What is internet of things (IoT)

Last Updated - February 13, 2019
Internet of Things
Internet of Things

Recently, the term ‘IoT’ has become the talk of the town. Although it is one of the most discussed words, it is still an ambiguous term to a lot of people. And you might be one of them who is still confused about IoT.

If that’s the case, then you can put your worries to the side. Because in this article, we will let you know all the nitty-gritty of IoT. So, if you don’t know what IoT is, or what are the benefits or problems of IoT, then this is the post for you.

By the time you have read this, you will know what IoT is, why it matters, and much more information concerning IoT. So without wasting more of our time, let’s get to the business…

So what is IoT?

First of all, let’s elaborate the term IoT. The ‘IoT’ stands for the Internet of things. Now that you know this, we can proceed further. We will try to explain the term as simple as possible so that everybody can grasp it quite comfortably.

Before you learn about IoT (Internet of Things), you need to have a clear idea about the ‘Internet’. So, let’s explain ‘Internet’ first.

Simply put, the Internet is a massive network of networks. It is connecting billions of devices all over the world and even from out of the world. For instance, you might be reading this article on your phone or computer. How is this even possible?

Let me explain. First, we have published this post on our website, our website is hosted on a web server. That web server is connected to the internet. And, our website or this post has a unique address (URL), and you are now accessing to that address. Thus you are able to read this post. It is possible because your phone or computer is also actually connected to the internet. As both our web server and your device is inter-connected, you can browse our website.

You need to remember that the internet is more of a concept than a physical entity. So, in a few words, the internet is a massive networking infrastructure — which is created by connecting numerous computer networks together from all around the globe.

The Internet is not a new concept though. Rather, it was first used back in the 60s. Back then it was called Internetwork/interconnected network (the network of networks). And today we call it the internet, or even simply ‘Net’.

Now you have an idea about the Internet. So let’s get to learn about IoT. As we have mentioned above that your computer or mobile phone can be connected to the internet. And it is true in most cases, we use a mobile or computer to connect to the internet.

However, there are a lot of other things or devices that can also be connected to the internet. For instance, there are smart fridges, smart TVs etc., which are also capable of being connected to the internet. And, you already know the advantage of connecting to the internet.

So what if we could connect everything in this world to the internet? I mean that would be awesome, isn’t it?

Theoretically, it is possible to connect everything to the internet. Yet, it is still impossible to pull it off practically (at least for now). However, people all over the world are trying to accomplish that practically.

And, the idea of connecting almost all of the things in the world to the internet is known as IoT or Internet of things. This is the simplest way to explain the concept.

Now, we will try to share the textbook version definition of IoT for you. So the IoT is the inter-connected network between devices, vehicles, animals, and any other things in the world with which these things can connect, communicate, and exchange data.

Here the ‘things’ can refer to a lot of things. For instance, it can be a smartphone, computer, smart TV or fridge. On the other hand, it can be an animal with a tracker, or a person with a heart monitor implant, or even a non-smart device. The possibility is immense.

IoT represents a world where just about anything can be connected to each other, and to the internet simultaneously (not just smart devices). And added to that, all those things can also communicate intelligently to each other.

Origin of IoT:

The concept of IoT is not a brand new one at all. The exact term ‘Internet of things’ was coined by Kevin Ashton back in 1999. But the concept was there since 1982. However, it is probable that IoT was realized between 2008 and 2009 as that was the time when more objects or things were connected to the internet than people globally.

How does it work?

This is simple. First of all, all of the ‘things’ will be equipped with different type of technologies/tools/sensors which will enable them to send and receive data over the internet. Then there will be some other ‘things’ which can collect those data and even interpret those data themselves. Then they can trigger the necessary actions according to those data. In the meantime, cloud platforms can be also used to store and analyze the data collected.

Here’s an example for you. If you ask Siri or Google Assistant about tomorrow’s weather, they will predict it almost accurately. How is that possible? Here’s IoT is in the work behind the scene.

As your phone is connected to the internet, Siri/Assistant will search for the weather information on the web right after you have asked about that. Next, they will collect the information and will let you know. They will collect it from any weather forecast websites.

Those websites collect those data from different sources which includes satellites, radar, different types of sensors etc. Here the important thing is that all of these mentioned devices/things/tools are inter-connected. And you know that it is actually a great example of IoT.

This is just an example. The entire concept of IoT is so broad that there are a lot of other ways to work with IoT devices.

Example of IoT Devices:

As IoT involves almost anything, you can include everything as an example as well. However, it must be connected to the internet or to any other IoT devices. There are a lot of devices/tools which can be used as an example of IoT devices.

