There’s a social side to M2M of course. You could argue (and indeed, we would) that many of the applications of machine-to-machine communications are socially and environmentally useful. This has been one of the major selling points of the smart grid – possibly the most talked about M2M/IoT application, albeit it is still a work in progress. Bringing intelligent, two-way communications to everyday use of power could have an astonishingly positive effect on what is, even now, fairly inefficient and wasteful power usage. Integration into the grid of renewables from non-network sources, for example, with financial incentives to the suppliers, is not far off. Home area networks that can adjust power usage wirelessly and alert customers to waste are on their way. At network level awareness of power usage patterns across regions and across local areas could influence not just power supply but prevent blackouts and even render the building of some power stations unnecessary.
But in all cases, the involvement of M2M is encouraging more responsible power use and helping to educate customers and power companies on improved power practices, which is good for them and, one assumes, for the planet as whole.
But we don’t need to point to the future of the power grid to sell the potential for good of M2M; we are already involved in programmes that are socially useful. Remote management of street lighting, for example, which permits total control over light usage, brightness and maintenance, can lower energy usage and reduce the expenditure of local authorities, potentially benefiting other services. And of course M2M-aided stolen vehicle tracking and recovery is by definition a public good.
The truth is that even while there are hard-nosed business reasons why the IoT is useful, many applications also have something more to offer: the potential to make our lives better, cleaner and safer.