The IoT is a holistic and data centric improvement over M2M

Published by Jan Höller IoT General, IoT Connectivity Hub

We asked IoT expert, Jan Höller, Researcher at Ericsson and co-author of the book “From Machine-to-Machine to the Internet of Things: Introduction to a New Age of Intelligence”, to give us a comprehensive review on how M2M solutions are being adapted to an IoT world. His views of how M2M and IoT solutions combine sustainably and profitably provide insight based on his vast research on the topic.

Let me start differentiating two key industry terms: M2M and the IoT. The difference is rather straightforward. The term M2M has been around the industry for decades. When we talk about M2M we mean machine-to-machine communications. It has been traditionally a telco related service to solve a point problem. It refers to devices that connect in order to transfer or receive data. The world has relied on M2M to solve point problems, such as tracking where my asset is and how it is behaving or being handled. Basically, the asset is equipped with a device that can measure some interesting properties and do positioning. Since the device is connected, it can at certain intervals report the information to a backend for logging or monitoring, possibly also triggering a certain enterprise application.

The true innovation with M2M was that it made deploying devices through cheap connectivity possible – thanks to the drop in prices of components and especially mobile connectivity – thus putting viable M2M solutions in place.

On the other hand, the IoT takes into account the availability of endless devices, endless sensors at an affordable price, and cheap connectivity. IoT is more ambitious from a foundational point of view. It goes beyond solving a single problem and aims to solve more complex issues. IoT is fundamentally about data. What is the available data? How can I extract insight from this data? How can I automate a business process in my enterprise? So the focus is more around the raw data, access to this information, extracting insight and automating business processes. The innovation shifts away from connecting devices to insights and automation – in a sense devices and connectivity have been subordinate to a higher purpose. This is where the next key enabler for IoT comes in – the use of Machine Intelligence for extracting insights and achieve automation.

Another difference between M2M and the IoT is whereas M2M is a point solution to a point problem (i.e. you have one problem and one application) The IoT, on the other hand, allows for many to many relationships between applications and devices. The device is not tied to a single purpose. It is available for several purposes as long as you can process the data. The IoT device becomes a universal tool as it is untied to a single application. This works both ways. When I’m designing an IoT application, I can think “Which devices are out there that can be useful? Which can I rely on?” It is a richer solution, as it allows for combining and reusing data from devices already deployed for many different purposes. This combined array of data sources will provide much richer, much deeper insight and solve more complex problems.


Jan Höller
Principal Researcher at Ericsson Research