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Rise of the Machines & Connected Devices: The Shift from P2P to M2M Networks

Henry Franc

We’re living in an IoT world—one filled with connected devices.


Nearly everything is or has a sensor—surveillance cameras, thermostats, switches, routers—that can take cues from the environment and respond with precise accuracy to the information it gathers. The number of connected devices in the world is now more than twice the size of the global population (which hit 8 billion people in 2022).


Amid all the excitement and opportunity presented by the Internet of Things and emerging technology, it can be easy to lose sight of the goal.


For example:


  • A hospital’s objective isn’t to deploy new artificial intelligence or extended reality technology. Its top priority is to improve patient outcomes through effective care and clinical operations—and technology can help make these outcomes possible by supporting faster patient treatment, more accurate diagnoses, etc.
  • The business requirements of a university have nothing to do with rolling out new technology. Instead, the goal is to develop easily accessible, in-demand curriculum and programs that attract and retain students and faculty and help prepare the next generation for their careers.
  • Airports don’t invest in autonomous vehicles and biometric facial recognition platforms because they want to show off the latest technology. They want to be able to move people and luggage quickly, safely and efficiently—and technology is one way to make it happen.


It’s crucial to remember that technology is never the objective or end—it’s simply the means to the end.


From P2P to M2M Networks


What does the rise of these connected devices mean?


Historically, many network design principles focused on building voice and data networks that could support the needs of users (people). This peer-to-peer (P2P) architecture generally assumes that needs are very similar from person to person or group to group, making network design relatively formulaic and straightforward.


But this “old” way of designing networks no longer applies. The days of abiding by a simple checklist are no more. Instead of being designed for the needs of people, today’s networks need to be designed to meet the needs of the machines we now rely on to work, live and play.


As opposed to a network’s human users, a network’s machine users present a vast array of connectivity requirements. Many of these new types of applications can be found in the Ethernet Alliance’s Ethernet Roadmap:


  • Automotive applications, such as autonomous driver assistance systems (ADASs), autonomous vehicles and convergence of legacy in-vehicle networking
  • Enterprise applications, which involve many Wi-Fi access points and collaboration tools
  • Service provider applications, including 5G mobile deployment
  • Automation, building and industrial applications, such as IT/OT convergence and Industry 4.0
  • Cloud provider applications, which support technology like artificial intelligence and machine learning


In each of these applications, the connected devices and machines in use are different. Some call for low-speed connectivity while others require vastly higher data rates. As a result, the networks that support each of these applications must be built differently as well.


The world has moved beyond P2P networks; we’ve entered a new dimension of M2M networks (machine-to-machine networks). They eclipse traditional P2x telecommunications in scale, scope and complexity.


M2M networks are designed based on the needs of devices and automated applications. They involve machines communicating through a network without human intervention as they tap into sensor data and transmit it to a network.


These machines must have network connectivity that allows for response in a timely manner. As sensors and other connected devices collect more data, this information needs to be processed efficiently so decisions can be made quickly based on what that data reveals.


Simple examples of M2M connections are a connected vending machine or ATM. Without human intervention, these machines automatically send real-time information about inventory so appropriate actions can be taken. In more complex environments, such as a warehouse, M2M connections allow robotics and autonomous platforms to communicate so they can anticipate and respond to fulfillment demands to maintain productivity without human involvement.


Going Beyond Standards


Traditionally, cabling standards development—specifically when it comes to the ICT industry—has centered on the premise that most network requirements involve people-to-people or people-to-machine (P2M) communications. The activities of IEEE, TIA and other standards-developing organizations reflect that new reality.


But industry standards present only a minimum set of performance-based requirements to make sure networks perform properly. To ensure that you can create an M2M network that delivers the performance you require without being over- or under-provisioned, we recommend creating your own internal standards that may exceed TIA, BICSI and ISO standards, for example.


While we live in a complex world, having the right partner by your side to simplify the transformation process can make challenges much more manageable. Belden is here to help you transform your network and make sure it’s ready for the rise of the machines and the shift from P2P to M2M networks.


Related Links:


The Advantages of Going Beyond Cabling Standards and Recommendations

Why We Choose to Get Involved in the Creation of Cable Standards

4 Technology Disruptions Set to Change Cabling and Connectivity