The hunt for a parking spot is a ritual that urban motorists know all too well. Poking around from block to block isn’t just frustrating; it wastes fuel, creates pollution and adds to street congestion, which in turn contributes more pollution and wastes more fuel.

In other words, it’s not just your problem – it’s everyone’s.

But today, thanks to widely available connectivity and affordable device technologies, sensors can be deployed to detect when a parking space is available, and motorists can obtain that information on their dashboard. It’s a simple example of a solution that has immediate impact beyond the individual user.

That’s the basic idea of the Internet of Things (IoT), an expansion not only in the scale of machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, but also in the scope of what these connections can make possible.

We are living in a time of sweeping change – with technology developing in leaps and bounds, as societies and businesses explore new ways to solve challenges that didn’t exist 10 or 20 years ago.

The concept of M2M has been around for decades. But what is new – and much more interesting – is the way connected things are becoming integral parts of smart solutions to benefit society, business and our everyday lives.

Embedded mobile broadband addresses a much wider range of devices – even some not even on the market yet – across different layers, from network to cloud to applications. Many of these devices and apps are not only of a telemetric, low bit rate nature, but are mission critical and high bandwidth consuming.

M2M is at the forefront of operational technology, as businesses recalibrate their operations and market approach. Clearly, however, networking devices is not enough. In the Internet of Things, value is created by virtue of the data they produce and the tasks they can perform – whether they are sensors or actuators built into physical objects, such as streetlights and heart monitors. The IoT enables those objects to be tracked, coordinated, or controlled by capturing data about them, such as simple location information or temperature. That information can be aggregated across diverse devices and the network, and analytics can be applied to gain knowledge and insights. The insights can then be used to make automated decisions resulting in actions trickling down to control of individual embedded actuators.

The same data that enables a motorist to waste no time finding a spot to park can also be used by traffic engineering planners to improve traffic network design and implement the design in potentially real-time. The data created by the car can be paired with data from other sensors, such as the kind that measure air toxicity, providing authorities with valuable insights for reducing emissions. In other words, it’s not so much the connection of the device that’s fueling the transformation of societies and industries – it’s the data sharing across different application domains, the analytics and the automation.

As M2M evolves into IoT, it brings about a greater convergence in the way things are run. Emerging IoT applications address much more complex scenarios of large-scale distributed monitoring and control applications. IoT systems are multimodal in terms of sensing, control, and richness in management. And they are distributed across large geographical areas.

The industry is moving up the value chain, offering richer types of services than just basic connectivity. That’s what’s driving the evolution of M2M solutions from vertical niches to a more advanced, cloud-based proposition converging with the Internet of Things vision.