The Internet of things (IoT) is the network of physical devices, vehicles, and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity which enable these objects to collect and exchange data.
The IoT allows objects to be sensed or controlled remotely across existing network infrastructure, creating opportunities for more direct integration of the physical world into computer-based systems, and resulting in improved efficiency, accuracy and economic benefit in addition to reduced human intervention. When IoT is augmented with sensors and actuators, the technology becomes an instance of the more general class of cyber-physical systems, which also encompasses technologies such as smart grids, virtual power plants, smart homes, intelligent transportation and smart cities. Each thing is uniquely identifiable through its embedded computing system but is able to interoperate within the existing Internet infrastructure. Experts estimate that the IoT will consist of about 30 billion objects by 2020.
Typically, IoT is expected to offer advanced connectivity of devices, systems, and services that goes beyond machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and covers a variety of protocols, domains, and applications. The interconnection of these embedded devices (including smart objects), is expected to usher in automation in nearly all fields, while also enabling advanced applications like a smart grid, and expanding to areas such as smart cities.
“Things”, in the IoT sense, can refer to a wide variety of devices such as heart monitoring implants, biochip transponders on farm animals, cameras streaming live feeds of wild animals in coastal waters, automobiles with built-in sensors, DNA analysis devices for environmental/food/pathogen monitoring, or field operation devices that assist firefighters in search and rescue operations. Legal scholars suggest regarding “things” as an “inextricable mixture of hardware, software, data and service”.
These devices collect useful data with the help of various existing technologies and then autonomously flow the data between other devices. Current market examples include home automation (also known as smart home devices) such as the control and automation of lighting, heating (like smart thermostat), ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC) systems, and appliances such as washer/dryers, robotic vacuums, air purifiers, ovens, or refrigerators/freezers that use Wi-Fi for remote monitoring. Examples also include Smartcities, wearables like Apple watch, Fitbits for entertainment, fitness and health monitoring, Industrial automation for gathering of data for predictive analysis and for scheduling preventive maintenance.
As well as the expansion of Internet-connected automation into a plethora of new application areas, IoT is also expected to generate large amounts of data from diverse locations, with the consequent necessity for quick aggregation of the data, and an increase in the need to index, store, and process such data more effectively. IoT is one of the platforms of today’s Smart City, and Smart Energy Management Systems.
The term “the Internet of things” was coined by Kevin Ashton of Procter & Gamble, later MIT’s Auto-ID Center, in 1999.