Machine-to-machine (M2M) technologies — sometimes known as the “Internet of Things” — are an ideal component for next-generation smartphones. M2M enables communication between devices across a Wi-Fi or cellular network without the need for a PC. However, M2M and smartphones are at least a generation away from reaching their full potential as an interface to business and consumer M2M applications.

M2M on a smartphone takes us past “there’s an app for that” by integrating into a smartphone using an M2M SIM card. Here are five reasons why next-generation smartphones need M2M.

1. A connected home even your non-tech family members can understand

As broadband providers (such as Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, and Verizon FIOS) stage early deployments of Connected Home services (centralized controls over home security, environment, and media), M2M can make Connected Home controls accessible to every member of the family who has a next-generation smartphone.

Better controls from my smartphone directly to my home environmental controls are appealing to me as a homeowner as I try to save money on my utilities.

2. Better interactions through NFC

A next-generation smartphone with M2M means Near Field Communications (NFC), which enables the transfer of small amounts of data via Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) responders. These devices could finally gain a foothold in the financial services and retail sectors.

I recently made the upgrade to an iPhone 5, which includes Passbook (Apple’s NFC substitute), and I’m already starting to see its gradual adoption by consumers in my local Starbucks and some other stores. However, this is still very much early adopter territory right now.

Seeing full NFC on a smartphone is the next logical step in the evolution. NFC on a next-generation smartphone could take the place of the loyalty cards and even the ragged gym membership card hanging on my keychain.

3. Better GPS and mapping options

I became a GPS convert after years of getting lost on my way to meetings. When I became an iPhone user, I spent the extra money to get a full GPS app on my phone. However, 2012 showed some definite challenges with Apple Maps vs. Google Maps and the resulting launch of one slick Google Maps app for the iPhone.

Now that the mapping debacles of 2012 are behind us, M2M on a next-generation smartphone can up the hardware side of the GPS mapping game, delivering a more robust GPS solution on a smartphone.

4. Better interface to smart appliances in the home

Working from home again on a full-time basis has given me a reintroduction to the lack of usability and convenience in today’s appliances. M2M and next-generation smartphones could play a part in helping augment the next iteration of smart appliances, whether it’s in the kitchen or the laundry room. While the concept of smart appliances may seem a cross between the Jetsons and a waste of money, smartphone to appliance management brings a new level of control to consumers, especially frequent travelers and the chronically overbooked so that they have control over their home appliances.

A recent post in EE Times entitled, “Connected appliances via M2M, smartphone,” tells of a demo at CEATAC of “several smart appliances ranging from coffee makers to exercise machines” by Tokyo-based Gaia Holdings, an embedded software developer. Their approach adds a wireless module to existing household devices, meaning you don’t have to buy a new appliance to get smart appliance functionality. There are also smart appliances rolling out from GE and Whirlpool that offer controls from a smartphone.

Even as a home office worker, I could grow to appreciate a remote interface over appliances like my dishwasher and washer/dryer that are two flights of stairs beneath my home office.

5. A new era of remote patient monitoring and mobile healthcare

The potential applications of M2M and smartphones excite me right now because they can offer patients more independence and maybe save on doctor visits. The application of smartphones and M2M in healthcare could take a number of forms:

  • Rmote patient monitoring could provide elderly patients a modicum of self-sufficiency and give their relatives some piece of mind
  • Asthma monitoring through your smartphone
  • Diabetes monitoring through your smartphone

Additionally, healthcare technology has long been a user experience nightmare, and if M2M becomes standard on next-generation smartphones, healthcare technologies can start winning on patient, home care, and hospital fronts.

M2M and smartphones: A natural pairing

M2M on a next-generation smartphone means an M2M common architecture in place that smartphone vendors can implement (much less agree upon). When this happens, we’re going to experience a new level of potential in smartphones that’s going to touch phone manufacturers, app vendors, business users, and consumers.

More resources

For a comprehensive look at the issues and technologies surrounding the Internet of Things and the emerging M2M ecosystem, check out ZDNet’s latest feature page, Tapping M2M: The Internet of Things.