M2M Communication is Spreading Thanks to 5G and the IoT

Imagine a world where machines have a mind of their own and can communicate with one another independently from human input. A world where machines are capable of learning from patterns, trends, and their own mistakes to improve moving forward. If it sounds like a movie plot, that’s because it has been, but it’s also the reality we are living in today.

Machine to machine (M2M) is where devices communicate with one another through either wired or wireless means. This can be as complex as a manufacturing plant’s automated assembly line piecing together components or as simple as the digital assistant in your home communicating with your smart thermostat to set your air conditioner to a preferred temperature.

These lines of communication occur within networks known as the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT devices use M2M communication with or without human input depending on the technology, settings, and function. Together, these powerful advances in technology continue to seep further into our lives and change the world around us. Understanding how these growing technologies work in our world can help us anticipate the future of communication.

Understanding the Relationship of IoT and M2M

M2M communication cannot exist without a key component: machines. Machines have been communicating with each other but thanks to the IoT, the idea of “machines” continues to evolve. The capacity of computing power that is now in the palms of our hands, on our wrists, and even over our eyes has continued to grow at a mind-boggling rate. As our government entities continue to build a more advanced infrastructure, companies are also investing in state-of-the-art machinery. Chipsets continue to shrink while improving their capabilities, and this is all to say that these factors and more are eroding at things once considered impossible.

Because of the advancements previously mentioned, it is opening the door to innovation and participation. There is a grand economy to be had in the M2M space through both software and hardware. After all, devices are necessary for tasks and communication, not humans. There have been many predictions as to how many devices the IoT will reach. In 2019, Norton predicted that there would be over 21 billion IoT devices by the year 2025. Seeing as there are already 21.5 billion IoT devices in the world that has a projection to rise to 125 billion by 2030, it’s clear to see that IoT devices are just getting started and blowing expectations out of the water. More devices mean more communication, and this is where 5G comes into play.

The IoT is Evolving Because of 5G

There are three main ways 5G is improving our networks, and they all directly tie into the challenges and opportunities of IoT devices:

  • Increased speeds are allowing devices to perform at a higher level and execute more complex tasks effectively.
  • Larger data capacity means there is more space on networks to support the influx of devices we are seeing.
  • Lower latency means that IoT devices can perform complex tasks in real-time and use M2M communication to adjust on the fly.

These features from 5G are game-changers because, now, devices can do more than ever before. But 5G’s features are also powering important technological advancements, which are being applied in both the IoT and M2M space:

5G Enabled FeatureHow It Enhances M2M and IoT
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)
AI and ML will enable IoT devices to learn, adapt, and overcome obstacles without needing humans to stop them to make the necessary adjustments.

Network Slicing
Network slicing provides users with end-to-end private 5G networks for specific uses. In the world of IoT, connecting via network slice to a 5G network means that it will connect to a network optimized for its specific function. Thus, performance and M2M communication are improved.

The three main benefits from 5G will allow for devices to conduct more complex tasks completely automated. As 5G continues to improve, so will automation, and in some cases, human interaction may not be necessary.

Today, there are four major wireless companies in the U.S. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon all have nationwide 5G networks. DISH Wireless continues to build its 5G network as it only began its wireless journey in 2020 and will already enter the Las Vegas market later in 2021. This is all to say that while 5G is still growing, deployments are well underway to support IoT devices.

M2M communication is important because it will be necessary to accomplish the tasks ahead of IoT devices. Consumers, entities, and government organizations will all benefit from and use IoT devices in different ways, with plenty of overlap. For example, in the not-so-distant future, consumers riding in an autonomous vehicle built by a factory of IoT devices will come to a complete stop while communicating with the city’s infrastructure that tells the car to do so at an intersection. There are tons of examples to explore, but they all show how the world continues to shrink and become more and more connected in ways that weren’t previously possible.

Security and Privacy Continue to Be a Concerns

More devices can mean more vulnerabilities. The more access points cyber threats have on a network, the more of a concern your security and privacy can be. M2M communication is transferring more data than ever which means that 5G networks must protect this data from those who wish to act in a harmful manner.

One interesting challenge in the IoT landscape is the rise of botnets, networks of computers that coordinate attacks on computers to disable them and steal their information. It’s one thing to have your identity stolen, and as bad as that experience can be, with IoT devices, things can turn disruptive and deadly. Automated vehicles being hacked as you ride is not an ideal situation to be in going 65 mph down a highway. As the government continues to find a solution to improving America’s cybersecurity, we’ve seen various high-profile cyber attacks that have disrupted things such as gas pipelines and meat supply. The future’s still bright but this is a legitimate issue that deserves the attention it is receiving from the wireless industry.

Another topic of discussion is the ethics of these devices and how M2M communicates in the wireless industry. There are sensitive consumer data, user agreements involving consent, and general safety issues to consider. Security and privacy are tall tasks but innovative solutions such as cloud-native features continue to solve such issues. 5G is allowing providers to better monitor their networks, automate protocols, and scale in a way that provides better control over security threats.

The M2M Economy is Increasing

Estimates show that by 2030, the M2M economy can reach over $1 trillion. This includes everything we’ve already explored, such as wearables, vehicles, and industrial machines but an aspect that is often overlooked is the ability for machines to submit and accept payments on their own.

Collaboration continues to grow in the 5G world. The more we can connect, the better we can work together. When you apply IoT devices, we begin to live in a world where companies can collaborate through automated processes and receive payment for their work on an automatic basis as well. This can improve workflow, speed up supply chains, and increase the speed at which companies receive their capital.

Digital currency is one thing, but the M2M economy is larger than fiat money. Thanks to blockchain technologies, cryptocurrencies, and NFTs, the way we access things and pay for them in the digital age continues to grow. The IoT space is as interesting as it is lucrative. There are sure to be plenty of advancements that everyone will benefit from as 5G continues to spread throughout the country.