Industry discussions on the industrial Internet of Things (IoT) and its potential benefits have raised numerous questions regarding distinctions between the IoT and its forerunner, machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. Remote device access is a core common deliverable for both solutions, so questions concerning how to distinguish between the two are understandable.
Commonality between the two solution types largely ends there; they differ in how they achieve remote device access. For example, traditional M2M solutions typically rely on point-to-point communications using embedded hardware modules and either cellular or wireline networks. In contrast, IoT solutions rely on IP-based networks to interface device data to a cloud or middleware platform.
The M2M market’s sustained inability to realize its forecast growth potential — and the reasons for that failure — provide telling indicators of the true differences between the IoT vs. M2M. While M2M solutions offer remote access to machine data, these data are traditionally targeted at point solutions in service management applications. Rarely, if ever, are the data integrated with enterprise applications to help improve overall business performance. Integration of device and sensor data with Big Data, analytics and other enterprise applications is a core concept behind the emerging IoT. This integration is key to achieving numerous benefits throughout the manufacturing enterprise and, ultimately, growth in the marketplace.
Differences in Supplier Landscape
Suppliers of M2M and IoT applications typically have different competencies. This directly affects users’ ability to generate the desired benefits from their remote device access solutions.
M2M supplier competencies tend to focus on the « plumbing » aspects mentioned earlier, particularly embedded hardware and cellular telecommunications networks. Many are starting to add cloud capability through internal development, acquisition or partnering. But for most M2M suppliers, this represents new terrain. IoT solution suppliers, on the other hand, tend to emphasize software capabilities and particularly enterprise integration. These are important distinctions.
Specify the Right Solution
The terms M2M and IoT have become synonymous in many quarters, but it is important to make sure you specify a solution that meets your current and anticipated needs. This involves recognizing up-front whether you seek a point solution for simple remote machine access, like in a service-management application, or look to drive incremental business benefits across the enterprise through use of analytics, Big Data and other software-oriented performance-improvement tools. Enterprise integration capabilities, scalability, software vs. hardware emphasis, and use of standard vs. proprietary device connections are key criteria that impact whether you have an IoT or M2M solution.
ARC recently launched a dedicated Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) Advisory Service designed to help manufacturers and other industrial organizations make sense of, evaluate, plan for and potentially implement emerging IoT technology and solutions.
Chantal Polsonetti is vice president, ARC Advisory Group. You can e-mail her at email@example.com.