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While many understand the general principle, it’s increasingly common for IoT to be used incorrectly and describe a different type of technology, that of M2M.

To help you understand the difference between the Internet of Things (IoT) and machine-to-machine (M2M) technologies, let me explain how IFS enables better dinner parties.

For starters

Once you’d RSVP’d to attend a dinner party 20 years ago, you used to be able to smile and nod politely to those who overused the terms B2B, B2C, FYI, and ASAP in relation to their everyday lives.

Nowadays, one is faced with a minefield of abbreviations which we need to dissect, understand what industry they refer to, and how they work. One can no longer escape further questioning with a polite head nod.

As the consumerization of IT has filtered into the workplace, we’re now contending with terms such as IoT, M2M, BYOD, SMS, and SaaS. Who would have thought that an ERP(!) company would provide some assistance and diffuse what it considers one of the most prevalent – IoT.

While many understand the general principle, it’s increasingly common for IoT to be used incorrectly and describe a different type of technology, that of M2M.

You talking to me?

While the differences might be subtle, the core principles differ greatly.

The key premise is a simple one: who is the machine talking to? If a machine is talking to another machine or system, then this falls out of the IoT remit, yet is often accredited to it regardless. IoT focuses on interactions where humans are involved – a detail which many either forget or are unaware of.

Connected street lights

A simple example of IoT is one already widely implemented. Connected streetlights contain sensors that inform service engineers when the bulb isn’t working, therefore, enabling a crew to be dispatched to fix the bulb.

This falls squarely into the IoT category due to the necessary human interaction, but the M2M aspect ensures that crews can schedule their work around information being fed to them from the streetlights themselves, making their schedules more efficient and cost effective.

Information is provided by the lights in an intelligent and effective way.

Technology and processes might have moved on since the days of Henry Ford, but the most important manufacturing question still remains the same – what can we do to make this more efficient?

While humans have been perfecting manufacturing over the years, there’s an upper limit to what humans are capable of doing. This is where M2M comes into its own. By communicating data to another machine quicker than any human can, it enables machines to work faster and more effectively, helping to improve operations.

In the past, the communication of data relied upon sprawling jungles of cables and wires, tying down devices both metaphorically and physically. Now, in a world where Wi-Fi and OPC-led standards are the norms, devices can communicate and interoperate with near perfect ease.

Is produce from the local market economical?

While the above might sound like a gimmicky sound bite, the practical implementations are far from it.

In today’s globally intertwined market, gone are the days that all trade is kept within local markets. If a business uses a specific machine to make its products, a machine which is produced over 6,000 miles and half a world away, what happens when that machine breaks down? Do they accept the resultant downtime as a mere ‘inconvenience’? Or are the consequences far more severe?

By incorporating M2M into a business model, an organisation’s machines can report their status across the world in less than a second. This saves time and the theoretical cost of sending an engineer to inspect the machine.

IoT can also be leveraged to automatically contact the business and pre-emptively offer a replacement component before intervention is even required.

Fancy a top-up?

It’s clear that IoT and mobility go hand in hand.

Smart world

As humans, we have developed a daily thirst for information, it’s what drives us. We don’t just want constant access to information, we need it. No matter the reason, place, topic or time, as a society we expect the information now.

By providing a better service to its customers, and therefore improving margins, entire lines of business will benefit. Simply put – this is a no brainer.

However, some businesses are still hesitant when it comes to embracing this trend. Many still see it as a fad, a craze soon to burn itself out, and expire. The key thing is to ask yourself – if the management team knew and fully understood the real world benefits that the technology brings… would you even be able to see the back of the queue that they’d form?

Furthermore, do you feel brave enough to raise this point around your dinner table?


First published by The Manufacturer on April 21, 2015. Republished with permission. Image at top via August Smart-Lock.

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