M2M and the Internet of Things: A guide

Summary:The Internet of Things will consist primarily of machines talking to one another, with computer-connected humans observing, analysing and acting upon the resulting 'big data' explosion. Here's how the next internet revolution is shaping up.

M2M uptake: who is using it, and who is next?

Machine-to-machine (M2M) technology is growing in importance — but which industries have already adopted it, which are likely to, and how big is the market?

Machine-to-machine communication is seen by technologists, analysts and major companies across the world as the next great tool to revolutionise business. However, predictions for the size of the market vary and uptake, so far, has been limited.

In 2004, BusinessWeek predicted that M2M would be a $180bn market by 2008. If you believed that, you'd have been disappointed by a 2007 report from The Economist putting it at around $35bn. By 2010 the market had climbed to $120bn, according to information from M2M specialist Machina Research — two years late and still $60bn off the original BusinessWeek projection. The latest Machina Research report predicts the M2M market will grow from $200bn in 2011 to $1.2 trillion in 2022:


Any advanced technology is prone to false starts and an excess of hype. Wildly optimistic predictions were made for Segway scooters, for example, but the mass market never materialised. Similarly, we've been told for years that fusion power, quantum computing, strong artificial intelligence, robotic cars and electric vehicles are just around the corner. Again, none of these technologies have yet fulfilled their promise.

M2M is certainly happening, but the market is fragmented into numerous verticals. Right now there are around 110 million M2M devices connected to the internet, according to Juniper Research. By 2017 this is expected to climb to 400 million. The numbers bandied about obviously depend on the definitions used, however: Machina Research, by contrast, puts the number of M2M connections at the end of 2011 at two billion, and expects this to grow to 18 billion by 2022.

M2M is the next ubiquitous technology. Get ready

According to Frost & Sullivan, the areas driving this growth will be the automotive industry, with new 'smart' cars; utility companies with smart grids; healthcare and security, along with home automation. Machina Research, meanwhile, puts the top growth-driving vertical markets in the following order: intelligent buildings, consumer electronics, utilities, automotive and healthcare.

According to Cisco, the next nine billion or so devices connected to the internet in 2020 will use M2M technologies. Many of these devices will be used to link the physical world to the internet via sensors that take readings from their local environment and output the information up into the cloud.

For this reason, the entire field is being forced to grapple with questions around data preservation, communication and integrity — and far earlier than other similar technology sectors have had to.

Estimates of the size of the M2M market and its likely growth vary, but the widespread influence that this technology will undoubtedly have is concentrating the minds of all kinds of companies. Those whose M2M strategies succeed will have as much sway over our lives as smartphone vendors and mobile operators do today. M2M is the next ubiquitous technology. Get ready.

Jack Clark

Topics: Big Data, Cloud, Networking, Innovation


Hello, I'm the Reviews Editor at ZDNet UK. My experience with computers started at London's Imperial College, where I studied Zoology and then Environmental Technology. This was sufficiently long ago (mid-1970s) that Fortran, IBM punched-card machines and mainframes were involved, followed by green-screen terminals and eventually the pers... Full Bio

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