Internet-of-Things (IoT), Machine-to-Machine (M2M), Connected Service and Connected Customer solutions are hot topics today in the world of cloud–computing and hyper-connectivity, but what do they mean? These terms are often used inter-changeably to describe an IoT system and sometimes they are perceived as arbritrary marketing buzzwords when they actually refer to systems that are somewhat different in significant ways. At the highest level, these systems have a lot in common in that they connect products and people. Where they differ is in who they connect and how the data is used. To understand the differences, let´s start by listing the stakeholders. Products can be machines, cars, appliances, electronic gadgets – the list goes on. People can be customers, i.e. B2C consumers and B2B operators, as well as CRM users in marketing, sales, service and support.  

An M2M system involves connecting machines to each other. By communciating with each other in real-time, the machines can adjust their settings and outputs in order to optimize production, prevent bottlenecks and maximize quality. The data generated by the M2M interface is valuable to operators, who can use the near-time insights to make adjustments that keep a production system running efficiently. Usually, the interface between the machines and the operator is facilitated uing a virtual private network.

When we connect products to the internet, we call it an IoT system.  The purpose of IoT is to make product data available to customers so they can monitor performance and usage. An IoT system is an enhancement to an M2M system in that the machine data is made available via web-services to the operator and also other business users who can leverage this internal data to steer product development, plan service, and forecast revenue. 

A Connected Service solution is an enhancement to an IoT system in that it closes the loop. With a Connected Service system, the product´s performance and usage data not only flows to the customers and the CRM users, the product data automatically triggers in the contact center tool (ServiceCloud) or field service management software (ServiceMax) specific customer-facing interactions by field service, and customer care. There are many compelling business cases for closing the M2M or IoT loop with a Connected Service solution including using data to provide the customer tips for enhancing his own or the machine´s performance, to prevent accidents and unplanned outages, schedule repairs and parts shipments, and optimize maintenance intervals.

A Connected Customer solution is an enhancement to the Connected Service solution in that it extends the value of product performance and usage data to other CRM users in marketing and sales. In this case, the product performance and usage data can be used to steer marketing campaigns and trigger sales opportunities. In addition to contact center and field service softwar, a Connected Customer system requires marketing (ExactTarget) and sales force automation (SalesCloud) tools.

The data generated by IoT and M2M system is a corporate asset called “internal” data. Internal data provides the company unique insights into machine usage and consumer behavior that no competitor has. By using this intelligence to create one-to-one dialogs with customers, the company can turn M2M and IoT data into a valuable competitive advantage.