There is no commonly accepted, precise, unambiguous definition of the IoT, which is unfortunate: it comes, in my opinion, from the complexity and breadth of the concept as well as the difficulty of combining B2B and B2C since they are related but separate developments. This is one reason why the term becoming entangled with that of M2M: they tend to be used interchangeably and all too often vendors are rebranding M2M solutions as IoT.
Let’s keep things simple but not too simple. Most M2M applications monitor a single parameter coming from one device that transfers the data directly to a single application. IoT allows multiple device types, monitoring a variety of assets, to interact with each other and with a diverse range of applications and stakeholders. The IoT should therefore be seen as an evolutionary, complementary development. In a nutshell it does more, much more: IoT is a super-set of M2M.
OK. What about that concise, unambiguous definition? Let’s work back from that short statement about what IoT allows and see what has to be in place.
A key requirement is the need to decouple data generation from data usage. In M2M solutions they are physically linked. This is realized in a virtual architecture that employs the decoupled ICT architecture of enterprise environments and it is needed in order to allow data to be shared between apps, enable interaction, interoperability and resource sharing. These are mandatory parameters and unless they are enabled in an IoT solution it cannot deliver the vision.
So, are data generation and data usage decoupled? Then it’s IoT. If they are physically linked then its M2M. No more confusion, no pitfalls if you apply this acid test.
Decoupling allows IoT solutions to accommodate diverse, distributed unattended devices that are geographically dispersed and connect the different data types coming from various intelligent assets in the field to enterprise systems and manage everything through the solution’s life cycle. Moreover — this is another unambiguous differentiator — the architecture of IoT solutions is intrinsically flexible: assets can be amended and new assets can be incorporated at any time. There is no need to make changes to the infrastructure. Solutions are therefore future proofed: able to adapt to changing economic and business requirements.
Do you agree with my definition? You don’t? Either way I’d love to get your take on this subject.
The author of this blog is the independent M2M writer and analyst, Bob Emmerson.
He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org