M2M communication: Changing the society one bit at a time

“M2M” seems to be an odd abbreviation, but we see it everywhere today. What in the world does it mean? Well, M2M stands for machine-to-machine communication and that’s exactly what it is too. This technology is all about two machines communicating with each other without the need for a human interface. This M2M technology entails not just devices and machines that send and receive information, but also the applications that translate this data into meaningful insights that benefit the end user. This information exchange between two machines can happen through any network — WAN/LAN, Internet, and even mobile networks.

Due to the nature of M2M and the flexibility it offers for end users, there are a whole lot of things you can do with it. Before going into how M2M is changing our society, let’s take a brief look at how this technology works in the first place.

How M2M works?

The heart of M2M comprises three things — sensors, wireless network, and analysis software. The sensors are the beginning point of M2M as it is responsible for collecting the necessary data. Of course, humans get to decide where the sensors should be placed and what it should measure. These sensors collect the pertinent data and send it over a wireless network, most likely the Internet. This information gathered from multiple sensors is sent to a software tool that analyzes them and gives meaningful insights about the performance of a particular machine/appliance or even an ecosystem as a whole. It can even help to measure specific metrics within a system. It all depends on what you want to do with it. The process sounds fairly simple, right? But the applications are boundless. Let’s take a look at a few areas where M2M can be effectively implemented.

Applications of M2M

There is no limit to how M2M can be applied to make our lives better and more productive. Here are some implementations of this technology.

Water treatment plants

City engineers have the arduous task of supplying water to all the residents in a city. One of the first things they should do is check the quality of raw water to determine the process needed to make it drinkable.

As a first step, these engineers would place sensors in strategic locations to collect information about the quality of water, the number of contaminants present near its source and more. Next, they can place sensors around the water plants to determine if it is removing all the contaminants and whether the treatment process is executing the way it should. Lastly, city engineers can keep a few sensors on the output area to check the quality of water being pumped to residents.

As you can see, these sensors will send information to a computer through the Internet and a person or a team sitting in the office can monitor if everything is working fine.

The benefits that come from using these sensors are:

  • Reduces the number of employees needed to monitor water quality.
  • No possibility for human errors.
  • Remote monitoring reduces the possibility of inefficiencies or accidents, especially in poor weather conditions.

Monitoring the usage of utilities

Utility companies use M2M technology to monitor the power consumption of each user, so the billing is more efficient. Also, it becomes easy for utility companies to ensure that power is not wasted during transmission.

The emerging idea of smart grids is based on M2M technology where sensors kept at different strategic locations send information about the performance of the transmission system, so engineers can make the necessary adjustments to improve efficiency. Also, it reduces the possibility of frauds.

In addition, M2M also helps utility companies to identify deeper sources of oil and gas and extract the same at a higher rate of efficiency.

Traffic control

A common application of M2M is traffic control. Sensors are placed near traffic lights to gather information about the speed of vehicles and the amount of traffic. This information is sent for analysis and based on the information, traffic lights can operate more efficiently.

This also helps to streamline traffic control and reduces the possibility of traffic snarls and pile-ups.

Telemedicine

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One area where M2M is used extensively is telemedicine. In this field, monitors are kept on patients to collect details concerning the working of the different parts of their body. This information is sent through the Internet to the doctor’s mobile app and based on it, the doctor could prescribe specific medicines or treatment.

Though this method of treatment is highly prevalent among heart patients, it is picking up in patients with other conditions too because it offers a wide range of benefits. With the emergence of telemedicine in a big way, patients can have access to the best health-care specialists and timely treatment regardless of geographical barriers.

Security in homes and businesses

A popular application of M2M is security in homes and businesses. Sensors are placed at the entrance and other places around the premise to capture any movement. A computer system identifies the person or object that triggered the movement and sends an alert accordingly.

Efficient handling of inventory

According to the National Retail Federation, companies lose an average of $17.50 in poor inventory management for every $100 of sales and about 25 percent of this is due to administrative, paperwork, and vendor errors.

To reduce this loss, businesses are increasingly turning to M2M as a way to streamline their inventory and to improve the efficiency of handling. In addition, it helps to identify frauds as well. There are many instances where heavy equipment is stolen by theft rings and sold to vendors in other states at cheaper rates. It usually takes a few months to a few years for the owners to notice the problem and for the law enforcement to identify and arrest the fraudsters. M2M is likely to reduce the number of such thefts because a business owner can track the exact position of a piece of inventory until it is sold to the customer.

Banking

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In today’s world, we use smartphones to do a whole lot of things including banking. It is common to check balances, transfer funds, and make payments for purchases through a mobile app. These transactions are immediately sent to the central bank’s server and are updated in your account.

From a bank’s perspective, M2M helps to monitor the cash available in different ATMs and maybe can even help to fix any technical issue.

Smarthome appliances

Manufacturers like LG and Samsung are coming up with smarthome equipment based on M2M technology. These pieces of equipment can send alerts to owners about their performance and other metrics. For example, a smart washing machine can send a message when it is done with the washing cycle or a smart refrigerator can directly order items on Amazon when it is low on staples such as milk. You can even control the working of a thermostat through a mobile app, so your home is at a comfortable temperature when you come back from work.

The options are endless, it is up to your imagination and that of the manufacturers of household equipment to come up with ingenious ways to make life more convenient for everyone.

Manufacturing

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No discussion of M2M is complete without talking about its impact on manufacturing. The emergence of smart industry or Industry 4.0 is likely to give a big impetus to M2M as this is the fundamental technology driving the new wave of this industrial revolution. In smart factories, machines communicate with each other and send the necessary details with respect to performance, predictive maintenance, and more to the final end-user. It can even send alerts to smartphones when certain thresholds are breached. With state-of-the-art sensors and the clear move towards smart factories, M2M undoubtedly has a bigger role to play in this sector.

M2M: Limitless potential

Now that you have an idea of what M2M can do for your business, how do you plan to tap into its potential? Do share your creative ideas and thoughts with our readers through the comments section.

Featured image: Freerange Stock

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