What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?

Posted on by Mark Gibson
Reading Time: 5 minutes

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of everyday objects or things embedded with electronics, sensors, and software, allowing for the collection and transfer of data. Connectivity enables such devices to communicate real-time data with other connected devices and act on the acquired data without human intervention. This concept, known as machine learning, allows us to exert significantly less effort to collect data and appropriately act on it. Instead, we can direct our energy towards analyzing the collected data for something of use to make a process or activity more efficient.

We can turn almost anything into a part of the IoT, ranging from smartphones and smartwatches to smart homes and cities. It comes as no surprise that there will be an estimated 46 billion connected devices in 2021, with the global market for IoT devices expected to surpass $1.38 trillion by 2026.

How Do IoT Devices Work?

IoT devices collect data and act on it, as well as perform as the device originally intended. For example, while a watch’s original function was to keep track of time, a smartwatch can also collect data by monitoring your heart rate, tracking your sleep, and counting your daily steps. It can then act on the collected data and remind you to exercise when you’ve been inactive for too long, compare your performance at specific intervals, and let you know when you need to catch up on sleep. 

Internet of Things Timeline

IoT was initially introduced in 1999 by the Auto-ID research center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology when Kevin Ashton, the executive director of the Auto-ID Center, coined the term Internet of Things. However, the actual idea of interconnected devices originated in the 1950s.

YearDescription
1950Alan Turing: “...It can also be maintained that it is best to provide the machine with the best sense organs that money can buy, and then teach it to understand and speak English.”
1966Karl Steinbuch: “In a few decades time, computers will be interwoven into almost every industrial product.”
1989John Romkey created the first Internet ‘device,’ a toaster that could be turned on and off over the Internet.
1998Mark Weiser, the Chief Scientist at Xerox PARC, constructs a water fountain outside his office whose flow and height mimicked the volume and price trends of the stock market.
1999Kevin Ashton coined the IoT term.
2005UN’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU): "A new dimension has been added to the world of information and communication technologies (ICTs): from anytime, any place connectivity for anyone, we will now have connectivity for anything. Connections will multiply and create an entirely new dynamic network of networks – an Internet of Things."
2008First European IoT Conference; U.S. National Intelligence Council lists IoT as one of the 6 ‘Disruptive Civil Technologies’ with potential impacts on US interests out to 2025.
2010The number of Internet‐connected devices (12.5 billion) surpassed the number of human beings (7 billion) on the planet.

IoT Implementation Requirements

There are a few IoT requirements necessary for successful implementation:

  • Hardware (devices, sensors, etc.) that collects information and performs actions in the real world.
  • Connectivity (Bluetooth, cellular networks, wi-fi, etc.) between applications and devices to transmit the collected data.
  • Software hosted on the cloud analyzes the collected data and decides how to proceed.
  • A user interface to interact with the IoT system.

IoT Platforms

From an organizational perspective, IoT platforms play a very important role. A well-designed IoT platform should have built-in tools and capabilities that would allow you to implement IoT cost-efficiently with minimized energy consumption. An IoT platform can be a viable alternative to outsourcing engineers and developers when developing a product, covering all the basic functionalities and allowing you to focus on making your product valuable to the customer.

According to Tiempo Development, a typical IoT platform will have the following capabilities:

  • Built-In Installation Procedures: This allows you to save valuable time and resources necessary during the installation process.
  • Data Storage: Interconnected devices generate an unprecedented amount of data that needs to be securely stored.
  • Data Aggregation & Management: Can rapidly process incoming data streams and handle data from multiple sources, including 3rd party platforms and other business tools.
  • Device Management: Monitors device analytics and device usage, allowing you to receive alerts regarding your devices’ overall condition and health. Some platforms even offer remote debugging.
  • User Management: An essential feature for preventing unauthorized access.
  • Comprehensive IoT Security: Extensive monitoring capabilities with high-end encryption and authentication requirements.
  • Scalability: Ability to scale with you and accommodate new software and devices as your business grows.

Internet of Things Applications

IoT has many application groups.

Smart Transportation

The proliferation of IoT devices allows for the cost-effective integration of sensors and other data gathering tools into transportation systems on a macro level. Combined with high-speed connectivity, this gives us the ability to manage and control transportation in real time remotely. With smart transportation, drivers can be led to empty parking spots. Smart vehicles can stop on their own before hitting pedestrians and exchange data with other smart vehicles to avoid accidents and reduce congestion.

Smart Cities

Smart transportation is a critical component of supporting smart cities. Features of smart cities include facilitated waste management and reduced resource consumption. The former entails utilizing IoT devices to detect waste levels in containers and optimize trash collection routes, while the latter entails monitoring water and energy consumption by implementing sensors that provide data on the overall water and energy usage within the city, thereby optimizing resource consumption at the city level.

Smart Home

IoT can create smart homes and facilitate various activities (exercise, dieting, driving, etc.). A smart home entails implementing a series of IoT devices designed to perform specific functions, dependent upon user preference, like:

  • Room temperature optimization.
  • Automatic indoor lighting adjustments.
  • Real-time home surveillance.

Smart Farming

Considering fluctuating climate conditions, the finite amount of agricultural land, and limited freshwater resources, improving the quality and quantity of farm products is a priority in the coming years, and IoT provides the means to do so. Smart farming as an industry will potentially grow to $43.4 billion by 2025. Examples of IoT applicability in agriculture include:

  • Livestock monitoring.
  • Accurate watering and fertilization.
  • Crop health management.

Healthcare

IoT provides more valuable and reliable patient data, which leads to better solutions and faster discovery of previously unknown issues. Connected IoT devices equipped with sensors allow for continuous patient monitoring and provide real-time data on patients’ blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and heart rate.

Internet of Things Vulnerability

It’s important to note potential vulnerabilities associated with the Internet of Things. At this very moment, billions upon billions of IoT devices are around the globe. IoT devices are slowly becoming an essential part of workplace stability, which means that organizations will face significant ramifications on their network services and daily activities if they are compromised. Because IoT applications include critical industries and infrastructure such as healthcare and entire cities, the Internet of Things is a potentially lucrative target for malicious agents.

Where is IoT Headed?

From an organizational perspective, more and more organizations are recognizing that employees need to have the ability to work efficiently and securely from anywhere in the world. The resulting digitization of the workplace will continue to be significantly supplemented by IoT.

As the price of IoT hardware continues to drop, IoT implementation will become increasingly cost-effective. IoT will soon be considered an intricate part of our individual and professional lives due to everything around us becoming digitized at the macro (smart cities) and micro (smart homes and workplaces) levels.

Because of digitization, the importance of IoT security is exponential and must be optimized for application security and privacy trade-offs.

Looking for ways to enhance your website security? Liquid Web offers multiple security add-ons like firewalls and VPNs, Alert Logic Security & Compliance Suite, and Threat Stack Oversight Intrusion Detection System. Contact us today to learn about these great features!

About the Author: Mark Gibson

Mark is a Linux Technician at Liquid Web. Formerly a collegiate athlete and a San Diego State graduate, Mark is excited about the opportunity to keep building upon his IT career and pursuing his passion for Information Technology.

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