M2M and IIoT: Connecting Machines in the Midmarket Manufacturing Industry

Manufacturing companies today are all focusing on machine-to-machine (M2M) communication and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) in some way. But how is M2M different from IIoT? What do companies need to do to keep their businesses secure? And how can they benefit from these technologies?

The advantages of M2M and IoT are similar: Companies that use tech to facilitate data exchange can save money, improve their operational processes, offer new services, and create new business models.

Although the two technologies are distinct, the differences between them are blurring.

Are M2M and IoT the Same?

M2M and IoT both facilitate information sharing by connecting machines, equipment, robots, and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. This minimizes unplanned downtimes, improves services, and increases productivity. But M2M hardwires the machines, which has been standard practice in the manufacturing industry for years. Usually, the machines are fitted with microcontrollers that enable them to share data with other machines and the control center. They are connected using either a cellular network, a Wi-Fi network, or cables, and transfer the information using a specific communications protocol.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a structure that connects all types of recognizable device. IoT is primarily aimed at private users and is designed to make completing everyday tasks simpler. When IoT technologies are used by companies, you often hear the term IIoT. Essentially, IIoT connects the same equipment and machines as M2M but it uses the Internet to do it. This means that every piece of equipment has its own IP address, which is not necessarily the case in M2M set-ups. An interface transfers the data using various protocols, providing more flexibility and scalability. Usually, IIoT uses cloud technologies to simplify processes and analytics.

Companies tend to implement M2M solutions on an operational level. But because M2M is gradually merging with IIoT, organizations can reap the strategic benefits of Big Data and analytics. The M2M system takes care of itself once it is up and running, and through IIoT, companies can use software containers and IoT gateways to bring older machines online without the difficulty of attaching extra sensors to them.

Are the Technologies Vulnerable to Attack?

When it comes to IIoT, security is just as important as interoperability. Enabling your machines at multiple locations to communicate with each other and connecting them to ERP software does increase the number of entry points at which cyber criminals could strike. In Germany, for instance, the government currently considers attacks on online control or cloud components to be one of the largest threats to industrial control systems. But companies can help prevent attacks by, for example, connecting machines only where necessary, and by making security a priority and a continuous process that covers as much ground as possible in line with the prevention, detection, and reaction mantra.

Businesses of Tomorrow Need M2M and IIoT

Not only do more efficient processes, less waste, and predictive machine maintenance all lead to tangible results, they are also the foundations of automated manufacturing. Traditionally linear processes will become more dynamic, facilitating customer-specific product manufacturing, even in single lots. Deploying ERP and manufacturing software automates processes, enabling order systems, for instance, to communicate with machines in real time and control the manufacturing process. This means that vending machines at train stations, for example, can order their own goods if stock levels decrease and send alerts if parts need replacing.

SAP Asset Intelligence Network can assist in making such scenarios reality. Run in the cloud, it records information about every machine and component in a central database, thereby opening up the capabilities of IIoT to companies. It supports the implementation of machine maintenance and optimization strategies and gives users access to reliable data on the state of each component.

IIoT enables manufacturing companies to turn their linear monitoring and controlling processes into a dynamic system that unleashes potential and unlocks a range of new services.