Machine-to-machine (M2M) communication, which has the potential to connect billions of machines and objects, can no longer rely on the existing cellular networks designed mainly to support communication between humans. As the full potential of M2M communication is gradually being tapped into, a multitude of new electronics, telecommunication and information technologies are being developed to improve this communication. This has lead to the development of various technology standards, which now raise the need for global compatibility and collaboration between standardization initiatives.

From its modest wired applications beginnings, the surge in Machine-to-Machine (M2M) applications has been the result of wireless M2M communication solutions, which use wireless and satellite infrastructures to create open communication environments for machines. M2M is not one single growing technology, but rather a collection of solutions from the electronics, telecom and software industries. This means there are more stakeholders affected by its success.

Steady market growth

M2M related technologies have established themselves as viable solutions for many industries and have immense growth potential. In 2007 shipments of cellular M2M devices amounted to 11 million units worth approximately EUR 6 billion while the rapid growth is estimated to reach 61 million modules by 2012, worth EUR 38 billion.1 The rapid market growth of M2M solutions has also been facilitated by significant drops in the cost of the various modules used, as well as the emergence of innovative technologies such as Edge Intelligence, which allows real-time data capture and analysis.

The M2M markets that enjoy the fastest growth rates are those for: vehicle telematics, smart buildings, healthcare solutions and connected buildings. The growth of these specific sectors has been supported by governmental projects and legislation focused on these areas and also by the emergence of M2M based initiatives from some of the world’s leading IT and Telecom companies.

Standardization is key to future

M2M solutions are slowly becoming mainstream and the continuous success of M2M technologies relies on the standardization efforts of the various protocols. Standards serve as the foundation for the development of innovative solutions that will enable M2M to evolve beyond industrial applications and be used in smart grids, security solutions, home appliance connectivity and public infrastructures.

The emerging array of smart devices is completely dependent on the development of suitable standards that allow them to communicate easily. To ensure the interoperability of M2M solutions several dozen national and international committees and alliances have formed technical groups charged with the development of M2M standards. Some of these initiatives focus on further developing existing standards to suit M2M growth needs, while others are focusing on the creation of dedicated standards. Some of the most recent initiatives include:

  • The Telecommunications Industry Association’s (TIA) TR-50 Smart Device Communications engineering committee2 - effort to develop a multi-part standard for Smart Device Communications
  • The IEEE 802.15.4-2009 standard
  • China Communications Standards Association’s (CCSA) TC10
  • The ZigBee IP Stack
  • 3GPP SA2NIMTC (TR23.888)
  • The European Telecommunications Standards Institute’s (ETSI) TC M2M
  • Current work by the CTIA CPWG ERP M2M sub group

While all these standardization efforts lay the path for future innovations, there is also a risk that they will lead to conflicting or redundant standards.

Increased coordination of standardization efforts needed

The development of globally compatible standards is seen as key in enabling the further growth of M2M technologies. This will require that work is done to ensure global coordination and collaboration exists between standards organizations. Several standardization groups are beginning to coordinate their activities to ensure their work pushes M2M technologies in a common direction. This effort was reinforced at the 15th meeting of the Global Standards Collaboration (GSC-15) in Beijing. Taking place in September 20103 the event saw the creation of the M2M Standardization Task Force (MTSF). This task force was created with the goal of facilitating global coordination and harmonization of M2M standardization work. Such efforts aim to ensure the future M2M ecosystem with its various interfaces will develop harmoniously.

SGS has the knowledge and expertise to support players in the IT and Telecom industries with the integration of M2M solutions in their service offerings.

Find out more about SGS solutions for the Wireless Industry.

  1. Smart Machines and Connected Objects
  2. Access Agnostic Smart Device Communications
  3. GSC-15 Standards Collaboration Beyond Crisis


Brian M. Dorcey
General Manager

SGS U.S. Testing Company, Inc.
t: +1 858 592 7100 ext. 260

About SGS

The SGS Group is the global leader and innovator in inspection, verification, testing and certification services. Founded in 1878, SGS is recognized as the global benchmark in quality and integrity. With 59,000 employees, SGS operates a network of over 1,000 offices and laboratories around the world.