For instance, smart TVs, smart AC, security systems, Smart home technology, thermostat, electronic toll collection systems, smart vehicle control system, Soil moisture sensor etc. It is estimated that right now, there are about 23 billion IoT connected devices are there in this world.

Applications of IoT:

There are various ways to utilize the Internet of things in your favor. You can apply the use of IoT devices for commercial, consumer, industrial, environmental necessities. Let’s take a look at some of the applications of IoT.

  • On Home Automation:

With the improvement of technologies, IoT devices are being created mostly for consumer use, by giant tech companies. For example, Apple, Amazon, Samsung, Lenovo, and Google etc. has brought a number of home automation/ smart home devices for their user base over the last decade.

  • On Medical and Healthcare:

A lot of hospitals has been using remote health monitoring systems, emergency notification systems, and wearable devices for their patients. Added to that, a few hospitals also have introduced ‘smart beds’ which can detect if a patient is attempting to get up. That’s just a few examples. There’s more and more.

  • On Transportation system:

IoT is also being applied to the transportation system. For instance, there are digital variable speed limit signs, which can change the speed limit depending on the traffic on any particular road instantly. Also, you can track the real-time location, the status of your vehicle remotely with the help of IoT devices.

  • To conserve energy:

IoT is also useful if you want to reduce energy consumption on your home or factory. There are systems which can automatically turn off/on electrical appliances to save energy.

  • On Agriculture Field:

IoT can be a huge help in Agricultural activities. There are devices which can predict the weather, temperature, humidity, wind speed, rainfall etc. almost accurately. There are soil moisture sensors available which can be used to know the amount of moisture is in the soil. Thus, you can set up a system, which can collect the information about the soil, and can turn on/off the irrigation system automatically based upon that information.

Also if the weather prediction tells that it will be raining tomorrow, then your IoT system will gather this information and will not trigger the irrigation system the next day as it will be watered naturally.

  • On Environmental causes:

You can also use IoT for environmental causes. It can be used to know the location of a group of animals. Also, you can monitor their movement and it is possible to know if there is any danger to those animals in that particular area.

  • Infrastructure applications:

IoT can be used city-wide. There are IoT devices like smart streetlights, smart meter, smart vehicle control system etc. This type of tools can be equipped very easily which will help a lot in the long run. Even at this moment, there are numerous smart-cities out there.

So, you can get an idea about the application of IoT from the discussion above. Now, let’s talk about the benefits of IoT down below.

Benefits of IoT:

If you have a company, organization, or even a small business, you can be benefitted from using IoT. Here are some of the main reasons you should implement IoT as soon as possible.

  • It can save your precious time and money
  • You can remotely monitor your entire business
  • It can be used to improve the customer experience
  • It can also be used to increase the productivity of the employee
  • It can help you make better decisions and automate certain tasks
  • You can easily adapt to new business strategies/models based on the data collected
  • Ultimately, you will be able to maximize your revenue over time

Other than these, there are a lot of advantages of IoT. It all depends on your business and your needs.

Drawbacks of IoT:

IoT has its pros. But, it doesn’t mean that there are no cons. Now, we will be talking about some of the negatives of IoT.

  • Security Threat:

As IoT consists of connecting billions of devices all over the world, it is very vulnerable to cyber-attacks. For instance, a malware named the ‘Mirai Botnet’ has affected over 65,000 IoT devices within just the first 20 hours in 2016. Later, the number of infected devices has increased to 200,000 to 300,000. On top of this, it also attacked and took down a number of various major websites and a DNS provider as well.

Also, as there are a lot of connection points, if a hacker can break into any one of the points/devices, it becomes pretty easy to gain access to the rest of the system. Now, this threat can be minimized by taking some proper steps like setting strong passwords, end-to-end encryption etc.

  • Privacy Concern:

As there are IoT devices which are used to track or detect a user’s personal data, it poses a risk to be leaked. Because there are no standard guidelines or technical standards on the best practices of manufacturing IoT devices.

And, there are lots of news are circulating concerning this type of privacy violation. It is out there that the big companies are collecting our data and then selling them to the advertising companies. It has become one of the biggest concern in the recent days.

Wrapping things up:

We have tried our best to make things easier to understand. We hope that at this point, you have a clear idea of IoT (Internet of things). So, if you need to integrate IoT on your business, don’t wait it out. You can begin right now. Because the future of IoT is looking bright.

It is estimated that by 2020, the global market value of IoT will reach $7.1 trillion. And it is also projected that there will be about 30 billion IoT devices in the world by 2020. So, there’s no time to waste if you want to be on the race.