What is the Internet of Things?

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The Internet of Things refers to the interrelation of all internet-connected physical devices (except computers and smartphones). These devices use sensor technology to share data with other machines that are also connected to the internet.

What truly separates IoT technology is its ability to transmit data without a human. In other words, the communication is from IoT device to IoT device. Anything from a house to a car or from a plane to a toilet can connect to the Internet of Things. If a sensor with IoT capabilities, meaning it shares and analyzes data, is placed upon an object, then it becomes a branch of the Internet of Things framework.

What Is an Example of an IoT Device?

Almost anything can be connected to the Internet of Things, but not everything is an IoT device. While this may seem a bit confusing initially, knowing this small difference can take you from IoT newbie to IoT genius in your peers’ eyes.

A house alarm monitored by an app on your phone is an IoT device. A smart-city streetlamp scoping perimeters and analyzing the weather is an IoT device. Shipment containers with sensors that quantify mass, wearables that measure heart rate, and city scooters that calculate energy consumption are all IoT devices. To be considered an IoT device, an item must have these four characteristics:

  1. The item must be physical
  2. It must have sensor technology with a unique identifier
  3. It must send the data somewhere for analysis
  4. It must not need human interaction.
IoT Devices

So, the next time someone asks you if your phone is an IoT device, what will you tell them? The correct answer is “no.” Why? Because key characteristic #4 is not met. Put simply, phones connect to the Internet of Things, but they are not IoT devices. They require human interaction. Use this four-characteristic test as a checklist anytime you have IoT device questions.

What Is the History of IoT?

iot timeline

Sometime in the 1990s, thoughts about internet-connected technology formed. General society began to recognize computers and internet connection as the norm. Coding progressed, and the technology sphere could see the potential for greater scope, but it was not until 1999 that the Internet of Things originated. Kevin Ashton was the author of the term. He presented the powers of RFID technology and their capacity to track everything. Through this data collection, careful analysis could rid the world of many problems and enhance human life. His mission was simple: empower computers, so they could empower the world.

Like any new tech, acceptance was not immediate. The reality of IoT’s potential struck full force when China announced its IoT plans in 2010. Talk of smart transportation, smart logistics, smart energy, and even smart agriculture were parts of this strategy. The goal was to get ahead of the industry and reach an industry evaluation of more than CNY500 billion ($750 million) in a 10-year period. Do you want to know how much the industry evaluation is now?

Gartner research, one of the most revered and most trusted research groups in the world, stated that “spending on [IoT] endpoints and services will reach almost $2 trillion in 2017.” This was a report from two years ago! The same article also mentioned that “8.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2017, up 31 percent from 2016.” Where will they be located? “Greater China, North America, and Western Europe are driving the use of connected things, and the three regions together will represent 67 percent of the overall Internet of Things (IoT) installed base in 2017.” If the trend grew another 31 percent per year since 2016 as it was projected, there would be tens of billions of IoT devices worldwide today!


How IoT Works

We now know what IoT is, as well as some general functionalities, but how does it work? Sensors are the name of the IoT game, and they work to gather data in various ways. Whether these IoT sensors measure motion, weight, light, mileage, temperature, speed, proximity, or sound, their data gathering is the first phase in the IoT process.

Once the information is “gathered,” the device sends the data to another IoT device. This is commonly called a “Gateway.” Ideally, this object takes all the data, and analyzes, filters, and distributes it to the right destinations. The data arrives, and the receiving device can act upon the information sent. Confused? Here is an example.

Imagine you are reading a book in an IoT self-driving Uber. As you turn the next page, a smart-city streetlamp scans the traffic and sends the data to a server that processes traffic information. A collision occurred on the corner of Future Street and Technology Lane. Another smart streetlamp scans this accident and sends it to the Gateway. The Gateway ignores normal scans, such as one showing the temperature is 72ºF, but it catches the accident alert. The Gateway then “sends” this important data to the traffic information server that “acts” by notifying your Uber to take a different route to your desired destination.

*You could summarize how IoT works in three easy steps. The Gathering, The Sending, and The Acting. Remember these three things, and you will know how IoT works.*

iot Uber example

What Do You Need to Know About IoT?

The knowledge you have so far will get you in the door, but you probably want to know the top trends and technologies of IoT today. Fortunately, Gartner recently published an article highlighting, “The Top 10 IoT Trends through 2023.” Artificial intelligence, sensor innovation, trusted hardware, silicon chip innovation, and new wireless networks are among the discussed topics. The article is completely free to download and is an excellent head start for you and your company.

What Are the Concerns with IoT Devices?

iot privacy security

Talking about connecting to everything creates two major concerns: privacy and security. In the words of Uncle Ben, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Spiderman took his advice, and we do too. Companies that house IoT servers and connect to IoT devices must take ample security precautions with a private database for the user. The United States military trusts companies like Apptricity to house data on private servers and databases for security purposes. Apptricity also follows this approach for the Department of Defense to eliminate data co-mingling with that of other customers. Enhanced security software like FedRAMP High, Moderate, or DISA 4 facility servers are not only concerns, but necessities when considering an IoT software solution. Connection is great, but responsible, protected connection is the future.

What Is the Purpose of IoT?

Technology usually pairs well with the words “progressive” and “intelligent.” IoT devices not only make the world smarter, but they also supply intelligent solutions to some of the world’s most tedious problems. They progress humanity towards a better way of life. Imagine how much more you could achieve if you no longer had to worry about driving. Consider the lives saved by the prevention of collisions through IoT traffic monitoring. What untapped capabilities exist for the benefits of IoT devices? Can an IoT solution be the key to gun control? Can IoT devices save lives in the medical industry? Can IoT supply chains enhance overseas trading? People were once scared of the internet. Today, it benefits millions. How much more can the Internet of Things profit us? The purpose of IoT is simple: to connect, to enhance, to make better. We think Kevin Ashton had the right idea. If we empower computers, we can potentially empower the world.

Internet of Things illustration

How Can Your Company Benefit from IoT Devices?

IoT devices eliminate the hassle of invoice management and make supply chains simple and easy to monitor. The best IoT software companies use all types of tagging technologies and integrate with your existing ERP systems. Enhanced security, quantifiable data, and streamlined processes are further benefits. Want to know more? We are here to help. Feel free to receive a no-obligation demo, or just simply request more information below.