medical monitoring and smart home management, to name just two examples.
From recording data to taking intelligent action
M2M combines information and communication technology. There are four key steps in any M2M solution:
- The collection of data by sensors.
- Transmission of the data to a central server via mobile or fixed network such as 5G, Narrow Band IoT or LTE-M.
- The analysis of the data.
- Activating of an appropriate intelligent response from machines, vehicles or containers.
For example, delicate goods don't deteriorate or become damaged in transport or storage, and don't get lost or arrive late at their destination. Haulage companies, for instance, can reduce such risks substantially through the use of M2M, thus earning themselves a clear advantage over rivals in an extremely competitive market.