How Machine-to-Machine Communication Works

How M2M Works

Municipal water plants often rely on machine-to-machine communications.
Municipal water plants often rely on machine-to-machine communications.
© Jose Luis Roca/AFP/Getty Images

Making a machine-to-machine communications system work is a step-by-step process. The main elements involved are sensors (usually the kind that can send telemetry wirelessly), a wireless network and a computer connected to the Internet.

Let's take the case of a water treatment facility. City engineers are charged with supplying the community with fresh drinking water. They need to monitor the raw water supply, the treatment process and the end product, which is drinkable water.

First, the engineers would place sensors in strategic locations. This includes placing sensors that can detect contaminants near or around the raw water supply, such as a lake or river, as well as near the water plants main intakes. They also would place sensors at various stages of the treatment process and more sensors on the plant's outflow pipes, which supply the treated water to the community.

These sensors will send real-time data to a wireless network, which connects to the Internet. Engineers then monitor this incoming streaming data using computers loaded with specialized software.

The data from the lake sensors might tell them, for instance, that a plume of oil has appeared in the lake, perhaps from a spill. The engineers might then switch to a different intake location to avoid pulling the contaminated water into the treatment plant.

Data from the treatment plant will give information about the water's condition as it enters the process. For instance, some communities experience high levels of chemical runoff during certain times of the year, causing engineers to use special processes to purify the water at those times. If the sensors detect that, it can alert engineers to treat the water for that issue. By only using that treatment process when needed, however, it saves the city money.

Finally, engineers can monitor the outflow water to ensure their treatment process is indeed resulting in high quality drinking water for the community.

Check out the next page to learn about other applications for M2M communications.