By Nancy Maas, Editor-in-Chief?
M2M can be described as a three letter abbreviation with multiple meanings. To some, it can mean “mobile to mobile” or “mobile to machine.” For the purposes of this discussion, it means “machine-to-machine”, and relates to the remote monitoring and control of machines. “Cellular M2M” specifically refers to using cellular networks for this purpose.

The cellular M2M (machine to machine) module market grew steadily over 2007 and is expected to continue showing strong growth over the period from 2008 through 2013. In fact, the U.S. enterprise M2M cellular service market will reach nearly 20M connections by 2011.

There are many examples of how this technology is now being used very effectively and in the most unlikely areas. For example, insurance companies are now using M2M cellular technology to monitor the driving style of policy holders in exchange for lower insurance premiums. Farmers are using it to monitor crop yield in the fields, and engineers to check water levels on flood plains. Businesses are using it to check goods in transit in order to make their operations run more efficiently and at a lower cost.

Although the technology has been around for quite a while, its path has not been an easy one. Some of the biggest obstacles preventing more widespread adoption include: a lack of market awareness; complexity of technology; deployment cost and operator knowledge.

Without a doubt, M2M communications will continue to have a fundamental impact on global economies. In most every facet of business, networked and intelligent devices will coordinate and optimize everyday functions to provide better service to customers and to make businesses more competitive. ?

Given the enormous thrust today to reduce our energy consumption, M2M technology has provided us with a practical means to do so. One of the most significant implementations of M2M using mobile communications has been the Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) system, which enables the remote collection and monitoring of end-user’s consumption of utilities, such as electricity, gas or water supply. The development of “Smart Metering” — the capacity for automated, two-way communications between advanced utility meters and utility companies’ back-end IT infrastructures — promises significant benefits in operations and energy efficiency, environmental protection and improved customer service.
Whether the communications technology used is cellular, fixed RF, WiMAX or ZigBee, there is a tremendous market opportunity and an environmental benefit for the deployment of smart meter monitoring in countries around the world. Smart Meters used in Home Area Networks (HANs) will help all of us make more informed decisions to reduce power usage and at the same time provide additional revenue streams for businesses.