The Name Game: Is it Telematics, M2M or IoT?

By Randy Field

There is one thing that is constant about our market, today: identity confusion. Ask 10 people, “Is it a telematics, M2M or IoT solution?” You will most likely get several different responses and a few blank stares. Perhaps, the confusion can be minimized by recognizing what has transpired over the last 35 years.

Telematics was born in the late 1970s. From Wiki: “Telematics is … the transfer of information over telecommunications.” Hence, telecommunications and informatics became “Telematics”. Usage of the word “telematics” peaked in the late 1990’s. The life cycle gave way to the next generation: “Machine-to-Machine”. M2M was easier to understand and more tangible. From Wiki: “M2M is a broad term as it does not pinpoint specific … information and communications technology.” Information and telecommunications gave way to information and communications – let the confusion begin.

Today, we have the Internet of Things (IoT). From Wiki: “The Internet of Things (IoT) … is the network of physical objects or "things" embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and connectivity to enable objects to exchange data with the production, operator and/or other connected devices.” Now, information and communications transformed into connectivity to exchange data.

As a third generation family, Telematics is the grandparent, M2M the parent and IoT the child. There will be future generations – but, to go forward with less confusion, we must realize that this is a family. Each new generation has a past. As with people, the generations are different while possessing similar DNA. Let’s enjoy this third generation. It has great promise. Data security has improved. Sensors are getting smarter, smaller and cheaper. Modems are becoming more advanced. There are high speed, low power and virtual network options. Partnering to quickly deliver solutions is becoming a reality.

Three people might label a solution as Telematics, M2M or IoT – and, each is referring to the same “thing”. Last year’s M2M Evolution Expo was rebranded the IoT Evolution Expo. All three generations were there. The next generation will be born with global standards. Standards will enable critical-mass solution deployment across multiple market sectors. For now, we can focus on IoT while waiting to learn the next generation’s name. Hopefully, it will not be confusing.