The Internet has changed the way we communicate and consume information, and with the connected world now comprising physical objects such as machinery and infrastructure, it is fast changing the way the world operates.
Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communications, also referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT), is altering existing business models and setting the stage for new players. Few companies want to be left out of what is shaping up to be a trillion dollar market with analysts predicting over 50 billion connections and diverse equipment, software and service opportunities which, according to McKinsey Global Institute, will create an economic impact of $2.7 to $6.2 trillion annually by 2025.
M2M is moving quickly, and in so many directions it can be hard to get a handle on exactly what it is and where it's going. Put simply, M2M is an exchange of data between a connected device and a central system that monitors or manages that device without human intervention. It allows machines to connect directly with each other to monitor their environment, report their status, automate processes, receive instructions and even take action.
Wireless M2M drives efficiency and productivity by allowing the mobile or remote assets of a business to be monitored and controlled from a central office. This is achieved by: capturing data from the object and transmitting the data over a network in real time using a wireless M2M router.
With the ability to observe the status and flow of goods or materials from the plant, farm or factory to the point of sale, management can prevent any number of potential problems, such as a bottleneck or equipment malfunction, and take prompt action to minimise disruption. M2M can also be used to gather data over a period of time to improve business processes, streamline logistics, predict maintenance requirements and manage the performance of machines and systems.
M2M is still in early stages of adoption, but it is relevant to virtually every sector and is expected to grow significantly over the next decade with estimates ranging from 50 billion to one trillion devices worldwide. It has a countless variety of uses, and the range of applications to which it can be applied is expanding daily. Electricity and water utilities are among the earliest adopters and represent the largest market size and continued growth with the double-digit growth of the last five years expected to reach approximately $26.7 billion by 2017.
A global survey of TechRepublic and ZDNet members reveals that 71 per cent say M2M is about developing new business opportunities and 69 per cent say improving existing processes/products are key decision drivers for M2M implementation. Topping the list of M2M uses today is energy, IT and transportation.
Another fast growing use for M2M is in the development of 'smart buildings' which generally refers to a building that uses M2M to control a variety of functions such as air conditioning, lighting, ventilation, water and safety equipment.
According to the latest Global Sustainability Perspective from Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), advances in smart building technology are enabling a new era of building energy savings, operational efficiency and improved capital planning, yielding a return on investment for building owners within one to two years. Companies worldwide invested $5.5 billion in intelligent building systems in 2012, and the number is expected to rise to $18.1 billion by 2017 — a 27.1 percent compound annual growth rate, according to IDC Energy Insights.
McKinsey Global Institute says the health care and manufacturing sectors are set to experience the largest economical impact with IoT across health care applications alone reaching $1.1 trillion to $2.5 trillion per year by 2025. As well taking pressure off hospital emergency resources, remote patient monitoring and management ensures a quicker response to health issues. Using sensors to read patient vital signs at home, medical practitioners can be alerted to potential problems such as an irregular heartbeat or low glucose levels; and data from medical equipment such as dialysis machines can be monitored remotely. McKinsey says treatment costs for chronic diseases constitute approximately 60 per cent of total health care spending, and the annual cost of these diseases in 2025 could reach $15.5 trillion globally. Remote monitoring is expected to reduce this cost by 10 - 20 per cent where applied.
M2M applications in the manufacturing industry are expected to produce productivity gains equivalent to 2.5 to 5 per cent. The total operating cost of global manufacturing, currently about $25 trillion per year, could reach more than $47 trillion by 2025 and considering the high demand for process optimisation in manufacturing, McKinsey expect that 80 to 100 per cent of all manufacturing could be using M2M applications by 2025. This would lead to a potential economic impact of $900 billion to $2.3 trillion per year by 2025.
Governments are also major adopters of M2M with smart grid and smart meter investments extending to traffic control, garbage collection, transport, water systems and security.
With the right technology in place, computers can retrieve data from virtually any physical object, allowing businesses and government to monitor and control the progress of people, assets and systems in areas such as utilities, waste handling, mining, construction, forestry, farming and retail.
The top technologies behind the widespread adoption of M2M include:
- Wireless networks. Data is cheaper to transmit and wireless networks are everywhere making it financially viable to transmit data from remote sites and multiple data points to a central location.
- Wireless M2M communications devices form the critical connection between wireless networks and sensors, meters and other devices to enable remote management and control.
- Open data communication protocols give developers the flexibility to create custom M2M applications for diverse business functions.
These technologies combined allow businesses of all sizes across diverse vertical industry sectors to deploy M2M solutions designed to cut costs, improve efficiencies and save energy.
NetComm Wireless develops highly adaptable and scalable technologies that sit 'on the edge' of M2M network infrastructure. These M2M devices are critical components, enabling devices to talk to each other over wireless networks; and rather than compete with infrastructure providers or telecommunications companies, NetComm Wireless partners with these and other providers in the M2M ecosystem to provide a complete M2M solution for any application.
 Joseph Bradley, Joel Barbier, and Doug Handler, Embracing the Internet of everything to capture your share of $14.4 trillion, Cisco Systems, February 12, 2013.
 Lucintel, “Growth Opportunities in US Smart Grid Market 2012–2017: Trends, Forecast, and Market Share Analysis.” Published June 2012.
 M2M: Hype or Transformative Tech survey
 McKinsey estimate based on current data from Canada, France, the United States, and the United Kingdom.
 Andrew Broderick and David Lindeman, “Scaling telehealth programs,” Case Studies in Telehealth Adoption, January 2013.