The Importance of M2M in the IoT

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The Internet of Things (IoT) is bringing new networking challenges to the enterprise on a number of fronts. Not only is it driving the need for a new edge and real-time analysis to support myriad devices around the world, but it is also forcing organizations to pay more attention to how all of these “things” interact with one another.

Machine-to-machine (M2M) communications is emerging as a key component of both the IoT and the Industrial IoT (IIoT). According to Future Market Insights, M2M is a driving force behind the Internet of Everything (IoE), which includes connected machines, devices and connected people as well. The IoE industry is on pace to grow 16.4 percent per year for the remainder of the decade to top $7 billion in revenue. The field encompasses everything from intelligent sensors and RFID technology to cellular infrastructure and the connectivity platforms that link it all together using intelligent algorithms and high-speed networking and processing.

A key link in the M2M networking chain will be low-power wide area networks (LPWANs), a market expected to grow by 50 percent per year until 2021, says research house Technavio. Since most M2M and IoT applications will require limited costs and power consumption, LPWAN is an effective way to support both the steady data streams of machines like connected cars and the intermittent data requirements of less active tools like security systems or air conditioners. Most data rates will be very low but will require a network than can function over long range and support more individual traffic flows than today’s 2G, 3G and 4G mobile infrastructure.

The need to supply this level of connectivity to the enterprise is already drawing the attention of leading telcos and mobile providers. Nokia recently upgraded its IMPACT IoT platform with intelligent management systems and support for Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT), LoRa and other LPWAN protocols in order to capitalize on what is expected to be a significant growth market for the next decade. As well, the company has added a number of vertical industry options like smart parking and smart lighting to make it easy for municipalities and key business sectors to ramp up M2M connectivity without having to build the infrastructure and the management capacity from scratch.

Multiple business-to-business (B2B) firms are starting to see the power of M2M communications as well. FreeWave Technologies recently partnered with network management firm E2E Technologies to incorporate real-time monitoring and other functions into its WavePro wireless platform. The system is aimed primarily at rugged environmental conditions common to utilities, municipalities, oil and gas companies and the like. E2E’s Stingray network management system provides deep visibility into networked IT operations, particularly in areas where bandwidth is limited, and it can incorporate IIoT, M2M, SCADA and other functions within broader data management frameworks.

Enterprises that engage in M2M connectivity (which should include virtually every organization on the planet before too long) should realize that while much of this interactivity will go unseen and unnoticed by centralized management systems, there still must be a mechanism to capture and analyze critical operating data from across the device spectrum. In this way, M2M must be integrated with systems, data, application and a whole range of other management tools, which will by no means be an easy task.

By and large, the IoT will function on its own, but the enterprise will still need to ensure that its devices can connect and communicate with the surrounding world in a reliable manner.

Arthur Cole covers networking and the data center for Enterprise Networking Planet and IT Business Edge. He has served as editor of numerous publications covering everything from audio/video production and distribution, multimedia and the Internet to video gaming.

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