The Internet of things (stylised Internet of Things or IoT) is the internetworking of physical devices, vehicles (also referred to as “connected devices” and “smart devices”), buildings, and other items—embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity that enable these objects to collect and exchange data.
The IoT allows objects to be sensed and/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. Each thing is uniquely identifiable through its embedded computing system but is able to inter-operate within the existing Internet infrastructure. Experts estimate that the IoT will consist of almost 50 billion objects by 2020.
The phrase “Internet of Things” was coined by Kevin Ashton, likely in 1999 as the title of a corporate presentation he made at his place of employment, Proctor & Gamble. During his time there, Ashton came up with the idea of putting an RFID tag on each lipstick and having them communicate with a radio receiver on the shelf to track sales and inventory and signal when restocking was needed. He posits that such data collection can be used to solve lots of problems in the real world.
How the IoT Works
Billions of connected devices are part of the Internet of Things. They use built-in hardware and software to send and receive data via various communication protocols. They might use our smartphones as their gateway to the Internet, connect to some other piece of hardware in our homes that’s acting as a hub or connect directly through our home Internet service.
They often send data to cloud-computing servers where it’s then aggregated and analyzed. We can usually access the results via apps or browsers on our mobile devices or home computers. Some can even be set up to update your status on various social networks.
“Things,” in the IoT sense, can refer to a wide variety of devices such as heart monitoring implants, biochip transponders on farm animals, electric clams 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 to look at “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.
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