What is the IoT (Internet of Things)?


What is the Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things, or IoT, refers to the billions of physical devices worldwide. They currently connect to the internet, all collecting and sharing data. Thanks to the arrival of super-cheap computer chips and the ubiquity of wireless networks. It’s possible to turn anything, from something as small as a pill to something as big as an airplane. 

Connecting all these different objects and adding sensors adds digital intelligence to devices. It would be otherwise dumb, enabling them to communicate real-time data without involving a human being. The Internet of Things is making the fabric of the world around us smarter and more responsive, merging the digital and physical universes.

Example of an Internet of Things Device:

Pretty much any physical object can be transformed into an IoT device. It can be connected to the internet to be controlled or communicate information.

A lightbulb that can switch on using a smartphone app is an IoT device. Similarly, a motion sensor or a smart thermostat in your office or a connected streetlight. An IoT device could be as fluffy as a child’s toy or as serious as a driverless truck. Some larger objects may fill with many smaller IoT components, such as a jet engine. It fills with thousands of sensors collecting and transmitting data back. To make sure it is operating efficiently. On an even bigger scale, smart cities projects fill the entire region with sensors to help us understand and control the environment.

IoT Uses:

The term IoT is for devices that wouldn’t have an internet connection. It can communicate with the network independently of human action. For this reason, a PC isn’t an IoT device, and neither is a smartphone. However, a smartwatch, a fitness band, or other wearable device is an IoT device. 

The History of the IoT:

The idea of adding sensors and intelligence to basic objects was throughout the 1980s and 1990s. There are arguably some much earlier ancestors. Apart from some early projects — including an internet-connected vending machine — progress was slow because the technology wasn’t ready. The chips were too big and bulky. There was no way for objects to communicate effectively.

Processors that were cheap and power-frugal enough to be all but disposable were needed before it finally became cost-effective to connect up billions of devices. The RFID tags, which are low-power chips that can communicate wirelessly, solved some of these issues. The increasing availability of broadband internet and cellular and wireless networking.

The adoption of IPv6, among other things, should provide enough IP addresses for every device the world (or indeed this galaxy) is ever likely to need. It was also a necessary step for the IoT to scale.

Kevin Ashton coined the phrase ‘Internet of Things in 1999. Although, it took at least another decade for the technology to catch up with the vision.

How Big is the IoT?

Big and getting bigger, there are already more connected things than people worldwide.

Consequently, tech analyst company IDC predicts that there will be 41.6 billion connected IoT devices or things by 2025. That is to say, it also suggests industrial and automotive equipment represent the greatest opportunity for connected “things.” It also sees strong adoption of smart homes and wearable devices in the near term.

Another tech analyst, Gartner, predicts that the enterprise and automotive sectors will account for 5.8 billion devices this year. Up almost a quarter in 2019. Utilities will be the highest user of IoT. Thanks to the continuing rollout of smart meters. Security devices, in the form of intruder detection and web cameras, will be the second biggest use of IoT devices. Building automation – like connected lighting – will be the fastest-growing sector, followed by automotive (connected cars) and healthcare (monitoring of chronic conditions).

The IoT integrates the interconnectedness of human culture and our things with the interconnectedness of our digital information system the internet. That’s the IoT.