Machine to machine (M2M) and the Internet of Things (IoT) are buzzwords that have been used interchangeably for quite a while, but lately, they’ve started to be defined differently. Essentially, experts now argue that M2M communications provides the connectivity needed to create the Internet of Things.
M2M communications has been around for a long time in remote monitoring and control applications in things like power grids, oil pipelines, heating and ventilating controls, and door entry systems. In these applications, sensors are monitored by remote computers, and actions can be taken automatically based on the data gathered. They may use IP for the communications protocol, or they might use one of a number of other proprietary protocols.
The IoT builds on these capabilities but takes them a step further. It uses M2M to connect large numbers of devices to Internet platforms that can apply powerful analytic tools to the data gathered. These insights are then made available to other applications. Protocol is not important. Instead, the emphasis is on pooling, combining, and analyzing the data to create new possibilities, new applications, and new business models.
There are a number of emerging open platforms that allow you to create IoT applications. For example, OpenRemote supports dozens of existing protocols and allows you to create smart devices and control them using Java. The Thing System will find all the smart devices in your house, including Nest thermostats, Pebble smart watches, Samsung air conditioners and Goji smart locks, and let you control them from one place. Freeboard lets you create your own dashboards for monitoring IoT deployments, and it's free if you make your dashboard public. At the other end of the scale, Qualcomm started Alljoyn, an open platform designed to make it easy to network consumer devices from Microsoft, LG, Qualcomm, Sharp, Panasonic, Cisco, Symantec, and many others. The Eclipse Foundation is developing an Open IoT stack for Java. Founded by Ericsson, HP, IBM, Intel, MontaVista Software, QNX, SAP and Serena Software, the foundation now has hundreds of members.
Clearly there are many issues around data security and privacy to be addressed, but these open platforms that create the Internet of Things are being hailed as the start of a new industrial revolution.