To achieve industry potential M2M standards must evolve

With millions of connected cars, devices and meters, M2M now accounts for one in ten mobile connections in the US. By 2020 the GSMA anticipates M2M will account for at least 10% of the global mobile market, but stakeholders must define interoperability standards to realise the potential of the new frontier.

“To fully unlock the M2M market opportunity for both consumers and businesses, we need industry-wide collaboration to address the current fragmented marketplace and to drive economies of scale and global interoperability,” said Hyunmi Yang, Chief Strategy Officer at the GSMA.

Interoperable on demand

In theory anyone using an M2M device should be able to trust it will work whichever country, continent or network they happen to be on. You also must be able to migrate M2M devices between operators.

What makes this challenging is the existence of numerous component-level standards (radio interfaces, meshed or routed networking solutions, and multiple identity schemes).  Many are for specific uses and won’t always work well with others.

Delivery of effective M2M industry standards isn’t just about connectivity – it extends to business intelligence systems.


Vehicle fleet managers will need to import M2M data into existing business intelligence systems.

M2M traffic carriers need the capacity to monitor traffic for billing systems.

The data gathered has to be made available in formats that can be shifted between big data analysis systems.

Writing for Machina Research William Webb, Weightless SIG CEO, says: “Currently, what has been termed the Internet of Things is a jumble of open and proprietary standards, with a lot of vertical and horizontal silos. Realistically, to move from this ‘Internet of Silos’ to the Internet of Things is going to require standardisation.”

Ignoring the internationalization challenge in which different countries champion different networking standards, M2M solutions are incredibly diversified. They already span smart homes, grids, buildings, health and transportation. Each industry has its own standards.

Some of the standards used in M2M today include:

6LowPAN, AllJoyn, BACnet, Bluetooth (including Bluetooth Low Energy), cellular (including GSM/GPRS, W-CDMA, LTE), CoAP, Continua Health Alliance, DECT ULE, Eclipse Foundation, EnOcean, FI-WARE, GENIVI, HyperCat, LonWorks, M-Bus, MirrorLink, MQTT, OMA LightweightM2M, OneM2M, Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC), REST, Urban OS, Weightless, Wi-Fi, and Zigbee (and 802.15.4).

Making sense from all this means “The development of standards is going to be critical for the Internet of Things to reach its huge potential,” said Machina Research director, Matt Hatton.


Meanwhile despite this need, the M2M industry continues to grow rapidly as inventive firms identify their own way to manage the maze.

The GSMA, OMA, ITU and others in the industry recognize M2M solutions must be ubiquitously available, accessible and geographically identifiable.

“We can think of standards like languages, where each market has a unique way of functioning, and naturally needs to speak a different language. While standards are important, some will be more applicable while others can be thrown out based on the markets in which they are functioning.  What is far more important than standards is doing things in a standard way,” writes James Brehm analyst, Kathryn Lawhon.


That we’re seeking to make sense of multiple standards from so many sectors suggests the future disruptive effect of M2M. The number of sectors implicated in the standards setting process suggests M2M isn’t just going to be an Internet of Things, but an Internet of Everything

Jon Evans

Jon Evans is a highly experienced technology journalist and editor. He has been writing for a living since 1994. These days you might read his daily regular Computerworld AppleHolic and opinion columns. Jon is also technology editor for men's interest magazine, Calibre Quarterly, and news editor for MacFormat magazine, which is the biggest UK Mac title. He's really interested in the impact of technology on the creative spark at the heart of the human experience. In 2010 he won an American Society of Business Publication Editors (Azbee) Award for his work at Computerworld.