How Machine-to-Machine Communication Works

Applications of M2M Communications
Machine-to-machine communications can be used to monitor traffic in real time, like at this Los Angeles traffic center.
Machine-to-machine communications can be used to monitor traffic in real time, like at this Los Angeles traffic center.
© David McN ew/Getty Images

It's easy to see why machine-to-machine communications have so many applications. With better sensors, wireless networks and increased computing capability, deploying an M2M makes sense for many sectors.

Utility companies, for instance, use M2M communications, both in harvesting energy products, such as oil and gas, and in billing customers. In the field, remote sensors can detect important parameters at an oil drill site. The sensors can send information wirelessly to a computer with specific details about pressure, flow rates and temperatures or even fuel levels in on-site equipment. The computer can automatically adjust on-site equipment to maximize efficiency.

Traffic control is another dynamic environment that can benefit from M2M communications. In a typical system, sensors monitor variables such as traffic volume and speed. The sensors send this information to computers using specialized software that controls traffic-control devices, like lights and variable informational signs. Using the incoming data, the software manipulates the traffic control devices to maximize traffic flow. Researchers are studying ways to create M2M networks that monitor the status of infrastructure, such as bridges and highways [source: Southern Illinois University News].

Telemedicine offers another use. For instance, some heart patients wear special monitors that gather information about the way their heart is working. The data is sent to implanted devices that deliver a shock to correct an errant rhythm.

Business also can use M2M communications for tracking inventory and security. Late in 2007, M2M communications helped break up a heavy equipment theft ring. A rental company noticed sensors on its equipment showed the bulldozers were almost 100 miles from where they were supposed to be. Checking on other equipment rented the same day at different locations showed a similar trend, and the business used its M2M communications to disable the engines on the equipment and contacted law enforcement. Officers found that the company's equipment, along with a dozen other stolen pieces, were headed for the Mexican border.

Machine-to-machine communication appears to have a bright future. It's a flexible technology that uses common equipment in new ways. Every day, businesses, engineers, scientists, doctors and many others are finding new ways to use this new communications tool.

For more information about M2M communications and related topics, check out the links on the next page.

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