Disruptive technologies of tomorrow usually lack widely accepted definitions and are often invented by individual entities not necessarily responsible for formulating and enforcing industry standards that govern the technology evolution. Innovation and advancements in the field of connected technologies started with networked computers which then progressed through the Internet era and have evolved beyond the concept of connecting physical objects as part of the Internet of Things (IoT) revolution.
The term Internet of Things coined by British entrepreneur Kevin Ashton in 1999 described connectivity among physical objects and no longer holds in its original form. It is now largely overlapped, confused and even mystified with the term Internet of Everything (IoE). IoE is considered a superset of IoT and Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communication considered a subset of IoT. Lets take a closer look into differences between IoT, IoE, and M2M, which has impacted consumers and businesses alike.
What Is the Internet of Everything (IoE)?
Although the concept of Internet of Everything emerged as a natural development of the IoT movement and is largely associated with Ciscos tactics to initiate a new marketing domain, IoE encompasses the wider concept of connectivity from the perspective of modern connectivity technology use-cases. IoE comprises of four key elements including all sorts of connections imaginable:
- People: Considered as end-nodes connected across the internet to share information and activities. Examples include social networks, health and fitness sensors, among others.
- Things: Physical sensors, devices, actuators and other items generating data or receiving information from other sources. Examples include smart thermostats and gadgets.
- Data: Raw data analyzed and processed into useful information to enable intelligent decisions and control mechanisms. Examples include temperature logs converted into an average number of high-temperature hours per day to evaluate room cooling requirements.
- Processes: Leveraging connectivity among data, things and people to add value. Examples include the use of smart fitness devices and social networks to advertise relevant healthcare offerings to prospective customers.
IoE establishes an end-to-end ecosystem of connectivity including technologies, processes and concepts employed across all connectivity use-cases. Any further classifications such as Internet of Humans, Internet of Digital, Industrial Internet of Things, communication technologies and the Internet itself will eventually constitute a subset of IoE if not considered as such already.
What Is the Internet of Things (IoT)?
Devices, computers, and machines were already connected by the time Kevin Ashton coined the term Internet of Things. The concept gained steam for its ability to connect the unconnected physical-first objects previously incapable of generating, transmitting and receiving data unless augmented or manipulated. Embedding sensors, control systems, and processors into these objects enables horizontal communication across a multi-node, open network of physical-first objects.
The term is also vaguely used to describe connected digital-first devices such as wearable gadgets that may be classified as Internet of Digital while offering the same functionality as its physical-first counterpart developed into a smart connected technology. The meaning and application of the term IoT will continue to evolve as new connected technologies emerge, replacing physical-first objects with smart connected devices and use-cases to constitute all new Internet-of-X classifications. Examples of IoT include connected cars, smart meters, and smart cities, among others.
What Is Machine to Machine (M2M)?
The aptly named IoT subset M2M initially represented closed, point-to-point communication between physical-first objects. The explosion of mobile devices and IP-based connectivity mechanisms has enabled data transmission across a system of networks. M2M is more recently referred to technologies that enable communication between machines without human intervention. Examples include telemetry, traffic control, robotics, and other applications involving device-to-device communications.
How Does This Impact Businesses and Consumers?
The concepts of IoE, IoT, and M2M are inherently subjected to the confusion surrounding limitations associated with meaning, use cases, and adoption. While there are no industry standard and regulations from appropriate governing authorities, these concepts will continue to evolve in response to technology innovation, changing consumer trends and varied marketing tactics. Business evaluating the promise and potential of connectivity offerings will, therefore, have to dig into the specifics of each situation instead of establishing conclusions based solely on the proposed labels of IoE, IoT, or M2M.
If you want to learn more about the various terms related to the Internet of Things, IoE, M2M, etc., see our IoT Glossary.