M2M: We do that

Buzzwords can bring blessings and cause grief, depending how they're handled. Many engineers I know are careful to define buzzwords as they're first used in any context, which seems like a positive approach. Key is to ensure people know what you're talking about without assuming the word includes more or less than what's intended.

By Mark T. Hoske, editor-in-chief September 1, 2005

Buzzwords can bring blessings and cause grief, depending how they’re handled. Many engineers I know are careful to define buzzwords as they’re first used in any context, which seems like a positive approach. Key is to ensure people know what you’re talking about without assuming the word includes more or less than what’s intended. Words that raise alarms of caution, because they’re often used vaguely or inappropriately, include “standard,” “open,” “solution,” and most adjectives without nearby quantification. Someone reminded me recently, for instance, that the great thing about standards is that there are so many of them out there. Touche.

I’ve added M2M to my buzzword watch list, especially when people suggest it’s something new. At a recent M2M event, some participants acknowledged it’s a newer name for something we’ve been doing all along. Unspecified analysts called the M2M marketplace “explosive,” exceeding $250 billion by 2010 To participants’ credit, at least specific application examples/benefits were provided. It didn’t seem anyone gave a definitive M2M definition, though, perhaps because its constituent pieces are so familiar.

M2M, which stands for machine-to-machine communications, seems to incorporate elements of wired and wireless industrial network communications, human-machine interface, operator interface, data acquisition, SCADA, RTU, telematics, smart sensors, networked controllers and microprocessors, mobile devices, mobile and static information devices, and related software, hardware, and translators. (Thank you Harbor Research and Opto 22 for the perspective here.) Control engineering, the profession, has been working with all of that for some time, and Control Engineering , the publication, has been covering these topics, without attaching the M2M buzzword each time.

So what’s in a name? It depends on how much buzzwords matter to the audience hearing it. Upside to the “M2M” name is that if using it gets other parts of your organization excited about investing in the automation you should be applying anyway, that’s a wonderful thing. Downside is that if, or perhaps when, “M2M” falls out of favor as a descriptor, and analysts and consultants think of another term to promote, you’re left trying to support M2M or move on to the next big thing. And, if those needed to buy into the buzz give up, then you’re sunk—sort of a cry wolf problem.

M2M (or any other buzzword) project needs to make good business sense. And if it does, call it whatever you want—find some worthy partners and get it done.

Mark T. Hoske, Editor-in-Chief

MHoske@cfemedia.com