What is an M2M booster?

It’s this unassuming little thing. Maybe you hadn’t thought about this, but all those new soda machines that can read your card? They all need to communicate. ATMs, too. Every time you’re swiping, inserting, or waving something at a machine that gives you money or a product, there’s a connection of some sort. Sometimes it’s a straight internet connection, if there’s one nearby. More often, it’s a cellular connection.

Why so many vending machines use cellular

When was the last time you actually handled a lot of coins? Vending machines had a crisis moment about a decade ago as their profits began to dwindle. Simply put, most folks just didn’t carry around a lot of change anymore. Putting bill acceptors into vending machines solved the problem for a little while. Unfortunately bill acceptors are unreliable and take a lot of maintenance. People wanted to pay with their phones or with a card. That meant a network connection near the machine, something most places didn’t have.

A cellular connection lets the owner of the machine put it almost anywhere without worrying about in-building wiring, but a lot of times the cellular service isn’t terribly good where the machine ends up being. The best examples are soda machines in hotels. They’re usually in the middle of the floor, next to the icemaker which is probably generating all sorts of RF interference. In a case like that you need a little bit of help.

Machine to Machine (M2M) boosters

That help comes in the form of a Machine-to-Machine cellular booster. It’s a specialized booster that lets the machine connect directly to the booster. This is more secure and also lets the booster use less power to provide a strong signal to a single point. It doesn’t broadcast like a typical booster, instead it’s hard wired into the machine it serves.

Machine-to-Machine boosters can use their own small antennas to pull in signal. Just as commonly, they connect to a shared antenna on the roof to get even better results. Remember, the data transactions aren’t very big so it’s not always important to get the absolute fastest speeds. It’s just important to have enough signal to get the job done. As long as the wait time isn’t enough to make people walk away, it works.

M2M boosters aren’t just for vending machines, though. A lot of remote equipment can use them. For example, we were recently contacted by a company that puts cellular connections on oil drilling equipment so that one person can watch a lot of wells at the same time. The cellular equipment was down by the base of the well and often dropped signal. Running an antenna up to the top of the well and using an M2M booster made the whole thing a lot more reliable. It made for fewer trips to the individual wells and a lot better productivity.

One thing to consider

If you have a cellular-equipped vending machine, you might want to talk to the manufacturer to see if it uses 3G or 4G. 3G service is being phased out in 2022 and you may lose connection if you don’t upgrade. Often times this is an inexpensive change. If you’re looking for a new M2M booster, you will want to consider a 4G one to be futureproof. They’ll work with 3G while it’s still active as well.

It’s not the sort of equipment you’ll need in most cases, but if you are a business owner or operator looking for an M2M booster, you’ll find an excellent selection of them at SolidSignal.com.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 9,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.