IoT vs M2M – What is the difference?

A buzzing topic in the tech sphere and coupled with the development of 5G is IoT. According to Gartner this is only set to expand even more and will constitute over 26 billion connected units during 2020. However, a lot of confusion remains in how it actually differs from the predecessor M2M. This blog is therefore meant to tackle these terms, popular misconceptions and to make their essential differences clear.

IoT or “Internet of Things” is one of the most fast expanding phenomenas in the IT world. Something that has rapidly been integrated in our daily lives in everything form your cellphone, your car, or even or smart coffee machine. And by understand the difference between M2M, which is the underlying foundation for IoT, we can create a better understanding of what IoT is.

What is the definition?

M2M –  M2M means direct communication between units through wired or wireless connected communication channels. M2M therefore refers to the interaction between two or more units that are connected. These units collect data and share this amongst the connected units – which in itself creates an intelligent network of systems. This may for example include sensors or built-in systems. M2M is often prevalent in our homes in form of electronic devices that are controlled by bluetooth form your phone.

IoT –  IoT is a network of units with built in sensors, software and technique – that allows them to communicate and share data with each other over internet. This includes anything from mobile phones, washing machines, headsets, lights, etc. It may also include components of different machines, such as an engine in an aircraft.

The development of IoT is constantly evolving and coupled with the breakthrough of internet, a new rule of thumb has been established; what can be connected, will be connected. This may for example mean that your car will have access to your calendar, and already decide a route to your next meeting. And if you were to get stuck in traffic, your car will be able to send a notification that you’ll be late to other participants. Or imagine that your alarm wakes you up at 7 in the morning, and has already notified your coffee machine to have your first cup ready before then.

So what is the difference?

M2M first of all means “machine-to-machine communication” and derives from telemetry technique. The technique refers to the exchange of data between machines without human interaction. This technique was however founded before internet existed. This is what mainly sets IoT and M2M apart in which IoT utilises M2M technology coupled with internet, and is therefore able to offer more functionality. In addition, IoT not only allows communication between units, but can connect several different types of machines in order to deliver an interactive and integrated network spanning across entire environments.

To make it a little more clear; imagine a scenario where you receive a notification that you need to get your laundry out of the machine. This solution is built on M2M technology. But in order to send a notification to the rest of the family that the door hasn’t been opened yet, it would require IoT technology. This in essence means that IoT can be seen as M2M, but can act in a larger context.

Same same but different

With this in mind, the main and crucial difference can be boiled down to one word; scalability. M2M technique primarily saw its’ breakthrough with radio technology, but first saw big success with the development of GSM. But when internet came about, the technique was soon outdated which paved the way for IoT. This is mainly due to the fact that internet not only came to change how we work, but changed how we relate to technology in our daily lives. M2M also relied on mobile or landline networks, which could be fairly limiting. IoT on the other hand uses open IP-based networks to send and receive data in cloud based environments. This is mainly what makes IoT so incredibly scalable.

We can conclude that they are similar technologies in the fact that they offer solutions to collect, store and exchange data between units without human interactions. It may be true that IoT is based on M2M solutions, but it’s important to note that IoT is an essential improvement in innovation in everything from daily lives, companies as well as entire societies.


By Sofia Svantesson
Brand Marketing Manager
Unified business communication and collaboration is key to streamline workflow.

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