IoT / M2M / IIoT : definitions

I thought it would be useful to clarify some widely used terms in the industry:

The Internet of Things:

Known as IoT, has been defined in Recommendation ITU-T Y.2060 (06/2012) as “a global infrastructure for the information society, enabling advanced services by interconnecting (physical and virtual) things based on existing and evolving interoperable information and communication technologies.” The Internet of Things (IoT) is very often also called machine-to-machine, machine-to-infrastructure, machine-to-environment, the Internet of Everything, the Internet of Intelligent Things, and Smart “something.”


Known as M2M, refers to the technologies that enable devices which exist on a network to exchange information and perform their prerequisite tasks without needing guidance or help from people. European Telecommunications Standards Institute defines it as follows: “M2M Communications: refer to physical telecommunication based interconnection for data exchange between two ETSI M2M compliant entities, like: device, gateways and network infrastructure.”

The Industrial Internet of Things:

Known as IIoT, refers to using the Internet of Things in the manufacturing process. National Instruments gives a good in-depth definition: “The IIoT can be characterized as a vast number of connected industrial systems that are communicating and coordinating their data analytics and actions to improve industrial performance and benefit society as a whole. Industrial systems that interface the digital world to the physical world through sensors and actuators that solve complex control problems are commonly known as cyber-physical systems. These systems are being combined with Big Analog Data solutions to gain deeper insight through data and analytics.”  IIOT is a subset of the IoT.

IoT = M2M rebranded and renewed

It is commonly believed that IoT is a new technology that is part of a new world of science fiction, or that it’s still far off in the undefined future. In fact, IoT is a buzzword that describes the rebranding of the existing machine-to-machine (M2M) market currently in existence in a more open, consistent ecosystem and global landscape of actors (manufacturers, software providers, system integrators, developers, etc.).

Current M2M manufacturers have been deploying programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and distributed control systems (DCS) since the 1990s and integrating Internet-connected systems for more than fifteen years. Although these M2M verticalized applications and systems were based on industry-standard protocols and architectures, they are not only challenging to design but also to maintain at a reasonable cost. IoT will enable horizontal system architectures, creating new rules around products such as: reliability, robustness, cost, simplicity of usage, set of features, maintenance, integration capabilities, and more, while at the same time addressing and solving vertical system architecture such as performance, availability, and traceability in a more open and cost-effective way


To understand where IoT comes from, we need to look back at least fifty years. In the history of the Internet and computing, there were three distinct and overlapping periods that resulted in a shift towards three types of businesses:
In the first period (1950–1980), companies used large mainframes with centralized computer centers and application software. These machines took up entire air-conditioned rooms and provided the most basic of computing resources. One of these machines alone—many company computer rooms had several—could cost upwards of a million dollars, and sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in addition to maintain. Processing was batched, and the results of the computations often were not available for hours or even days. Each of these computers served many people, sometimes whole departments or even whole companies. Employees who wanted to leverage the computing power of those mainframes had to bring their work to those centers, and the data was input to the machines via magnetic tape, punch cards and even paper tape.

In the second period (1980–2000), companies such as Cisco and 3com built the backbone of the Internet by installing routers, switches, and other networking equipment. During this time, these and other suppliers of the equipment built up the network so it became the dominant force in the marketplace. This period is all about PC-enabled systems and networks with software distributed
in both servers and client computers. The first desktop computers began appearing. These were relatively large boxes which sat on top of or beside a desk. Each person had one computer, and processing took anywhere from minutes to hours. These desktop computing systems generally cost from $1,000 to $3,000. However, this was a vast improvement over the computing resources available just a decade before. Employees had enough computing power on their computer to handle work from their location.

In the third period (2000–today), companies such as Google and Yahoo provide services that include search, email, and so forth. These companies grew much more quickly than those in the first period, and came to dominate their marketplace. Now that the infrastructures and tools were in place, large businesses such as Amazon could take hold and grow. The expansion of these companies and their digital revolution occurred even faster, in a matter of a few years. Smaller desktop units and laptops became more and more common. These were more mobile, and required access to a network to perform useful work. They were very fast, especially in comparison to older computers, and returned results in seconds or short minutes. Generally, each person uses one of these computers on their desk at their office, and they also have one in their home. This period is all about the Internet, virtualized computers, and global network enablement. Software is decoupled from the hardware. Employees can now work from anywhere and have access to nearly all connected information and connected computing power to handle their work.

Interestingly, if you look at the length of the waves—thirty, twenty, and sixteen years—the speed of innovation and the associated digital transformation of our society seems to be accelerating.

Very often the length of a digital and innovation wave (from first users to deployment everywhere) is more or less the lifetime of the equipment.

Machine-2-machine began in the second period and relied on the connectivity provided by the network. This really took off in the third wave, which has enabled huge transformations.

Robotics, for example, has directly benefited from the M2M digital transformation:

  • 2000–2010: The Open Source Robotics Foundation developed an open source robotic operating system that enabled various robotic technologies to be developed and tested. In 2004, DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) funded a competition to develop autonomous military vehicles, which allowed automobile manufacturers to become involved with military and civilian autonomous systems.
  • 2010 onward: As technology improves, robots are getting better at decision-making and becoming more autonomous. Machines are even beginning to possess visual perception and speech recognition, and are automating tasks that previously could only be performed by humans. In fact, DARPA and the military are funding projects to create autonomous drones for use in the air, in the sea, and on the land.

But why is IoT going to accelerate what we have been experiencing for the last fifteen years?


Freeing up data that was previously (and is still) inaccessible and enabling more intelligence in and outside the products and environment that surrounds us is, in fact, the real enabler and the first step to the next digital milestones.

Unleashing data will enable the connecting of everyone and everything in a seamless network, and the creation of knowledge and value around this uninterrupted flow of data. This will have increasingly dramatic effects on the lives of everyone on the planet.

Over the next decade, the IoT and related technologies will free human beings from doing routine and mundane tasks. This will enable them to focus on activities that are more fulfilling and involve more creativity.

Big data will be moving from an analog model to digital, which will require manufacturers to quickly change their business structure and channels to adapt. Analytics will then transform big data into knowledge, allowing more understanding and control, and then into intelligence.

The promise of IoT is immense—not as a technology, but in how it unleashes data and what it enables, such as:

  • Connected products
  • Connected services (preventive and corrective maintenance, for example)
  • Connected customers
  • Augmented reality
  • Virtual reality
  • Predictive analytics
  • Artificial intelligence and deep learning