IoT and M2M – What is the difference?

by OMA | Friday, February 3, 2017

Posted by Elizabeth Rose

What is the difference between IoT (Internet of Things) and M2M (machine-to-machine)?  This is a question that members and staff at OMA have pondered for years.  Last week at our OMA Member face-to-face meeting in Vancouver, I collected answers.  The following blog post is a summary of what I found:


IoT vs. M2M:

Whether you use the term IoT or M2M to describe the fastest growing phenomenon in technology where everything from appliances to windmills to cars are able to digitally interact without human intervention, is probably a function of your job description or for which company you work.  But is there a differenct between M2M (machine-to-maching) and IoT (Internet of Things)?  I spoke with the technical team involved in specifying OMA’s LightweightM2M (LwM2M) last week.  This team includes individuals from device manufacturers, infrastructure suppliers, mobile operators, IT suppliers, and app developers.  I got a variety of answers, but it comes down to the following 3 points:

  1. M2M is a subset of IoT – This was the most common answer.  The Internet of Things implies a vast network of connected devices that may or may not include human interaction.  IoT includes interaction among things, people, the Internet and data.  Being part of the IoT increases a devices access beyond itself or a local newtork to a broader network via the Cloud. M2M, however, implies the connectivity between two points or devices.  It describes the concept of how two or more machines can communicate and carry out tasks without human intervention.  In other words, IoT is a noun denoting the vast network of Cloud connected devices while M2M is a adjective describing the technology connecting the IoT or an adverb describing how the devices in this network connect.
  2. M2M is a Telco term – Many of the OMA delegates said that the difference between M2M and IoT is that the term M2M was coined in the Mobile Telecom industry.  The term is public network focused and is often used to describe machine communication over the cellular network or some point-to-point communication.  Certianly that definition has evolved to include other types of networks such as sensors, but the origin of the term comes from the Telco operators and their suppliers.  IoT, on the other hand, assumes the availability of a network connection, but is focused on the interaction among devices and the data those interactions produce.
  3. IP vs. Non-IP – Traditionally, M2M has implied non-IP protocols all the way to the device, whereas IoT has implied IP or HTTP to the device.  However lines here are begging to blur as new M2M protocols such as OMA’s LightweightM2M are using HTTP-based CoAP from the Internet Engineering Task Force. 

 

So as you can see, even among a team of technology professionals at OMA’s Device Management Working Group who work every day to define M2M technologies and enable the IoT, there are still differences of opinion on the differences between the two terms.  If you are interested in learning more about the IoT enabling technologies that OMA is working on, see http://openmobilealliance.org/iot/lightweight-m2m-lwm2m/.

So leave us a comment and let us know what you think.  How are M2M and IoT different?  Or are they simply two terms for the same thing?

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